Things pile up. That’s what’s my mind is on today because I spent a whole day earlier this week cleaning up the things that had piled up around my studio. It started with my drawing table. As I work I always end up setting things in the upper left hand corner of my drawing table. They’re the things that I want handy at a moment’s notice like various sketchbooks, receipts to be filed, drawings that I’m in the middle of, or reference material. Sometimes that upper left corner starts to overwhelm the rest of the drawing board and I have to clean things up, or at least re-stack things, in order to work. This is a fairly common occurrence.

The next stage is occurs less frequently. That’s when I can’t get a thing done until I clear off the top of my drawing board entirely. Clean the slate. It usually has to do more with my state of mind than the state of my drawing table. I call it clearing my drawing table in order to clear my mind. I strip everything off of the top of the table from stuff stacked in the left hand corner to all the little knick knacks that might be across the top of it, wash it down, and put away some of the crap that has accumulated. It’s a little bit of a fresh start to get my mind going.

I ended up up in the third stage this week that has to do with organizing and putting away a bunch of my drawings. This only happens a few times a year. Some time ago I installed a pair of drawers on the underside on my drawing table. I wanted a place close by to store drawings. I always have a lot more drawings then actual projects that I may be working on at any given time but I want my most current drawings easily accessible. I need to look through them in order to figure out what I want to work on next. In the first drawer are drawings that I haven’t made anything finished out of just yet and in the second drawer are drawings that I have made final paintings or prints from. Sooner or later I have to empty that second drawer. I was at the point where it was full.

This is the tedious and hard part. I have to put all of those drawings away somewhere. I have a cabinet with flat drawers in it that hold a lot of stuff but even that is getting filled up. All the drawings go in boxes and the boxes go in the cabinets. I’ve collected various types of boxes over the years but last year I made some new boxes to store drawings in. Some are 11×17 inches, some 11×14, and some are 8×10. Trying to figure out how to stack them can be a little annoying. It’s also not easy to make boxes. I’ve made them out of matt board and foam core board but either way takes time. It’s still cheaper than buying storage boxes though. A lot of life comes down to whether you have time or money on your hands.

Before the drawings can be filed away I have to spray fixative on the pencil drawings. Fixative is a special clear coating that goes over pencil drawings to keep them from smearing. I only use it on finished drawings since using fixative means that the pencil lines can no longer be erased. Not everybody fixes their drawings but I like to because I draw in really soft pencils and when I stack pencil drawings on top of one and other the front of one can get smeared by the back of the other. You can really ruin a drawing that way.

Since I use spray fixative I have to do that outside. It’s like using spray paint and I don’t want to do that in an enclosed environment. The stuff stinks and I don’t want to breathe it in. I have a table in back of my house that I lay the drawings on to spray them. Normally I have more drawings than table space so I spray them in layers. I put some drawings down, spray them, let them dry for a few minutes, put some more drawings down, spray again, repeat until all the drawings are fixed. Then I leave them all sitting there for an hour or so to blow the stink off of them. If I bring them in too quickly I’ll make my studio smell badly. I have to watch out for wind gusts though. I’ve ended up chasing drawings across the yard. My final step in my fixing process is to mark the drawing in the lower right corner with a red dot. That dot lets me know which drawings have already been fixed. It take the guesswork out of things.

Figuring out where all the drawings are going to go is the hard part. I mean what order do they go in? I still haven’t figured that out to my satisfaction because mostly I have to organize the drawings by size and that’s not much of a system. If I were to stack 6×9 inch drawings in with 11×17 inch drawings that would take up more room and not stack very well. It doesn’t work. But the problem with storing the drawings by size it that I do various stages of a drawing at different sizes. Usually the pencil sketch is around 6×9 inches, the pencil drawing 9×12, and the finished in drawing 11×17. It would make the most sense to store all versions of the same drawing together but that’s not going to happen. Space-wise it doesn’t work.

That’s the real headache of filing all my drawing away. Space. It always wins out over conceptual organization and that annoys me a bit. I find it tough to put stuff away without really organizing it. What’s the point of having anything if you can’t find it? I really would like a better system for storing this stuff but I don’t have one. And I’m pretty got with making up systems so it’s especially annoying that I don’t have one for my drawings. At least I scan all my drawings in and can find them digitally. That helps a lot.

One good thing about spraying my drawings and putting them away is that I get to look at them all. I rarely look at that many of my drawings at once but I guess I should do it more often. I get many new ideas when looking through the drawings. It almost makes up for the headache it gives me.