Take the Clutter Quiz: Start Fresh With a New Space

Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper

Want to start fresh with new ideas and a upbeat working space? Too much clutter in your art studio can weigh heavy on your creativity and inspiration.


1. Have you used this item in a year? If not, you have permission to purge it without feeling guilty about having purchased it in the first place. Life changes. We need different things at different times. Get rid of the stuff you aren't really using anymore.

2. Afraid you might need it later? Then put it in a box, date it and store it. If you don't open the box in a year, then purge it.

3. Can you rent, borrow, or get another one? If so, then purge it. Great for dumping books. You can always go to the library if you really need that one book again in a pinch.

4. Can you sell it? Sell it on Amazon Marketplace. You can sell almost anything: CD's, pet toys, old ipods, cameras, books, computer cables, you name it. Anything you can find for sale on Amazon, you can pretty much sell a "used version" of it, and unlike ebay, the website is easy to use and hassle free. You can even print out prepaid shipping labels.

5. Can you give it away? Donate it to the Goodwill. If it's too precious to give up to an anonymous buyer, think of a specific person or organization who really could use it. Seeing their smiling face will reaffirm you did the right thing.

I gave away a huge pile of paper supplies to people in my neighborhood a few years ago and made a dozen new friends. People came out of the woodwork because their sister, daughter, school, family, theater troupe and nursing home needed it. Even after 2 years, people still thank me for it. One woman even offered to let me use her empty house for a week, when I had a friend coming to town!

6. Don't know where to start? Move everything from you studio to another room except for basics (computer, phone, tables). Now, only bring back the things into your studio as-you-need them. After a week, you might find you are only really use 10% of the stuff you originally had in the room.


If you do 1 of these things: You have already taken a big step to being clutter- free. Sit down and have a martini with an umbrella inside.

If you do 3 of these things: Whoever shares space with you should take you out to dinner and celebrate! Tell them I said so.

If you do ALL of these things: Not only do you deserve a martini and dinner, you are an official expert and should teach classes on clearing clutter!


Don't want to hassle with selling things? Here are 4 ways you can make your clutter magically disappear and you *won't* have to make an appointment, haul anything away, or exchange money. All you have to do is drag it from the indoors to the outdoors.

  • On Craig's list submit a post that says your items must be picked up today (deters lazy people from writing back). When you decide who you will give it to, tell them where the item is on your property. (ex: on the porch, beside the garage, in the bin). Then you don't have to meet anyone at a specific time. I've done this for 10 years and have never had a problem.
  • Give it away online with freecycle (same instructions as above). Freecycle has a strong dependable community of people who will take almost anything. Someone even came to my house to pick up an old rotted fence post. Who'd a thought?
  • Send an email out to your neighborhood and tell them you have free stuff on the porch for the taking. It helps to list a few "teaser" items so they come and look at everything.
  • When you put the garbage out this week, include a box next to the garbage can labeled: "Free." Fill it up with stuff. You'll be amazed how fast the stuff disappears. You can even put out grocery bags, so people can carry stuff home! Side Benefit:Add new stuff to the box every week.


Dealing with Exhaustion: If you start clearing out your studio and start feeling overwhelmed, that's normal. Sorting through piles of paper especially is exhausting. It's important to take a break every hour, and only work on one section of the room at a time. Also, it may take several weeks to get rid of everything. Don't be too hard on yourself for not getting it all done at once.

Get Support: Find a buddy, spouse or studio mate who is willing to do the "Agile" or "Scrum" project management system with you. I've reinvented this for my personal use, and found it quite affective at accomplishing large tasks:

How to do Agile Project Management: Every morning, tell your buddy:
1) what you accomplished yesterday
2) what you want to accomplish today
3) what the potential roadblocks are.

You'll be amazed how magically effective it is. Use this until the job is complete.


Here's how I purged my studio. And it feels great! If I can do it, you can too!



How to be a Card Designer According to John Madden

I have been a fan of John Madden for years, not just because he coached a local football team, but because he was the first sports announcer I ever saw who drew pictures all over the TV screen during a game.

I never liked football until I had that "artistic experience." It liberated me from the mystery of the game. I then became a fan of John Madden. I didn't care what teams he discussed. I would have watched a knitting show if he was the commentator.

Even though John has retired, every morning on KCBS, I listen to his 10 minute podcast interviews and find much of his humble, yet funny wisdom very applicable to being a designer.

Here are a few quotes by John Madden with my commentary:

"Don't worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon."
(Don't wait around until your art is perfect before submitting your designs)

"Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something."
(Draw what really matters to you, not just what you think will sell)

"In order for this team to win the game, the QB has to at least throw the ball"
(DO something, don't just stand there)

"Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear."
(As much as we don't want to see it, rejection can be an opportunity to get good advice.)

"The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer."
(Being an artist sometimes involves eating beans, and having people tell you to go get a "real job" whatever that is.)

"The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break. "
(Don't be hard on yourself and think you have to stick to one media or style. Try new things. )

"What's the toughest thing in a professional football game? It's being the mother of the quarterback."
(Remember, there are many people who care about you and your art. They are rooting for you even in the toughest times.)


30 Things I Learned in 2010 That Helped my Design Career

I asked artists: "In ten words or less, what did you learn in 2010 that helped you with your design career?" Here are some of the answers:

Find your audience, then make images for yourself. -Lida Enche www.lidaenche.com

There is never enough time. Get it done anyway. -Deb Booth http://www.differentlightstudio.com

Learn photoshop, have enough work in portfolio, be flexible. -Frances Poole

To be a professional artist, one should have a website. -Beth Grove www.bethgrove.com

Ignore yourself sometimes and just "do it." -Belinda Lindhardt

When you have to choose between left and right, go straight. -Danny Naz

Allow self to leave the studio... and the muse appears. ^..^~ Beverly Dyer

Set goals! Create collections, internet presence, network dilgently! Take risks! -Sue Duda http://www.sueduda.com

Recapturing what truly makes an excellent, creative, edgy designer. -Kirsty McDonald www.parkleadesignagency.co.uk

If you are persistent and follow your goal new opportunities arrive. -Jack Tuszynski

Patience. Remain true to my artistic vision and continue evolving. -Gail Green www.sweetpetatoes.com

The answer to every question can be found through networking! -Beverly Hayes

Develop your "elevator speech". Don't be afraid to use it! -Laura Cantu Smith

Find your focus and give it all you've got. -Toni Wall

Open yourself up to the possibilities and opportunities come knocking. -Lisa Fu

Trust your inner Van Gogh; create from the heart. -Shannon Bielke

Less stress leads to more creativity! -Gabriel Morosan http://www.finestreetphotography.com

Persist until you receive an email asking to "unsubscribe."-Tracey Hart

Review, focus, identify and go for it! 2010 has been my best year yet! -Martha Spak

Make your life, creativity & happiness a priority, because no one else will. -xenos mesa http://www.xenosmesa.com/

Open yourself to multiple streams of revenue. -Lindsay Obermeyer www.lbostudio.com

Learn to network and follow up without being sales-y. -Sarah Bush

Don't be your own roadblock. -xenos mesa http://www.xenosmesa.com/

Create what you love for broad usage and appeal & network. -Katie Atkinson

The Business Aspect of having a successful Career as a Artist. -Howard Pearlman

Improved my digital skills! -beatrice trezevant

Work from your heart and be tenacious. -Barbara Johansen Newman

Research, network, communicate, follow-up, respond, never give up. -Tim Read

Keep moving forward! NO "What if " -or- "But I can't" -Miki Berman www.mikibermandesign.com

I switched my Lynda account to a Think Vitamin account. -Will Kesling

Do not waste your time. -Jack Tuszynski

Get Some Sleep! -Dianne Woods

New! Read This Blog on Mobile-friendly Interface

I have just added a feature to this blog so it is easy to read on your smartphone or any touch screen and mobile device. Now when you come to the blog website on you device, it will look like this!

The biggest advantage is easy navigation, text wrap and you can find what you want to read faster and easier. It's a 100% improvement over just visiting a website online. It makes reading all the articles fun.

Try it! Bookmark it on your smartphone, ipad, iphone, ipod touch or any mobile device http://kateharperblog.blogspot.com/

It's a great way to catch up on card designer news on-the-go.

Useful Calendar Designing Tips

Here's an article by Tutorial Lounge blog. See entire article...

Every winning communication material requires a rationale, concept or theme behind it. Same goes for the calendar designing. You need to think about certain themes or concepts for the calendar and get one approved from the client (or yourself – in case of your own calendar).

See entire article...

How to Create a Repeat Pattern in Photoshop

Great Video on how to create a repeat pattern in photoshop by Andy Mathis. Thanks Andy!

Gift Guide for Artists: Recycled, Re-purposed & Free!

All of the items in this gift guide were recommended by artists who read this blog, and I asked the question "What is something in your studio you can't live without?" Here are some interesting items artists own that are either recycled, re-purposed, free or funny.

Also see: Hi-Tech Gifts Guide for Artists
Also see: Supplies Artists Can't Llive Without.

"My favorite gadget is great not only for painting but also around the house. It's a metal gadget I got at Cheap Joe's. You can put your oil paint tubes, toothpaste, garlic paste -- anything that comes in a tube into it. Then you turn the handle and the little grooves squeeze out every last ounce of your product. It's great coz it saves your hands and saves time!" -Jean Laszuk www.Colormejean.com

"One of my favorite finds that I use all the time is something I got at a Pampered Chef party! It is one of those round plastic holders for utensils with many dividers on a lazy susan.

I have it right next to my drafting table where I paint my illustrations, and I can spin it around to reach just the right kind of brush, I have them all sorted by size as well as for different media, I also have a few sections with other things, scissors, pens & pencils etc."

-Katie Atkinson http://www.katieatkinsonillustrator.com/

(picture)"It was getting harder and harder to justify my purchases of vintage glass flower frogs, until they became brush, pen and pencil frogs.

They bring a touch of class to my desktop.

The large wire frog is the only one I've seen that folds flat. Search estate sales and EBay; $1-$10"

-Nancy Overton ostudios@earthlink.net http://www.nancyovertondesign.com

"My favorite studio items are comfy wicker chairs with a leopard print ottoman where I sit every morning before I start work.

Some of my best ideas are born in this corner of the room as I relax with my morning tea and write, sketch, brainstorm, and come up with ideas."

-Cindy revell
Illustrator & Oil Painter http://cindyrevell.blogspot.com


"An item I can’t live without is a beautiful antique card catalog drawer in my studio. It was a gift from my mom and is a perfect container for bits of inspiration or serves as a great display for newly designed cards & art."

-Bridget Verdun,



"My "must have” is on my desk as my own personal ego booster. Shouldn’t everyone have one? It was purchased at this great shop called Bibelot here in St. Paul, MN." -Rich Sherman J. Ames Greetings www.JAmesGreetings.com

More Suggestions...


"Here's one thing I find I use a lot: a small level. I use it to be sure my easel is straight, my paintings are level, and my camera is level before I shoot my paintings. I also take it with me when I paint outdoors." -Durinda Cheek http://www.Durinda.com

"One of the best presents to an artist would be a bundle of little coupons that are a pass for not having to do the things around the house."-Lida Enche

"I also really like my bulletin boards, I have several in my studio. Cover them in fabric, and they're pretty too." - Kari Emmons Michaud

"An old fashioned nutcracker: great for opening older tubes of oil/acrylic paint." -Eva-Maria Ruhl www.evaruhl.com

"I love handmade pottery to hold my brushes, pencils, tubes, etc. A mug or bowl is a great gift for the studio". -Eva-Maria Ruhl www.evaruhl.com

"The best thing in my studio is my bookshelf that is filled with inspiring books, photos, magazines and cut-outs that have been so preciously picked over the last years.
-Louma Pokidots! studio http://www.pokidots.com

See Also:


-Supplies Artists Can't Llive Without.
-7 Hi-Tech Gifts artists can't live without.

Pantone Makes Coffee Mugs?

Thanks to Victor Elizalde from the AIGA linkedin group, I just learned about Pantone Coffee Mugs. What a hoot.

Other Gift Ideas for Artists:

Things Artists Can't Llive Without.
7 Hi-Tech Gifts artists can't live without.


Supplies Artists can't live without: Gift Guide

All of the items in this gift guide were recommended by artists who read this blog, and I asked the question "What is something in your studio you can't live without?" I tried my best to locate a link and picture of the item if the contributor did not. The comments next to the items are by the artist who suggested it.

Also see: Hi-Tech Gifts Guide for Artists and Recycled, Re-purposed & Free


Additional Selections on Amazon

"Traditionally I wouldn't be caught without a couple Moleskin sketchbooks!" -Andre Saunders http://www.dreillustration.wordpress.com

"A Fabriano Artist's Journal or Moleskine Sketchbook are little luxury items that I think most artists would appreciate. Both are very nice books that inspire spontaneous sketching and note jotting which can be kept neatly in an artist's library and referred back to for years". -Diana Ponce www.dianaponceart.com

"Moleskin Sketchbook"-Karen Harris

"A Sketch book for scribbling, taking copious notes and of course creating your own personal works of art. I always have a sketchbook at my computer station to write and sketch ideas, collect color and fabric swatches,etc it becomes a creative personal journal. I also carry a small moleskin pocket sketchbook you never know where your next idea will come from!" -June Bade

"Holbein multimedia sketchbook" -Kari Emmons Michaud www.karidesign.com

"World Wildlife Fund's Robert Bateman series sketchbooks for their lovely, versatile paper, and being spiral bound they stay open while working in them." -Mia Lane http://www.mialaneart.com


"Micron Pens."-Karen Harris "Micron 02 fine point pens - awesome for doodling, signing and general fine point ink needs."-Jen Goode, Inspiring smiles every day http://www.JGoodeDesigns.com

"The item is the Faber Castell Artist Pens and in particularly the Manga Set of 8. It has lovely grey tones and black in a variety of nibs.I got it from an art store in Holland, but of course you can find it at Dick Blick. I love it because of the intensity of the colors and the way it glides over water color paper. Other pens easily clogs up when I use it too much on water color paper, but this last me a long time. I use it to ink drawings before I use my watercolors. It does the job!" -TJ Lubrano's Illustrations www.tjlubrano.com

"Black Bic pens. That's the first item that my mom gave me to doodle with in church back when I was a little kid and what I used when I wasn't paying attention in high-school biology. It's sleek, ergonomic design is something I couldn't live without". -Greg Wallace

My essential tool is not terribly exciting, but I could not work without it. Its my .9mm Pentel Okra colored mechanical pencil.Its easy to find among all my tools. It does fine lines to heavy shading. I don't have to root around for the 4B or the 8B pencil. It lets me get the sketching phase out of the way and on to the finished product. Its my cool tool. I have one in every room of my house and I got them at Office Depot." -Marsha Baker Tickling your eyes http://www.Marshabaker.com

"I can't live without my graphic sketching pencils by Derwent. As a chronic doodler, these pencils are the favorite thing in my studio because they help me take a simple doodle to the final design stage. I always purchase the tin that contains 12 soft pencils because they're the most versatile pencils for the type of work that I do.The tin contains 9B, 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, and H pencils. I usually start my initial sketches with any of the pencils ranging from H through 2B. When I want to add more shading, I'll work my way up using the 3B through the 9B pencils.I also like the fact that these pencils come in a tin, which makes them easy to transport as needed." -Liz Revit www.LizRevit.com

"Has nice pencils with a case." -Kari Emmons Michaud www.karidesign.com

"Rosetta makes a pencil extender that does something revolutionary: it actually holds the pencil. I've never found anything nearly as good. You can grind your pencil down to a half and inch and it still holds it tight. The barrel is hollow resin, so I don't even wait till the pencil is short, I just pop the new one in because I like the feel of it so much." -Kevin Kobasic


A special gift, given to me by my little sister. It is a great taboret, a table for mixing paint. -Frank Scicchitano http://www.tanoart.com

"What I use the most is a new electric x-acto pencil sharpener. I had been using an old one I bought over 15 years ago, and never gave it a second thought every time I had a colored pencil to sharpen. Then I treated myself to a brand new electric pencil sharpener, and woo hoo! Extra sharp pencils! Now I use it every day for every pencil!" -Revelle Taillon http://revelleimagemaker.blogspot.com/

"I love to use templates to tear out envelopes from my hand painted papers (or bought papers) to give hand made cards or gift cards or photos. No measuring or cutting. Very simple and makes a thank you note look very special. Instructions: pic. 1 - tear out shape/pic. 2 - turn over and fold shape around center template/pic. 3 - use dabs of glue to adhere sides and bottom flaps; use sticker or envelope glue for top flap. I prefer using double sided papers like tiny example (in top left of first photo.)" -Susan Swan paperswans.blogspot.com

I bought it at my local office supply store. I like my paper cutter because it really helps me with my card-making. -Nancy HayesBackyard Beauties www.backyard-beauties.com


"I like it better than the thin pencil type xacto knife holders because it fits the whole hand and you can have more precision cutting with less cramping of the hand." -Ellen Schneider, Photo Eyes Productions, LLC. SeaShellen Greeting Cards www.SeaShellen.com

"I have a Vantage Cutting Mat, size 24" X 36" which I keep right on top of my drafting table because I use it so much for both cutting and also just measuring. I thought cutting mats would last forever but mine is actually beginning to show wear in the middle from so much use. However, I got it in 2008, when I started art school, for around $40 -- so it has lasted a long time.I like to purchase art supplies at Blick because an artist can become a preferred customer which gives them a 10% discount on everything and also gets them on a mailing list for great coupons offering discounts of 20 - 40% off a single item". -Beverly Ann Hayes, Illustrator www.beverlyannhayes.com

"For altered art, cardmaking, scrapbooking, and 3-D design work I couldn't live without my American Tag eyelet setter! It punches the holes and sets all sizes of eyelets, nailheads, and bling! We fondly call it 'The Purple Monster'! It it truly an invaluable tool." -Shannon Bielke, Shaandco.net

"My favorite thing is a Walker Display wall hanging system that accommodates many forms of art from sketches to fully framed pieces. All the components move horizontal and vertically, so there is much flexibility. Sometimes my studio is full of ideas and current projects, and others it's perfect for a show." -Beverly Dyer www.beverlydyer.com


"For any art student, at any level, or most professionals, a full box, paints, brushes and mediums, in a great wooden case is always a great gift. Windsor Newton makes a great one." -Frank Scicchitano http://www.tanoart.com
"W&N watercolor paintbox" -Kari Emmons Michaud www.karidesign.com

"This is by far one of my best "art" belongings:Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Field Box. I've had mine for close to 16 or so years and I think that the quality has dropped a bit, but still, perfect for any artist". -Gary Bernard

Windsor and Newton my favorite brand. I like the compact folding box. This and a watercolor sketch book. -June Bade

"I just love my little purse-size, 12 pan, traveling, watercolor set by Lukas. I can carry it anywhere and stick it in a small pencil carrying case with a small brush and tiny bottle of water, and I'm ready to paint anywhere, anytime". -Mia Lanehttp www.mialaneart.com

They are a bit spendier to be sure and are terrific and JUICY! Wendy Edelson

"I think the one wonderful stocking stuffer for any artist working in either watercolors or acrylics would be Golden Absorbent Ground. It was created to be able to create acrylic and traditional watercolor washes on gessoed surfaces but it is the ABSOLUTE BEST opaque white if one is unhappy with an area of a painting, one applies several thin coats and this stuff dries completely FLAT, so even if one closes their eyes and feels the area, one can’t feel where the patch is....AND it is absorbent like watercolor paper ( not shiny and non absorbent like white gouache ) so that when painted over it, the fix is undetectable! I LOVE this stuff, it is like painting first aid in a jar, lasts a long time and is inexpensive. It is a “Holy Grail” product!"-Wendy Edelson

"My brushes are my most prized possessions! Though every artist has their personal preferences, so W&N acrylic brush cleaner is a God send! It will actually dissolve dried paint." -Ke Robinson TheRobGallery.com


Dual temperature hot glue gun with an assortment of glue sticks - because there's nothing hot glue can't do.Paper punches, cutters and specialty scissors - one can never have enough when it comes to cutting accessories -Jen Goode, Inspiring smiles every day http://www.JGoodeDesigns.com

"Knerasers, electric pencil sharpener, cutting board and of course I also like the memory sticks so I can transfer work to my laptop if I need to."-Patti Gay http://www.pattigay.com/

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