How to Make a Catalog of Artwork
Keeping Track of Your Work
This article will give some simple steps to help artists keep track of their work and store information in a centralized location that will also help them in marketing their art to potential buyers. This is a process that I have arrived at after many years of "hit or miss" lists and notes. There are no expensive materials to purchase for this system, so it is imminently doable for any artist. If you are a relatively prolific artist like me, you will benefit greatly from having one place to record the titles of your pieces, the media in which they are executed, the date they are completed, where they are currently displayed, whether they have been sold and to whom - any combination of information that you decide is important to keep track of. Before I developed this catalog, there were frequent occasions when I couldn't remember exactly where a painting was....at the local gallery, at a restaurant, in my closet??? Further, I couldn't always remember what the dimensions of a painting were. This can be an important question a potential buyer may need answered before they make a purchase. Before I developed my catalog, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the answers to these and many other questions about the work I had created. I needed a way to catalog my work, one that reflected the time and care I had put into creating the art itself.
Example Index Page
Setting up Your Catalog
Creating your catalog of works is pretty easy. You will need a three ring binder and paper. This is essentially all you need to get your catalog going. You will create a catalog page and an index page that will list all of the works you wish to track. These pages are entirely customizable - whatever information is pertinent to you in regard to your artwork is what you should include on these pages. The index page is a quick reference to find the catalog number you have assigned to each work. One of my index pages is included at the right as an example. The index page should be a quick reference page that lists your work with just a bit of general information. I assign a catalog number to each of my paintings, so this number is used to distinguish one painting from another. Along with the catalog number, I put the title of the painting and what media the painting is done in. I also have a notation on the index page that indicates the status of the painting. Here I could note where the painting is on display, whether it has been sold, or any other information pertinent to that particular piece.
Sample Catalog Page
Getting Down to Specifics
The next step in creating a catalog of your artwork is to create a catalog page for each piece. I made my catalog page as a simple Word document that can be filled out for each painting. An example of the page I created for my work is at the right. As you can see, this page gives more information about the painting than is included on the index page.
These catalog pages are stored in numerical order in the three-ring binder. When needed, you can quickly refer to this page to find specific, detailed information about the work. As with the index page, the catalog page is completely customizable. I would suggest you start with a generalized version of the catalog page, perhaps using the information I have on my version. Then, as you work with your catalog, you can determine what parts work for you and what parts should change. For example, I started out with a section of this page for a listing of a "digital file name" for recording the file names of digital images of my work. I found over time that this information was not particularly useful to me, since I have a centralized location for digital images of my work.
Another way to get even more use out of the catalog page is to slip each page into a clear plastic "page protector" sleeve. These sleeves have a three-hole edge so they will fit conveniently into your binder. With this arrangement you can insert photos of the finished piece, preliminary sketches, whatever is important to keep with your information about a particular work.
How Your Catalog can Work for You
My catalog of works has helped me keep my paintings organized. It has also been a great marketing tool. I take it with me whenever I attend an art festival, show, or event. Potential patrons can thumb through the catalog and get a good feel for my artistic style (the photos of your work are very handy here). The catalog and the information included in it spur questions and conversations about my work with possible buyers. What can be better than that?
Of course, all of this catalog information can and should be kept on the computer as well. A laptop could be used to perform the same function as the "hard copy" version of the catalog at art shows; however, I tend to prefer the actual paper catalog for this use. For one thing, there is much less expense involved in the paper catalog, so spilled coffee or a dropped catalog are not nearly so catastrophic. Also, turning the pages of a book with another person seems like a much more intimate, friendly activity than clicking a mouse - I'm sure I'm revealing my age here, but be that as it may!
An artist's catalog of works is a very valuable tool, not only for helping one organize and track their work, but also to help you share your work with the public. You can use your artist's aesthetic to create a unique and visually appealing catalog that enhances the impact of your art. Marketing your work to potential buyers is all about engaging people in conversations about your art. The catalog is a great tool to help you do just that.
Questions & Answers
How important is cataloguing to an artist?
An artist's catalog helps the artist quickly and accurately find information about each of their works so they can pass that information on to a potential client, gallery owner, etc. The catalog is also helpful for the artist to more effectively use social media to publicize their work.
How do you apply a catalog number to each actual piece of art?
You know, I don't actually put a number on the art itself. I can identify my paintings by their title, and my catalog pages include images of my work, so identifying them is not difficult. I suppose if you wanted to, you could include your catalog number on the painting/piece either on the back of the image or somewhere near where you sign the work. Thanks for asking your question. It could be that an artist creates pieces that look very similar to one another and putting the number on the work itself would be advisable.
What should an artist catalogue require and how important is cataloguing to an artist?
I think the catalog should as a minimum include the title of the piece, the medium it is executed in, and the date it was completed. Additional information could include the dimensions of the piece, where the piece is located (gallery, private collection, your basement :), etc.). I think it's great if you can somehow include an image of the piece. As I stated in my article, I put each catalog page in a clear plastic sleeve so putting a photo of the piece inside this sleeve is quite easy. The catalog is really helpful to an artist who is prolific and has many pieces to keep track of. This allows the artist to quickly retrieve the information about each piece and answer any and all queries by potential buyers.