Production Journal – The One Thing You Should Do Before Putting Pencil to Paper

I once had a colleague come to my place to help me out with a pressing deadline. I had two desks at the time, so she could work alongside me (which was great). When she walked in my studio, she stopped, looked around and said, “Did you clean up just for me?”. A little confused, I said, “No, this is how I work.”

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a freak.

I’m an artist and I’m organized. An unusual combination that I’m not ashamed of. Some creative types seem to think that disorganization equates being a true artist. Well, if riffling through mounds of paper every-single-time I need a design means I’m not a true artist, then so be it.

But I think that’s cr@p. Storyboarding is a business and every business can benefit from being organized. Gee…that almost sounded like a rant : ).

So what’s that one thing you should do?

Organize your work area.

I’m going to turn this subject into a whole category because it’s something I enjoy and think can be useful to the rest of you. For now, I’m going to keep it general and about the problem of paper.

In my previous production post I talked about all the materials I received from the studio to work on my show. That’s a whole lot of paper. With just a few well-placed systems, I know where to find what I need in seconds. The less attention taken away from what I’m trying to do, the better. And organizing my stuff helps a lot.

I have a traditional animation desk that I draw at. It has a light table and some shelving on the side. I don’t store my materials there (many people do). Instead, I like the following items to organize my paper:

  • Ikea shelving to my left (which also houses a TV and cat bed)
  • two sets of legal-sized in/out box stack-able shelves (3 shelves each…placed on the Ikea unit)
  • a portable, wheeled plastic drawer unit on my right (full of other supplies)
  • a vertical paper organizer (the paper rests on its edges…placed on top of drawer unit)
  • some old courier boxes (yes, you read that right)

The key to organizing is assigning everything a home. The key to staying organized is to put everything back in its home. Easier said than done for some people, but very effective if you stick with it. You also want to keep it simple and visual…important for creative people.

So on my left I have my legal sized stack-able shelves. In the first one I leave the top slot empty for now. This is where the final board pages will go. Under that, I place the blank board paper. Under that goes blank thumbnail paper and some blank letter-sized paper.

The second set has the stock model pack separated into the three categories: Characters, Locations and Props. In the vertical organizer on my right, I’ve separated the episode model pack into its three categories and I have the script and some director’s notes in the other slots. You can just take what you need for the sequence you’re working on, then put them back before moving on to the next.

Courier boxes are a great way to get some smaller shelving onto a larger one. Close up the box and then cut off one end. They’re super sturdy and last quite a long time. You can even stack them on top of one another, tape them together with packing tape, and voila! Cheap shelves.

Before starting a job I always organize my paper and my supplies including pencils, pens, ruler, tape, and a few other things I’ll talk about in a future post. And yes, all those things have a home too.

Told you I’m a freak.

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5 thoughts on “Production Journal – The One Thing You Should Do Before Putting Pencil to Paper

  1. Debi

    Ok, this is sad..I’m the same.

    My poor head can’t even begin to wrap itself around working until my desk/drawing area is clean.

    And I’m hoping you’re taping your make-shift shelves together with duct tape.

  2. KJL

    Maybe it’s a woman thing :).
    I kind of prefer the clear packing tape…looks ‘cleaner’.
    Man, I’m pathetic.

  3. Steve

    Howdy, how about a nice picture of what a neat storyboard artist’s desk looks like?
    I used to work for some neat freak at his house who would follow me around with a dust buster if he had me use my eraser.
    My desk is organized but it looks to anyone other than me like chaos.
    Nice blog.

  4. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Steve and welcome!

    I might just do that actually…I have nothing to hide. 🙂

    And I must admit I’m a bit of a freak with the eraser shavings too. I sweep my desk with my little brush every time I erase something. Slight OCD on that one!

    Thanks for dropping by and feel free to add your input about boarding for commercials here. I welcome it.


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