Spring Cleaning for Artists

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Springtime, perhaps more than any other season, feeds the soul of the artist. It is a time of bright energy, fresh life, and new ideas; as Mother Nature throws color onto her vast canvas and creates another beautiful year for us to marvel at, we can’t help but feel inspired and want to reach for our own artistic projects. There’s usually just one major problem standing in the way: by the time April rolls around, we can hardly see past the clutter that lies around us.

Sakura's (Cherry Blossoms) in Japan go into full bloom during spring

Over the winter months, low energy and depression tend to take a toll on most of our habits; we lack the motivation to maintain our studio space, and we succumb to lazily putting things “wherever” as we stew in the doldrums of our lackluster attitudes. We don’t take care of our bodies or minds, and spring finds us in a fairly subpar state.

Before you get started on your spring projects, you’re going to need to sort out the detritus of winter: wash it all away with a total overhaul of both your studio and your mind, so that you can start the season with a truly fresh canvas and focus clearly on the future.

Spring Cleaning for Artists – Your Art Space

Nothing is more distracting to most artists than visual clutter; it’s next to impossible to focus on the project in front of you when dozens of scattered objects are visible around you. A disorganized studio slows down the creative process, as you find yourself spending more time searching for your tools than working. All of this frustration and hassle then of course adds to the internal mess, filling our minds with negative energy and self-doubt.

Spring is in the Air, Lisa O'Brien
Spring is in the Air, Lisa O’Brien

To get out of this cycle, begin by cleaning and organizing your studio using the following spring cleaning for artists tips:

1. Start small

The hardest part of dealing with any major mess is the feeling of “Where do I begin?” It feels overwhelming, so we put it off, and put it off some more, until we begin to avoid the space altogether. To procrastinate cleaning is to procrastinate creating.

So, take a deep breath, and select just one corner of the room to begin with. Work on it until it’s done, then move to another, and another – over multiple days if need be. This will keep things manageable.

(Note: Cleaning has a way of making us remember other things we need to take care of. Don’t get distracted. Take a note or create a to-do list if need be, but do not succumb to distraction. Keep your focus or the spring cleaning will never get done.)

2. Divide and Conquer

Make five piles: “keep, throw away, recycle, donate, and sell.”

3. Check your art supplies

Haul everything off your shelves, out of your drawers, off your desk, etc. Open paints to check which have dried out, test brushes to make sure they are still supple, and test your pens and markers to see which are still working well.

4. Choose which items you want to keep

Devise a system of organizing the items that you want to keep. (Labelled tubs are an excellent way to keep track of things while keeping clutter out of sight. Spice racks, baskets, jars and other containers can also be used to organize your art supplies.)

5. Choose which items you want to throw away

Take the items you want to throw away and put them in a trash bag immediately. You want to get them out of sight before you have a chance to reconsider your decision. Remember that things like old paint, solvent, aerosol cans, and other chemical-heavy items may need to be disposed of in a special way—you should check with your municipality regarding the rules.

Spring 2012, Fintan Ryan
Spring 2012, Fintan Ryan

6. Recycle

Organize things you wish to recycle and choose whether you want to recycle them yourself (i.e. old canvases or projects that you hope to revisit someday), or send them away to be recycled.

7. Donate

Donate gently used items. Schools, shelters, and other organizations are often in great need of quality art supplies, so look around for a good home for art supplies you probably won’t use, but which are in good shape. Many locales have reuse centers. In New York, Materials for the Arts, provides a way for companies and individuals to donate unneeded supplies to thousands of nonprofit organizations with arts programming and public schools. Their most wanted supplies list include:art books(only creative),art supplies, paint, brushes, glue, markers, beads, paper, drawing pads, matt board, picture frames, stretcher bars, canvas, easels. You can search for similar organizations near you.

8. Sell

Sell any particularly valuable unused supplies and save the money for when you need to buy new supplies for your studio. You can sell unused supplies on: Craigs list, Ebay, and Creative Resale ( Creative Resale is a Michigan-based company that offers a website to sell, buy, trade, or donate new and used arts and craft supplies)

Spring Tale, Lina Faroussi
Spring Tale, Lina Faroussi

Once you have organized your space and yourself, you’re all set for another year of broadening your artistic horizons. The key thereafter lies in maintaining an orderly work area and sticking to the routine of self-care you have gotten into, to not fall back into bad habits and let your spring cleaning efforts go the way of so many people’s New Year’s resolutions (i.e. forgotten in a few months’ time).

We’d love to hear your feedback—How do you stay organized throughout the year?


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