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Between a Rock and… a Request for Help

Moss Rock Grows Moss, ink, Pentel Brush Pen & watercolor
Moss Rock Grows Moss (typo--it's 2011!) ink, Pentel Brush Pen & watercolor

After ten years this very large rock sold to me as a “Moss Rock” and installed in my front garden has finally grown a patch of moss. It looked so pretty and the day was unseasonably warm and sunny so I couldn’t resist going out to sketch it. I sat on my porch and drew the mossy rock while my usually indoor kitties joined me in the sun.

And now my request for advice:

I need help figuring out how to sort/store my oil paintings. I have at least a hundred oil paintings and plein air studies on panels (probably more) that I’ve done over the past few years. I’m sure for some people it’s simple: just sell them all.

But if you’re like me and still have many paintings on hand, I’d love to hear how you organize, catalog, store and/or protect them from damage. I have many watercolors on paper in large flat files sorted by subject matter, with drawers labeled accordingly. But I haven’t figured out a good system for my oils.

When I get a request from someone wanting to purchase a painting it can be challenging to find it and I always have my fingers crossed that it hasn’t gotten damaged.

My questions:

ORGANIZING: Do you store your paintings by subject? Size? Date? Inventory number (requires entering in art tracking program)? OR…just skip the organizing and spend the time painting instead?!!

STORAGE: Should they be separated with wax paper when stored touching each other? Does it matter if they’re in the dark?  My garage is fairly dry but not insulated so is affected by weather. Is it ok to store oils on panels in Clearbag envelopes to protect their surface?

At the beginning of the year I usually sort through the past year’s paintings stored vertically on shelves like books in my studio. I dump the losers, label the keepers, and move older paintings to shelves in the garage. This year I had the flu during my two-week holiday vacation so never did the “dump and sort” so paintings have piled up in the studio shelves and storage closet and there are more drying.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

6 replies on “Between a Rock and… a Request for Help”

Hi Jana,
I Continue to enjoy your blog regularly.
I wish I could help on storing oils, but that’s the one media I don’t use. I inventory all my paintings by a page number that is put on the back of a new sheet of paper, and follows the often many changes to a painting, and many times keep a photographic record also of the progress of a sheet. They are stored by this number, (and inventoried on my computer) which is thus roughly in chronological order.
Best wishes, Merle


I divide the ones on panel with parchment paper instead of waxed paper, and keep them (on end, not stacked, so they won’t have much weight on their faces) in boxes. I’m pretty ruthless about what I keep around–only the best. I keep them in boxes of similar size works, roughly by date. If you have oil paintings on canvas, you can take them off the stretchers and roll them, paint side out.

Storing them in the dark is another issue. If they’re fully dry and cured (one year out from painting), it shouldn’t matter; it’s possible that your light colors will yellow slightly if not exposed to light while curing. It’s reversible, by placing the painting in bright light (not full sun, but a sunny room) to “bleach” them back out. Avoid dampness.


Great advice! Thanks.

I especially like the part about being “ruthless!” Love it and can’t wait to do it! But it also made me curious about the etymology of ruthless — wondering if it meant “without Ruth” and which Ruth it might be referring to. But no, ruthless comes from from…

…reuthe “pity, compassion”, formed from reuwen “to rue” on the model of true/truth

Now I’m not sure what that means–seems a bit confusing, but I find it fascinating that Ruthless is related to “pity, compassion, and to rue”… just makes me think… and initially I took the “model of true/truth” to indicate that it also related to truth, but that’s just about getting from rue to ruth.


Afraid you wouldn’t want my help with organizing! My system is to build stacks until they slide to the floor, which is my cue to reorganize.

You paid for a rock with moss? Here I’ve been trying to rid a concrete table of it for years. Maybe I should just break it apart and sell it! LOL


Hahaha. Yep, I paid for it, and it didn’t even have moss when I bought it but was supposed to grow it after it was “planted” and it took 10 years! I guess I’ve reached the equivalent of your cue to reorganize now, too. Jana


Hello Jana,

I’ve been by on several occasions and have been remiss on not commenting on how wonderful I think your consistently excellent work is. So, I’m here now to add my voice to the others who have organizational ideas.

I place my stretched canvases upright in a storage shed, then lay a very large piece of heavy duty plastic, or tarp, over the entire grouping, even under them, because my shed flooded once. I also will take paintings off their stretcher bars and roll them up. They’ll fit nicely in a closet standing up or in tubes. Of course, they must be completely dry!

Best of luck!


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