2023 Year in Review

As the song says, “It’s coming on Christmas, cuttin’ down trees”. It’s just hitting December, and my studio is winding down for the year. I always feel a little extra reflective/introspective this time of year… so I decided to share a few of those reflections here. I've written this sort of in an “annual report” style, and since I sort of consider you like a shareholder, I thought you might like to hear how the year went. I am INCREDIBLY THANKFUL for your support; thank you for being here! A long time ago I saw another artist wrap up their year with an “annual report” to the people that follow her work, and I thought, how cool is that, to see a little behind the curtain of her art business. So I thought I’d start a similar thing this year; here’s the year-in-review summary (aka annual report for 2023):

What Went Well

• Education month

I took the month of April to go back to the drawing board with my art. I’d been feeling frustrated and lifeless in the studio, and I no longer enjoyed the kind of art I was making. I gave myself a month to allow myself to be a student again—studying other artists, experimenting, and creating just for the heck of it. My biggest artistic breakthroughs came during this education season, including developing a personal artistic style and more concentrated subject matter. It also led to more freedom and joy in the studio. Invaluable.

• Revenue

I’ve been making and selling art direct from my studio for under 2 years, and I’m encouraged by the growth. Revenue grew by over 60% this year from last year, so I’m really thankful for that. I worked hard for that growth, and also I feel blessed by that increase.

• Art fairs

I exhibited at 2 fairs this year, and these went well (one of them outstandingly well and one of them pretty well). Because I often work in the studio, fairs are a fantastic way for me to SHARE what I’m doing and HEAR how people respond to my art. It gives me a chance to interact with my collectors, and also I just love sharing the beauty I create with others. At art fairs, thousands of people interact with my art, and that is encouraging and so helpful to have those experiences.

• Teaching online

I taught an online workshop for an international group of artists about Artist Overwhelm. I was thankful when the opportunity arose, and this was a pure delight. I’m really passionate about mindset and minimalism, so these two definitely play a part in how I approach creating and selling art (hopefully without going crazy in the process. ;) That was really life-giving to share that information with others.

What Failed

Maybe “failed” is too big a word, but it’s healthy to own up to areas that could use a little improvement, right?

• Expenses vs. Revenue

I carefully record and track my expenses and revenue, and keep my business expenses on a separate business account, so that’s a good start. And I know the reality is that when people are starting any small business, usually profits are low, HOWEVER,

For 2023 my expenses ran a whopping 50% of revenue, and although understandable, this isn’t sustainable going forward. Expenses increased for things like art fair applications, business education, and a myriad of subscriptions required to run an online business. And like everything else in the world, inflation hit my art expenses too. The 50% of revenue I was left with, by the time taxes come out of that, just doesn’t leave very much to compensate the time and energy I’m putting into the business at this point. So I’m looking to change that ratio of expenses to revenue next year.

• Teaching online

I taught a month-long online course this past spring that soaked up a TON of energy for four months. This one is a mixed bag, because there were parts I enjoyed and I certainly learned a lot (see below). From a revenue vs. expended effort perspective, though, this has to fall into the “needs improvement” category. I still LOVE teaching and am looking at ways to do this in the future that make sense for me and my students. Maybe teaching an in-person workshop? Maybe teaching some shorter classes online? We'll see what next year holds.

Things I Learned

• Teaching online

I had taught college art for 3 years a long time ago, but teaching online this year was a brand new experience. I could write a long blog post just about this point, but I won’t bore you. To summarize, I learned I do not enjoy teaching, and painting in Photoshop, and answering questions, and troubleshooting Zoom all at the same time—my little brain can’t handle more than one thing at a time! I also learned, and this is a hard one to admit, that I don’t enjoy portraits in the way I used to. I made the decision after the 4-month portrait course to stop painting portraits for the foreseeable future. Maybe that will come back eventually, but I’m feeling burned out on portraits, and I don’t know how long that will last. I’m allowing myself to paint the things that are bringing me joy right now (clouds and landscapes) and releasing what feels lifeless and stressful in my art practice.

• I’m still trying to do too many things

This leads to feeling spread thin too often. I’m working my way through a book called “Traction”, and it’s becoming clear to me how many things I’ve been trying to do this year (art making, in-person events, teaching online, blogging, IG, FB, emails, ads, etc). I hope next year I can narrow my focus to a couple things I invest in, and find a way to let the rest sit on the back burner or leave behind.

• Good Things Take Time (aka Give Things the Time They Need)

Allowing TIME to learn again, find my artistic voice, develop my art style, figure out the business side, grow my audience, etc etc etc. There are SO many things I worked on this year that I felt frustrated about while working on them. Looking back, I could have allowed things to take the time they NEED to take, instead of trying to fight the process and rush things. *Good things take time.* And the results are worth it, if I can be patient enough to wait. :)

So that sums up this year of art. Hope this was helpful (or at least interesting!) This year has been full of effort and learning, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. It means the world to have you here, so thanks from my heart and I wish you a very merry Christmas!

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With creativity and gratitude,


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