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Hoarding, Stockpiling and Storage

Cow sketch from Weekend Drawing Event, Tombow pens on Co-Mo sketch pad, 5" x 3 1/2"

I think I'm a recovering hoarder, learning to create priorities and pay attention to storage. As a kid I had nothing I wanted and everything I didn't need. People thought I was a spoiled brat because my grandparents spent fortunes on things I didn't care about that other people could see, like clothes and shoes. What I didn't understand till recently was how much they controlled where the pocket change they gave me went just by where they drove me to spend it.

Lots of penny candy, sunglasses, toys, gumballs, stuff like that. But if I went to the drugstore, I faced an argument about "it costs too much" over any book or art supplies or school supplies for personal writing. It was just weird, it was their priorities. Music wound up in the "too expensive" category too and these priorities got drummed in too deep, they became habits that hurt the quality of my life. Toys occupied a weird priority because I got bored with them quickly. I'd always have buyer's regret as soon I ran out of drawing paper or writing notebooks or couldn't find a pen, but felt ashamed of being ungrateful for my grandmother's generosity.

I hoarded then. I collected every free pen or pencil any store, bank or anyplace I went gave out. I bought cute little memo pads in order to have something to write my journals in and never regretted those. Any moment of extreme generosity like the day my grandmother bought me the 72 color set of Prismacolors, I treated it with care and didn't use it without a plan for a serious artwork. I knew I'd never get replacements for a worn down color, or even more, an empty pan in a watercolor set. "You have lots of other colors, use those" or "Can't you use the cheap ones?"

It was part of an overall attitude that I was supposed to grow up to get a Good Job. That is one where I worked for a company on set hours, punched in on a time clock, did a good job at whatever I was told to do and never complained about low wages or poor working conditions. They were very working class. I don't think they ever understood how bad a Decent Job was for me, how hard it was or how unrewarding. They were in deep denial about all of my disabilities and thought of retail clerk or fast food as easy clean work, comparing it to day labor digging ditches. How hard could it be to smile and be nice to people? Versus giving up "everything" for the freedom to write or paint. That was just crazy, I could get myself killed or something.

For the same money, they were a lot more likely to buy me a coloring book than a Walter Foster art book. After all, it was supposed to be a hobby, that at least didn't lead me to think I could live on it.

I bought a lot of supplies I didn't use once I was adult. For years I'd get something really good and be afraid to use it but collect anything free or cheap and stack it up to where I couldn't take care of it or pack it if I moved. I had an 11" x 14" bound blank book that I held onto for almost a decade that I'd managed to treat myself to after a big art sale but I was trying to fill each page with perfect pen drawings so the thing would be some enormous showpiece book. It got rotted in a flood, when it was destroyed it had only six used pages. Two had been cut out and sold to people who liked the art.

My habits changed when I started selling art in the 80s and discovered art supplies paid for themselves. I had a lot of good supplies when I moved to New Orleans. I'd been hoarding and stockpiling while I had a job. All of a sudden, that stockpile turned joblessness into a lifestyle happier than I'd ever known in my life! All those expensive luxuries I got for fun were worth a whole lot more than the trendy furniture, the nights eating out at restaurants, business casual clothes I hated - all that mainstream stuff was useless or unwanted. All my toys became working tools and my sideline was my better job.

So I kept on stockpiling. It was still self rewarding in the up and down art markets. When I was broke, I would still have the supplies to create a new batch of salable works and find a new market. Went through that several times till the peak was that street art gig in the French Quarter.

I fell into a different version of hoarding/choking. Because I'd been that desperate for supplies as a kid but found out art supplies paid for themselves, I could get the best and even stockpile the best. But I couldn't let it go to waste. I could do a good drawing or painting I wanted to keep once a while - but do several preliminary sketches before doing that painting? Nuts! That's a waste. What would I do with them afterward?

So I didn't learn to sketch until after I got SSI, when I was defining it entirely as leisure art. Then I could goof around in sketchbooks as much as I wanted. It took two or three years of steady monthly spending money before I started using the good sketchbooks I bought as sketchbooks. I had one cheap one I sketched in but even then, didn't fill it for the longest time. Now I've been filling a lot of them and doing art journals. The illustration for this entry is a cow sketch in Tombow pens that isn't some salable artwork, it's just a study for later paintings. If I want a cow in a field in a pastels painting, I'll work from that sketch.

They're another form of reference library and another way to learn and experiment. Right now, I get a kick out of filling a sketchbook and shelving it. I joined The Sketchbook Project 2012 since I enjoyed last year's and got plenty of comments and responses on my 2011 "Coffee, Cigarettes and Cat Hair" sketchbook. This year my theme is "Prehistoric" even though I know I'll probably never specialize as a paleo-artist illustrating dinosaur books or paleontology papers. I just want to be able to do that and have good author art when I sell Sabertooth and decorate its website.

Now I've got money but hit the limits of my space and my ability to clean and organize my space. This is actually the first time I'll do this drastic a paring-down, planning this move. I've done it with books more than once before moving, selling all the books I don't like for fewer ones I missed and needed to replace is something I did many times. Now my art supplies hit the same pattern.

Sometimes I get it right without quite understanding why. I always loved plein air kits and organized sets. The reason why is that those show up again after moving without my needing to dig out anything else to use it. Also the little pocket sets can get used when I don't have the table space to spread out. The itch I've had for several years now to get better containers, lighting and storage is one that's paid off big time. If I can get my stuff organized right, I'll be able to use a wide variety of mediums and still let someone who knows nothing about art supplies breeze through fast with a rag and dust my room in two minutes.

That's my new goal - get it as super organized as a captain's cabin or a ship's carpentry workshop in the age of tall ships. Minimal space, maximum tool use and flexibility. Take this out, put that away, reshuffle into different arrangements depending on what I'm doing. Use pocket sets of all the mediums I like handy in a travel bag or vest for either going out on impulse or just doing small works in a different medium while I'm working on a big project.

What I'd do given a real studio and what I can do living in a space like this are different. Odds are that moving to San Francisco will mean living in a small space like this. If I have more space, great. If not, I've got all this time to trim down and make it practical. Music can be entirely digital. Books can be digital or physical depending on how important their illustrations are. Clothes, I'm going to strip that to minimal anyway because I hate wasting money on clothes when I could get art supplies or books.

LOL ... my grandmother's turning in her grave over that, but I'm happier living my way.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
Proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 29th, 2011 09:50 am (UTC)
It sounds like you're doing well in recovery on your own. If that changes and you decide you need more help, you can check out Clutterers Anonymous. I've been going to CLA meetings for a couple of months, and it's been really helpful.

Good luck on your move!
May. 29th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a cool group. I am doing well on my own. I just had to back up and look at what my priorities are. When I didn't have enough supplies to be sure of being able to create during times I don't have money, it was more of a priority replacing my studio. Now that space and energy are more of an issue, organization is.

Also it's a matter of some things having served their purpose that now need to go into someone else's hands where they'll get more use.
May. 30th, 2011 10:20 am (UTC)

I've developed a scarcity mentality and it's caused me to hang onto a whole bunch of stuff that I really don't need. I do it even though I know consciously that it's not the stuff that will help me the most now. (Some people have issues, I have subscriptions.) And that having the money that I currently spend on storage would help me a lot more than the stuff I'm storing. But my subconscious is still terrified of not having.

That and I feel guilty about getting rid of stuff. But I feel a lot less guilty if I'm giving my old clothes to Goodwill or packing up some seriously 70s ugly towels to donate to a cat rescue. (The kitties won't care that they're harvest gold.) I like that in CLA there's the term "releasing." Intellectually I know that it's the same as just plain getting rid of stuff, but my unconscious is a lot happier about it.

But I really like the image of the ship's carpenter's workshop.
Jun. 8th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know that feeling. I've had a scarcity mentality for most of my life. I didn't make much money and I was living so far under the poverty line I had to crick my neck to look up at it during my New Orleans years. Good idea to give old towels to a cat rescue - the cats will really appreciate them.

I'm starting to give away more stuff that's student grade to trim down - and shifting over to getting Kindle free books instead of every physical freebie I can get hold of. That's helped a lot - I've got over 200 of them now and all in the same very small space.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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