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Why should an artist start cataloging their artwork early in their career?

There are many reasons to archive your artwork—but why exactly should you? And how do you even get started? And what exactly is an artist’s archive?

A digital archive is a secure way to store your inventory of artworks and ensure your artistic legacy for years to come. It is a way to build your catalogue raisonné—a comprehensive listing of all the known works of an artist—and take an active role in defining what your artwork will contribute to our cultural history.

However, there are more reasons to archive your work, such as:

  • To get organized and have all artwork images, information and sales records in one place.

  • To be able to pull your updated resume, CV and press for an upcoming application at a moment’s notice.

  • To make it easier to update your portfolio.

  • To get an overview of your art business, finances, clients and more.

  • To make it easier to invoice and track sales.

A digital archive of your artwork provides a secure way to back up your artwork with related details, exhibition history, and all sales information and images. While a spreadsheet is a good start, a comprehensive archive is a better way to get a full picture of the history of your artwork—and access that information as quickly as possible without digging through thousands of folders.

So, how do you get started building your own artist archive?

If you are like most of us, you likely have bits and pieces of this information all over the place. You have information on your website, at your galleries, in past publications, on your social media, and in your own records.

This is what we are trying to solve, but it is also a great starting point.

Take a look at your CV and use the exhibition history section as a jumping-off point. Then, create a running list of works that you want to inventory. Some artists choose to work chronologically from the most recent artworks, for example, as this information is the most top of mind.

Here is a good list to start recording for each artwork:

  • Title of the artwork

  • The date it was created

  • The medium/mediums used

  • Dimensions of the artwork

  • The price of the artwork

  • Any exhibitions that it was accepted into

  • Any galleries in which the artwork showed

  • If the artwork was sold and who it sold to

  • The high-resolution image of the artwork

  • Any detail images of the artwork

Let’s start with the basics.

Every artwork that you create should to be photographed and recorded with the following details: Artwork title, year of creation, medium, edition size (if applicable), and dimensions. If you have signed the artwork, then photograph your signature.

Once you have your images and details ready, log that information into a database like Artwork Archive.

Each artwork record in Artwork Archive has fields for all the most important information, as well as additional details and images, scans of accompanying documents, invoices, receipts from production expenses, publication and exhibition history, and sales information.

You can upload up to ten images per artwork record, so you can include photos of the front of the painting, detail shots, progress shots and an image of the signature and install shots.

Documenting your artwork increases the value of your work and decreases stress.

You can learn more about how to get started inventorying you artwork, how it benefits your art career, and what tools are available to help your process by downloading the free guide below.

From information to gather, to building your artistic legacy, we will go over what you can expect as you start archiving you artwork. This guide will help you define your goals, understand the benefits of archiving and set you on the path to using cataloging to best benefit your career.

This guide gives you step-by-step practical guidelines on what to include while archiving and how to prioritize your tasks.

We answer your top questions about art inventory platforms, compare and contrast them to Excel, and go over what you should look for when choosing your software.

Or ready to start your archiving project now? You can test out Artwork Archive free for 30 days AND get 30% off your first year from I Like Your Work when you open a free trial here.

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