Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Well today was my art group meeting so I needed to find the paper I specially cut for the ink drawings I was going to do. That made me look through my old artwork, I mean, the few sketches and doodles and scribbles that I made before I painted my first picture. One computer image dated from my school days and was made in the 1980's.

It made me decide to catalogue and record the ones that were okay, and throw away the rest. There were less than ten pages so it's not a huge task.

I started to catalogue my works not long after starting painting and it's proved to be really useful. Each picture gets a code number, and each variation of the picture can get a letter. I use G for artwork (G for graphical) so my painting Girl in the Woods is number G41A. The variation letter is useful for studies or test versions that aren't important enough to get a full entry of their own. It's also useful for digital images that have colour variations or options.

Then I add a second letter for edition. For paintings the original is A. An edition of reproductions might be B for example. Reproductions might vary in size or quantity, so that is recorded too. Then there is a number for the edition. So a painting might be G41A-A1, and the 10th in a print reproduction G41A-B10.

That might be too pedantic and technical for most artists but it does stop works getting lost. Each picture has it's size and media noted, then a full list of the colours used and a day by day diary of work taken. That is really useful if you have to go back and make repairs, or reproduce an effect. All artists learn by experience, and my records are a written diary that reinforces each lesson. Finally, I add extensive notes about each picture, from motivations behind the work, interpretations, how I feel about it and a daily account of how the painting went.

Each time a picture is exhibited, wins an award or is sold, the prices, dates and venues, and name and address of the purchaser if known are noted.

Well that covers my filing practises. At some point I had to do it because I needed a system to keep things organised. I'm so glad I did.

I wonder what other artists do?


-Don said...

Hey Mark, Sounds like you have a pretty good system. I use index cards which include the name of the piece, the size, the date completed, any notes I choose to write about it and its color palette. When the works make it into a show, or are sold I make a notation on the back of the card. I have the cards sorted by their media - except for my mask paintings, which have their own tab. -Don

hwfarber said...

You will leave no mystery behind--I guess, unlike Leonardo, you'll be allowed to rest in peace.

I write the title and medium on the back of the painting, and I keep a list of paintings with prices; when one sells it gets a red dot and name/address of buyer. This list is someplace in my house.

Sounds like you have a great system. What if there's a fire?

Kathy said...

You have a terrific system! Wish I could organize myself enough to do the same.

Mark Sheeky said...

Thank you for the comments. Hmm, a fire...! I suppose then my paintings would all burn, but ironically not my files because they are on computer and I make regular off-site backups! Fortunately, I'm likely to burn to death in a fire along with my paintings leaving only my enigmatic records.