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How To Inventory Your Art Work

Drawings in a Classroom

Inventorying their work is something that many artists do not know how to do well. Partly because we tend to just shy away from anything that requires time away from our studios. And also because I don’t think it’s really taught anywhere. However, inventorying art work makes life a lot easier when consigning and selling work. And also when trying to remember what a piece of artwork is.

After a few different attempts to inventory my work (I tried just the name, I tried just a number) a fellow artist suggested the following.

2 digits for the year, and 2 digits for the number it is painted that year

So for example, the first painting I paint in 2013 will be labeled 13-01, the second painting is labeled as 13-02. For 2014 the first painting will be 14-01. I mark the back of my artwork in pencil, with this number. Obviously, for some types of art that might not work.

I put all of my paintings into a spreadsheet, organized by theme of paintings. I include the following columns:

1) Name of Painting
2) Short Description
3) Size of artwork
4) Medium
5) Year created
6) Number (i.e. 13-01)
7) Price
8) Location (ex studio, gallery, or name of owner when sold)

I also keep my sold paintings and gifted paintings on a separate spreadsheet. So that I don’t have available paintings and sold paintings on the same page. But this is something that isn’t necessary in the beginning.

Do you inventory your art? If so, what is the best method you have discovered for that?

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Artist Organized

4 Responses to “How To Inventory Your Art Work”

  1. Jaime Haney May 16, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Post is a year old, but I’ll comment 🙂 I’m looking for inventory means right now. Up until now, I’ve neglected it and as I become more productive (like I am this year) I find that I am forgetting a lot of my paintings! I better come up with something quick. I like your idea of the spreadsheet and the numbering, it gives me a great starting point for reference and I’ll tailor it to my needs as I go.

    I’ve become very frustrated with what is available for purchase. I love the cloud idea, but hate the price commitment. $75/year may not seem like much, but you add that up over 20+ years and that is quite a lot to fork out for software. I’ve tried trials of Bento (now gone) and GYST! but found it just too confusing. I read from a lot of artists that have bought them or similar just simply don’t use them. I worry I may fall in that category, so I love your simple but effective strategy. But I’m sure wishing I had taken a class on spreadsheets by now!

    Thanks for the info! Glad to find this site.
    Jaime Haney
    http://www.jaimehaney.com

  2. Amanda Trought June 22, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    I think that these are some great tips I had been trying to think of new ways to update recording my art work!

  3. Briony July 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    I’m a sculptor, so I don’t have a numbering system, but I keep an inventory of my work in a spreadsheet.

    In addition to the above list I also have:
    – a thumbnail of the work
    – weight (although not always recorded, the column is there)
    – Edition size(including which editions have sold and sometimes I’ve recorded who to)
    – short description

    I have a separate spreadsheet with my pricing info on (although I sometimes think they should be merged). That has some of the above info plus:
    – time took to make
    – cost of making (materials/mould etc)
    – casting time
    – casting cost
    – current wholesale price
    – current retail price
    – calculated profit (2 version, just costs, and also including hourly rate for my time)

    I’d also advise others not to save multiple versions of your inventory late at night when putting in a submission for an exhibition/competition, as you will later forget which is the most up to date version and what the differences are!

    • Artist Organized
      Artist Organized March 1, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

      Thank you for these additional thoughts. 🙂 Much appreciated 🙂