One of my goals when organizing the art studio was to greatly simplify the amount of stuff that’s sitting out in the open. I waffle between wanting to see all of my supplies, so I don’t forget them and because they are beautiful, and wanting to have completely clear surfaces. The former usually wins out and the studio ends up feeling messy to me as a result. Now, you have to understand that my mess-tolerance is pretty low, so a mess to me probably looks pretty normal to some people! But, I do like stuff and can let things get a little too cluttered. Tidy, but cluttered.
In order to tackle the clutter, I needed to clean out the drawers to make much better use of them and be honest about what I use most and what really needs to be at-the-ready. I also have to be honest about what I don’t and never will use. Anything that falls in that category is just taking up valuable space or making it difficult to take stock of, find, and access the things I use most. Some of the things I have sitting out, I don’t use at all!
For example, I ended up hanging the plaster casts in the back of the closet instead of having them sit out on the cart. I can pull on out when I want to sketch or paint one, but they certainly didn’t need to be out in the open.
So, what started as organizing the drawers turned into scooting around the furniture around the art studio, tweaking, thinking, trying one thing, and then another. The nice thing about having everything on casters or sliders is I can do that pretty easily!
I laughed out loud when I rolled the green cabinet from the wall and saw the little treasure trove of lost cat toys. These “crunchy balls” are Esme’s favorite toy. She will carry them around the house, bat them all over the place, and then eventually lose them under a piece of furntiure. Or, apparently, this piece of furniture.
Through the organizing process, I was able to get both of these little white rolling carts cleaned off and moved out of the art studio. I think these carts can be very useful, but they just felt cluttered to me and weren’t as functional as I imagined they would be.
I was intending to only clean off one little white cart, but when I decided to pull out the antique green cart to make better use of it, I was able to get rid of both.
I spent a lot of time thinking through where all of the displaced items would go, so they could easily be found. Cleaning out the drawers helped with that immensely! Instead of storing things I would likely never use, they now hold things I regularly use.
Another thing I spent a lot of time on was the pastels. For someone who struggles with pastels, I sure had a lot of them! All three of my pastel drawers were packed full and there was overflow in a few small boxes, too. I got rid of about 80% of my pastels, which felt great. I only kept the colors I was drawn to and felt like I would use. I wipe each one down and gently vacuumed out the dust. (HERE is a detailed post on cleaning pastels.) I feel much more inspired to use them now that I’ve weeded out the bright pinks and purples and even some blues and greens that I would never use in a landscape.
Maybe I’ll end up missing a couple of the colors, but I can replace those specifically if I ever really need them. This process showed me I needed a new rule when it came to pastels, colored pencils, etc. NO MORE SETS! I need to only buy open stock, as I do my paints, so I don’t end up with a bunch of colors I don’t like and won’t use.
I have a small vintage pastel box that holds the colors I use the most and I took some time to give that a little TLC, too.
I cleaned the pastel dust off the rim with a baby wipe. If you didn’t already know, baby wipes are incredibly handy in an art studio. They clean almost anything!
I then hydrated the box with some MMS Hemp Oil.
When you put Hemp Oil on very dry wood, like this box, it’ll darken while it’s wet, but will slowly lighten over time.
And then, I dealt with organizing the brushes. Oh, the brushes! Even though the brushes were all in the art studio, they were all over the place in the studio. They were in at least five different places…drawers, in the cabinet, next to the cabinet, on the carts, on the table, on the desk. They were so spread out that it was hard to see how many I really had. I assure you, I have a lot.
I pitched brushes that were cheap, poor quality unless I had a specific reason for keeping them. I got rid of any that were rusty, crusted, or otherwise ruined. I made a pile of brushes to repair and clean. (HERE is a post on how I clean and repair brushes.) I set a few aside to sell, specifically was brushes for furniture, since I don’t work on furniture anywhere near as much as I used to.
I got all of my large brushes and paint tools sorted in one drawer.
And I put all of my artist brushes in one place. As I started collecting them from all over the studio, I could truly appreciate the volume! Oh my, I could open a little used brush shop.
I didn’t force myself to purge the artist brushes too thoroughly, because I’m always trying out different brushes for different mediums, substrates, etc. I don’t mind having a plethura of brushes to choose from. They won’t corrode or spoil, like tubes of paint will, and I can always revisit and thin the herd down the line.
In the vintagewooden tote, I sorted the brushes by size and type, so it’s easier for me to see what I have and find what I need. I can take a much quicker inventory of my favorite brushes to see if any need to be replaced. (Some of the synthetic brushes will splay and no longer create a clean edge/line or the natural bristles will break/shed, changing the shape of the brush over time.)
I used vintage crates and antique marmalade crocks to contain all of the brushes. This is partly to help them look neater, like little bouquets, and also to protect them a little bit from the cats, who love hunting, killing, and dragging away my natural bristle brushes. They’ll even bring them to me as gifts, showing that they know me on a very deep, soul level.
The rest of the cart holds binders with reference photos and color charts, paper towels, oils mediums, ziplock bags for rags, and my antique artist boxes. Those are more to make the cart look pretty and display the boxes better. Since the cart is right in the line of sight from the kitchen door, I want it to be both functional and pretty.
I do have a few watercolor and short acrylic brushes on my art table, but that’s where I’ll use them most, so it makes sense to keep them there. Now, the brushes are in only three places, sorted by type and function. Clearly visible or clearly labeled.
I also cleaned out all of my pens and pencils. When I find someting I really like, I tend to spread it all over the place. In my office, my desk, in crocks all over the studio. In truth, I just need them where they are used and maybe a few extra in a drawer. So, that’s how I’m organizing now. Sorting and putting like-things together where I use them. (Duh.)
During this process, I also realized that some of my sterling silver pieces were really tarnishing and some pens, scissors, etc. were corroding from being jammed into a crock with all sorts of other metals and materials. I polished up the silver pieces, chucked anything that was rusting, and made sure pieces were stored in a more thoughtful way.
I gathered up all of my dip pens (that weren’t silver) and stored them in a vintage pencil tin. Nibs can be incredibly sharp and I have stabbed myself on them many times! This will protect me as much as it protects them!
I also changed out and pitched the rusted nibs.
I can still keep the pencil tin in the tote on my desk, so the pens are easily accesible, but they won’t impale me when I’m reaching for a pencil or pair of scissors.
I’ll share more about organizing the art studio in another post, but I can say that it’s all finished and it feels so good! I will also be sharing some blog posts about my favorite “keepers” – the colors, papers, pens, pencils, and paints I use the most.
Now, I need to sort the supplies I set aside for the used art supply sale and get them photographed for the preview. As a reminder the art and art supply sale is happening March 18, at 7:00pm CST. I am selling over 40 original paintings and I will be putting together a bunch of lots of professional/artist-grade art supplies for a bargain.