Watercolor: Artist’s Studio and Art Supply Storage

A watercolor of a table against an open window with silhouettes of a computer monitor, stacks of books, a camera on a tripod and an umbrella-light over a work in process on the table

Artist’s Studio 10.5 x 11 inches Watercolor on paper (available here)

Making Art on the Couch

I am very fortunate to have a studio (a spare bedroom in our home) and unless I’m showing art at a festival, or framing, I spend most days in there, writing, or working with art supplies and an audiobook (I’ve just finished this one) starting in the still-dark hours of early morning. When my husband comes home in the evenings, if I want to continue drawing or painting, I keep a tote bag of supplies handy that I can move around the house. The tote bag has a travel palette of watercolors, a few brushes, a pencil case, a ruler, masking tape, the shallow frosting cap from a cylinder of Trader Joe’s pop-n-bake cinnamon rolls (I use it as a rinse cup), a few sheets of gator board as support, and some watercolor paper. #artistatlarge

grid method of drawing transfer

Folded reference photo to mimic the grid lines on the watercolor paper so I can draw the details one-cube-at-a-time

Simplify the Process

I keep a micro-bead lap desk under the couch, so I can pull that out, lay down a support board, tape a sheet of paper down, and start drawing at a moment’s notice. I usually grid drawings, which makes the process much easier; I can stop for conversation, refill my wine glass, or snap a photo of my shenanigans on the couch without losing my place since I’m drawing abstract shapes in the reference photo one cube at a time. Do you grid your drawings? It’s so helpful, isn’t it!?

First layer of watercolor washes laid at the kitchen counter with a travel palette and a glass of vino. That’s a good evening. 🙂

Be Nimble

My watercolor painting set up is small enough to move easily between the couch and the kitchen counter, so I paint there if my husband wants to surf youtube after dinner from a bar stool next to me. You can do this too, with small studies, rough still life sketches, or even abstract color swatch tests. Pre-tear your watercolor paper to 8×10 or 5×7 sheets, and you can even pre-mount it in groups of four to gator board with tape so you’re ready to sketch at a moment’s notice. A little organization and pre-motor planning goes a long way in getting fast access to move those art supplies.

Adjusting values on the painting in the studio after a good night’s rest

Artist Studio Storage

And speaking of organization and art supplies, how do you store your finished art? Over the years, I’ve tried a number of storage options, including a large set of HON flat files gifted to me by a former employer (see below). They were solid enough to sit on, heavy enough to require moving help, and large enough to own a room. I lugged them around for years until one particular move where I just couldn’t fit them in my home. I donated the flat files to the art department of a local high school.  I have an easy-peasy filing system for small work now, and my larger, unframed work goes into 18×24, vertical cardboard file folders that can be tucked into the back of a closet, or behind a door. Do you know about these (see below)?

a messy artists studio with an old telephone and lots of art pinned to a wall above a set of HON flat files

Back in the day, I was gifted this excellent five-drawer set of flat files (on the left). My friend BJK built me a groovy wood platform to raise it up as a work surface in my studio. Those flat files were awesome, and heavy and cumbersome.

solutions for artist studio art and paper storage

Vertical file folders (they come in a 10-pack and cost $6 each)

Lightweight, Affordable Options

I use these cardboard file folders in the 18×24 format to store unframed art, as well as full sheets of paper. I’ve kept my printmaking paper in one of them for years, with post-it notes arranged like tabs to separate different manufacturer’s and weights of paper. The folders have done a great job of protecting my paper and art from dog ears and dents.  I use these clips to hold them closed, and tuck the folders in the back of a closet or under the bed.

a door mounted closet caddy with shallow shelves to post inside a closet for for added storage

Storage Efficiency inside the closet door 🙂

Re-Purposed Storage Tools for the Artist’s Studio

I squeeze all storage possibilities from the closet in my studio with caddies like this one by closetmaid in the photo above. In my previous studio, a closetmaid shelf unit with a bag of wooden clothespins served as a drying rack for printmaking (see below). I don’t currently have a drying rack for prints, but I’m marinating on a solution that I’ll share when I get it figured out and assembled. I also use two hanging cloth shoe-boxes (like this one)  to hold carving tools, boxes of printer ink, video camera equipment – like the bulbs and the umbrella for my lights in the watercolor at the top of this post. The front-load opening of the shoe hangers are perfect for boxes of business cards, staplers, zip-locked tubes of paint, framing hardware, shipping supplies and the like.

printmaker's hanging drying rack made with closetmaid shelving and wooden clothespins

Clothes pins and a closetmaid shelf inside a closet in my previous studio; perfect print drying rack. 🙂

A vintage ceramic owl planter and a hand-thrown clay pot made by a friend hold pencils and brushes in my studio.

What Works?

What do you use to store small and large scale flat art, paper and various artist supplies? Being an artist is messy, and the supplies can take over a room (or a whole house, depending on your media). Putting things away and clearing your main work surface for more creative time can make a big difference in productivity. How do you get your space organized? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments, and lets get ourselves arranged and ready for summertime art making.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –


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Artist’s Studio watercolor on paper

Art Quote

When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.

– Guy Kawasaki

Need a little help titling your work? I’ve got a system for you. It works every time, so let me share the details with you in this new course. Click the art table to learn more, and maybe even get a little discount…. 🙂

Watercolor: An Artist's Studio and Flat Art Storage
Article Name
Watercolor: An Artist's Studio and Flat Art Storage
A watercolor of my messy art studio table, and a list of storage hacks used in the art studio to stash supplies and paper
Publisher Name
Belinda Del Pesco
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18 Responses to Watercolor: Artist’s Studio and Art Supply Storage

  1. Kirsten M Scheid June 2, 2018 at 7:06 am #

    This was amazingly helpful! Thanks!

    • Belinda DelPesco June 3, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

      Hi Kirsten – Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂

  2. bjkeefe May 24, 2018 at 11:09 pm #

    Thanks for the shoutout! How well I remember those cabinets.

    • Belinda DelPesco May 25, 2018 at 7:42 am #

      I would never have kept that beast without the raised stand, so thank you again for such sturdy tall-ifying assistance!

  3. Judy May 24, 2018 at 11:05 pm #

    I love your storage ideas, especially the large files. That’s the first thing on my list to get my art closet organized! Thanks for so many good ideas to help on the road to creativity!

    • Belinda DelPesco May 25, 2018 at 7:44 am #

      Great heaps of luck in your pursuit of art-readiness through a little clean sweep!

  4. barbaramartin May 24, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

    That flat file photo is so old you have a plug in push button land line corded handset phone by it. 🙂

    • Belinda DelPesco May 24, 2018 at 9:14 pm #

      Heh, heh, heh… Precisely, Madame Inspector! I used to love that phone, because it was out of date even then (1994). Good job on your powers of observation! 🙂

  5. Laurel Barile May 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    I am consistently moved by the Belinda blog — your generosity and good spirit! And by your well-developed eye for the Beautiful and True. Thanks for posting.
    And my condolence on your recent loss…

  6. Mickey Nolan May 24, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    Great idea for vertical storage of artwork and paper. It’s always hard to figure out where to store delicate artwork, like pastels. I use tracing paper pads of varying sizes and store artwork between the sheets. The sides are closed with binder clips so everything stays in place. It can then be stored vertically or flat. I’m fortunate to have a dedicated art/sewing room and places to store all my supplies, but we all seem to start with a spare bedroom. I always enjoy your blog. Thanks for keeping us inspired.

    • Belinda DelPesco May 25, 2018 at 7:51 am #

      Hi Mickey, Storing pastels between the still attached sheets in pads of tracing paper with clips is BRILLIANT! I don’t work in pastel too often, but once a piece is finished, it’ll go in a tracing paper pad from now on. Thank YOU!

  7. Kathleen Noble May 24, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    Great tips – thanks for sharing!

  8. Debbie Dalton May 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm #

    Thank you for the suggested lap top pillow. I have a room I escape to also and this will work wonderfully.

    • Belinda DelPesco May 25, 2018 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Debbie, I *love* using the lap desk for drawing. And your Escape Room sounds delightful. I hope it helps you create more frequently.


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