Thursday, January 03, 2008

Folders and files and finding things

Boxing Day Skating at the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich
8" x 11.5", pencil and coloured pencil in my sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Although I can be very untidy at times, the one place where I am never untidy is on the computer. My file structure and organisation of folders for artwork is "awesome" – but very simple. Really!

The basic principle works for anybody who likes a bit of structure in their lives - like "cat's eyes" on the roads and signposts in airports. If you don't like structure you might as well stop reading now..... ;)

A folder and file system for artwork

At the beginning of each calendar year I start a big new folder for MY PICTURES 2008. This contains brand new folders labelled according to the categories I expect to be using a lot. In my case, as of yesterday, I now have folders set up which follow the main subject categories plus main activities - as follows.
  • All Flowers, plants and gardens
  • All Landscapes
  • All Still life
  • All Life
  • All My Sketchbook
  • All Projects
  • All Photos
Inside each of the subject folders (e.g. All flowers) I then have a number of sub-folders for:
  • Reference scans/photos/sketches.
  • Work in progress
  • Completed artwork
Within these categories I then have the basic building block - which is the folder for each individual artwork. It moves as the work progresses and this is how it works.

Reference: I start out with my reference shots - sketches and photos and scans. As I sort through these I transfer those that I love to separate new folders in the category that is the most relevant. They sit there for quite a time sometimes while I work out what to do with them. At this stage each folder is called something totally ordinary such as 'Blue poppy'.

Work in progress: When I start on the artwork, this folder then moves from the reference stage to the WIP category.

Final artwork: Finally it moves to the completed artwork folder. The folder name for the artwork gets changed to the title for the artwork which I finally decide on.

I also create categories for my sketchbook folder for the main types of subjects eg "Interiors", "By the Thames". Then within them I have little folders for each trip out. It just makes finding an image very easy. My projects folder will contain folders for each project which in turn have the work and images created during the course of each project.

Naming and sorting images: An individual folder can sometimes end up with a lot of image files particularly if I'm recording a work in progress. So if it's complicated I try and organise this as well so that at the very end I'm left with just the final 150 dpi scan, the final 300 dpi scan and the web version in the main part of folder or in a sub-folder called 'final images'.

The basic objective is that it should always be really easy to spot and retrieve a particular image at a particular resolution.

I also label files for final images as follows:
  • final300dpi(titleofpiece);
  • final150dpi(titleofpiece);
  • web_(shorttitleofpiece) - all web images always have 'web_' on the front end and that way I know these are the 60-72 dpi versions of the image.
Things to remember: Now the only important things to remember are that:
  • This is the system which works for me - but it won't work for everybody. If there's anything you like about it then please feel free to adopt it.
  • if you need to be able to find an image for any reason then you need a system which works for you and your own particular predisposition around organising information. You just need to work out what's the best system for you.
  • If you are habitually disorganised and it's a problem then why not try my system? Sometimes you just have to develop a habit to be organised - and it really doesn't matter whose habit it is so long as it's one that you can maintain.
Do feel free to leave a comment and tell us what works for you in the comments - or maybe why you need to find a system quick!

An inventory of artwork

This year I'm also starting a new spreadsheet file to record my artwork.

I literally had no idea how much work I produced in 2007 although it was quite a lot. Every year I look at the inventory and business software for artists and every year I can't make up my mind which one to use! Besides I'm a spreadsheet whiz so I should be able to come up with something which keeps me happy! I can't decide how sophisticated to make it – my inclination is to keep it very simple and easy to use.

Tomorrow I'll give you the details of what my excel spreadsheet contains and a peek at what it looks like.

This sketch and another plus photos of Thames high water at Greenwich are now posted on my Travels with a Sketchbook blog - Boxing Day ice skating in Greenwich.


rob ijbema said...

have a great O eight Katherine,
looks like you've got a lot on your plate allready!
if 2008 will be as good as 2007,i will be happy!
all the best

Katherine said...

Thanks Rob! Happy 2008 to you too.

TheExtraordinaryPencil said...

Katherine, You've presented a wonderfully simple system. I've always struggled with my organizational plan...going to give this one a try. I have visited your site often and have even referenced you in the blog section of my site, but never commented before. The information you offer artists is invaluable...keep up the good work.


vivien said...

This looks a great system

I use a somewhat similar system for images ( a bit more chaotic if I'm honest!) - though I have headings like FLOWERS, LANDSCAPE, SEASCAPES, WATERWAYS with subfiles etc and keep my photos separate - I don't very often work from them so they are simply something in their own right.

Within say SEASCAPES I'll have files like Norfolk May 07 or Cornwall Sept 07 so I can mostly find images.

Your Excel set up I'd be really interested to see as that's something I really need to get done and I've been meaning to for ages,

I wantto create a detailed inventory of paintings and a finances one would be useful.

When I say 'I want to create' I really mean I'd love the Excel fairy to present me with a nicely worked out set up!

Katherine said...

Vivien - meet your excel fairy!!!

You are in fact the reason I'm writing this post. After your recent comments it struck me that a lot of people are probably in the same position - hence the explanation and the new spreadsheet. That, and the fact, that I need a new spreadsheet for 2008 that will be easy to maintain.

I think what I'll probably end up doing is putting the excel file on my website as a download file.

Stacy said...

So I've found another artist who likes Excel spreadsheets. It's nice to know I'm in good company. My spreadsheet is for finished works only. The headings are simple...
Title, Year Completed, Sales Price (Framed), Size (Matted), Square Inches, Price per Square Inch and Status.

Status is my "where can I find it" category. Square Inches and Price per Square Inch help me make sure that my pricing makes sense.

This is just one of...several...spreadsheets I keep. Just call me an artist geek! What can I say, I was once an engineer so I think the analytical part is here to stay. :)

Miki Willa said...

Thank you for all this wonderful information. I started a very loose file system in 2007, but I think your system will work much better. I am also looking forward to your spreadsheet system. One of my goals for the year is to start marketing my paintings. I think keeping track of them is going to be the first step.

littlemithi said...

Hello Katherine! Thanks for your comment on my blog ... I HAD to document the engagement somehow!

I love your filing system - I'm as anal as you (although with a slightly different system), but find it hard to keep my desk top tidy ... creative minds, eh?

happy new year!

Katherine said...

Hi Mithi - I shall now think of you any time I'm near the Oxo twoer!

There is also a very good reason why my desk and studio have never featured on this blog! ;) I have an archeological approach to paper mountains.....

Katherine said...

Stacy - total square inches and £/sq.inch is a good idea - and now been incorporated into the spreadsheet!

Katherine said...

Miki - I too found more informal systems work for a while - but they do not help at all when completing forms or invoices or any of the many other bits of paper that get produced along with the artwork!

The idea of having a spreadsheet is to get key basics down onto one sheet and to do so in such a way that it also provides a checklist!

Beth Macre said...

I like the idea of starting a new file for each new year. Right now I have files by projects. But I am beginning to get too many files to be able to find something easily. I need to get into the habit of deleting unnecessary files, such as extra photos of one project.
The spreadsheet sounds interesting too. I haven't used them for my art files before, but that sounds helpful. Thanks Katherine.

muddy red shoes said...

Oh...gosh...just getting round to doing the washing up...finding places for all those "thoughtful" gifts that I gathered and trying to make tonnes of time for painting...allready annoyed HBB by not speaking to him for a whole day, I was painting! Now after reading this, so simple and so obvious but why havnt I thought of it post, I shall be off to impliment it...soon! Thank you Katherine, you are a marvel...I await excell with tremblings!

Robyn said...

May I put in a request for you also to save your Excel in a Mac version too please? I have to go back to the manual every time I try to use Excel.
I can always find photos of my paintings as I keep them in iPhoto albums. The rest of your system tempts me because I'm a control freak. At least my Sold Art spreadsheet won't take up much hard disk space;)

Robyn said...

P.S. Money Invested in Art Supplies and Books could be a monster file though!

Casey Klahn said...

We learned at Alyson Stanfield's Get Organized class to make a nice, printed label (label machine) for our paper files, and to have them match our computer files. In other words, my PC and my file drawers are titled and organized alike.

Since I take a digital image with my Nikon D80, I also save a full dpi image in case I need to do anything, since I want no loss. These are 4000 dpi, if I remember correctly. So, 1 is 4000, another is 300 dpi (publishers like that size in the USA) and another is 72 dpi of the same artwork.

Good post.

Petra Voegtle said...

Hi Katherine,
I just added your blog to my blogroll because of the treasure of information you are delivering.
Regarding a filing system it is important to know - in my opinion - how far you have to break down your files first i.e. it depends on the amount of work and complexity before you can decide what works best for you.
I decided to start from the top, which means I devided my files into art, photography etc., then into diverse media such as painting, drawing, carving etc. and finally down into single project names. Which again means that everything that belongs to one project is grouped together. This again can be broken down again - into scans, photos, sketches etc.
Due to the fact that I am currently producing no more than 15 - 20 paintings/year this system works best for me.
I don't like Excel sheets or any hard copy - because these tend to become much too complicated and a hell-uva-work to be updated. I tried it.
I keep different files for my homepage and blogs, but all named after the same system - so there is always a connection between the paintings and the appropriate images/file that I have on my homepage which also serves as an online tracking system and is updated each time I finish new work. Same applies for the blogs.
The fact that sometimes images exist twice or even 3 times on my hard disc is not a problem at all.
I have found that transferring the bigger psd files from photoshop (the original scans of my work - instead of photographing - that I need only once) to an external disc does not only give me a safe backup but also saves a lot of space on the hard disk of my notebook.
Until today I have found everything that I needed to find ...!

Nina Johansson said...

I´m so glad you shared your file system, I´m not a total slop when it comes to my digital files, but I´m beginning to have some problems finding stuff now that it´s been building up for some time, I really should reorganize things a bit. Your system would work just fine for me, with just a change of a few folder names.
AND I enjoyed reading your art goals for 2008 and I´m impressed by how you seem to know how much you can do over time, and that you can plan ahead with such detail. My plan for the year is... a TAD simpler, but it´s still enough to help me focus a bit.
I´m looking forward to following your efforts over the year!

Michel McNinch said...

Wow! I am new to your blog, thank you so much for taking the time to share all this information with us. You are now in my favorite places. Thank you.

vivien said...

Your system is great and you make an brilliant Fairy!!!

To anyone worried about where Katherine has got to - her computer died and she's in the long slow process of uploading stuff to a new one, setting up a new modem and getting back on line - normal service will be resumed asap :)

Cathy Gatland said...

hey Katherine - are you OK? You vanished off my screen - am getting MAM withdrawal symptoms

Cathy Gatland said...

hey Katherine - are you OK? You vanished from my blog-world - am getting MAM withdrawal symptoms

janabouc said...

Fabulous system! I've got a bunch of organizing of my files to do too. I thought mine were in pretty good shape but I'd been floundering with managing the reference photos, the WIP photos, the blog sized version, print sized version, etc. I like your system for handling that. One question I've been trying to decide on--do you include in your excel sheet all your sketchbook drawings/paintings, or just finished work on paper/canvas. I like the way Roz Stendahl uses a numbering machine/rubber stamp to number everything for the year. I'm still considering doing that, since that would give every item a serial number. But if doing that for sketchbooks it does tend to seem a bit overly precious. What do you think? Best wishes on your computer problems by the way!

Katherine said...

As you will appreciate by now, my computer died - hence no follow on post on Friday 4th. There will be another post about the spreadsheet - probably in the coming week. However I now have to get to grips with Office 2007 so it may be delayed!

Katherine said...

Jana - I am intending to include all the sketchbook ones - but on a separate sheet. But you don't need to - I'm doing it for a particular reason. Organised files probably do just as well.

I don't quite see how Roz's system works with digital files? Plus I already annotate all my sketches with date and time so don't really need anymore data on the sketch.

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