Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Sense of it All: Organizing Records of Artwork

It doesn't seem like it should be all that difficult to keep track of a bunch of paintings and prints. Just another of those tasks artists need to attend to, and that the general public never gives a thought to.

Art work happens, and then it takes on a life of its own. It needs to get photographed so that there is a record of it. It gets entered into shows, sometimes rejected, sometimes accepted. It gets shown here and there. It may get a prize or two. Eventually it gets sold or stored somewhere.

Easy enough. But over a professional lifetime, what seems like data that won't be forgotten, does. I have done fairly well at keeping track. Below you see binders labeled by the year. Inside each are slide sheets with a separate sheet for each painting. There is also a record page for each painting, with the title, size, medium, and other pertinent information.

Some paintings have quite a history of shows and prizes. Others, not so much. Sales are recorded, too.

Along about four years ago, I pretty much gave up on having slides taken of my work and switched to digital images. I still have a professional lab take the photos of the work. It's expensive, but worth it in the long run. This was true of slides, too. Most places accept CD's of artwork now, but occasionally I run into a show entry that still requires slides.

I decided recently that I ought to convert my slide records into digital files. It was getting very confusing to have many years of work in slides and then 4 years in digital form.

It was something of a domino effect. I discovered that I had scanned some older work and digitized it at some point. I discovered a several paintings that had never ever been documented at all. They were lurking about on my painting rack.

I went through all of the slides, and all of the records, and finally figured out what slides needed to be scanned, and made a list of paintings that had never been documented at all. I took the slides to Tucson to Photographic Works for scanning.

The next step was to add the scans to my computer and to update my records into Bento. Bento is a great program for keeping track of art work. It's easy to use (and believe me, it needs to be for me to be able to cope), and has lots of good features built into it.

There is a table that lists all the work in whatever order you choose. It's nice, because you can see at a glance the date, title, size, medium and price of all of the work. Above, you can see how a detail page in the Bento program looks. It has spaces for basic information, and then an area for a description of the work and an area for "notes", which is where I keep track of the records of the painting. In addition, I have added a feature where I can keep track of various online galleries in which I have listed the particular painting.

Was this a lot of work? Well, yes. I'm guessing it took at least a couple of full days to do. Was it worth it? Well, I sure hope so. I guess that depends on how long before some new technology comes along to displace both slides and digital images. Meanwhile, it feels great to have (almost) everything in one place, available a the touch of a finger.

Now I just need to get the work out into the world!

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