Anyone who shows regularly needs some sort of inventory system. I use a simple spreadsheet built in Excel. In the first column, I paste a small thumbnail of the painting, because I can recognize work visually faster than I can by name. This is followed by its title, its physical location at the moment and a URL, if it is online somewhere.
There are also online inventory services. My pal Tarryl Gabel uses www.artworkarchive.com, which has an online store attached to it. (You can see hers here.) In addition to tracking inventory and sales, it generates its own analytics. “You can also put in all the locations where you show and then sign the works in and out of those shows so it leaves you a history of where works were previously displayed,” she noted.
I make inventory lists for specific galleries and shows, which I take with me when reclaiming my work. Jamie Williams Grossman does the same thing, but since she uses her blog as her tool for online sales, she also cleverly uses tags to track where things end up. “I make a blog category for a location, and click all these paintings into that category. So for instance, I can click ‘RiverWinds Gallery’ on my Category listings, and all the paintings I have there come up. Likewise, if I look up a particular painting on my blog and click it, a list of the categories that painting is in appears at the bottom,” she said.
Whether you do this at all depends on how much artwork you have and how frequently you show. But if you don’t have some sort of tracking system, you will inevitably come to a point where you’ve promised work to two different shows or forgotten you’ve sold it. If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.
It’s proven to be a lifesaver in this move. Checking my inventory list against what is currently in my stacks tells me there’s at least a case of paintings that’s been misplaced. Figuring out where they’ve gone is today’s job.