Does Your Studio Need Help??

Margaret Riley organizing studio

By Margaret Riley

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Do you drool when you see photos of artists’ studios? Do you walk into yours, throw up your hands, and walk out? Have faith! Now turn around and walk right back into that studio! What’s the first thing you see? I know some of you are saying, “A mess!” I’ve written lots of articles on organization and have had some great responses on people redoing a studio.

First, decide what you do most in that studio. If painting is the main thing you do, then let’s just keep things out that you use regularly for painting projects. Grab those plastic storage tubs and begin putting away unused items.

Second, ask yourself “Do I really use this every time I paint?” If not, throw it into the tub. From this point on, you should be downsizing visible items. I think the first thing you notice when you walk into my studio are white cabinets and racks (and I mean RACKS!!!) of paint. I like things organized, and I’ve made it a habit to put things away before I leave the studio for the day/night. I didn’t say to put everything away but empty your paint brush rinse water and put new into the container. Throw away the palette to start fresh the next day. Today before I wrote this, I dusted (which I detest!) and cleaned the tile floor. When I came back into the studio, I took a deep breath and loved the clean smell! I have put and placed things neat and tidy when I dusted. Ahhhh….inspired to create now!

Thirdly, go back through that tub of “stuff”. Decide what to keep and what not to keep. If you have cabinets that you are storing items in, now is the time to downsize, throw away, give away, and just-can’t-keep-it! I’m a poor one to tell you how to organize as my cabinets are bursting at the seams with treasure. Time for some early, early fall cleaning. Organize, organize, organize!!

If you are painting at the end of a dining table, think about having a large tray built with handles on each end (maybe edges on three sides and not on the side you are sitting at). If you need to move everything to serve guests, you’ll have everything on that tray (or do 2-3 trays). Those stacking office trays are great and easy to move off your table, too. Or those inexpensive plastic drawers are a sensible investment.

How many of us have unfinished objects (UFO’s)? Put all those into a tub. Do NOT…I repeat…do NOT start anything else until you finish those projects. It’s a challenge but I know you can do it! If you start now, you might have some gorgeous items to use for gift giving during the upcoming holidays!


No matter where you create, try to make it a habit to keep your area tidy and purge forward to complete the project. When I am working on a deadline, I tend to be sloppy but as soon as that deadline is finished, I start with a clean up before moving on to the next. I hope these little suggestions inspire you to keep things neat and clean! Now, where did I put that glue?????

Editor's note - Margaret's studio theme is currently "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." She has several decorations are tucked here and there. These two decorations adorn her closet door. Don't you just love the Wicked Witch of the East's legs?

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  • Margaret on

    For those asking where my books and magazines are….First of all, I took out time to go through the magazines. I tore out the projects that definitely sparked an interest. I put them in plastic sleeves and have them stored in huge binders. Secondly, I got rid of books that I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything out of them. Some I had only one project that made me buy the book…you guessed it…tore it out and put it into a plastic sleeve. I keep books and these binders in a book shelf in another room. Maybe one day when I get an empty cabinet (gotta get those UFO’s done), I can move the books into my studio. Thank you much for all the nice comments on my studio. And yes, it looks like this most of the time…except during a deadline crisis. Y’all keep working at those work areas….you WILL succeed!

  • Judy Coulther on

    Great advice, for sure! I plan to get to work on my UFO’s hopefully before Oct. Gift giving….great idea! Just wanted to know where you store all back issues of our painting magazines….that is what makes my room look so messy! Your studio is beautiful!

  • Sammy Mendoza on

    Oh, I’ve worked hard to reorganize, moving new surfaces to areas easily to find, put Unos where to get finished….you get the idea. Even threw a few things out. It looked GREAT for about a week & after a few days working…you guess’s a mess again. Rofl

  • Ruth Green on

    I love your studio Margaret. The article is inspiring. I will follow your advice about putting those unused items away. Thanks for the great article!

  • Thelma L Hamilton on

    Your studio is SO neat!!!! Would you like to come and help me purge mine.

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