Tips for Organizing Your Studio


Deborah Secor shares tips for keeping track of how your paintings are framed, what has sold, where those paintings hang and something more elusive: your progress.


Framing Storage and Records

Storing matboards and frames requires organization, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep matboards in a large cardboard shipping box with the color names and numbers, as well as the quantity of each, written plainly on the side. Another large shipping box or cardboard portfolio can serve to hold mat scraps, especially when you remember to note the color name or number on the back of each one.

Frames are kept safe from scratches and dings when they’re wrapped in brown paper and stored vertically, with the finish color and type of liner or fillet noted on the visible edge. If you also note the supplier’s name and the style or color name and number on the paper, then when you unwrap it, you have all the information on hand to re-order the same frame. In a vertical storage bin, keep glass wrapped in paper and marked with the size, so that when you get ready to use it you don’t have as much cleaning to do, and safely store acrylic sheets in their paper masking tape sleeves.

Even if you decide to have a professional framer do all your framing, you must keep good records of how each piece is framed. I find the visual record is simplest for me, so I snap a quick photograph of framed paintings to keep on file (not meant to be shown). I use the title, supplier’s name and style number, plus the mat color, fillet or liner, and size as the file name (‘Daylight’ That way if I need to trade out a frame, I can much more easily determine if it’s available or is currently in a show or gallery.


Computer Records

The computer is the ideal means of recording data about your art business, of course. You may decide to utilize software or a web-based computer program. There are many to choose from: WorkingArtist, GallerySoft, Artist’s Butler, Art Affair and Marketing Artist, to name just a few. These programs offer record-keeping features as simple as thumbnail photos or as complex as customer databases, with the ability to generate invoices, certificates of authenticity, invoices and even tax records.

If you decide to purchase a program, it’s best to download trial versions before making a selection and do plenty of Internet research, asking other artists about the pros and cons in each case. You’ll find a wide variety of features and prices, so groundwork is necessary.

If you’re familiar with some of the simpler spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Works, Excel or iWork for Mac, you can make a fairly straightforward table to record data. Include a thumbnail photo of your painting and columns detailing the title, size, paper type, mediums, the photographic resource used and framing; note your wholesale and retail prices and any commissions due; keep track of the location (studio, exhibition or online) and awards or honors won, and don’t forget a sold column. A sub-section might include the gallery or show name, noting when the paintings are to be submitted or retrieved, and other detailed reminders such as the day and time of a reception or a note to include in brochures.

I’ve found the computer is the best way to organize photographs of my paintings. I have a Windows File Folder marked “Art Photos” where I store separate folders titled “2011-Paintings-Large” and “2011-Paintings-Small,” organized by subject matter. This makes sending a TIFF file or posting a webpage-sized image a snap, and gives me a satisfying visual record of my progress. I label each file with the title, dimensions and my last name (Sunset9x12.Secor). For peace of mind, it’s best to keep these photographs backed up and stored on a separate drive, in case of any computer catastrophe.

Some artists rely on websites to track data about their paintings. Images are easily managed, listing the location of the painting and whether it’s sold or available.

I recently decided to make a portfolio of my paintings using Blurb, an online print-on-demand publisher. These one-off books—also available by companies such as Lulu, Xlibris, CafePress and CreateSpace, among others—are an excellent means of documenting and sharing the history of my artwork. It’s satisfying to have clear prints of the paintings in a book that I can show to clients and display at the galleries where the work is represented, or keep tucked away on a shelf long after the work itself is sold. Again, if you decide to create a book, you need to do your homework. Seek input from others, as well as have on hand high resolution digital photos with accurate color that will print well. The results can be outstanding enough that you might wish to market these books, giving fans, family and friends a treasured retrospective of your artwork.



If your career takes off and you become overburdened with details, be flexible and innovative. Re-evaluate often enough that you aren’t slogging away at an obsolete database when a slick, quick new program might make things simple and streamlined. Don’t keep doing it the way it’s always been done out of sheer habit. Take the time to analyze, organize and wisely use whatever methods of keeping track are most effective for you.


Deborah Secor ( is a longtime contributor to The Pastel Journal. The Albuquerque artist has filmed two instructional pastel videos, available for download at or as DVDs at


Find more tips from the artist in the October 2011 issue of The Pastel Journal.



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