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How to Make an Artist's Catalog to Track Your Artwork

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I am Diane Brown (dbro), an artist and illustrator living in Texas. I enjoy all phases of the creative process. Enjoy and comment!

Still Life w/Oranges, watercolor, 20 x 28" Item 61 in Catalog

Still Life w/Oranges, watercolor, 20 x 28" Item 61 in Catalog

How Artists Can Keep Track of Their Work With a Catalog

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.

The Benefits of an Artist's Catalog

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, and so on. You can record 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.

How to Set up Your Catalog

Creating your catalog of works is pretty easy.

Required Materials

You will need a three-ring binder and paper. This is essentially all you need to get your catalog going.

Pages to Include in the Binder

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.

This is an example of an index page from my catalog.

This is an example of an index page from my catalog.

What to Put on the Index Page

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 above as an example. The index page should be a quick reference page that lists your work with just a bit of general information.

  • Catalog Number: I assign a catalog number to each of my paintings, so this number is used to distinguish one painting from another.
  • Title and Media: Along with the catalog number, I put the title of the painting and what media the painting is done in.
  • Status: 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.
This is a sample catalog page from my binder.

This is a sample catalog page from my binder.

What to Put on the Catalog Page

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 shown above. 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.

Customizing Your Catalog Pages

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.

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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.

Using Plastic Sleeves

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, or whatever else is important to keep with your information about a particular work. See the images below for an example of how I make use of plastic sleeves in my catalog.

How My Catalog Has Helped Me in My Art Career

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?

Keep a Digital Copy and a Hard Copy

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!

Make Your Catalog Work for You

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

Question: How do you apply a catalog number to each actual piece of art?

Answer: 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.

Question: How important is cataloguing to an artist?

Answer: 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.

Question: What should an artist catalogue require and how important is cataloguing to an artist?

Answer: 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.


Dbro (author) from Texas, USA on February 16, 2018:

Hi, April! Thanks for leaving a comment on this article. Actually, the catalog I have is intended for my use in keeping track of the work I have created. If you are interested in seeing some examples of my work, you can visit my website at I hope this answers your question. Thanks again for getting in touch.

April Norton on February 16, 2018:

Can I have a catalog

Dbro (author) from Texas, USA on December 16, 2014:

Hi, Deena! Thanks for reading this hub and asking your question. I will answer it here and also send you an email. In truth, I'm not sure I understand the question. The numbers on the artworks are numbers YOU would generate as you enter them into the catalog. Therefore, I'm not sure how an artwork would "jump" in number. The artist is in control of the numbering system, and it can really be customized to the needs of the artist. I personally just started at one and numbered each successive piece the next number in order. The numbers are only used to help locate the information on the piece. Cataloging by title could work, I suppose, if you were to alphabetize the titles and keep them in that order in your catalog. Does this make sense? Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Also, you can set up your account here on hubpages to notify you via email if a hub you are following has any new comments. You may not want this feature if you suffer from crowded inbox syndrome like I do :)

Deena on December 16, 2014:

I'm wondering how crucial it is that every number is used in the indexing process. In other words, if I notice that the artwork jumps from 0045 to 0046, should I be concerned or does it not really matter?



Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on July 12, 2012:

You are very welcome. :)

Dbro (author) from Texas, USA on July 12, 2012:

Thanks, phdast7! I'm grateful to thoughtful people like you who read and comment on my hubs. It means a lot to me!

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on July 12, 2012:

What uxeful and excellent ideas. Great Hub. Sharing.

Dbro (author) from Texas, USA on May 25, 2012:

Thanks for reading, Tricia! I hope my suggestions will help with your new catalog. I appreciate your comments!

Tricia on May 25, 2012:

What a valuable hub! I'm going to implement your suggestions and ideas to organize and catalog my art.

dbro on May 24, 2012:

Thanks, StarryNightsDiva! I'm glad this article was useful to you. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

Alissa from Rocky Hill, CT on May 24, 2012:

This is great. Thanks for taking the time to write such a helpful hub!