View Full Version : A long time coming..... finally, some organization

09-16-2013, 04:36 PM
I've been talking about doing this for quite a long time, and now I've finally done it. Phew! It feels really good to have my studio organized in a way that really feels comfortable to use. It's all about organizing all the sticks in a way that I can easily get to them. I had to bite the bullet and buy some boxes, and as it turns out it was the best thing I've done for my studio (and myself) in a long time. I ended up buying two large Dakota Travelers (I already had a small one, and I really like it), as well as a medium Heilman (I purchased this one used from a wonderful person I met here on WetCanvas, and it was a great investment).

Here are some pics, I hope I don't bore you all.....

First one is a before pic, with stuff just piled up, pastels in their original boxes, or in some old ArtBin trays that I've had for years (they held my Giraults):

Next one is a pic of some Ludwigs in their original boxes.....

I won't bore you with more "before pics", but you get the idea, so many boxes, each one piled on top of the other, difficult to get to, impossible to use..... frustrating.

Here is a pic of my studio now, with the easel stored to the left when not in use. You can see the Dakota boxes set up on the drafting table, as well as the Heilman set up on the paper tray under the window. If you look to the left you will see another small Dakota box, along with a half stick set of Senneliers and a half stick set of Rembrandts, which I really just use for plein air work or workshops:

Here is a photo with my easel in place, ready to use. I can get to my pastels from either the left or the right, and I have lights over each area so I can see the colors. I also have an easel light so I can see what I am painting!


I finally treated myself to that Stan Sperlak Ludwig set of pastels, I thought about it for a full year before buying. I also bought a small set of Diane Townsend pastels, which I really like. I've integrated all these pastels into the Heilman box which I will show you in the next photo:


My Heilman box filled with all my Ludwigs, Schminckes, and Diane Townsend pastels, as well as third pieces of my Mount Vision Thunderstorm pastels:


Next is a close up of my two large Dakota boxes with all my Giraults, Great Americans, third pieces of Mount Visions, half pieces of Unisons and Art Spectrums, and whatever else was in my old ArtBin boxes. I left my Girault skin tone set separate, I find them easier to use that way. I also didn't want to integrate my Great American gray set, I use them often for portraits and didn't want them to get lost in the mix. Also, that's a Ludwig mystery box left in tact, I have a project in mind for it and I didn't want it to be lost in the mix either:


Here is a close up of my plein air/workshop pastels that I usually keep closed and ready to take with me. I don't leave them here on this table:


I can't believe how many pastels these boxes hold. I was able to put everything I had (aside from the ones I use for plein air and workshops) into them, eliminating all the manufacturer's boxes. I do have pieces stored in their original boxes, but they are put away and out of sight. Much nicer environment to work in, less chaos and no frustration in finding what I need. My pencils are stored on the rolling carts you see, easy peasy.

I hope you don't my sharing, this was quite a lot of work, and I am so pleased to be done with it!

09-16-2013, 04:52 PM
Thank you for sharing! I love your studio space, with the two bright windows! VERY inspirational.


09-16-2013, 06:03 PM
That there is a whole lot of pastels, I don't care who you are! :D

You may have over-shared Chris, keep a look out for pastel thieves! :eek:

That is a nice space. I have one large window in mine, however, even though there is a nice view out of it, it faces South and I usually paint in the evening, so the blinds are permanently drawn. :(

Your floor appears to be carpet, but you don't have chair mats?


09-16-2013, 06:12 PM
What a great space Chris. Love the organization. In about two weeks, I would have that looking like hurricane Sandy hit it.:lol: Every time I organize; the mess slowly creeps in.
Hey what about that nice rug? How do you keep that clean?:eek:

Happy Painting. Derek

09-16-2013, 06:40 PM
Thank you Jan. Wow... I have inspired you.. neat!

Thanks David. I know.. it is a lot of pastels... I cant help it... your space sounds nice. Believe it or not I need the lights to work. It can get dark, especially on an overcast day.

Hey Derek, thanks. I guess I am just a neat painter. I do get messy with stuff all around but I try to stay neat with the pastels. The foil tray under the painting helps. I do have to dust regularly ( I don't do it often enough).I am hoping the pastel boxes will keep me from being too sloppy. I will let you know ;-)

09-16-2013, 07:14 PM
Have you heard about home sharing?- I go to your home and you come to mine:wink2: . My bags are packed - oh my dog likes 3 walks a day. I'll take good care of your studio while I'm there. (So jealous) Pam:wave:

09-16-2013, 07:48 PM
Looks great, Chris! It can take a while to get your studio set up the way you want it. I now you will put your studio and pastels to good use and produce some more beautiful paintings.



09-16-2013, 08:32 PM

09-16-2013, 08:52 PM
kruglovfinearts- that's so funny! made my day seeing that photo!

Chris- I bet that was a lot of work! And they are all so clean and neat. Thanks for sharing with us. Nice place to create! I am a bit underwhelmed. I was expecting more pastels than that! (yea, right) :) [teasing]

09-17-2013, 12:21 AM
Too funny Pam! I am sure you would be a great house sitter! I do have a teenager though, I believe more difficult than your dog..... you know how many times a day I can be found driving somewhere????? Three walks a day, piece of cake!

Thanks Doug. My studio is always a work in progress, though I think I might have found the solution to all the unwieldy boxes stacked about. I always thought it was fine, but in reality it was holding me back. This is soooo much easier.

kruglovfinearts, now that's a cute pic! You gave me my laugh of the day!

Thank you Ron. I try to clean the sticks I use for a painting before returning them back to the boxes. It seems to work very well, they get pretty dirty. You have to remember, I've been painting with pastels for 20 years, one does tend to accumulate sticks over time, and 20 years is a long time. There is always a set of pastels I'm wishing I had, the colors are so tempting. I am at the point however, where I really think about what I buy, which is why I took so long to get the set of Ludwigs. I really don't want to make a mistake, that would be crazy.

09-17-2013, 01:12 AM
Chris, it looks awesome! I know just how much time all of that takes as I did it myself in my own studio. Like Derek, I tend toward entropy as I work :-) I must say that having my Giraults in my small backpack Heilman and my Ludwigs in my Medium Heilman, along with thirds of the thunderstorm grays in each case, realy works for me. Easy to take along everything I need to paint on vacation or location or workshop. Now I simply need to address the lighting situation in my studio. I'm going to put track lighting in and be done with the lights on stands. I keep tripping over them!


09-17-2013, 09:47 AM
That cute little darling baby shows exactly how I feel. Now that I moved to Florida I have been working on organizing my spare bedroom into a studio/bedroom/office. It's taken me a while but am almost finished. What a great feeling of ackomplishment to finally be able work effortlessly in a space you created.

09-17-2013, 10:08 AM
Love it, Chris! I finally took mine out of their original boxes, also, and it does make a big difference....
love the baby pic, too....expression is everything!

09-17-2013, 10:25 AM
Lol my wife tells me that is how I look at an art store.

09-17-2013, 11:07 AM
Thanks Lynn. I appreciate your help in assessing how many Ludwigs would fit into the Heilman, I was able to decide what I needed to do. Yes, lighting is important, and if you are tripping over wires and such, it is time to make a change! Right now my lighting is okay, though I could always improve upon it.

Thanks Cali, enjoy your new space! I know how good it feels to finally get it the way you want it.

Hi Judi! Yup, out of those cardboard boxes, and into the palette. Much better, I can't even begin to explain how much better.... :D

kruglovfinearts, only another artist would understand.... and I do!

09-17-2013, 12:13 PM
Love to see photos of artists' studios! Very inspiring. I need better lighting in mine--I have a window next to my easel that is nicely diffused light in the morning, but in the evening I have to drape a towel over it, it's so bright and the blinds don't help. And my little lamp that I have just doesn't angle the right way. After seeing your setup, maybe I'll get a new lamp for the easel and retire the little lamp to looking over my pastels.

Also like to see everyone taking pastels out of the original boxes--I haven't done that, since I have a nice wooden box that has a full set in there, but as I add more pastels it's so hard to keep track of what colours are where... I just need to suck it up and combine!

09-17-2013, 05:59 PM

Sweet !

it's good for you = good to go . :heart:


09-18-2013, 12:45 AM
Thank you MarvelousSauce. Lighting is very important, sometimes you have to fiddle with it until you get it just right. I do believe that removing any labels, and breaking the sticks into halves or thirds (depending on the size of the stick), and arranging them cohesively in a palette with all brands mixed really makes the most sense. I really don't care much about color charts and replacing used up sticks. There might be a couple that I would replace (like Mount Vision thunderstorm grays and a few Ludwigs), but for the most part the sticks last such a long time, I rarely have to replace one. Getting rid of the manufacturer's boxes is very liberating, and I'm finding I am using what I have much more readily now. This process has been the best thing I've done in my studio in a long time. Also, arranging your sticks by hue and value, in color wheel order, really tells you a lot about your palette. Any "holes" will be obvious, you will see immediately what you might be lacking. This whole exercise has been great, I highly recommend it.

Hey Ed, thanks so much. It feels great!

09-18-2013, 03:13 AM
What a great setup! I can just imagine how much time you save now looking for a color/stick since you only have one place to look in now instead of, well, all of them! :) Congratulations on the studio update, and thanks for sharing the photos.

I have a question about the (GORGEOUS!) duo of big boxes you have on the table. It appears that the organization is duplicated, you have dark to light in the bottom box, and then dark to light in the top box. Is there a reason why you don't have it dark to light across the two boxes (as though it's one big box, for example)? Is one of them warm and one cool, or is it related to the hardness/softness of the brands you have in each box? Very curious!

09-18-2013, 10:20 AM
Thanks Grinner. I was wondering if somebody would notice that..... The truth is, I originally purchased one large Dakota box, as I thought I would continue to use the ArtBin trays that held the pastels in the top box. Those pastels are Giraults, with a few Rembrandts and some old Grumbachers. After I completed the bottom box, which is filled with Unisons, Art Spectrum, Great American, and Mount Vision, I realized how much I liked the set up. By that time I really wanted to get rid of the ArtBin setup, so I bought another box. I probably should have integrated them at that point, but I was so impatient to get the job done that I didn't want to disturb what I had already done.... Maybe I will get ambitious and rearrange the two boxes so that they seem as one large box, but for now I just want to paint.....:lol: . Each box is arranged identically,Yellow/Orange/Red/Violet/Blue/Green/Warm Neutral/Cool Neutral, so integrating them together shouldn't be too difficult, I just need to take a break for now. :eek:

09-18-2013, 11:26 AM
Chris, great set up you should feel very proud and happy. My art studio which looked a lot like yours has now become my two grand daughters bedroom and dance studio. My storage/ framing room has been converted into a bedroom/game room for my two grandsons. I now feel like H. Potter as I now occupy a 4'x8' area under a stair well. I am now looking at taking over the storage shed behind my barn which is a mile away from the house. Bill

09-18-2013, 05:07 PM
Chris, great set up you should feel very proud and happy. My art studio which looked a lot like yours has now become my two grand daughters bedroom and dance studio. My storage/ framing room has been converted into a bedroom/game room for my two grandsons. I now feel like H. Potter as I now occupy a 4'x8' area under a stair well. I am now looking at taking over the storage shed behind my barn which is a mile away from the house. Bill

Thanks Bill.

:lol: ..... The storage shed could be an excellent option, a mile away from the house means less interruptions, peace and quiet. I would put up some kind of motion detector around the shed, so you can be alerted when someone is approaching.... no surprises you know? You could hide, they won't find you, think you're not there, and move on. You can continue blissfully painting, while they are on their merry way hunting for you.... sounds like a plan, I should give it a try!

09-18-2013, 10:40 PM
integrating them together shouldn't be too difficult, I just need to take a break for now. :eek:
Ha ha - you so deserve a break! As for the boxes, ahh, now I get it. I wasn't sure if there was some strategy behind the sorting into both boxes because I am very interested in different ways to organize pastels. But now I don't need to feel bad that I couldn't figure it out ;)

09-19-2013, 09:23 PM
Awesome work Chris - I'm drooling over your collection too.

Timely posting as well, I have a small Dakota for my Giraults and Nupastels and a large one for my Sennies, Rembrandts, and Art Spectrums but then I had to go and buy a full set of Mount Visions so that will clearly require another large Dakota.

Looking at your setup, I think my two largies will be fine, I'll keep the arrangement the same in each box and won't integrate them as I quite like knowing which brand is which - thanks for posting!


09-19-2013, 11:46 PM
Oh my Chris, that is a h..l of lot of pastels!!! I would spend all my days just deciding on a colour. It all looks great now we expect great things from you! :angel:

09-20-2013, 10:55 AM
Hi Chris,
Fabulous space! Is the large Dakota box the same one they sell now, or one of their earlier versions? Hoping it is what they sell now. I would love to lay out the long slim boxes like you have. Great set up!! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

09-20-2013, 12:16 PM
Thanks Nicole, the Dakota boxes are great aren't they? I don't think they are quite a sturdy as a Heilman, but I have no intention of taking the large ones out for plein air or workshops anytime soon...:lol: , so they work very well in the studio. The smaller one is sturdy enough I think for plein air work, I think because it isn't quite as long, less stress on the hinges. My Heilman box is definitely sturdy, but it is large so I won't be taking that one out much either, it's for the studio also. A full set of Mount Visions, WOW! I am sure a large Dakota will fit the bill nicely for them.

Thanks Jen. You know, because they are spread out like this and easier to use I am finding I am not at all overwhelmed. It's just so much easier to get what I want, no digging and thinking..... where did I put those? and is the color in that box anyway????? This is a beautiful thing, believe me :D .

Thanks Sueb. Yes, these Dakota boxes are what they are currently selling, I only got them a month ago. I do like their shape, for me they fit nicely on that drafting table, with extra room for other stuff.

09-20-2013, 05:00 PM
Thank you Chris! I already have one of the long ones & now I intend to purchase another, so I can be as organized as you. :) Placing my order today!!

This past year and a half as been just nuts for me. First I planned a studio makeover and placed a lot of my materials in storage. Then my spouse and I ended up moving to another state. We were in a rental for 9 months, so I rented studio space during that time. Now that we are in our permanent location ( or a while at least), I can set things up the way I want them. I love how you placed the boxes, one over the other. I can't wait to have my pastels out, accessiblle, and out of the many, space sucking boxes! I want to see all of those babies together and out where I can see them.

I have Hellmans too, but for the studio, I think you have the perfect solution.
Bravo!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:


09-20-2013, 06:15 PM
Oh, I would LOVE to be able to lay my pastels out like this! I have a timber studio, 12 feet x 12, which has to house all of my equally important interests - pastel painting, other art, dressmaking, all needlecrafts, polymer clay, and my PC, books, music . . . .as we say here 'a quart in a pint pot' !

09-20-2013, 07:32 PM
Chris, I'm drooling over those Dakota boxes...will have to see if we can get them in the UK...and then save up for them! Your range of pastels is great...I won't drool over them - I would just make them soggy!:evil:
I can appreciate how it feels to have sorted it....wonderful!:D

09-20-2013, 10:16 PM
Thanks Sueb. Happy shopping, I am sure you will be pleased when you've got everything sorted in new boxes. I am glad you are more settled now, time to paint!

Thank you SueP. I am sure your workspace is great, we do tend to get attached to our studios don't we? Enjoy!

Thanks Deirdre. They really aren't too expensive, especially compared to a Heilman box. The Heilman is sturdier, but for studio storage the Dakota boxes work great. They are fine for plein air also, especially the smaller one. It's just that the Heilman is a step up, so to speak. But you really don't have to spend that much, it's nice having the Dakota available as a less expensive option. Maybe you can get it over in the UK, though not sure what the shipping would be. Yes, the organization feels great!

09-21-2013, 10:17 AM

I did get my order placed yesterday. It was so hard not to add more yummy pastels to my order! I'm sure you know how that is. Thank you for all of the photos you posted. Like you, I don't mind mixing the brands.


09-21-2013, 12:14 PM
This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing it. I dream of the stage when my career takes off to where I can afford an apartment - years later my living room will look like your studio and the heck with trying to keep up "normal life." I live in a studio-office with a bed in it anyway.

I recognize those little rolling carts, they were inexpensive, sturdy and wonderful. Had one in Arkansas, hope to get it here someday. I'm not so much envious exactly as smiling over it with hope - I haven't been collecting for 20 years but when I get the rest of my stuff here, er, it is respectable for how few years I've been pasteling. I've got maybe 1000 unique sticks or pieces and they're mostly somewhat organized still. More boxes like that and I'd get more sticks.

I also drool at the nice large tables where I could set out more than one box. Some sets I kept in their original box because it works best - my Unisons 72 is usable all by itself either for a painting or for using them as the final layer. My 200 W&N in a wood box are soft-standard, about like Rembrandts range, workhorse, so they're a nice range all by themselves and I love the box. But I also broke all of them to put all 200 colors on one tray. I would love having a big table where that tray and the Unisons box and my small Traveler and some hard pastels could all be spread out at once, organized hard-to-soft left to right while painting.

Of course that's also imagining a rather larger room where I could roll past that in my power chair or with my walker picking for that painting the way those with very large collections accessible do. Currently I swap boxes and lay out the box-in-use on the walker, using it as a side table. With a big table, the small folding tables I use now could be side tables.

Eh, you've inspired me to mentally organize. When I've got budget I will need to get shelving and tables and furnishings before any Dakota Binge, then get creative with limited space and do it up very efficient. I tried several sorts of easels but when I moved, gave all but one to my family. The one I kept is the Anderson Swivel Easel that was so convenient for both studio and plein air with the way it turns and has the box under it while letting me get closer to the painting than a regular French easel. The box turned into the "Tray for pastels used in this painting shelf" so I might keep it empty and just pack for the trip on plein air excursions.

Your studio is completely grand, droolworthy and lovely. Thanks for all the inspiring photos, they make me want to pull mine out and paint!

09-22-2013, 09:49 PM
I am happy for you Sue, enjoy your new organization!

Hi Robert! I love my rolling carts, very sturdy, and yes, inexpensive too. I hope you can reach all your goals sooner rather than later, I am sure you will. It sounds like you are well on your way, and before you know it you will have things just the way you want them. Thanks so much for posting, I appreciate it!

10-03-2013, 10:11 AM
Hello Chris,
I have been away for a while from this forum and I got so happy to see
your photos, thank you thank you thank you:wave:

What a lot of work! And I who just took out my sticks from a plastic box
from Ikea and put them in wooden trays that I remembered that I have from
Rembrandt, 3 of them. It is a lot of work to brake the sticks and lay them in
Wow you have a lot of sticks, so nice. Put me on the list, you know the one who change space with each other....I also have a dog that need to go out
3 times a day:)

Your Terry Ludwigs look so nice and fit exactly in your box. Since I have been thinking of buying some of his sticks (I have the 10 blue set) I need to ask you -do you wear a mask and gloves when painting whith them because they
release a lot of dust on the hands.

The 10 pieces I have has wonderful colours, brilliance. So I thought I should
use these softies for the light areas but I see that you have dark ones, so you
dont use the harder ones for dark areas and the soft ones for the lighter areas? You use the Ludwigs even for dark areas.

I search for magentas and red violets with good lightfastness. I have emailed
Terry L asking about the lightfastness. Since they are of good quality I hope that I can buy these colours from him. I was thinking that -do I have to buy
from Roche to get a good red violet/pinkish stick?
But since Terry use as Little binder as possible it would be ok to buy them from him, what else can we do, thinking about the lightfast issue?

I really like your photos and thank you again for sharing them with us, inspiring us to buy more sticks:) (I have too few)

I also have been thinking about the wooden boxes for plein air. I looked at your photo and saw the Beautiful boxes on the left and then I looked at the right and I said out loud -She has one more box on the right!!!!
Lucky you!!

We here has to pay 25% in the custom on top of the value of the Product and then a heavy freight cost. But when I really want something that I find is good...I buy from Usa:) (if its not a lot of kilos...)

Do you know how many pastel sticks you have?
You really need a rest now from the organising work, I just thought that maybee you know in your head around how many hundreds/thousands you have

10-03-2013, 12:47 PM
OMG who posted that drooling face... that's exactly how I feel....

not sure I'm more envious of the pastels, the organization or the talent...


10-04-2013, 01:21 AM
Hi Barb :wave: , thanks for stopping by! I know it looks like a lot of pastels, but I've been doing this for 20 years, so I guess that gives me some sort of excuse for having so many...... one does tend to accumulate over the years...

Right now it's not so organized.... I've just finished a painting, and I need to clean it up! That will be my task in the next day or two, I am much happier working in an organized space.

10-06-2013, 11:00 PM
Wow, your studio looks wonderful. I have organized mine and know how hard it is. And mine still does not look as good as yours.

One should never apologize for having too many pastels, there is no such thing.:D :D And the work you turn out more than justifies your expenses!!!!

10-07-2013, 11:40 AM
Chris, where did you get your little rolling carts? I love them and I just set up a pastel table this weekend and started organizing and combining all my pastels and those carts look like they would tuck nicely under the table.


10-07-2013, 01:33 PM
Thank you Sherry :heart: ! So nice to see you back!

Thanks Debbie. I got those carts from Jerrys Artarama (http://www.jerrysartarama.com/discount-art-supplies/studio-furniture/taborets-organizers-and-workstations/creative-mark-space-cart.htm). You are right, they do fit nicely under my drafting table if I need to tuck them away. They give the dimensions on the website, maybe they will work the same for you. I love them, not too big, not too small, they are perfect for my setup.

10-07-2013, 05:32 PM
Hi Chris, I have been lurking around for a while. Our move to another city set me back in painting, but I hope to restart the learning process soon.

01-02-2015, 10:48 AM
Beautiful and very inspiring! I had once set up a dream studio In a nearby town, with ALL my art supplies! And bought one member of the local art guild over, who told the rest all about it. Long story short, had a huge amount of my dream supplies stolen, then kids broke in and trashed it, which was the final straw. I know it was artists because they stole a lot almost all of my full sheets of paper, both pastel and watercolor paper! This after my husband convinced me nobody steals art supplies! So I hope your gorgeous studio is attached to your house where you can keep a close eye on it! Now I really need to find space here in my tiny home, which is not easy! Have the small spare bedroom so cluttered....but you inspire me!

01-03-2015, 04:27 PM
Linda, that's just horrible. Scary to think of that kind of theft, you have to wonder about someone like that. That's so rough. Hope you can put something together in your own home where you're not going to get a break-in like that. Yikes. No kidding that had to be artists taking all the paper.

01-03-2015, 06:56 PM
Linda- I can't imagine my supplies being stolen. How heartbreaking. I hope you find new space to work in.

01-03-2015, 09:04 PM
Thanks guys, my only 'luck' was that they had to walk a ways outdoors, over rocks, through a fence, since the studio was fenced off and the gate locked. Only they parked behind a trailer next door, only used occasionally by hunters, and also started a fire with their catalytic converter, burning the property, but not the studio! I was sick and unable to deal with most of it, then kids broke in, apparently got high on the fixative fumes since all the cans were empty, slung pain, pastels, everything else around and trashed it! Well years later still trying to sort out the mess, which hubby brought home and kind of piled up....

01-03-2015, 10:15 PM
I am so sorry Linda. That sounds like a horrible experience.... My studio is the spare bedroom in my house. I also have a burglar alarm on the house, hopefully a good deterrent. Art supplies are so very expensive, that was a terrible thing that happened to you...