Why is it important?
Being an artist is not all fun and paint. There are things an artist should do that require organization and dedication. Keeping a current inventory of your artwork is something every artist should do. You don't have to have an art business, or create a ton of pieces.
It is so easy to get down on yourself. You're not selling, nobody is interested in your art, or nobody even sees it. This may be true, but I would bet that it is not true. Time passes so quickly and it is possible to forget that your sister loved your Sunflower painting and even paid you for it! Your neighbor bought a hand painted Christmas scene from you. There was a little market sale in your condo building and, yes, you sold a collage that you had made a few years back.
And how about if you don't care about sales? You don't create art for selling but you do it for yourself and for the enjoyment of others. Maybe you only gift it. Regardless, you should keep track of what you create, where you show it or who you gift it to. One day you may forget all the work you did or wonder what ever happened to that lovely sketch you did of your home town.
It is nice to look back and see your accomplishments. If you keep good records you can pull them out and see how many sales you made, or how many people you made happy because they received a piece of you in the form of your art.
If you create a lot of art, it is absolutely necessary to keep an inventory. There is no better way to track your progress, sales, show location, buyer and price information.
If you have been producing art for a while and have not been keeping track of it, the idea of recording everything will seem daunting. Don't despair! For now, just start from today on or from the beginning of this year. If you feel ambitious you can work backwards later. This will be challenging because our memories often fail us. All the more reason to get on track now. Get Tracking!!
Paper or Digital?
There are pros and cons to both paper and digital. You may decide to use both.
Paper - Not everyone is tech savvy. Sometimes it even feels good to write things down. It feels more real. Also, you may not always have a computer or tablet available.
I personally use both paper and digital recording styles. Ultimately, everything gets logged into my digital file.
First, decide what you want to use to track your inventory on paper. Here are a few options:
A coil notebook, or any larger notebook you have handy. It doesn't have to be fancy. If you want fancy, that is great too! You are an artist after all. Decorate a plain notebook with your art. Then you know exactly what it's purpose is.
A Binder can be good. You can add pages and pictures of your art if you want. Different sections can hold different information. It may be a bit bulky but there are smaller binders out there. You can also keep a series of binders that record different things.
A Ledger or Accounting Book. One of those Blueline books with columns. If that is something you have laying around, you could use this. You may find it a bit awkward but if you are used to using it, then you should have no problem. It would not be my first choice, although I have tried.
Whatever you decide to use, USE IT! Get in the habit of recording things. (Watch for my follow-up blog with more details on paper record keeping)
Digital - If you have access to a computer and are pretty handy, this is the way to go. There are a few different programs you could use. The internet is also a great resource for this. There are art inventory templates available for free and also for purchase.
Spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel are great for inventory
. If you have Google Drive, the google sheets works the same way.
Database Programs like Microsoft Access can be useful. I use this one because it's something I learned at my workplace. Database programs can be great but can also be a headache.
(Watch for my follow-up blog detailing how to set up a spreadsheet and some nifty tricks to use)
What am I tracking, again?
Okay, so you have chosen how you are going to record your inventory. What exactly should you keep track of? You can decide how in-depth you want to go. I keep track of a lot of information. Sometimes I leave things blank and then wish I had not...
Here is a list of details you should or could keep track of. The ones I feel are absolutely necessary will have an asterisk beside them.
Painting Title *
Date or Year created. I use this as a numbering system. ie. 22-001, 22-002, 22-003 would represent paintings 1,2,3 from 2022.
Asking Price *
Size of painting. Decide if you record the framed or unframed size. Or make a column for both
Show or Event it was displayed at. If there is more than one location, record them all. It will be useful to avoid showing twice in the same venue.
Sold * A checkmark
Sold For $ * Record how much you sold the painting for, or if you gifted it, record that, also.
Sold to Whom?
. Date it was Sold
Do you have a picture saved of this piece? I recommend taking photos of all your artwork. Either print them or save in a folder on your computer or on your phone.
I keep track of all of these things. I can sort them in Excel or Access so that I can quickly see what has sold, where a good venue is, what the price of my art is compared to how it sold and what size it is.
All this information may seem bulky to you. Yes, it is, but it is valuable. Not as valuable as your artwork but it's right up there.
Is this just another thing to do to take the joy out of being an artist? No, no, and no! Don't look at it like a chore. See it as a celebration of what you have accomplished as an artist. Trust me, when you look back in a year, you will be so happy you took the time. Good luck!