And the answer isn’t “It’s just too much effort” (although it would be a major undertaking).
Organizing and cleaning up is a common new year’s resolution. And there is value to reducing clutter and eliminating stuff you don’t use. But there are some reasons why being too organized can interfere with creativity.
Art Can Be Messy
The process and the aftermath of making art can leave materials and scraps all around the studio. The battle that is the canvas sometime exacts collateral damage. Sometimes the art itself does not survive.
So here is my main working area.
Not so bad. Window with decent light. Additional lamp with natural light bulb – no yellow or blue tint. A couple of projects underway. Good job, right?
But look right under the table.
I will spare you the 360 degree view.
Really, all you really need to do to paint is to be able to find your paint, brushes and paper. And that is usually true for me although I may not be able to find a specific brush right away. (I know it is somewhere on that table.)
Finding reference material is another matter. I have piles of reference photos printed out that I am constantly re-shuffling into other piles. Usually according to what I think I will might be working on next. Some days what I thought was going to be interesting does not spark anything so I can’t determine which pile was the most “important” one. So I need to find a different inspiration – which is around here somewhere…
Neat O the Arty-O
There is a line of thought though that being too organized can stifle the creative process – that alphabetization may not lend itself to the artistic impulse.
Bob Sutton says “creativity is about increasing the amount of variation and all around messiness.”
From Austin Kleon:
“creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.”
“efficiency, and convenience … is often at odds with creative serendipity.”
The thought is that while you are searching for something, you may stumble upon something else that is just as interesting or creates a new association of thought that propels you forward.
Think of what happens when you start surfing online or use social media: ten minutes later – how did you ever get there? But if you can keep in mind the goal of looking for ideas and not just get sucked into rabbit hole falling, this free association by disorganization may be beneficial.
Mix it up, shake it up, make it up.
Only Filing Your Nails is Easy
But if you decide to accept this mission, even HOW to organize is difficult. The goal is to make it simple and quick to find something.
I have tried to organize notes or document and the problem always becomes how will I be looking for this later. Try this with photos on your computer. How do you name it, tag it or organize under folder names? Organizing under dates doesn’t work if you can’t remember when it was taken. Location is not helpful if you can only remember the subject matter.
The thought and time that you may take to tag and organize may be for naught – you still may not be able to find it.
And you may spend so much time determining a filing system and actually organizing that no art gets created.
While scanning randomly through the photos may unearth a surprise.
Taking a Dump
How about eliminating the extraneous? Yikes! Who knows what will be inspirational later? What object, sketch or partial doodle may become just the thing to start off, prod or complete a project?
Although you may not need a backup garlic press, extra ideas should stay.
Note to Self
I do have lists of ideas, project and subject matter. These sometimes proliferate, many ending up on multiple lists. I often cull these, usually rewriting lists or throwing some out, suggesting that the entire exercise is non productive.
My quick solution? Take the lists of pending projects and lists of colors, paintings to do, techniques, sizes of frames to fit and display them in my studio area. At least I know where they are now.
Now back to painting.
New Year’s aftermath – 1960. Artist Ben Kimberly Prins