There are times that the muse sits on my shoulder and tickles, itches, pulls and tears at my ears. “Hey!” She says, “Pay attention to me!” I can envision each step of the next project to the point where I feel the pastel in my hand stroking the surface of my painting and clearly see the color laying down for me. I know the size, the underpainting, and even the frame I will use for the image. I rush into the studio to get started only to find that the surface I want isn’t there, the pastel color I want to begin with was used up, and I have no space to work in. Here you sit with the pregnancy of creation and no way to bring it to life.

This is why I take the time out of creating to prepare. Being an artist can be fulfilling but you need to get the chores done to be effective. Without clean work spaces, you cannot see clearly. If you don’t organize your supplies, you will not be able to find the surfaces to paint on — or if you do it will be on an odd size that will take longer to frame. It is important to take the time to make sure you have surfaces to work on and it will be more efficient if they are standard sizes. Standard sizes are quick to mount in a ready made mat and frame. Organizing your work space helps you keep track of your tools and will help you recognize when you need to restock or replace important items. You lose valuable time looking for that 2” brush or trying to preserve your art with insufficient fixative. There is also safety to keep in mind. Working with pigments can be toxic and without proper disposal, you can continue to expose yourself to fumes as well as get pigment on your skin. Ask any oil painter, they will tell you that oil paint on one poorly placed towel will go forever. You leave the studio with it on your sleeve, soon it is on your face, your clothes, your hands and finally in your food. Ingesting pigments and mediums have killed greater talent that you will ever meet in your lifetime. Do Not Take Chances.

It is also important to take inventory of your actual art supplies. Here you are cruising along with your painting and you have run out of Alizarin Crimson. Had you taken the time to write down an inventory of what you had or needed, this wouldn’t hold you up. Keeping an inventory of what you have and need will also make sure you have the appropriate material to protect your work until it is safely mounted. Once every 4 months, I will organize my pastels by color and value so I know exactly what I have, and more importantly what I am missing. If you can, write down what you purchase from your suppliers so you can always know where to order from. It is one thing to take a day for preparation, but you can quickly eat away at valuable time because you need to search exactly where you found that perfect shade of yellow. As a pastelist I can have as many as 5 different suppliers and it pays to keep track of what you bought where.

To recap: take time out from dancing with the Muse to 1) Clean, 2) Organize, 3) Restock-resupply, and finally 4) Document. Try doing this at least once a month. It is an excellent investment of time and it will nurture your creative mental space and energy. If taking one day out of the month doesn’t seem to keep up, try taking an hour a week; figure out what works best for you.

Good Luck!