Artists’ archives


Dear Artist,

If I had to do it all over again I would have been archiving from the get go. I’d be photographing and cataloging from about age ten. In those days that sort of thing didn’t even cross my mind. By the time I was in my mid twenties I was in a hopeless and irretrievable mess. I even used some of my less satisfactory paintings to catch the drips from my wonky cars. More recently, my archival incompetence was made painfully clear when we were working on Love Letters to Art. Finding reproducible copies of sold work proved difficult. So I’m hardly in the position to tell artists what to do.


Chez Mondrian, Paris. (1926) Kertesz was influenced by a few Paris painters. Piet Mondrian offered simplification and the courage to break with accepted compositional norms — such as this static division of space.

Some creative folks have an excellent sense of self-worth and truly grasp the value of storing well and keeping track. I admire this. It’s not just the chronological record of finished work, it’s the reference material, notes, developmental wanderings, and eventual placement.

On my recent visit to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles I attended an exhibit of the photographer Andre Kertesz. Geographically, Kertesz (pronounced “care-tace”) had three periods: around Budapest during the First World War, around Paris in the thirties, and around New York for the rest of his life. One of the brilliant aspects of photography is the photographer’s ability to go back to old negatives and re-crop, re-dodge and reprint. Kertesz, briefly returning to France in 1963, rediscovered some of his old glass plates and 35mm (early Leica) negatives. While many were broken or degraded, he and his darkroom assistant were able to rework some of them with brilliant results. In old age, armed with a sense of his own value, Kertesz also attracted the help and advice of young archivists. These connections were to prove valuable, both for the historical understanding of photographic art and for his own rising star.

It’s a fact of life that slides degrade, prints get lost, and floppies go badly off in all directions. In the meantime the current state-of-the-art, the digital disc, can be safely copied and moved offsite without degradation. These days archives are going borderless. Software such as Inmagic (DB/Text) is an indexing and retrieval system that permits archivists anywhere to share and study the same stuff. Artists who might someday want to revisit, rethink or remake — or those just chipping away at their statues — need to give some thought to keeping track.


People and Shadows, Paris (1930) By choosing an unusual viewpoint, in this case shooting from a particularly high angle, Kertesz was one of the first to show the abstract potential of the photographer’s art.

Beat regards,


PS: “Photography is a unique art that allows people to go back, not only to rediscover themselves but also to get something in print for the first time.” (David Travis, Curator of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago, remarking on the process of Andre Kertesz)

Esoterica: When Kertesz hurriedly left Paris for New York in 1936, he left behind most of his negatives. Entrusted to the care of a woman, she had taken them to a country house in the south of France for wartime safekeeping. Finally tracking down the vintage material, Kertesz was provided with an enriched déjà vu and a darkroom bonanza. “An accident helped me produce beautiful effects,” he said. These days there is no reason for artists to be so accident prone.


Early archiving


Grandma did a pretty good job of archiving. ‘This is me with Dad’s new car, June 1, 1931, Elk Lake.’ Just for fun, we’ll send a free copy of Love Letters to Art to the first person who correctly identifies the make of the car my grandfather, Reginald Genn bought in 1931, and which was so well notated in her album archive by my grandmother Grace.


Preservation Web Sites

The Web sites listed below represent only a small number of the preservation and related Web sites found on the Internet. They have been selected as they provide good general information and links to other sites.

CoOL – Conservation Online ; The CoOL Web site is extremely useful as a preservation resource. It is one of the most comprehensive preservation sites on the Web. This site has links to many other sites of interest such as the Western Association for Art Conservation, the Abbey Newsletter, SOLINET and many others.

Henry Wilhelm’s site ; Henry Wilhelm, the author of The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Pictures continues to pursue research in the colour photography and imaging field. Research results and updates can be found here. Basic Conservation of Archival Materials: Chapter 7 – Where To Go For Help 77

Image Permanence Institute ; The Image Permanence Institute site is very interesting and should be surfed regularly to see what’s new. In their Publications section you can order publication such as “The Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials,” A-D Strips and several other publications.

National Media Lab ; This Web site has useful information on modern media. Magnetic Media by John Van Bogart can be found here.

Research Libraries Group ; This is one section of RLG’s excellent Web site. A wide variety of information on digital imaging can be found here.

Vidipax ; Jim Lidner’s “Magnetic Media Restoration Headquarters” Web site. Of particular interest is the Video Preservation Resources section where associations and professional groups are listed in addition to online research and preservation information.


The adverse effect of archiving
by Fabián Fucci, Buenos Aires, Argentina


original illustration
by Fabián Fucci

Heavy archiving has an adverse psychological effect that is making you look to the past. Recently, after a hard disk crash and recovery that my computer went through, I realized I hadn’t a decent backup of my latest artwork. So I’ve been backing all my data up during the last weekend, while feeling an urge of emptying my computer of really old data that I wasn’t using at all. By the time I finished the backup, I was deleting old data off my hard disk, keeping only the most recent artwork, as I was beginning to feel the heaviness and adherence of the past. Somehow, I feel I compressed in just a weekend the process that make some artists go back to their best past works and rework them over and over through the years, without producing any real new artwork. I do, however, date my CDs, DVDs, 3½ floppy diskettes, video tapes, and printouts, in a non-formal way (just the month, day, and year). I am not now cleaning up the documentation as I did in past years, as this tends to be a very tedious, dedicated, and long process, and help that psychological effect to take place.


Recycled art
by Kathleen Sidor, Reading, PA, USA
I’m sure you know that many early photographs, even from the most famous photographers, taken during the days of plate photography were lost when the glass photographic plates used to make the images were sold to gardeners for greenhouses. Reminds one of all of the Greek statues that were burnt for lime, or all of what today would be precious metal objects that were re-melted into something else. Not because of any willful art destruction, just because someone looked at it and thought it would be useful recycled.


Checking your progress
by Mark A. Brennan, Whitehill, NS, Canada


“Late May Evening, Bow Lake”
acrylic on canvas, 9 x 11 inches
by Mark A. Brennan

I have been archiving my work since the mid 1990s. Firstly using photographs and simply taking a photo of each painting. Then later I purchased a decent Epson scanner and now scan the smaller pieces and continue to photograph the larger ones in digital. At the end of each year I take all these images and place them onto CD where they can be used as a reference. Titles, sizes, medium are added at that time. I also keep track of where each painting goes. I find this tougher to do with the galleries but at least get a name and location from them. For me it’s interesting to look back on years of work, see some progress and feel a sense of accomplishment. It also helps to have this material when putting together promotional leaflets or building web sites. For me, though, the main reason for doing this is to give me an idea on how my career is going. Success comes from hard work, and if I can dig out a CD from a few years ago and see a year’s worth of art in a few minutes, there’s a little instant gratification that comes my way! Of course there is always the chance of having an opposite reaction and questioning why I hadn’t put a particular work in the wood stove and condemned it to smoke!


Advantages of the digital age
by Virginia Gardner, Earlysville, VA, USA


“Seat of Harmony”
original mosaic coated sculpture
by Virginia Gardner

Four years ago I became serious about making art. I turned to my computer to research technique. My chosen method is mosaic, and I needed to learn so much. Certainly, I purchased books, but it was an online community of mosaic artists, amateur and professional, that gave me access to a remarkable wealth of information. At first I lurked… I soaked up as much information as possible. Then I jumped in, and I began asking questions and submitting my work for critique. Today, I’ve become one of the “experts” and I offer advice and tips on the “how-to” topics. I also opened a Flickr account online, one of the online photo-sharing communities. This allows me to keep an archive of photos of my work efficiently and inexpensively (and you don’t need to worry so much about the quality of your photographs, as you would if posting to a website). But it allows me to do something else: to get feedback on my work. Last night, I completed a piece, and I was determined to post it to Flickr before retiring for the evening. This morning, with coffee, I’ve already read five comments on the piece. Granted, unless you ask specifically for critique, most of the comments will be positive, but I’ve been doing it long enough that I can gauge the effectiveness of a particular piece by, 1/ the amount of attention it receives, 2/ the quality of the comments, 3/ the people who respond, and, lastly, whether or not the image gets picked up by a blog. Making art is such a solitary activity, and this ability to gain immediate feedback is, for me, invaluable.


Disadvantages of the digital age
by Coulter Watt, Quakertown, PA, USA


“Bresson’s Tool”
oil on linen, 11 x 14 inches
by Coulter Watt

You’d think I had a little shoe problem if you opened my studio closet door. The reality is I’m in The Imelda Marcos’ Hopeless School of Archiving. That’s right, shoe boxes of slides and photographs stacked in a walk-in closet on shelves dating back to 1957 when I got my first camera. Also, each box and envelope of negatives has a “keyword” or two and is dated. Since then, the world has gone almost totally digital. I fear that my image files will one day become obsolete due to another technological revolution that I can’t even imagine. Good luck trying to have a 10 year old computer fixed — Ha! You’ll be laughed out of the store. Heck, even my four year old, top-of-the-line Apple G5 that I spent a gazillion dollars on is now obsolete. It’s a brave new world and terrifying sometimes, too. That’s why I like oil paint, it lasts 5 — 600 hundred years, no problem.


Professionalism realized by archiving
by Mary Ann Pals, Chesterton, IN, USA


“Midnight Snack”
original painting
by Mary Ann Pals

A side benefit from archiving one’s artwork is that, for a budding artist, it somehow legitimizes one’s self image as a professional artist. Many years ago, as I was just getting started down the professional art road, a very wise mentor told me to do two things ASAP — get business cards made, and start to archive my work (i.e. take good quality photos of each piece, title them, give them an inventory number, keep track of where they go, etc). At the time, I thought it was a waste. Who did she think I was? A professional artist? But a funny thing happened on my way to getting archived — I started to THINK of myself as a professional artist, my self-esteem got a boost, and my artwork improved. Amazing! Each time I photographed my work, it made me feel like the work was WORTH having its picture taken and being kept track of. Suddenly each piece’s value went up and its maker felt like she was doing something very worthwhile.


Vik Muniz as photographer
by Anne O’Connor, Canada


original dirt portrait
by Vik Muniz

I had the good fortune to see the Vik Muniz exhibit in Montreal last fall. He found himself moving from describing himself as an artist to describing himself as a photographer. He made images and used photography to change the scale… enlarge, reduce. He also did a series called Individuals where he made a nonrepresentational sculpture with a lump of clay, photographed it, squished it, made another, photographed it, etc. 60 times. I was amazed that one could go into a project with the intention to destroy it. I formed an attachment to the ephemeral lumps of clay even though there is the photographic record.

(RG note) Thanks, Anne. Vik Muniz is the artist who made two detailed replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa: one out of jelly and the other out of peanut butter. He has also worked in sugar, wire, thread, and chocolate syrup. He is one of a current band who claims not to be interested in permanence, which has curators and archivists all agog.


Excel software for artists
by Carolyn Edlund, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA


“Time Out”
oil painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Carolyn Edlund

Although I’ve always thrived on good organization, keeping track of paintings and arts involvements (shows, awards, etc) for many years was less than ideal. My archival diligence, at best, consisted of some barely adequate snapshots kept in a now old-fashioned, index-card box arranged by title (not the best system as titles are often repeated). With the advent of the computer age dawned a new age of organization. About seven years ago I adapted a file in Excel to permit cataloguing of my paintings. To keep track of individual works, a simple inventory numbering system was created. It’s very basic and consists of the year, letter (L-landscape, P-portrait, E-equine, C-canine, S-still life, F-floral), and a number (the first painting finished in January is number one, those created after that are numbered sequentially)… so my inventory list might read: 2008F1, 2008L2, 2008L3, 2008E4 and so on. For a brief while there were separate files for floral, portraits, etc, but that system was cumbersome. Now, all genres are in the one file. For now, all of the years recorded are in one file that gets renamed annually (Painting inventory 2002-08). The information that I keep track of is arranged in the columns left to right: Inventory code, Title, Media, Retail $, Date (this is redundant as the date is part of the inventory code), Canvas/Shipping $, Frame $, Photography $, Total expenses, Size, Sold (I record the amount of $ received from the sale), Location/history (where the painting is now and where it’s been–including the month and year delivered to the gallery), Sale date, Check number, Collector’s name (if provided by the gallery). My consignment sheets include my inventory code and gallery owners are requested to include the code when referring to paintings. The only improvement I’d like to make would be the inclusion of a thumbnail image of the painting beside its associated data. There is art gallery dedicated software that allows this improvement and offers more space for additional information, but the cost exceeds my desire to have it! For now, I’m very pleased with the adaptation of Excel.


Working artist software
by Susan Blackwood, Bozeman, MT, USA


“Worn Out Buckaroo”
oil painting, 15 x 30 inches
by Susan Blackwood

After 35 years as a professional artist, I wish that I had done a better job of recording the many paintings that I have done. Four years ago I discovered the Working Artist software program. In this business we wear many ‘Hats” in order to keep painting and selling. This computer program is the one thing that has been a fabulous way to simplify my life! My husband (Howard Friedland – also an artist) and I LOVE this program! I have wanted a secretary for years and this is even better than a secretary! I can keep every thing organized for two professional artists and find anything in an instant! It keeps all the bits of info on all of our paintings (and we produce over 110 paintings a year). With this program I no longer feel the need of getting a secretary. Plus, it was designed for an artist, so it is artist friendly and very easy to use. They also have a professional staff that will stay on the line for hours if necessary to help you any time you need help. (Sounds like I would make a great sales rep. for them.) Even our galleries are impressed with our paperwork and organization. The cost is amazingly low and well worth it, even at a much higher price.


A precious book
by Nikki Soppelsa, Berea, OH, USA


spiral sketchbook, 5.5 x 8 inches
by Nikki Soppelsa

I started painting, primarily with watercolor, in 2003. Along the way and after many emails of my paintings to a friend, he suggested that I keep a little book of my work. I thought it a splendid idea, an excellent way to not only keep a record of what I did, but also how and hopefully to see progress. I set to it one day photographing, scanning what I had accomplished to that time, took the work into Adobe Photoshop and along with a few minor adjustments, resized everything to a configuration of 5″x whatever proportionate measure in order to fit into a 5-1/2″x 8″ spiral sketchbook, then printed out on bright white paper/fine printing and manually cropped to size. Each ‘plate’ then adhered to the pages only at the top. In addition to the completed painting (which sometimes includes the framing when I’ve used vintage/antique), I decided to include the original/the inspiration in photo form, sometimes close-ups of portions I like best and at times the progress of the painting itself (e.g. gouache and India ink). I have kept it up-to-date since and really have taken immense delight in the ongoing creation of the little volume itself. There is great charm to me in seeing one’s work, my work much smaller, having it all contained in one place…the book quite precious to me.


The flaws of digital archiving
by Gabe Shaughnessy


original photoshop artwork
by Gabe Shaughnessy

It’s easy to think of digital files as archival. After all, they are just ones and zeros. However, the materials we use to store digital data are not archival, and even our best attempts at long term digital storage fall in the 30 to 100 year range. CDs, especially consumer model CD-Rs use heat to shift a dye substrate on the disk. This shift corresponds to the digital data that is burned on the CD, but unfortunately, the dye can degrade within two years on cheaper disks, and about ten years on the most expensive disks. An alternative is magnetic tapes, but even these are limited to about 100 years of storage, then the materials must be transferred to another medium. Even hard disks, although the disk itself is less likely to fail, suffer from mechanical failures that result in the media being unreadable. Digital file preservation is a short-term solution, and pales in comparison to the archival qualities of hand-made artists materials, like papers, paints and canvases. Even film and negatives, kept in the right climate, are likely to outlast their digital counter-parts stored on CDs, DVDs, and hard disks. I think in the next decade we will be faced with a serious file transfer task, as our digital media begin to skip, scratch and glitch out on us. Imagine a digital photographer, with terabytes of photos, faced with the task of printing each one to archival film, or transferring them all to another semi-archival medium. Not many of us will have the patience, or the time and resources to do that, and I imagine we could lose a great deal of our creative production as a result.


Trials of a compulsive archivist
by Phil Chadwick, Southampton, ON, Canada


“Morning Beach”
acrylic on panel, 11 x 14 inches
by Phil Chadwick

I realized very early on (I was about 10) that art was a passion for me but not one that could make a living for myself and maybe a family. Sooo — I became a meteorologist after graduating from university as a nuclear physicist. They are making weather every day so there is always lots of work. Noooo, I am not making this up, it would be just too bizarre. Currently I work severe weather and training with Environment Canada. It is a good gig which will come to an end in a couple of years when I shift entirely to my art. I always did art but it was a spare time, just for fun activity. The geek computer side of me allowed me to organize and computerize the maintenance of an art database. I use Excel, Visual Basic and HTML and maintain my files with a push of a button or two. The complete art directory has grown to well over a Gig. I have a smaller version which will still fit on a CDR. As a result, I have images and text about each of my 941 works going back to about 1967. It would be an impossible job to start now but it is done. I know I spent weeks if not months of effort to get the catalogue complete but as you said, it is definitely worth it. My problem now is that some galleries do not like to tell the artist the name or even the city of any purchaser. When that happens, it makes a hole in my records and a missing link in the history of ownership — the provenance. One prominent gallery that sells a fair bit of my art absolutely refuses to give me any information and I am tempted to move on.


Archiving works-in-progress
by Vivian Anderson, Sydney, Australia


original abstract painting
by Vivian Anderson

It never comes too late to make archives, and the wonder of it is that a great change has come in my work. Our granddaughter gave me a digital camera for my 70th Christmas, and together we photographed most of my work (unknown to the world), and she encouraged me to archive the works in progress too. The attached is right side up now for the subject (SAILING), but started out as a still life the other way round, but because of the camera and record of the progress, I saw all new things in the archive and created a favourite from the inspiration of the first image (once inverted). I couldn’t have seen the possibilities without the original image. I really agree with your advice to keep records. They produce many more works when sourced for inspiration.


There are no accidents
by Anonymous

The adire cloth artists of Nigeria feel that there are no accidents, not even what we sometimes call happy accidents. One story: An adire artist is on the ground drawing her pattern in a paste (prior to dying) that she is holding in a small bowl set next to her on the drawing surface. A goat passes by tipping the bowl over. She reaches over, not skipping a beat, and combs the spill into her overall composition with impressive results. Our language has everything to do with our perspective. Chance has its own place and can open windows for us that we may never have had the opportunity to see in any other way. You can’t MAKE it happen; one can only be open to receive, as your photographer Andre Kertesz did.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Artists’ archives


From: Tatjana M-P — Jan 24, 2008

There is no time to archive, just to paint. The way I see it, keeping evidence instead of an archive should suffice if anyone in the future needs to recall my story. Photos, clippings, catalogs, letters and receipts tossed in a cabinet…let the inquisitive spend their time and put the pieces of the puzzle together. The artist’s time is precious. I just keep track who has my unsold paintings and the income tax stuff – anything else is of no real use for me. I can only commit to making paintings, getting them out in the world and paying taxes, that’s hard enough. When Robert said he wished he archived from the get go, he probably meant that he wished he had his helpers do that, not that he wished he spent his painting time archiving… Imagine all the hours that artists spend on creating archives that just sit there waiting. Perhaps that’s just another avoidance activity. I feel something in my genes wanting a neat archive, but the artist in me is saying – stop that and paint, the time is running out!

From: Dave — Jan 25, 2008

The way I feel tonight, I agree with you, Tatjana. What on earth are archives really for? People have lives to live. Even rich people have better things to be doing than perusing someone’s ‘archives’. An artist paints a picture. It ‘archives’ his/her perceptions/predispositions. That’s archive enough, if not too much. Let the art be the archive, and move on. I am no Leonardo. I am more concerned about where I am now and where I am going than where I have been.

From: Brad Greek — Jan 25, 2008

It’s true that archiving will take up a small amount of your creating time after you get your system in place. A small price to pay for a legacy I believe. I don’t see it as an avoidance to painting. Just like responding in here helps keep us grounded to a community (being a part of something larger then ourselves), it’s part of our journey. We all can create, we also have to grow as a human and let others know who that human is or was. If you don’t care, others might not either.

From: Mike — Jan 25, 2008

There is a current obsession with making and upkeeping lists. We see it everywhere. On television we have the top 100 films ever, the top 100 comedy shows, etc., and organizations are continually updating their lists on customers (and losing personal data in the process), without any perceptable advantage to the customer or the list holder. It seems the process has become more important than the content and it is very noticable that it is only computer and digital archiving that has a problem. Once you have sold an artwork you may still legally have the copyright but you don’t own the artwork. It’s gone for good so why keep a track of it? It may be unprofessional for a gallery not to tell you who has bought the artwork, but it has gone and it’s not yours anymore! That’s why you put it in the gallery! Let the buyer contact you if he wants too. The only information an artist needs about their work is for tax purposes, and a reference for a portfolio. Personally, the only reason for me to see my old work again, is to see how my work has changed. From what has been written, computer archiving can be a real waste of time because the amount of work a single artist can produce doesn’t warrant a searchable database. The same can be said about the upkeep of a web presence as it has been shown here before, it is rare to sell work through a web site. As for archiving to make you feel like an artist … what can I say except there must be an office worker lurking deep within that need their vanity boosted. Just keep a hand written day book of the work you are doing and have completed, and a quality photo. Digital information and images will no doubt change again sometime soon, CD’s and DVD’s will deteriorate. I know my day book will outlive me but it will be of no interest to anyone except as a family curio. Most of us are not in the top tier of artists and never will be, and we will be forgotten by everyone except the tax department. Spend your time being creative, and when you do reach a high level of success you will be able to pay someone else to spend their time to build your archive mausoleum as a memorial to your life.

From: Dale — Jan 25, 2008

A simple way to keep an archive is an internet blog. The cost is zero and as we all know once something is on the net it’s there for all time. Assuming the net is around a hundred years from now.

From: Karen McConnell — Jan 25, 2008

The archiving of my own images is a pretty simple method. I have made duplicate CD’s (soon will transfer to DVD) for each year. I create a folder for each image and name the file thus: Year/Month/Day of completion…Title…size(cms)…size(inches)…Media Within the folder I store each image in the following formats: bitmap…TIFF…and jpeg. I occasionally save a few failures as well – those that didn’t quite make the cut but something about the effort has value for future reference. Works for me.

From: Eleanor Steffen — Jan 25, 2008

I felt isolated from the archiving attitudes and was relieved to then read I am not alone in needing my time and energies to paint. It is always a balancing act of how to spend these 24 hours allotted to us all. Studio work is my choice.

From: J. Neroni — Jan 25, 2008

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts retrospective of Edward Hopper’s drawings and paintings included his method of keeping track of paintings bought and sold. In a ledger Hopper drew a detailed thumbnail sketch of every work he created, Jo Hopper then kept track of when it was made, exhibited, sold etc. A page was devoted to each drawing with its accompanying information.

From: Cooper — Jan 25, 2008

Wow, I am sure glad the live comments people got their messages in about ‘don’t worry about archiving’. All that talk about Excel programs was a downer way to start the morning. I vote with the ‘let’s paint’ group. Somebody else can take care of the archives. Cooper

From: Michael — Jan 25, 2008

Look into Apple’s Time Machine & Time Capsule. Archiving for the future seems to be on hard drives.( Discs deteriorate.) Of course, for how long is anybody’s guess! I have been enjoying your newsletters for a couple of years now! Keep up the good work! Michael

From: Karen Bonnie — Jan 25, 2008

Archiving provides a little welcome break from the brush if you are working full time. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I have received a question about a painting that’s been sold and gone and, through archiving I will know immediately where it is, what it looked like, the price etc. Keep in mind that setting up your Inventory list, like anything else, will be slow, but I have built (and I am no computer wizard) a page in MS Word on which I enter a thumbnail (made in any graphics program), title, size, medium, price, gallery or show it was sent to and the month and year it went out. When it’s sold I change the ink color – all really simple stuff, several paintings per page and Word will find it by its title. The original RAW and color-corrected versions are saved to CD and accessory hard drive with numbers that are referenced in the Inventory list. I can’t recommend archiving strongly enough, it has saved far more time than it has cost. I bet I am asked to send an image once a week to a gallery that had a painting that sold, then a client walks in months later and wants something like it. Archiving is necessary so you know what paintings each gallery has, so you don’t send something too similar and so you keep control of what they are displaying. When I started archiving I started to respect my work as a professional – if you want this to be a business with an appreciable income, you must treat it as such. And finally, when I start feeling like I’m not progressing, all I have to do is to run down the pages containing my early work and I feel like charging forward. I guarantee that there’s no artist who won’t see a change over time, and it has led me to where I am now.

From: Karen Bowden — Jan 25, 2008

Okay, I hope this entry works this time… Thanks, Dale, for the wonderful idea to archive on a blog. How simple! I already have one blog but I think this would be a great way to store a low resolution image of all my work for a *long* time. I also keep a record of my images by year in Excel with a small very low res thumbnail so I can remember what the artwork looked like. However, I understand that this is beyond the means and knowledge of many artists. For those of you who would like to archive digitally I suggest trying the blog idea. If you are already online then you already have the basic computer skills necessary to create a blog. With a little bit of time initially to set things up then you will find it easier and easier each time you put your next painting in the blog. I recommend giving it a try. I know I will eventually.

From: Nancy Davis Johnson — Jan 25, 2008

No one mentioned the main reason why I archive on premium CDs: to print Giclees of my paintings. These print/reproductions are now made with archival pigmented inks and are on 100% rag, acid-free papers, just about as archival as my watercolors – maybe more. These will last longer than the images on the CDs if handled like an original painting should be, and can be sold as well.

From: Tatjana — Jan 25, 2008

I just wanted to mention that I think that everyone is right…for the world they created for themselves. I describe my world, and others describe theirs. My answers work for some and not for others. I don’t want to sound as if I thought my way is the way. I learn something from the P. Key’s people every day! Thanks everyone who understands this and brings something to the plate.

From: Jesi Barron — Jan 25, 2008

Sid BARRON. He has left a shredded wheat box stuffed with the entire first printing of each Victoria editorial cartoon he did. 1957-61 They are quite brown now………….most of the originals went to the archives in Ottawa. They accepted them because he used straight pen and Indian black ink.. What to do with the brown newspaper clippings is any ones guess……………jesi

From: Larry Malone — Jan 25, 2008

Just a note to those using Excel for cataloging (Carolyn, Phil): while Excel is a wonderful program, and as a general purpose program more flexible than one specialized for, say, art cataloging, using Excel can be dangerous because it is a spreadsheet, not a database! In a spreadsheet the basic unit is the cell holding one piece of data, each of which is totally independent of every other cell. Absolutely nothing keeps, for instance, your work’s title connected to its dimensions, or its price, except your own restraint in disrupting the rows. I have seen people who tried to use Excel as a database unwittingly scramble their work irretrievably by any number of means, most commonly by sorting when not all the columns were selected. Yet sorting and selectively viewing parts of your data are some of the main reasons for digitizing this information, otherwise you’re better off with 3×5 cards. And the bigger your file gets the more you’ll want to manipulate it, yet the easier it becomes to destroy it completely and the more you have to lose, so you avoid touching it and your Excel sheet becomes more and more ossified and cumbersome. Far better and safer would be to use a general purpose database, like Microsoft’s Access or, my own preference, FileMaker, which will always keep the information about a given work together as a unit. FileMaker is a pleasure to use, yet very powerful and lets you see your information in any way you can imagine. You can add thumbnails of your work and it will read an Excel file to start you off. So if you need to catalog (and I certainly understand those that think such activity has little to do with painting) you’re much better off with a database. I use FileMaker in more ways than I can list, some ephemeral and perhaps trivial, because it is so simple, and, I must confess, kind of fun.

From: Kathy — Jan 26, 2008

A few years ago I heard on the radio that at the National Archive for sound in Washington D.C. they had 3 shifts working around the clock to transfer to wax discs all the sound clips that were on vinyl records, tape, film and other odd media. They reasoned that everything was changing so fast that it only took a decade or so until the method was obsolete. Their theory was that even without electricity you could spin a wax disc and hold a needle over the grooves and hear the sound. At the time I laughed because it sounded so incredible–but after some thought realized it probable was a pretty good idea.

From:Larry Achtemichuk — Jan 27, 2008

I’d suggest that artists who want to address their archiving needs use a broader strategy; one that also looks across today’s paradigms of desktop computer software and includes the imminent next phase of artist website designs, which will give us some attractive options and simplify the situation. The next phase of artists’ websites should move beyond the current model of fairly static “electronic brochures” which was dictated by the technology and development tools of the past 5+ years. Underpinning the visible portion of the newer websites should be an integrated data base of your inventory of works (i.e. your archive). You would be able to separately decide which of those images in the inventory, and their associated descriptive data, you would make visible to your website visitors on your webpages and in the latest galleries you would define. That is, we make a distinction between what you store and what you show and be able to change this at a moment’s notice. The advantage is that you now have all of your images in one integrated data base, which is also simpler to create and manage than spreadsheets or other tools. You have also solved the important need for backup of your archive and thus all your records. As it is on the web server, the data is offsite, and can be better managed and further backed up by professionals. Grandma’s archival photo album is at risk of a fire in her house!! All personal computers will have a crash eventually!! This gives you a good way around these risks, not to mention the vagaries of Windows!. In essence we have switched the definition of where the prime copy of your archive is, and where the backup is. A good web hosting service are today able to use hardware like RAID disk drives, which automatically write every data record on two physical disks simultaneously. If one disk crashes, the second copy is used to carry on and heal the problem immediately without interruption or the need for manually restoring files. A good hosting service will update their technology regularly (we will move from spinning disk drives to solid state storage over the next 2-5 years), pass on the improved price/performance to their users and most storage upgrades will result in the files being rewritten onto the new media or technology, thus allowing artists to have confidence their archives are not physically deteriorating and importantly, not having to become experts in the chemistry and physics of CDs and the like. Isn’t this more expensive? Some web hosting services do charge higher prices for larger volumes of storage, but storage has been coming down in price so steadily that for many hosts, the cost of administrating and billing a schedule of variable rates is more than the option of just charging a flat fee for a generous amount of storage, which some services now offer. As well your time to prevent or recover from a crisis has a clear value; we all want more time in front of the easel not the screen. As you make shorter term decisions on how to proceed, perhaps this roadmap may be of value as a context.







Powerplant At The Skyline

acrylic painting on canvas, 39 x 39 inches
by Nelly van Nieuwenhuijzen, Holland


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Alex Nodopaka who wrote, “Thank providence that 99% has not been saved. As it is, we drown in the remaining 1% that includes its unremitting reiteration in every museum in the world and dust collecting clones on coffee tables.”

And also Steve Hovland of CA, USA who wrote, “I store my images on duplicate hard drives, and keep one of the drives outside the house to protect it from fire.”

And also Suzanne Ecclestone of Shelburne, ON, Canada who wrote, “The problem is, archiving is just plain boring!”

And also Viki Navratilova of Chicago, IL, USA who wrote, “You mention that ‘digital discs’ will keep data forever, but that is not true. Professionally printed CDs and DVDs may last for a long time, but the stuff that you burn on your home computer degrades and can become unusable in about 7 years.”

And also Lobo Hansen of WY, USA who wrote, “I photographed and numbered all my paintings from the start (about 35 years ago) simply because I am a compulsive/obsessive person.”




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