Even Artists Have to do Inventory

My precious notebook, tattered an scribbled but it contains a record of ALL of my artwork since fall of 1995.

One of my goals this year is to complete a total inventory of my artwork. That may sound easy to some, I mean how hard is it to keep up with a painting? Well, I actually have 317 paintings since the fall of 1995. Plus 4 paintings that have Limited Edition Prints. That’s another 125 prints to keep up with plus notecards of various work. I have a ton of stuff from my elementary through college years as well but that’s another post!

This is all since I started ‘professionally’ in the fall of 1995. That’s when I started recording my artwork in a spiral notebook. That is a lot of artwork that is either in a gallery (or 2), owned by someone else, floating around my house or destroyed. And after almost 23 years of painting, I don’t remember every detail of those 300+ paintings or the prints or the notecards! I’ve written down quick notes like “Sold” “Destroyed” “Used in a collage” in my little notebook but sometimes I didn’t record what happened to a paintings. Plus I live in fear of losing that notebook (it used to go to art festivals with me for notes about the shows) or it being destroyed.

So a couple of years ago I decided I needed to get digital with my inventory and I started a spreadsheet. Here is what my system looks like today.

THE Notebook

The start of my system and my go to for a record of everything still. Click the photo above for a larger view. Note the elaborate (j/k) details like “Sold” written in the margins.

The Numbering System

Back of a painting. Note the numbering…this was the 3rd painting I completed in 2017.

This was probably the greatest thing I started for keeping up with my work. I HIGHLY recommend you use something to give each piece an unique identifier if you are a creator. My system is simple. The first 4 numbers are the year the artwork was created. Then I number in order from 001. I assumed years ago that I would never make more than 999 pieces of art in one year. So far my top year has been 57 so the third digit may be unnecessary but I am ambitious!

As soon as a painting is deemed ‘finished,’ I record it in the notebook, give it a number, sometimes a title, sometimes that comes later, and the medium and size. I then try to sign the BACK of the piece with the same information.


The Spreadsheet

For years, the notebook is where my inventory system stopped. I would scribble notes in the margin if a piece sold or if I used it in another piece of art but not a lot of details. I don’t have room to record details about the buyer or if a work is framed. Plus, I started putting prices in the notebook but as my prices change, that’s a lot of erasing!

So in comes technology and my spreadsheet. It is too big to put a snapshot of the whole thing (click photo for larger view) so here’s a list of my column headers:

Partial view of Art Inventory Spreadsheet

Photo – I put a small thumbnail photo in the spreadsheet. I can identify most of my paintings on sight but I can’t always remember numbers or titles.

ID – the unique 7-digit number each artwork gets assigned

Title – Title of artwork

Medium – Medium used in artwork

W – Width of artwork in inches

H – Height of artwork in inches

Completed – Best guess of the actual completion date (mm/dd/year)

Com -Commissioned piece. This gets a Y(es) or N(o) tag on whether or not I was commissioned to paint it.

Pet – Same Y or N on if the commissioned piece was a Pet Portrait

Fr_W – Frame width if the artwork is framed (and being sold or was sold with the frame)

Fr_H – Frame height

Price – Price of UNFRAMED piece

Fr Price – Amount I put in for the frame or stand, etc

Pr Final – This adds together Price and Fr Price for the total sales price

Photo – Have I photographed this piece. Gets a Y or I leave it blank for No

Listed on Web – Y tag if I have listed the artwork on my website. I currently leave it blank for No but I’ll probably add N for work that won’t be listed (such as destroyed work or used in other pieces) and leave it blank for those I need to list.

Listed on Etsy – Same as above but for my Etsy shops

Sold – Gets a Y if the artwork is sold. Will probably do the same code as Listed on Web

Owner – Name of buyer

Location – Town, State of the buyer OR where it was sold if I don’t know buyer.

Description – A brief description, especially if I have a series this helps distinguish any small differences.

Notes – Anything from where it sold, if it has won any awards or been in shows, does it have prints or notecards, etc.

I also will have a column for works that are in galleries or other physical shops. There was one year where I had artwork in a Texas gallery and in a North Carolina boutique plus still listed work on my website and Etsy. I was so worried I would have something listed online that wasn’t in my physical possession. This is one of the biggest reasons I created the spreadsheet.

I’m not through with the spreadsheet. I have 260 artworks listed but only 2016 and 2017 are completely current. I’m working backwards one year at at time.  Also, I back this up on my Google drive so it is safe from any loss or home disasters, unlike my precious notebook.

It is taking a while but when I’m through, I will have every detail of every piece I’ve created at my fingertips!


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