Organize Your Art Supplies & Spend More Time Making Art | Melissa Mercilliott | Skillshare

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Organize Your Art Supplies & Spend More Time Making Art

teacher avatar Melissa Mercilliott, Mixed Media Artist & Art Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (15m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Gather Sort Toss

    • 3. Pencils

    • 4. Pensmarkers

    • 5. Paint

    • 6. Chalk and Oil Pastels

    • 7. Paper

    • 8. Books

    • 9. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

This class is for artists and crafters alike. Stop wasting valuable art time looking for supplies!

Consider this your pep talk to get all those supplies organized! In this class I talk about how I have organized both my own art supplies, and student supplies of my school classrooms. The goal is to set up systems that make your supplies accessible and easy to clean up. Your space should reflect how you work and think. 

Don't forget to take a BEFORE picture! 

I made a Pinterest board for this class of other storage ideas for you to check out! I'll keep adding to it as I find more.

If you like my swatch charts, they are available as a PDF in my Etsy shop. Two Deserts on Etsy

Don’t forget to follow me on Skillshare. Click the “follow” button and you’ll be the first to know when I upload new classes. Follow me on Instagram @mercistwodeserts to see new projects in progress!

If you have questions, please ask! I'm happy to offer advice or have a discussion about storage solutions that may work for you. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa Mercilliott

Mixed Media Artist & Art Teacher


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1. Intro: You want to spend more time making art and less time looking for your favorite supplies. And this class I'll show you how I store supplies in a way that helps me keep a clean desk and be more productive when I have time. My name is Melissa, I'm a mixed media artist, the home studio, but I also have organized several classrooms and my career's an art teacher. The goal for me is to be able to find supplies when I need them and keep them like new, older being stored. I'd also like to set up systems that make clean up easy and quick. If you feel like your space, could you some organization, I hope you'll join me as I walked to the strategies I use to get my art supplies, motor 2. Gather Sort Toss: When you're setting up an artwork faith or reorganize. And if you have, you should be thinking about how this face will look when it's finished. It's great to have an idea in mind of what your preferred style is. And I highly recommend scrolling through Pinterest for ideas. Everyone has different case and you need to think about what practical for your space and your lifestyle. Obviously, the less space you have, the less you're going to spread out. I started out with Rubbermaid box under my dorm room bed in college. After I got married and lived in a hall closet where it was stay for my kids. And I would drag it to the kitchen table when I wanted to work on projects. Eventually, I had a desk in the corner and stored all my supplies either on the desk or the nearby hall closet. 20 years later, I'd taken over half the living room and a cloak and Patio. I wanna see what I have, but I don't want to be constantly dusty my supplies because they're out. I also have kept it like to chew on paint brushes which was not good. I want the area to look clean with art sprinkled into the display since it's visible from my front door and my TB area. No matter what your style is, the first step again, organized is to gather all your stuff into one space? Yes. All of it sorted into piles by type or youth tests, the supplies that need it like pens and markers and talks, any items you don't need or artists or supplies or pressure. I'm not asking you to get rid of anything. You actually want to keep on talking about the items that don't belong in your art, stuff, like your kids broken crayons, that random pen you got for free, similar a promise. You won't miss it. Tossed out any items that are completely dead, like the dried out pan or the market with the shredded Ned, you're not going to use it. I had a few paint tends to drift and made matches every time I pulled them out. So into the trash they went. If you really dislike a product that works fine, consider rehoming into an RFP friend or donating it to a school or department. I can tell you as an art teachers, but young students loved trying out the fancy art supplies. You may be thinking, oh, I should keep it and try to use it. Let me tell you, you're not going to use it. If you're anything like me, you always grab the ones apply that you know you like first while the other systems are and takes up space. Once all your supplies are sorted and you read it out, all the unnecessary items meet in the next section, particular storage. 3. Pencils: You can have all the storage containers in the world, but it doesn't help if your supplies aren't organized in a functional way. There's so many options for storing things that you'd have to decide how visible and accessible you want them to be. What you keep the items in is less important than the fact that they are stored and accessible. That means you don't need expensive storage containers to be organized. You use whatever you have or can easily get. I've created a separate Pinterest board, especially for this class. I'll link it below and the resources. It has lots of budget friendly options just to give you ideas. If you have desk space or loss based near it, there are lots of cute storage options for pens and tools. I personally need my desk clear at all times for bigger projects. So I have a bookshelf behind my desk. I hold all my supply. I need things to be visible but contained to keep items clean. We're not being used because I switch media so often. I keep most my pencils and divide it containers where I can store them vertically. I keep my office pens, pencils, and most of these tools in a wooden container that's more visible. While my colored pencils and watercolor pencils live in clear acrylic container to my bookshelf that protects them from my cat. The clear containers create a cleaner luge and make it easier to spot what I'm looking for. My drawing pencils don't get used as often. Probably my favorite sketching pencils and a small tray by my desk and I stored the extra from a tackle box. There's still easy to get to and I need a backup, but they're out of the way and they're not on display over time. For my coloured Central, however, I store the extra two with them so that can quickly grab a new pencil and keep working when one runs out. Keep supplier to get used together in the same place whenever possible, my colored pencil blender and conflicts tender or store with my colored pencils and my painter's tape is stored at my watercolors applies. Really think about your work process and what's required, who would typically grab while working. You want to avoid thinking through multiple containers to start one project. Now to tackle the debate of whether to keep products in their original packaging or not. I know a lot of people like to keep their items and the original packaging they came in specially colored pencil set. But for me it just one more buried art-making and I tend to forget about using those items at all. I don't like opening a variety containers just to get to all the different options that I have. I also have no problem nicotine brands and I find that the packaging often takes up too much space. The other issue I found was that I would order art subscription boxes or biased single art supplies and where that item would turn into a floater and didn't fit and think particular brand or category for storage. You'll see that some of the products I do find it useful to keep separate by brand, like my watercolor pencils because I have coordinating swatch pages for those and sorting them by brand makes it easier to find a color while others, like my colored pencils that have all mixed together so I can quickly see the variety I had to work with. Again, think about how you would join me in the next section to see how I store and store other dry media. 4. Pensmarkers: Just like your pencils, you'll have to decide if you want to make sure sets or keep sets separate in their packaging. If you want to keep sets in their original packaging, a clear closed box or open basket is a good way of keeping them together, but visible and accessible. My stands will always be breakup the packaging because what is out of sight, out of mind and if it's difficult to put away, you won't. I'm mixing them together so I can see the entire range what's available to me and it makes the cleanup fast, uneasy. The majority of my pens and markers are separated by color families into drawers. So yellows and orange, pinks and reds, that kind of thing. Having all the options available in one space helps me see all the products I have and not forget about those random one-off supplies that either picked up separately or gotten a subscription box. Some marker manufacturers say doesn't matter if they're dual ended brush pens or store vertically or horizontally. But I personally think it does make a difference in the ink flow over time, so I store them flat. I have all these squashed into a folder that I can take with me to the art store or reference is needed. It doesn't bother me that they're all mixed together regardless of the brand or type. All I metallic pens are stored together and all my black waterproof pins are together even though they would fit into the neutral store. The goal here is to avoid digging and searching. Do what makes sense for the way that you work. If you don't think things are sorted by color, makes sense. Use a different drawer for each brand or product. Use. My black and white pasta pitons get used so frequently that I pulled them out and put them into an open tray instead of storing them with the rest of the pins. If you're not sure which supplies need short-term versus long-term storage. I say take a few days and make art. Let it get messy every time you think. That's too far. I don't want to dig for that. Make a mental or physical note. And a few days of art-making later you'll know which supplies our priority for you to keep close and which ones can be stored a little further at a reach. Joined me in the next section for ideas and thoughts about paint storage. 5. Paint: My paints live and a few different places depending on type and how often they use them. If you use certain supplies more often there should be more accessible. The biggest struggle for me was finding a way to store all the supplies I don't use very often is a mixed media artist. I use a wide range of supplies for myself, but I also teach with the supplies that they don't necessarily use in my own projects. Everything needs a place and a method that keeps materials protected for the next time I use them. As I've said before, keep items you use together, stored together. For me, that means I keep my extra pallets, masking fluid, tape and erasers all near my watercolors. If you were say, into architectural drawings for pencils, erasers and rulers should all be stored together and it easily accessible area. I keep my water color palettes that are ready to be used in an easy to grab spot. I keep the swatches for the watercolors inside the pallets for references, I use them. If you have watercolor pans that didn't come in a container, you can make her own with any metal, tin and magnetic tape, watercolor crayons and Rackspace crayons that I use with my watercolors get stored in their original packaging because they are extra fragile, that I keep them in a drawer with other loose supplies that work in the same way. This is another example of how to deal with those floater items that get brought in as OpenStack or come as part of a kit. I only have a few tubes of goulash, but those are capped with my watercolors because they are also water-based and the size is more similar to the watercolors and that of my acrylics. I use the other doors to store extra watercolor pans, masking fluid, alcohol inks, and larger product advocates for chalk because they don't fit in a container. I keep my chalk in. The tubes and fluid inks are kept in a separate container because they aren't used as often. Within the drawer. I have tubes by color family, so I can quickly find a refill of the color I need. The fluid inks are a mix of watercolor and liquid acrylics, but they work in the same way and I use them for the same things. So I keep them together. I also keep my brush cleaner in there. I keep my long calligraphy handles and Nymphs in the back of the door because they're too long to fit anywhere else. And they also use the same ink. Just a few steps from my desk inside my acrylic paint, it's on a rolling cart on the patio. I keep my regular brushes and a box that protects them from my cats, but they're so easy to get to. Oversize. Brushes are in small cups on the top of my rolling cart along with some sketchy pencils. I use my paints pretty often, but they take up a ton of room. So the solution lists are rolling cart that I can move from one location to another. I have a pretty large supply of house paint samples deal with, so I sorted them by warm and cool and neutral colors, make it easier to find what I needed. I keep my water cups, paper towels and tape and stuff on the bottom. This is a system that I've come up with for swatch in my colors. So G would be the color like G for green, b for blue. And then I number them. And I can just add to the collection as I get more. It doesn't matter if they're an order or not. I have a ton of art supplies of every media, but all my paint is in this one central area. This is how I store my less often used acrylic paints, acrylic wash, chalk pins and backup gestures and stuff. My puffy paint is in here. Just the things that I don't use this often, but I do want to keep on hand items that I don't use that much like oil paints, I would consider as more long-term storage so I can put things away out of the way where I don't really need them. Even if they're buried on the bottom, I can still pull them out when I need to. I really recommend clear containers. So even if you don't touch supply for six months to a year, you can still glance and see where that item is. If you use your oil paints every day, like I use my water colors and markers every day you would want them to be really close to your desk and accessible and not buried somewhere else. In the next section, I'll show you how I store chalk and oil pastels. 6. Chalk and Oil Pastels: Chalk and oil pastels are kind of a category of their own. They're not quite drawing and they're not quite painting. But they're probably best stored in their original packaging because they are so fragile. I teach with mine, but I rarely use it for personal projects. So it made more sense for me to find sturdy storage so that I can travel with. If you're an artist who works mainly with pastels, you would probably want them sorted by color temperature into trays are drawers that can be pulled out and put on your desk and stored away safely when you're not using them. I've just picked up these cheap tackle boxes and put dividers in him. You can see that some of the new pastels don't really fit in there. So I just put them in an angle that again, I don't use them a lot, they're just for teaching purposes. So this works for me. I also keep the blending SMS that I use for chalk width, the chalks so they don't get mixed up with the ones I used for shading with pencils or charcoal. I have the exact kind of container for my oil pastels that colors are similarly setup so I can find what I'm looking for. Blending stump included in a container. They stack really nice, say my bookshelf and I can pull one out without messing everything else up. You know, I'm all about removing the barriers to making art. So I've taken all the paper off my oil pastels. Join me in the next section to cover how I store paper. 7. Paper: I've been making and teaching art for quite awhile. And one of my biggest pet peeves is going to get a nice sheet of paper only to find it dented on the corners or crinkled because someone may be even myself was digging through a stack and pulled something off in the middle and messed up all the other papers in the stack. So the best solution I found for this problem is to store your paper vertically. Let's make this even easier. I separate the papers by the US or color into bins and pulled them out like drawers so I can slide them right back in. I store all the watercolor paper together, no matter what color it is. Hot or cold press doesn't matter. It's altogether as well as some of my samples and Swatches. And then my other papers are sorted by pencil and marker paper. And then the tone or textured papers that I might use for truck pesto. This system includes any sketchbooks that I haven't started using yet that fit into that paper category. They're stored with the other paper pads and loose paper sketchbooks that I'm using are on the shelf with my supplies. All my larger papers, regardless of type are stored and this folding portfolio joined me in the next section to see how I handled books. 8. Books: I don't think we can talk about our art workspace that addressing books, maybe you don't have that many. I loved books and I use them for inspiration all the time. You can organize them by color, topic, size, alphabetically, author title. It really just depends on how you think when you're looking for a specific book. Miners sorted by topic so I can see all the similar books at ones. And because I want my work area to be an inspiring place for me, I've put my drawing books right next to my Cohen pencils, painting books underneath my watercolor supplies. If having your books sort of eye color makes your space more inviting for you, then maybe you wanna do a rainbow order. When sorting out my books, I quickly look through to see what inspires me or if their specific information that I need. Most things can be found online now. So if it's something I can quickly Google, I won't keep it. It doesn't have to be art specific to make the cut either. If it inspires you in some way, display it so you'll look at it and make more art. 9. Final Thoughts: To revisit some of the main points, you're going to gather, sort, and toss any items that you're not currently using. Use what you have for storage before you buy more and if you're going to buy more storage carefully consider how you want to work within your space. Think about short-term and long-term storage and the distance from your work area make it easy for you to put things away. This will help you stay organized and the long term. I hope that this class is giving you some helpful ideas for organizing your creative space. And I hope you'll share your art space with us in the projects area of this class, I love seeing how other artists work surrounded by the items and inspire them.