2010 in Review and Moving Forward

Even though one year flows into another with no real difference between them, at this time of year it always feels as if we’re about to start something new with the hope of life being better (or maybe just different) in the coming year. It’s a time of reflection on the previous twelve months, mostly focused on levels of happiness.

I’ve been feeling the need to take a step back and review all I’ve accomplished since deciding to pursue art full time in 2010. I don’t feel I can move forward properly without it. Sometimes I feel that I’ve done an incredible amount of work, and other times I feel I did very little. I’m hoping this blog post will document things realistically, as well as show what worked well and should do more of, and what I can safely never do again.

Week 52(B) - Looking toward the future

» Artwork:
I’m really happy with this area of my practice. I produced a healthy volume of new work over the course of 2010, including continuing with the explorations of altering books, and building on the portrait series of women begun in late 2009. I also forayed into large-scale installation work, which is something I’d like to do more of in future.

Artwork by the numbers:
– 16 individual altered books, framed and ready to hang
– 25 altered books as part of the Forgotten Knowledge series
– 1 large-scale paper tree
– 15 photographic portraits for the Imaginary Girl series
– 5 canvas prints of Imaginary girl portraits

2011 Artwork Goals:
– schedule more time for producing new work
– make experimentation and play a higher priority
– come up with one installation project
– explore creating street art
– produce lower priced inventory
– take on work commissioned by clients

» Exhibitions:
This is the area where I put most of my time and energy last year, and ended up participating in a ridiculous amount of shows because of it. Most of these shows were not career building in any way and had little value beyond an item fleshing out my CV. I confirmed that I need to move beyond showing in theatre lobbies, and be pickier about the group shows in which I take part in order to grow my career. There were a few exhibitions that were terrific for exposure and helped raise my previously non-existent profile in the arts community. The experience this past year taught me that exhibitions are not the more important thing I need to do with my work and in future I will do much less of them.

Exhibitions by the numbers:
– 3 solo shows of three different bodies of work
– 11 different group shows
– 2 juried exhibitions outside of Canada -> Portland, and the UK
– 2 firsts thanks to Container Art -> forays into both public art and installation work
– 1 multimedia collaboration with Resolve Design to create the Tree of [Un]common Knowledge
– 1st time taking part in the Eastside Culture Crawl

2011 Exhibition Goals:
– be more selective about exhibition opportunities
– show outside of Vancouver
– apply for artist residencies
– get paid to show my work

» Selling Work:
I gathered up all the numbers for the first time before I started writing this section and I’m actually surprised at how much work I sold last year. It was the most I’ve sold within the period of one year, which is a good sign. But in order for this career to be sustainable long-term I need to focus more on selling and diversify how and where I make my work available for sale. The bulk of this year’s sold work went to people from my immediate network which confirms what I’ve been told. Most of these sales occurred as a direct result of sharing my work through social media, and also through face-to-face interaction at the Eastside Culture Crawl. A small fraction of the sales came through my Etsy shop and most of these were to people outside of Canada.

Sold Work in 2010 by the numbers:
– 11 altered books
– 2 large metal prints
– 5 small metal prints
– 3 cradle frame collages
– 3 commissioned canvas prints
– 26 postcard sets
– 1 photographic print

2011 Artwork Selling Goals:
– Approach local shops about carrying my artwork
– Research on markets such as Portobello West, Granville Island, and Blim to see if they’re a good fit
– Develop better branding and strategy for selling work online through Cargoh or Etsy
– Research stock photography sites to sell my photo archive
– Participate in the Eastside Culture Crawl
– Increase number of sales from 2010

» Business Development
Business development is the area I find hardest to focus on because it doesn’t come naturally to me. It requires the ability to see the “big picture” and think beyond the fine details of making artwork. Thankfully the entrepreneurial spirit has taken hold and I invested time into laying the ground work for my business. I created an inventory spreadsheet to track information on the artwork I create, and it became an essential tool I often refer back to in many situations. I made use of Harvest to keep track of the time I spend making art, and also use it to create and send invoices. I began using measurable information (i.e. hours) to accurately price my work instead of roughly guessing as I embarrassingly have in the past. I also started using Mailchimp to send out a monthly newsletter and keep people up-to-date with what I’m up to.

Business Development by the numbers
– 45% increase in subscribers to my mailing list between April & December
– 1 dedicated studio space (my first ever!)
– 1 awesome inventory spreadsheet
– 12 newsletters sent out in 2010
– 500 business cards printed
– 1 article in the Georgia Straight promoting the Eastside Culture Crawl

2011 Business Development Goals
– Increase the number of subscribers to my mailing list
– Diversify how I sell my work
– Find and work with a business development mentor
– Develop more of a vertical inventory
– Figure out ways to produce products from my existing work
– Track the time I spend on administrative tasks
– Redo my website to better showcase my work and skills
– Increase exposure of my work online
– Teach workshops on altered books & social media for artists

» Miscellaneous Bits
Figuring out how to shape the artist career I want is an on-going process. I’m still fine-tuning a schedule that works best for me, while trying to get away from the 9 to 5 work day that seems to be deeply engrained. I often forget I have a FLEXIBLE schedule. It’s a constant fight for balance between pure creative time, administrative tasks, and business development but at least I’ve learned to keep art producing days completely free of other things.

I’m glad to finally know more people pursuing art as a full time career because it’s a great thing to have a network of like-minded peers to call upon for advice or just share experiences.

2011 Miscellaneous Goals (Without the numbers)
– Work with a more experienced artist as a mentor
– Meet with a group of fellow artists every two weeks
– Conduct a series of interviews with artists about their careers
– Find a flexible well-paying part-time job working with a creative company
– Find an affordable studio space outside the home
– Save money for new camera equipment
– Exercise every day, including walks and yoga

8 thoughts on “2010 in Review and Moving Forward

  1. Roberta says:

    You achieved a lot and your goals for 2011 are terrific. My exhibition experiences are very similar to what you’ve reported. A large number of shows, but not many that were important career or sales wise.

    I’d like to get an important show in Vancouver and would be happy to keep you updated on opportunities for Alberta if you’re interested.

  2. Rachael says:

    Thank you for your encouragement Roberta. I hope we can both keep on building our careers and move onward and upwards.

    Let me know what you’re looking for and I’d be happy to send stuff your way. Please do keep me in mind for opportunities.

  3. Miranda says:

    I adore this post!

    I love that you are able to step back and see the year as clearly as you have, broken down into tangible accomplishments and areas you want to improve and grow in. Having done this, there’s no way you’ll not have a much more amazing year in 2011! Can’t wait to hear what you get up to.


  4. filmgoerjuan says:

    Are you kidding? You’ve done an amazing amount of work this year! Seeing in detailed like this only confirms what I’ve seen from your monthly updates. Congratulations, once again, on all the success you’ve had and continued success in 2011!

  5. Rachael says:

    Thanks Miranda. I think my next step is writing these goals, posting them up in my studio, and breaking them down into tasks I can accomplish.

    Jamie thanks for your encouragement. It’s hard to see things when I’m in it. I get really bogged down in the day-to-day and forget where I want to go.

  6. Marial Shea says:

    Rachael, this posting makes me feel the power of putting things in writing. I notice you’re looking for a business coach. I’ve been seeing a terrific coach for about three months now to get my writing and editing business on a clearer path. She’s the director of the Vancouver chapter of an online networking group called eWomenNetwork. Her name is Pamela Chatry. http://www.pamelachatry.com. The Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce just voted her businesswoman of the year for 2010. She’ll meet with you for a free two-hour visit to see if there’s a good fit. She’s dynamite. Sharp as a tack, huge heart. Can’t recommend her highly enough.

  7. Rachael says:

    Marial, I completely believe in the power of writing things down to take action. I have one mentor I’m working with at the moment, and we meet once I month. Thank you for the suggestion of a business coach. I will check out Pamela to see if she’s someone I can work with.

  8. christine says:

    Hi Rachael,

    Nice to meet you, so fun to find you while blog surfing today:)

    This is a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing what is working and not working for you. I’m excited to finish building my new studio space so i can get back on track, and this post has inspired me to write my artwork intentions for this year.

    Off to look at your artwork,
    ~ christine

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