It doesn't surprise me, in the least, that people buy into and are enamoured with the idea of the "scatter-brained Genius", the "disorganized creative". I believe as we are met with adulthood and we take on increasing responsibilities and value in life appears to be in direct correlation "having it all together", the idea of going back into the less ordered world of unkempt freedom sounds wonderful.
Think of all the time + energy (resources) we put into organizing and cleaning!
I'm not buying the illusion, and neither should you. Especially as a creative thinker, doer, being... Think of all the energy + time (resources) you have lost looking for something; a website, instructions, notes, images, reference images, tools, materials, equipment, email addresses, phone numbers, deadline listings, even completed artworks. Money spent (resources) buying something you know you have, however you simply cannot find; tools, materials, and equipment. When in the depths of a project, series of works, or administrative work for your creative business (especially when you're doing it all yourself), things do get messy and become a bit frazzled. Keeping an organized and clutter-free space should still be your goal. From personal experience time (time = money) is wasted when we can't find the tools, materials, and information we need. We end up buying another in the last minute crunch to deliver work on time and meet deadlines. Even locating work in a sea of finished pieces can waste precious time and cost us opportunities in the long-term. Organization, like in any successful business or career, is absolutely paradigm.
I'm not saying making art should be a tidy and neat practice. Actually I prefer the opposite, when nothing is precious in the making. I love torn, curled pages. I like making a mess. I enjoy the leftovers, the marks made as my medium travels off the support and onto the surface I'm working on. In fact at times I try to capture this or make something from the residue of art making, or the "mess". I save the paper I was using to protect the desk, collect the watercolor on the desktop, and keep the scrap bits of string or paper... I save all these and try to find ways to reuse them or work them into new pieces. When I'm done working though, I clean the space and put the studio back together. It helps me come to the studio the following day, since I know that my space will be clear and ready for me to get straight to work.
This idea goes beyond simple studio maintenance. I recently sold and gifted away craft supplies, bookmaking supplies and equipment, old art materials (brushes and tubes of paint I didn't use regularly), unfinished and even older, finished works. A good 2/3 of the studio gone! I've been steadily making art since 2006. When I say steadily I mean as a daily practice. When not physically in my studio, I am teaching, taking photographs for reference material, reading articles, compiling opportunity lists, keeping up social media accounts and professional relationships. Between myself and my husband, we have four children (2 in the home full-time), and if not for a consistent practice in organization and a conscious effort to simplify, simplify, simplify... I could not accomplish even half of what I am. Letting go of unfinished projects or capturing ideas and visions in a sketchbook also helps with the physical clutter of a creative space. Ask yourself: What is serving the work, that work that is the most important?
We often see and even romanticize these images of creative beings rushing about from thing to thing in a heightened manic state, somewhat frazzled, everything about them topsy-turvy, scattered, and going sideways. We think to ourselves this is what "Genius" looks like, as we buy into the picture painted. Yet this often leads to missed appointments, unmet deadlines, and being incapable of producing and delivering what's been promised. Things usually seem to work out though... Right? What we also often fail to remember in these portrayals of the "creative" is that they so often have someone in the background keeping things together; the robot helper, the much smaller sidekick, the quiet or delicate aide, the apprentice, or the wife, daughter, mother, or son. Most of us do not have this ideal supporting role, nor should we (I WARN) go looking for it in a future or present partner, friend, coworker. If you can afford to pay them, share what is gained from the labor, or they volunteer; well yes, to these.
I simply find that perpetuating the above described stereotype of a creative doer, thinker, being is more damaging than helpful. I find it incredibly frustrating when these images of what living a creative life is like are used as an excuse for irresponsibility, disorganization, flakiness, and inconsistency. As we move and help other young artists move through this already highly competitive and often frustrating business of art, where we encounter more rejection than seems tolerable, I suggest we paint a different picture. A picture where they behave as any other professional working in a professional environment would, becoming artists who can put their ideas into action and make manifest their visions. Help them organize their chaos.
So many students within half a decade of leaving art school stop making art entirely. Explore, but learn to let go. Stop. Take the time to get it all sorted and then return work. Make organizing a habit. You stop to lock the door, take out the trash, wash the dishes, clean the laundry. Work spaces especially studio spaces which are the site of some incredibly intense and messy work, need regular maintenance. As does your mind, as does work load/production schedule, as does your external hard drive and browser's Bookmarks list. Think about all the time you will save. Once you have it organized the hard work is over. Regular maintenance will save you loads of resources in the long-term. If you take the amount of time spent searching for tools and supplies, running to the store to buy items, waiting for those needed things you can't get locally to be delivered, sending emails or making phone calls to explain why something will not be completed as promised or on time, you will see that initial time invested in organizing and simplifying your creative work spaces and keeping up that maintenance regularly will save you time = money and money.
Tabatha Lendquvist-Grace, Artist/Owner Lendquvist Studio
Tabatha Lendquvist-Grace works from her private studio located in Walker County, AL. She is an Interdisciplinary artist working across and in various mediums to include painting, bookmaking, and poetics. She taught Design I at the University of North Alabama and taught Drawing Foundations as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Tabatha has been involved in a number of community arts projects with At-Risk youth and has experience teaching art to youth and adults at various private and public schools, institutions, and art organizations. She earned a BA in Studio Art from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.