If you’re in business as an artist, one of the most important tools you have at your disposal is the spreadsheet. Whatever software or hardware platform you prefer, a spreadsheet fulfills a variety of needs. Today, I’m going to show you how I use a spreadsheet to track the progress and completion of paintings.

I set up my spreadsheet with two categories.

Paintings currently on the easel and paintings that have been finished are listed in the Completed Paintings section.

Paintings that were started, then set aside or abandoned have their own section. I try to get through each year with the fewest number of these possible, but there always seems to be a few. Having them set aside in a separate category helps me see what they are at a glance. That list also comes in handy when I’m looking for a new project.

The paintings shown here are carryovers from 2012. They are listed in order of start date. As they are completed, I’ll rearrange them to display in order of completion date.

Painting Worksheet

Column 1: The number of the painting
This is a bookkeeping column. It allows me to see at a glance how many paintings I’ve completed, how many are in progress, and how many have been set aside.

The title of the painting.

The buyer of the artwork. If I’m doing the painting for a specific exhibit, the exhibit title goes here. The same if the artwork is for some other purpose. If the painting is for my own pleasure, I put ‘self’ in this column.

Purchase Date
If the painting is for a client, the date they paid the deposit (or in full if they did) is put in this column.

If the painting is for an exhibit or for myself, this column remains empty until the painting sells.

Sale Price
The amount of the sale.

Since I use two mediums, this column helps me track them. If you use only one medium, you can eliminate this column.

Photos Taken or Received
The date I took photos or received photos from a client. This is important because the deadline for providing a client drawing is based on this date.

In some cases, as shown here, I use photos from my files. I make a note of that in this column. In addition to telling me when I took or received photos, this tells me when I use my own photos. This is a check and balance on which photos I need to return to clients at the end of the project.

Painting Worksheet

This column is split into two. One column for the date the drawing is due (if it’s for a client) and the date it’s delivered to the client.

Ink, Imprimatura, Umber/Under Layer, Dead 1 & 2, Color
These columns are for each of the stages of the painting method I use. These columns are personal record keeping. With every painting completed, I have a more finely tuned idea of how long each step in the painting process takes. This allows me to more accurately project how long it will take to complete future paintings using the same method.

Painting Worksheet

The final column in this section is for the date of completion.

Painting Worksheet

I record three measurements for size. The length and width, each in a separate column.

In a third column, I record the unified size. Unified size is the length plus the width. For example, an 8×10 painting has a unified size of 18. Price calculations are based on this number.

I record what each piece of art was created on in this column.

The price of the painting is calculated in the column labeled Unframed.

The price shown in the column labeled Framed is for the painting if it’s sold framed. This price is calculated based on the unframed price.

I refer to this information when quoting prices for potential projects.

Whether you use a Mac or PC, Microsoft, Appleworks, or something else, a spreadsheet can be one of the most flexible and versatile tools in your business arsenal.

A free download of the template is available by clicking here. The template is set up in Microsoft Excel as an xls. document and should be accessible from most versions of Microsoft Office. The template is a simplified version of the worksheet described above and it can be customized to your needs.