Clearing out your art studio

Clearing out your art studio

Following on from last weeks blog post about change. This week I am looking at loss and letting go of your unsold artwork. IMG_20190915_123208

Just moments after I had posted last week’s blog into the scheduling system, I heard that a former neighbour had died and I was invited to attend the funeral.
Our neighbour was a lovely lady who sadly had to go into a home two years ago, due to that horrible condition, Alzheimer’s.
This meant that I hadn’t seen her son in all that time, and I was shocked by the change I saw in him.  He had been the one organising her care arrangements and visiting her weekly, too.  He looked tired, had aged dramatically, and I know how cheated he felt that his mother had been taken away from him for a second time.

Whilst sitting in the church waiting for the coffin to arrive, I was reminded of last week’s blog post and how much change he, his sister and the whole family have to find a way to deal with and the grief that comes with  loss, but for this man his whole life will change.  No more dealing with nursing homes, carers, doctors and travelling through London to visit her on a weekly basis.  A huge void will need to be filled with new things, but for this man it won’t be easy, to begin with.


I was also aware that with great change comes loss and as I prepare to pack up my studio whilst we ready our house for sale, I am going through years of artwork I have produced and some my children made, too.  What do I keep, and which needs to go and how should I decide what I need to let go?
As my work has changed over the years it has become necessary to repurpose or remove work which is no longer relevant.  This weeding out is part of change but it also signals the start of something very new.



So, what do you do with all those paintings sitting there, unresolved?  How do you decide what needs to go and what should stay and how do you stop yourself from hanging on to things that you really need to let go? IMG_20190915_104725

How I deal with this is not easy for me either, but I have improved with practice over the years.
First, I decide what I am keeping as part of my catalogue of work ready for sale. That’s the easy bit.  I also double check that the cataloguing system is up to date and I store all these works together for easy retrieval when I am asked out of the blue to take part in an exhibition.  It just happened, truly. I have been asked to be a guest artist for an exhibition at the stunningly beautiful Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham – for details please see the newsletter on my website.

IMG_20190915_123113Then it starts to get difficult.  Emotions play such a huge part in hanging on to, and letting go, of work.
All the children’s work is kept unless it has become badly damaged.  I know that they won’t ever want it back, but I also know that when I die, finding that I have hung onto their work for so many years will be a  comfort to them.  That is all now stored in keep-sake boxes.

Then there is my work.

When I started back on the art path over ten years ago now, I made tons of work.  Lots have been thrown out but much still remains.
I split the canvases into three groups; acrylic works to be painted over; works in oil to be painted over and damaged canvases to be thrown out.

Next, the paper works.  I have kept, and will continue to keep, all my sketch books.  I then decide if the works on paper is of a good enough quality to warrant saving.  If not, I tear it up before recycling it.
I remember many years ago an artist friend had a clear out and put her artwork in the bin to be collected by the recycling service.  A man walking past decided to go through the paintings and took a bunch out for himself.
My friend challenged the man, who said that clearly they were no longer wanted so he was going to hang them in his home.  From that point on she destroyed unwanted works and I have followed her example. IMG_20190915_104650

I have hundreds of used sheets of beautiful and expensive watercolour paper with very underwhelming paintings on them.  These make perfect first passes for other works on paper.

There are always those pieces of which you are not sure. Perhaps it was your first watercolour/oil/acrylic etc., but if this pile is a huge one, you need to let most of it go.  Either repurpose or destroy.  You can always take a photograph to remind you.  Store the photos on your computer and have a separate copy on an external drive.

By letting go you will make room for new work, new thoughts and new life.
It is not easy I know, but it will make your working space, your approach to your art and the final outcome, a whole lot better.

Lastly for me I have to store all my BA degree work.  I am in my second year but having finished and passed my first year, it is doubtful that I will need any of that work again.  I have kept all my sketch books and hung onto my research files and exhibition critiques, but the rest of it has gone.  Now I have less stuff to store, I also now know where everything is and my life is becoming easier for it.IMG_20190915_104855a

Letting go of all that stuff has been cathartic and has opened new avenues for exploration without me having to go and get more supplies.  A definite win, win.

As for my neighbour, she will be missed by all of those who knew her.  She managed to outlive most of her friends but at 90 still attracted nineteen people to her funeral and that is saying something!

I am not a fan of funerals, but I am so pleased I went to remember her, to support her family and to learn more about a lady who was wonderful to me and my family and has been missed since moving to her care home, but not forgotten.


So, gone but not forgotten but making room for new life to emerge. As with life, so in art.




4 Responses

  1. Sad your neighbor passed but I read the rest of the post in very much interest! I think all artists go through this phase of just having too much work piling up. I can tell you that the situation is worse when your own little flat is your studio too!! Reuse and clear out is probably the answer. Also, making a distinction between “practice” works and final products can be helpful. Practice on paper or canvas boards that take less space; paintings to sell on canvas.

    Kind regards,

    • Thank you yes, it is sad about my neighbour.
      I probably have too much space but being in a small flat I expect you have to be really aware all the time of what to keep and what to throw.
      I have seen your drawings and they are really beautiful.

      • Thank you very much Alison! I do appreciate your kind words. 🙂 stay in touch!

  2. Thank you, Alison, very helpful and so right!!

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