I tend to work with several paintings going at a time, and I’ve often been asked how I store my paintings especially while they’re wet. I thought I’d share a few ways that I do this. My studio is in our home and is an open loft of the 2nd story. When you walk up to the top of the stairs, you basically walk into my studio. It’s a little larger than a standard size bedroom, and doesn’t have closets. Just giving an idea of the space because my storage and organization is crafted in order to best utilize the space I have and the way I work. There are also areas in the garage that I can use to store paintings when varnish is drying but here I’m sharing the way I store and dry them as they’re still in progress or I might still want them in the studio around me to grab and work on even after they might be dry too.
The best way I’ve found that works for the way I work is to install wall shelves (see above photos) on much of the wall space that’s open (without bookshelves etc), like these above my studio sofa. The reason I prefer this is so that the paintings are facing out and I can see them as they’re in different stages, and especially as a body of work, if the paintings feel cohesive as a whole. They’re often still wet, so these act as drying racks as well as viewing racks. I also usually have at least a couple of paintings on my easel and a couple set up next to my easel that I’m focused on as well, but the rest of the wet WIP paintings can be stored on these wall shelves and face me so I can see the whole group of work all at once. I’ve spaced them in height so that I can fit different size paintings on the shelves and the spacing works well for that. The paintings here in these images range from 5×7” to 18×24”. The paintings shown on these wall shelves were for my solo show Liminal Beings (I posted about these last month here on Muddy Colors and you can read and see more of those here). I was working on around 30 paintings for that show, so having this system with wall shelves worked really well. This way of drying and storing where they can be viewed and swapped out easily is ideal for that sort of situation.
I have a couple areas I can store larger paintings here in the studio, as well as in the garage. I also am currently working on a 6ft painting in our downstairs front room because there’s more space there to spread out and work on such a large painting. Maybe I’ll share that in another article sometime!
I also have some drying rack storage in my studio that is for laying paintings flat. I’ve used a wooden shelving bookcase that is adjustable and I’ve made it so that I have a few shelves up top that are spaced closer together to use as flat drying racks while the lower storage shelves on it are reserved for paintings that are drying vertically. The lowest shelf stores 30″ tall paintings, the middle shelf stores up to 16″ tall paintings, and the upper shelves are the flat ones that are used to store several smaller works at a time too. I used to use that lower area more for drying but it’s mostly for storage now, in which case, they are not always spaced apart and/or some have non-stick freezer paper covering them after they’re dry. It’s basically a modest and sturdy bookshelf that I’ve modified to make work the way I need it to for what I need. It’s nothing fancy, but it all works well for me. I can also store a large painting on top while it’s drying. The painting currently standing on it is a 24×36″ painting standing horizontally.
On the flat drying racks, there are boxes I’ve cut so that paintings can go inside those and others can be stacked on top of them while protecting the painting inside it. I’ve also built a bunch of different sized boxes out of foam core and duct tape that have hinged lids on them too. I’ve seen that some art supply stores carry pre-made boxes similar to this as well. These boxes can all be stored here very nicely but the paintings in them can’t be viewed while they’re there like the paintings that are on the wall shelves can. I tend to put drying finished paintings here or to circulate the WIPs in order of importance (in terms of prioritizing deadlines) or how much I am working on them.
For some smaller paintings, I can use a dish drying rack that is near my desk and I also have a couple of wrought iron book/music stands on the top of one of my bookshelves in my studio that I can stand a couple paintings on.
Other paintings are placed somewhat randomly on top of shelves here and there such as this one (below) laying up high on top of a crate/bookcase where I have some sketchbooks stored.
I have a great taboret that is one place I can store some of my WIP drawings and mainly some art supplies that I tend to use most. This taboret is the base of my painting palette that sits next to my easel while I paint. It has castors on it, but in this studio, it’s really stayed put where it is. If I have to move it, though, the castors make it very easy to wheel it around.
One thing I should mention is that many people tend to think that my paintings are very thick and/or very wet (if they haven’t seen them in person). I actually tend to work very thin and relatively “dry” and build up my paintings in many layers (I’ve shared a lot about that in many other articles here on Muddy Colors). Along with the fact that I work on many paintings at a time, this sort of drying and storage system I have works well for how I work in thin dry-ish layers too.
I have several other places in the studio and garage where paintings are tucked away too, but these are the main places I have them stored within reach, especially while they are still in progress or still wet. I have a bunch of studio hacks for many other things that I tend to just make so that it works the way I need it to. I hope this might give some insight as well as perhaps some ideas for storage and drying paintings, and I look forward to sharing some other studio hacks and highlights in the future too.
Well, it’s my last post of the year, and I just want to send out a big virtual group hug to all for a safe and wonderful holiday season. All good wishes for the New Year too. Many thanks for reading.