Featured image: Harriet Backer
First, it was Roman Muradov, the illustrator who created Notion’s branding. This app looked so friendly I signed up for an account immediately and then stared at the screen without knowing what to do. I clicked around a few times, but nothing happened, and I abandoned it.
A few months later, I listened to a podcast with Marie Poulin, I’d followed her on Twitter for a long time. She always recommended excellent resources throughout the years. I saw she was documenting how she used Notion. Then she wrote a blog post that made me super curious.
I have a mild (or maybe not so mild) case of ADHD, so it is a battle to get organized. I tried every app and system: Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Evernote, Pocket, Feedly, Regular old bookmarking, bullet journaling. Plus Google Docs. Pinterest for getting inspiration and reference images. Twitter for following specific accounts. Plus, all my hard drive, my phone, recipes, household to-dos. I couldn’t get a handle on things.
I’m an artist, but I’ve also worked for years as an online business manager and occasionally build WordPress sites (for those who ask nicely).
I started to watch Marie’s videos on YouTube. She got all her projects, tasks, permaculture, household, and business organized within one tool, and her screen shares left me speechless. After watching all the videos, trying to set up some pages, I signed up for her Notion Mastery Course.
She built this course as we went, it was completely nontraditional, and my ADHD brain loved it. I was able to create a space for my needs. I ditched almost all other apps. Now everything goes into Notion where it gets sorted, archived, added to a project, a task and viewed in however many ways I need it.
The course teaches from the basics of Notion to complex use cases. Within the course, you have access to two things, besides tons of instructions: Templates that Marie builds and shares and Notion Office Hours, where you can join her to ask questions and troubleshoot your setups.
Once you get familiar with Notion and you’ve played around with it, creating and deconstructing, you can design your own workspace and use it for your specific needs.
What is Notion?
It’s an app that can become a custom organizing, project management and productivity system. You can make it as complex or as simple as you need it. You can create pages that you can share publicly or with specific people like any website, you can create databases, galleries, Kanban boards, Calendars etc. And you have mobile apps that let you capture everything everywhere.
Notion for artists
In the beginning, I tried to set up everything as Marie suggested, using the P.A.R.A method. Still, as she often mentions in her course, you have to adapt things to your needs. Notion is a tool, YOU create your own system.
I have created a system that is working for me quite well at the moment. With Notion I have a
Start here page
This page lets me see at a glance my overall direction. I have a quick capture and the statement of what I want to do with my time and work. In this page I have linked tasks, project and goals databases.
Projects have just basic information: what it is, what tasks I need to do in order to complete it, to what goal does it help, when is the due date and to which quarter it belongs to.
Tasks are also very simple. This format is directly from one of the Notion Mastery huge template gallery. It’s easier to have tasks by day instead of dates. Although I do work with a paper planner but it’s almost the same format. This database is related to the Project database as you can see, so everything is related and I don’t have to input twice.
For artists, Notion can be a game changer. The boards I created for my practice are simple but super useful. With Notion you can view your databases many different ways, by gallery, as a list, as a board or as a table. Galleries, you might suspect, are my go-to.
This is my art journal. Everything I draw or practice I take a photo and upload it here. I can upload directly from my phone into the app so no more airdropping to the computer. I add “properties” like art supplies, theme, a quick thought of what I liked, how much joy it gave me. These are usually things I don’t share on Instagram.
Get the Free Art Journal Template here (no signup needed, just duplicate.)
Reference images is another gallery database. Instead of using Pinterest, I prefer to save images to Notion because I can group them. I can give them as many tags as I want: colour, medium, artist, style. Etc. Since you can create filters you can have your gallery show you Figurative, Watercolor, for example, and get a bunch of reference images that only show you those two things.
Online courses that I’ve taken or am currently taking. I take all notes directly in each page, add the link, the cost of the course (so I can keep within budget), whether I completed it or is in progress. And I list the main skills I acquired and I will definitely use.
I create a template, that allows me to quickly add the info without having to retype. Templates in Notion are serious time-savers.
Art Materials Inventory
This was a quarantine activity. I get so grumpy when I wind up buying the same thing twice so now when I need to buy something I can quickly filter by medium or brand and check the colors I have. When I’m at the art supply store, I can take a look on my phone. I want to add little stars to my favorites. This can also be an interesting mash-up using filters to mix different materials and see what comes up.
Of course, recipes. Much easier than Pinterest (because once you get on Pinterest, the rabbit hole is so deep, you do nothing else). I have some husband approved vegan recipes and I link them to my grocery list:
As you can see if I have broccoli in the fridge I have the list of recipes I can use it for. Which simplifies things a lot!
I also have a database for my monthly reviews, my vision board, tarot, books, etc. And when I no longer need any of that, I just throw it all into an archive page and they live there forever without cluttering my view.
It’s always evolving
Of course, Notion can go to lengths I haven’t yet explored: You can manage your consulting business, deliver online courses, have a company’s wiki, documentation, create a portfolio or gallery, and manage who sees it, create slideshows for webinars. You can have lengthy writing projects, research, etc.
You can also manage your art projects from beginning to end.
When you access Notion Mastery, you will learn to build a system, not just use a tool.
I took the Beta version of the course, the new version has so much new content, new templates, new resources and each day there are new ways you can bend Notion to your will, however complex or simple. It’s not only for techies. It’s a beautiful tool for artists. I am planning my first illustrated book here. No more folders, airdropping or dropboxing images and things. I upload my Procreate illustrations directly, all my sketches, colour palettes… etc.
Check out Notion Mastery
Here is the testimonial I gave after taking the course, it’s featured in their site!
*As with each referral link in my site, I’ve taken this course so I stand by it!