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Creative Mise en Place

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Creative Mise en Place

Colored pencil drawing equipment laid out on the desk, ready to work.

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'Mise en place' is a french term used by chefs to refer to the process of preparing and laying out ingredients before cooking. About.com's guide to Busy Cooks, Linda Larsen, writes in Your Personal Mise en Place that "For restaurant chefs, mise en place means having sauces simmering, cheeses shredded, herbs chopped, and the salt cellar exactly within arm’s reach. For the home cook, it means being organized and knowing what ingredients you have on hand so you can make many recipes with ease in a moment's notice. "

Just as mise en place helps the cooking process go smoothly, so preparing to draw by gathering and organizing your materials ahead of time allows you to create without interruptions. This idea is particularly important for work-from-home freelancers or parents, who often need to squeeze their work into short timeslots.

It's not just about being businesslike, though: the best chefs - and their staff - value this important part of the process. And who doesn't enjoy taking that pristine sheet of paper from the drawer, feeling its tooth, or meditatively preparing bowls of ink wash? It's part of one's craftsmanship.Karen Peters comments that 'in some ways, having the mise en place kind of discipline is very Kantian in that there is a great deal of freedom arising through the discipline.'

    Tips for Creative Mise en Place:
  • Have consumable supplies in your drawing 'pantry'
    Keep extra paper and a spare set of your favorite graphite pencils, colored pencil loose stock, ink refills, blenders, erasers, and sharpening tools. Keep rags or paper towel if you use wet media.
  • Identify your paper
    Pencil the paper type on the corner of loose sheets so you won't have to think about which paper you're picking up. If you use a lot of paper, store different types in separate folders.
  • Color code your pencils
    The number is never face-up and easy to read. Use a color coded paint or nail varnish on the ends of pencils to label soft, medium and hard.
  • Maintain your equipment
    Keep your pencils sharp and ready to use, and stored in their proper place. Replace cutting blades and refill pens.
  • Organize your desktop
    Don't clutter it. Only keep what you use to hand. Containerize - use trays or jars to keep your pencils together and keep debris from dirtying your erasers. Use a screw-top jar for pencil shavings and decant ink into small containers, so spills are less disastrous.
  • Store Materials by Medium
    Unless you do a lot of mixed media, a simple solution is to keep materials for each technique grouped together in one place. Then it's simply a case of opening one bag or storage container and you're pretty much ready to go - no searching needed.

The forward-thinking preparation of 'mise en place' is a useful approach for the art studio. It can be a challenge for creatively wired people to get organized, but the reward of being able to let your creativity flow, without frustrating interruptions, is well worth the effort.

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