The Importance of Archiving Artwork


Armand Cabrera

                                  The Spring House                                                                        Newell Convers Wyeth

Archiving work is an important part of an artist’s workflow. Whether you work traditionally or digitally archiving finished work helps you to keep track of the amount of work completed year to year. You see your progress or lack thereof and you have a chance to generate passive income from images that have already been sold depending on the original use and contract.

 Over time older worked can be re-purposed if you have it saved. I now derive about ten percent of my income from licensing deals from images old and new. This is passive income, it doesn’t cost me anything other than the space I need to store it. 

Archiving has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. Things have shifted from physical to digital and not always for the better but with a little effort and a reasonable expense you can save most of what you have created over the years.

There is no such thing as a permanent archive system some are better than others but all are susceptible to time and damage from external and internal accidents and decay.

I keep the highest resolution available to me at the time and I store it in a safe place that I have easy access to. It’s important to store and check your archived work from time to time making sure it hasn’t been corrupted and lost. Redundancy is important but nothing is fool proof.

I have a tiered approach to my archives I start  and end with optical media like CD or DVD. While the stuff I am using is current, I save them to magnetic media like external storage drives when I am working. I keep nothing on my computer; everything is stored on some form of media. This way if I do get a virus or I’m hacked I have at least a raw original version of the work. I do not yet use cloud services for storage although I do use them for transferring work to clients and other artists.

Next week I’ll talk about what is available, the issues with permanence for each type of media for you to archive work and the relative costs associated with the different methods of archiving.

Archiving Work Part 1

Cloud Storage


Armand Cabrera

Network storage has been around for quite a while but system access was limited to a company or possibly a University. In 2007 Dropbox created the first public subscription based cloud service.

At the entry level most cloud storage providers offer you free space. This is in the 5 to 10 GB with the ability to buy more storage for a monthly or yearly fee. Remeber this information is fluid and things change rapidly it is always good to do a search on cloud services to get current information. This information is relevant in January 2014.

Amazon, Apple, DropBox, Google and Microsoft all offer free space so if you have an account with one of these services you already have access to at least 5 GB of free space.

For $60 to $100 a year some companies offer unlimited storage.  As of this writing JustCloud, YouSendit, OpenDrive, Carbonite and Online Storage all offer unlimited plans for those that need a lot of space.  If you work digitally, or use video as well as photography these plans might be for you. Personally I can get by with about 1TB of space a year but as image file resolution increases so will our needs for more space.

You should know that keeping things with a cloud service can forfeit your exclusive right to that data. Many of the contracts state this in their EULA (end user license agreement) be sure to read and understand what you are giving away before you just click through that contract.

Most of these companies have basic security but the problem with services is you are pooling a lot of information into a few places. While their security is probably better than your home computer security, your home computer isn’t as likely to be hacked and information stolen just because an individual isn’t as big of a target for criminals. The other problem is when things are hacked you run a greater risk because most likely all your devices are connected to your cloud service. I have heard stories of people being locked out of all of their devices, (phone pad, laptop,) once their cloud account was hacked. Connectivity has its downside so be aware. Companies also come and go so beware just because you are with a company doesn’t mean that company can’t or won’t go out of business.

Cloud storage is cheap and easy to use but I would not depend on it as an only means of archiving my work. The threats I mentioned are lessened when you archive your work in multiple places. Personally I only use cloud storage to move and store current work and I keep that same work on magnetic drives in my studio. I do not link to my cloud storage so that if the information is compromised it doesn’t spread to everything I own. All retired work for permanent archiving is kept on physical media like Optical storage.

I use dropbox more than any other cloud storage service. If you join them, please use this link so I can get some more free space, thanks.

Archiving Work Part 2

Magnetic Storage
Armand Cabrera

Magnetic storage is what most people think of when they think of computer storage. It is the most popular form of storage for electronic devices and it is also the cheapest.  Everything from your camera to phone uses magnetic media.  For a very reasonable price you can get multiple gigabytes of space on a consumer disc no larger than the head of a thumbtack. Its portable and easy to use.That comes with a trade-off though; magnetic storage is notoriously impermanent. It is great for short term storage or transferring files from your devices but it will not survive long term storage reliably. External and internal drives are the way most of us store our files on our computers.  I use a 2 terabyte external drive for my main computer all my files and photos are kept there and not on the internal computer drive.  That drive is roughly the size of a large smart phone and uses USB connectivity.

You can now get 6 terabyte drives although 2TB to 4TB are more common.  A good 2 terabyte drive is less than $100 USD at the time of this writing with 4 TB drives around $150 USD.  Computers that are a couple of years older have trouble recognizing more than 2 TB drives sometimes so make sure you check your model and manufacturer to see if you can use the bigger drives. For most artists a terabyte is more than enough for a year of images even for digital work. That would be roughly equal to ten thousand 100 MB files.

I swap my external drive with a new one every year or so. I keep the old ones after transferring the information to optical media for more permanent storage. So far these kinds of drives seem to last about ten years before the files show serious signs of corruption which renders most of the information unreadable but I have also had drives that became unreadable in just a year or two. It is always smart to keep important things in more than one place and really important things in hardcopy.

Archiving Work part 3

Optical Storage
Armand Cabrera

Optical Storage is the most permanent form of commercial storage available. Optical storage are discs like standard CD and DVD and Blu-Ray discs which can be marked in patterns that are then read by focused laser light. Most of these are considered to last longer than magnetic storage but are still not permanent.  A CD can hold 700 MB of data a DVD 4.5 GB . A Blu-Ray DVD holds 25 GB, 50 GB or 100 GB. Standard optical media are susceptible to UV Light and damage from temperature and mishandling. The dye layer used to write the information on decays over a few years’ and is considered usable for 8 to 10 years.

There is a relatively new type of optical storage disc out now made by Millenniata called Mdisc that claim a 1,000 years of permanence. Mdiscs use a rock like material instead dyes to record the patterns on the disc physically marking the disc with the information. These discs are more expensive than standard discs but even if they only last 100 years, the extra price would be worth it. Mdiscs need a compatible machine to use them; they cannot record but will play in a standard machine. Larger companies now offer such machines and compatibility. Mdiscs come as standard DVD’s that hold 4.7 GB per disc and Blu-Ray DVD’s that hold 25 GB per disc.

 All storage has their drawbacks and physical limitations. Ultimately it is up to each individual to decide what’s right for their working conditions and budget. I hope these brief posts gave people ideas for their own solutions.

Photographing Your Art Part 1

By Armand Cabrera


 It is always good to have high resolution images of your paintings for possible licensing deals, illustrations and editorial write-ups.  If you can’t afford professional services hi res digital files can be taken now with reasonably priced digital SLR cameras.
If you choose to shoot digital photos of your work make sure to burn them to CD or DVD.  I talk about archiving here.
Set your image quality to Camera Raw or at least Fine this will give you an image at 300 DPI.  Make sure the image of the painting fills the view screen.  If you don’t own a digital camera, it’s time to buy one.  You can get a reasonably high-quality, 24 mega-pixel (18 x 24 inch, 300dpi image) camera for fewer than 800 dollars (at the time of this writing).
When the weather cooperates you can shoot outside. I choose to shoot in shade not direct light because I think it gives me the best color balance for my paintings.
While taking images outdoors will work it’s better to have a place indoors you can setup and not have the weather dictate your schedule.
If you can have your work professionally photographed then you should hire a photographer.  A professional photographer that specializes in shooting traditional art will make your life easier and save you time that you could use for painting. Shooting your own images requires the proper equipment. If you would rather do it yourself you will need some things to make it easier.
Easel or Tripod
It’s good to have a studio easel and tripod for taking photos of your paintings. I like a black sheet placed behind the easel and then position the painting so that it is within the area of the sheet when you look through the view finder of the camera. I set up the camera 4 ft from the painting and make the painting perpendicular to the angle of view for the camera.
If you also paint outdoors your tripod for your pochade will work just fine just swap the quick release plate from your painting box to your camera.
I recommend a bank of  at least four 48 inch fluorescent or LED daylight bulbs for indoor work. The bulbs should have a CRI rating of 90 or more. I have an article about studio lighting here.
Camera or other device
A good image for print ads would be 9 x12 inches at 300 DPI. Most current digital SLR cameras, tablets or smartphones can shoot at that level of detail. The difference is the quality of the image and lens. Obviously a good digital SLR camera has a better lens and sensor than most other devices. It comes down to your budget. If it is another device other than a camera though, Make sure you can attach it to a tripod for stable shooting. If you want to make prints of your work for sale then you will need a better camera that can shoot a larger file.
Computer and Software
You will need a computer and image editing software for correcting your photo. I recommend Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for image editing but it depends on your needs and budget again. I use my software for thumbnails, image generation, and photo editing, not just for shooting paintings.


Next week I will go through the steps I use to clean up my images with Photoshop.