Keeping Your Workspace Tidy Completely in Spite of Being an Artist

If cleanliness is next to godliness then, truly, I am a beacon of sin.

But, after years of having to try to impress the USA reigning champion of housekeeping, my mother, I have discovered some deceptively simple tricks for feigning organization.

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A good mix of chaos and order, reminiscent of my own style of painting. Pfffhahaha. Yea. That’s my excuse.
  • Square containers provide the illusion of purpose.

We all have a lot of tiny things. It’s part of the job description. Erasers, flash drives, small disembodied doll heads for face angle reference… Throw it all in some sort of square container and voila. Looks like it’s supposed to be there.

  • Have a waste basket within arm’s reach.

Like I’m going to get up and walk all the way across the room to throw something away when I’m in the zone. Like I’m going to go back and do it as soon as I’m out of the zone. Like any of us have that much self-discipline.

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Everything against the wall. Everything in containers. A growing collection of unfinished water bottles. I’m tricking all of you into thinking I have organizational skills.
  • Put your desk against the wall and then lean things against it with utter abandon.

Between paper, pencils, brushes, etc. a lot of our art supplies are rather thin and rectangular. Thank goodness for the 3rd dimension that we can place them vertically and use 1/5 of the space they would otherwise take.

  • Wide, empty spaces of desk look clean.

It’s the same concept of minimalism. Also, I tend to be able to think much clearer and get into a working mood much easier if I can look upon an expansive empty space that could be filled with a canvas or paper. It’s the simple satisfaction of knowing I won’t have to expend all my energy moving junk around just to get started.

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A cheap plastic end-table usually dedicated to holding my palette, now re-purposed to flattening that watercolor I ironed a few weeks ago.
  • Give yourself a lot of surface to work with.

The more space you have to work with, the less you’ll have to jumble everything together into a pile. The ratio of junk to space should definitely favor space. And… If you’re a messy artist, don’t kid yourself by using your great-grandmother’s heirloom mahogany dining table. Laugh at yourself. Haha. Goodness gracious am I ever going to use this 5ft plastic table from Walmart that can double as a cutting board for all I care. Feel the freedom from the guilt. Know your great-grandmother can rest in peace knowing that you aren’t covering everything in paint. You don’t want her to haunt you over something so petty as that.

  • If you have wires… Tuck them away out of sight right now.

If you learn nothing from me at all whatsoever, please tuck your wires. I have my internet router, my computer charger, my Cintiq cords, and my little LED light all here. I know the struggle. Get your squats in for the day by having to plug things in under the table, it will strengthen your thighs anyway. Also, you won’t be getting paint all over your wires.

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That black and white box contains all of my watercolor tubes. And my Sorin playmat given to me by my really cute friend makes a lovely computer mat.

Other general workspace tips that I find benefit me:

  • Display awards for yourself to see

Confidence boost, and a reminder of the reputation you’re trying to uphold. Be proud of yourself! Be proud of your work!!

  • White gooseneck LED light

This was at a dollar store and I would be so sore without it… Truer colors for your work, and I can shine it directly onto a posable reference figure to see how the light would fall.

  • Wall mounted to do list

It’s out of the way and it’s constantly guilt-tripping me from my peripherals. Not for the easily stressed.

What are some of your favorite workspace tips? I’m always looking for more!

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