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Seen & Heard!

My studio suffers with piles!

Yup, piles of paper and paintings!

As you may know, I am a member of both Alice Sheridan's Connected Artist and Louise Fletcher's Art Tribe memberships. Both of these give me a deep love of our artistic community, vast resources and a great deal of support and practical help.

A couple of weeks ago there was a workshop run by Helen Sanderson, in the Connected Artist Club. Helen specialises in helping people with their clutter issues, not just in the usual sift/donate/organise kind of way, also in a way that helps us understand why we hold onto stuff and to face that with a little more understanding and self love, so we can shift our habits long term.

During the session we were encouraged to consider one area or job that we consistently put off or avoid. I immediately thought about the pile of papers, drawings and paintings from life drawing sessions that is growing and spreading in one corner of my confined attic studio.

I work primarily in the moment, in life drawing sessions via zoom, with incredible model-artists around the world. I prepare colour-washed sheets ahead of the sessions and pick the pages to suit the feel or pose shape as I go. Models hold poses from a couple of minutes to 20 or 30 minutes at a time and move quite rapidly between these. So as I work, finishing a drawing, I cast the page aside and start on another. At the end of a session we show our work to the group, but again, the pages are cast onto the pile in the corner regardless of whether I want to do a little more work on them, or how finished or worthy only of recycling they may be!

In my calendar I used to have a reminder to sift through this pile, recycle the rubbish, pull others out that may require more work or, indeed, be ready for framing, to hang on someone's worthy! I kept moving this reminder, or delete it all together. I dreaded the sift, partly because it also included the job of putting new, finished paintings up onto my website. The pile continued to grow! I am prolific in a two or three hour life drawing session and often do these twice a week....and so the pile grew and spread!

Now Helen, leading the decluttering/unblocking workshop offered a number of different approaches to these sorts of issues. One of which was to have a conversation with the issue/pile as though it were a person. I asked my slithering pile of papers how it felt, what it needed. It was an interesting process. My pile of work felt unloved, unseen, ignored. It wanted, like so many of us as artists, to be seen and heard! A moment of inspiration hit!

I swiftly ordered an adjustable clothes rail and several packs of skirt hangers and within a few days I had a whole new system.

I no longer have a pile of unloved paintings in my studio. As I finish a drawing I attach a skirt hanger and hang the piece on the rail. At the end of a life drawing session I can easily lift off each drawing to show it, and replace it onto the rail. Once the hangers are full I can simply look at each piece much more easily, pick out those that need more work, add to them, return them to the rail. Next to the rail I have repurposed a laundry basket as a big bin (I tend to work on A2 and A1 size pages) for pieces to go into the recycling. Underneath the rail is a large under-bed storage box which now holds the finished pieces that are ready to go up for sale on my website. These I have photographed on my easel before popping them into the box, which will also make the process of getting these up for sale a touch easier...although I am still slightly procrastinating on this!

My drawings an paintings are now easier to view, flip through and are stored in a way that keeps them in a far better condition. The sift happens much more frequently too. All from one simple process, to consider what my work needed!

Sharing this result in the group felt really helpful.

Helen Sanderson was recently interviewed on Alice and Louise's Art Juice podcast...and I was so thrilled to hear my success with the process mentioned I felt I would share it here in case it helps just one other artist with a slithering, growing pile of artwork that they are avoiding sorting! What is the clutter/block issue in your art practise? How does it feel? What does it need?


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