Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If you can Draw or Write it, can you FIND it?

  Where oh where did I put that sketch/story idea?
Most illustrators today have a computer.  If they blog, send files to publishers, have an email account, or just want to check the internet news there is often a computer at their disposal. Several years ago this was not the case.  It meant that any number of clippings, notes for books, sketches, magazine references and more had to be stored in drawers, file cabinets, or somewhere around an artist's  or writer's studio space.  And if you write or draw all over the place, the need for neatness and order is extremely important.

 Our sketchbooks may have numbered in the dozens. If you are a writer you may have little snippets of text written on almost anything. Finding any particular sketch or story beginning or idea was a challenge unless they had been filed in the some orderly way.  Perhaps the file cabinet was so crammed full it was hard to locate anything.  

 But, now your computer can become your file cabinet.

If your images are all digital they can easily be transferred within your computer to the proper files and folders and sub folders and placed on your hard drive or an external hard drive.  Be sure to give each file a name that makes sense and tells a bit about the image. If you are a writer, all those notes and ideas can be scanned and placed in the computer as well. If you actually do all your writing in the computer you have a head start for organization.

Although this article is directed at the artist or illustrator but the same theory applies to the writer.
Since some illustrators also write their own books it should make sense to get all those sudden flashes of genius saved in some order for that time in the future when you actually sit down to put it all together.

What if all your work is done in traditional media?  What if all your writer's notes are in little notebooks, on slips of paper that you grabbed when you were away from the place where you spend that quality time writing? What if you can't find any of those great ideas and sketches?

 If you have a computer and a scanner you can still create a marvelous digital file cabinet that is easily at your fingertips when you need that elusive sketch.
 You need some basic tools.  Your computer, a scanner (or a digital camera)  and, if you are able, an external hard drive.
Scan the image or the text you want to transfer.
Or photograph it and transfer it to the computer.  If it is a HUGE traditional item you can give it a name that lets you know where you stored the actual piece of artwork in your studio.

Now that the notes or sketches are safely in the computer you can move on.

Create a Folder labeled SKETCHBOOK  or DIGITAL FILE CABINET.

Within that folder you can create as many sub folders, as you need.  For AnimalsAfrican animalsDomestic AnimalsDogs,Cats, Mice and Moles.  Create folders for people, ethnic, large, small, children, adults, and costumed.  Make yourself as many categories as you need and file them alphabetically or numerically and keep them in your computer.   For my writing I create word documents in the same way and file them in folders on my computer. They are there when I need them. It may mean that I want those notes today or next year.  Aha!  What if you do want them next year and your computer hiccups and you lose all that data?

  There can be no more frustrating situation than losing important files that haven't been backed up in some way.

If you are able, the next step in this process is to obtain an external hard drive. (There are many good models on the market and many are under one hundred dollars.) By storing the entire folder of sketches and writing notes  on an external device you have the ability to save thousands of files …all in your newly designed file cabinet… without slowing down  your computer or filling up that needed graphic space on the main drive.
And there is an added advantage in being able to take the external drive with you to a client or on a working vacation.

Flash drives are fine for transferring small amounts of data, but the newer external drives can hold up to a terrabyte of information.

Whether you are a digital artist or traditional media artist or a writer with one million ideas, this type of file can save you hours in the hunt for that perfect sketch or the notes for the next great novel or picture book.

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  1. Ginger, excellent ideas! I was forever losing those little slips of paper and little notebooks, but now I keep a folder on my computer for ideas.

  2. Great tips, Ginger. I need to get another external hard drive just for my digital file cabinet.



  3. Wonderfully informative post. I've never used an external hard drive before. I've put all the stuff I want to save onto memory sticks.

  4. Thank you, Ginger, for reminding me I need to get better organized. My computer desktop is so cluttered with temporary files I can't even see the background picture anymore. And I do need another hardrive - or three.

    Great advice,

  5. LOL. I have scraps of paper all over the house where I've jotted down a great line for my story or a change in a scene. And then I never can find the right paper when I need it. Yes, I should keep files on my computer, but I'm so unorganized. Maybe some day ... I do have an external hard drive that automatically saves my work 4 times a week, but, alas, the notes I write aren't on the computer.