Chaos is present everywhere we turn these days. I’d prefer not to experience it when I’m creating something new. I choose to simply leave the chaos in the pour. This is ultimately created by two extremely different components; chaos and organization. For me, the organization is required to create the chaos.
If you’ve been pouring for a long time, you probably have a system down, even if you don’t think of it that way. I know when I first started I was all over the place. My work area was always a mess, constantly leaving the project to go find more paints/tools/paper towels/gloves, etc. I knocked over bottles and pour cups; and basically destroyed more than I created.
What’s worse, I would start to paint and not know what I wanted to paint; the amount of paint needed; what to do with the supplies or wet canvases; and on and on… So many decisions to be made, and so much confusion and chaos created that my true creativity got lost in the process.
After a few months of frustration it dawned on me that the whole process doesn’t need to be so frustrating and chaotic. I knew if I could somehow organize my area and the way I think through the necessities of pouring, I’d be able to focus on the pour, relax and literally go with the flow.
Organizing is a chore for some and a delight for others. Where ever you land on the spectrum, use what works for you. I find it more productive and actually more enjoyable if I organize my supplies, work space, and even mentally work through what I plan to pour prior to sitting down at my table.
Having a plan for what you want to accomplish may decrease frustration, save time and in my case—money by not wasting paint and other supplies including canvases.
Each time you clean, organize and especially pour you learn more about your own preferences. Use those to your advantage! For example, even though I’m right handed I like everything but my pour cups on my left. No reason, but that’s what works for me so I do it every time.
Organizing Your Supplies
Create and organize your space in a way that makes sense to you. I have three areas of storage for my supplies; workspace, within reach, and misc/bulk. Those items I use every pour are always on my pour table; those I “may need” are only a few steps away, and things I rarely use or the bulk items are stored in other areas around the house.
Think about how you use your paints, tools and disposable supplies. Which are those you use almost every pour?
I keep my primary colors (white, black, blue, red, and yellow) on my table ready to go. I also always have fresh paper towels and gloves, a spray water bottle, and a handful of pour/mix cups. There is a jar with water for tool clean up, and two clean garbage bags for trash and paint run off under the canvas. I definitely use my torch every time I paint so it’s always at the back of my table.
Close But Not to Close
I keep the extras off the table to give myself some room to work and breathe when painting, but still close enough to reach as needed. For example, I don’t need all 75 paints in the workspace, the rest can be in an easy to reach area to pull from as needed. Mine are literally five feet from where I sit.
I love to use a wide variety of forms to pour over, swiping tools, spatulas, different tubes and straws to blow through and of course my extra canvases. Although I only keep the primary colors on my table; there are times I want to add an additional color or type of paint (metallics usually) at the last moment. Along with extra gloves, cups, and paper towels; basically all these items are always within reach—but not in my way. I find having them stored beside the table makes more sense to me.
Rarely Used or Bulk Items
If you’re like me, you may tend to purchase things in bulk. Floetrol by the gallon—sometimes multiple gallons if on sale or a shortage; cases of disposable cups and gloves; including paper towels and canvases are just some of my typical bulk purchases. If you don’t have ample space in your studio to store them, take what you’ll need for a few paintings at a time and store the rest in the garage, closet or even laundry room. Be creative with your storage.
Here’s my secret! I’ve stored extra cups in a wicker basket in full site of anyone who enters my home for over two years—they just don’t know it.
Mindful Organization of Your Workspace
To me, if my workspace isn’t organized I become mentally disorganized and quite literally my painting shows it. I quickly learned that I needed to have three separate areas for my paintings.
1: First and foremost a workspace that makes sense to me. Simply laid out with only the absolute necessities, including a level surface with good lighting and at a height I am physically comfortable with.
2: I prefer to move the freshly created pour to a wire rack for a minimum of 48 hours. Sometimes I’ll cover the larger pieces with a plastic bin if I’m worried about floaters in the air, especially if planning to sell or give it away.
3: I live in the Pacific Northwest where we have rain on average eight months of the year, so I give most paintings an additional few days to dry on a makeshift table before I clean, sign and varnish my pours. I also use this space to hang a piece to see how I like it, as sometimes different orientations (portrait or landscape) can make an odd painting be something you love or hate. Pay no attention to the sewing machine, it’s just more simple creative storage for all my craftiness! Plus that sucker’s heavy, I don’t move it unless I’m in quilting mode.
The Grandma Way: Oh yes, it’s also a place to hang my grandsons’, Ryder and Levi, creative works. Look, we went to the same art school, I just noticed the flowers!
Mental Prep Tip
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference. I like to mix my paints, then immediately move the Floetrol, extra paints, and empty cups not needed off the table. It’s a little thing to most people, but to me it’s a way to mentally switch from prepping to thinking of nothing but the pour.
My Favorite Time Saving Tip
Save time and money by premixing your favorite paints and storing in tightly sealed bottles. For example I do this with my white, black, primary blue, yellow and red. Then if I know I will be using other colors such as turquoise or coral in several paintings, I may premix a larger quantity of those to store as well. It’s very basic:
- Simply mix your paints as usual
- Pour into a clean bottle (I use a paint filter to catch any clumps, but not necessary).
- Tightly seal to use whenever you need it
Most of these are very basics ideas that I’ve found helpful, and I sincerely hope reading about organization has at least helped you start thinking more critically about your own time spent pre and post pour. Remember do what works for you; learn from your mistakes; and create ways to improve your own process.
I could write pages and pages of tips I’ve found helpful, but I’d rather hear from you. What are some of your organizational tips, habits or nuances you’ve incorporated into your pre or post pour process?
Since she began creating art in 2007, Tina Swearingen’s focus has evolved from repurposed conceptual art into the creativity and flow of acrylic pouring. Her pours are inspired by the movement and colors of Southern Arizona’s amazing thunderstorms, and the majestic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, which she now calls home.
2 thoughts on “The Importance of Organization and Leaving the Chaos in the Pour”
I have never “wasted” a canvas. I reuse them. As long as the surface is clean and smooth, a coat of white gesso can be applied and a repour done once it’s dry. You can also cover a used canvas in white and then repour when it’s still wet. Having small “practice” canvases helps cut down on wasted paint on larger pieces.
As for the work space – being near a window for natural light and being able to see outside is essential for me ( has nothing to do with organization, but is very calming, thus feels less chaotic). Finding a place to store stuff is tricky- how about that drawer under the dryer? Or behind the hot water tank? I have a very skinny closet where the electrical box is, that’s perfect for storing canvases. Yes, storing leftover paint in sealed containers works. All leftover dregs of paint go into a sealed container that can be disposed of properly so that it doesn’t go down the sink. I use old towels and rags instead of paper towel (less fluff floating around near a wet canvas and less waste). It’s amazing how many times you can reuse the same cloth.
Great tips Deborah!