You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage - pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically - to say 'no' to other things. And the way you do that is by having
a bigger 'yes' burning inside.
~ Stephen R. Covey~
As an artist, you know I would much rather be painting than keeping up with business records, but it’s an unfortunate necessity for those of us who are self-employed to keep good records. So this post is about how I organize and keep track of the business side of my art practice. As I just delivered new paintings to With These Hands Gallery last month it seemed a good time to share my organizational system and maybe it will be helpful for some of you.
Pictured here are four of the new paintings now at With These Hands Gallery at Edisto Island, South Carolina. If you are ever at Edisto please do stop in the gallery, it has a wonderful variety of fine art and crafts. And there is a charming bookstore right next store!
But back to organizing. With paintings in two galleries, plus listings on Etsy, as well as the occasional show entry, it can be a challenge at times keeping up with what’s where. Continue reading to find out my system for artwork record keeping and planning.
The first step of my organizational system is how I manage all the images for my art. I do this by giving every work a unique number as well as a title. Whether I scan or photograph a piece, once it is cropped and corrected for color, I save this highest resolution image with the title. For example, a painting titled “Summer” would be Summer.jpg. From that original jpg I then make copies for various uses. So a smaller resolution image for Etsy would be Summer_etsy.jpg. And for general web posting, I make a copy that is only 72 dpi and no larger than 500-600 pixels on the longest side. That one becomes Summer_web.jpg. I usually make a few detail images and perhaps have one of the painting hanging on a wall, so you can see that for each painting I can end up with quite a lot of images. All of these go into a folder for that image and the folder is named by the assigned number and title, for example, 001_Summer. (I also write the number and title on the back of the artwork.) And then all the folders for painting images are organized in folders by year. I have found this to be the easiest way to sort and retrieve images on my computer.
I know there are online subscription programs for organizing and keeping track of artwork and I have heard they can be very useful. However, I am not yet in a place where I can justify the expense of these services. Plus, an organizational system is only as effective as the user. This works well for me and by diligently backing up files I am as sure as I can be that things will not get lost.
Now for the tracking part of my system. I know I could set up spread sheets to keep records, but I do like the old-fashioned paper and pencil method. For years I kept everything in a binder. I printed out forms and filled in information for tracking where paintings were, sales and expenses, complete with pocket folders for receipts. At least that was the plan. The problem I had was that the binder was so cumbersome I often just shoved papers in rather than clear a big space on my desk to record information as needed. Plus, I had things like title ideas, notes for future blog posts, notes for painting ideas, all these miscellaneous things on scraps of paper or in other notebooks, and it was generally just a mess. Not to mention the pain of sorting it all out come tax time.
So last year I started keeping everything in a bullet journal. It was perfect for my needs. Now my bullet journal is not one of those with elaborately designed pages, I am more of the ”form follows function” school. But a paper and pencil planning system that is compact and easy to keep up with, whether at home or while traveling, was the answer for my organizing and planning needs. My art business bullet journal worked so well last year that I am using one for this year too, with only a few adjustments to my original set up. And although I laid out the pages in pen (somewhat color coded), I write all the information I include in pencil. I also add those little sticky tabs to mark each section, in addition to filling in the table of contents. I like the size of these books, they are easy to store, keep handy, and they even have a pocket in the back where I keep receipts. For me, it is something that I actually do keep up with, so my records stay up to date and I’m not scrambling looking for lost information.
The sections that I have set up include a page to list hashtags, pages for inventory information for Etsy and galleries, pages to list sales, my pricing structure, shipping box sizes, and title ideas. I have a larger section for blog post ideas as well as a section for miscellaneous notes, (I use this section a lot to write about my current work and ideas for future paintings). For planning I have a yearly goals spread and four page spreads for each month. The monthly pages include a calendar for planning, to-do lists, charts for tracking posts, and places to record income and expenses. I love having all of this in one place and in a compact format that is easy to reference when needed.
If you have read this far, thank you! That’s the basics of my minimalist planning and record keeping system. I have found that a simple approach is what makes me most happy and is the easiest for me to use. If you have a moment, please check out my newly simplified web site while you are here by clicking on any of the other tabs at the top of this page. And to keep up with my daily art practice you can find me on Instagram.
I dream in color.
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