If you've been following along with my online journal then you'll know that I spent the first half of the year oversees backpacking from country to country. You'll have seen that nearly all my writing from the past year and a bit has been travel themed, in fact I've written 69 blog posts covering in detail the places I've been and the sights I've seen. I wanted to do a short review of my 2017 but I didn't want to recap on all of the travel adventures I've had this year because frankly I'm sure those of you who have followed along are probably sick of hearing about it and I have toed the line of becoming a real travel bore. Instead I wanted to spend a few sentences reviewing my time since returning home in July and the small but significant things I've acheived.
When I came home I was tired, and when I say tired I mean exhausted. Despite the travel fatigue I was itching to get back to drawing. I'd managed to make several small postcard sized drawings while away as well as some watercolour experiments in a sketchbook and I was dying to translate all my travel inspiration onto paper. I made a series of drawings in pen inspired by the postcards I'd made while away, experimenting with different paper types and materials. Simultaneously I decided to open an online shop on my website for the very first time. I'd had a go at Etsy in the past but it was half-hearted and I had never made an online sale. The drawings I listed were from the 100 Day Project that I'd completed in 2016, I'd made 100 postcards; one each day that included detailed landscapes in pen, ink splatters, sketches in pencil and a few with coloured watercolour. Instead of letting them lie in a box I thought I'd list the first 50 at £20.00 each to try and generate a little bit of income and to see my art go to good homes. I was surprised to sell 3 postcards in the first 3 days and reassured to know that the postcards while not perfect were valuable enough to offer.
I'd always said that I wanted to avoid finding employment until at least September to give myself a bit of breathing space after a hectic 11 months away. When I went backpacking the first time I was away for eight months and then once home I was back in work the following Monday which was a shock to the system. This time around I'd managed to keep some savings intact and knew I had enough to be comfortable and pay bills for a good couple of months. September rolled around and I'd made 3 more postcard sales, my savings were still looking healthy and I was really relishing the freedom to create although the enquiries from well meaning family and friends regarding a job was becoming tiresome and leaving me feeling somehow that I was being lazy by not actively seeking work in the traditional sense.
A long weekend in Cornwall in September to visit my dad was a highlight of being home, Craig and I also decided to become National Trust members which had been a dream of mine for many years. Yes, I've always been a little old before my time! In September I'd made a drawing inspired by a sketch from my travels of a crumbling leaf, I posted the drawing on Instagram and was surprised to receive an enquiry to buy it which led me to make four more drawings in the same vein, one of which sold the day I posted it on Twitter to a buyer in the United States.
I'd established a routine for the week and tasted what life could be like as a full-time artist. Each week I'd spend a morning making to-do lists in my new bullet journal and writing in my online journal, catching up on my travel tales. The rest of the time I'd draw, make short time-lapse videos of my process and occasionally use Instagram Live to connect with my followers. I also started taking part in weekly Twitter chats which not only gave me a community to be part of but also helped me grow my Twitter following substantially from roughly 300 followers to 900+. I worked on improving my website by researching SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques and by making my site look as uniform and professional as possible. When the odd sale did come through I'd carefully package the drawing, write a thank you note and take a stroll to the post office. Evenings were spent making dinner for the whole family once they'd all returned from work and I'd taken the initiative to make most of the household chores my responsibility.
I booked a local gallery space for July 2018 to exhibit work inspired by my travels and so a large portion of my time was devoted to making drawings that could be framed and exhibited, knowing there was a goal in mind pushed me and kept me going with my drawing. While my travels were of course a huge inspiration I also started to find that the British countryside was catching my attention again. In November Craig and I celebrated 11 years together with a trip to the Forest of Dean, my favourite place from childhood and I made a series of drawings inspired by the woods there. One of the drawings was made into a giclée print after a few trials, I was pleased to sell 3 prints at the tail-end of the year and felt hopeful that more would sell in due course.
I also worked on a five day project where I drew a tree native to the U.K each day using images sent to me by the public via Twitter or images found on social media that I sought permission to use. The mini-project was not only a lot of fun it generated some interest in my work and led to an enquiry for a possible tree related commission. I'd been approached in October by a prestigious British fashion brand to work on some drawings that could be used in their new line but unfortunately after a few emails back and forth this never came to anything. To be approached again by a different company to possibly work on something tree related was a huge confidence booster, I can only hope the opportunity does come my way for certain in January.
Ending 2017 with 13 sales made, a huge growth in website traffic, a tripling of Twitter followers and a couple of confidence boosting commission enquiries were all fairly small steps to hopefully bigger things. I have had to start applying for jobs in order to fund my practice and to make sure I can keep paying my bills but I have decided to take the step to only work a maximum of 30 hours a week if possible to allow time for art and creative pursuits. Craig and I hope to be able to buy our own home this year and so the temptation has been to find a job that works a lot more hours to save but I don't want to corner myself into working so much in a day job that my art practice gets left behind as it has done in the past.
I can honestly say that I'm so happy I gave myself the last five months to make art and experience life as a full-time artist and small business owner. My hope is that in 2018 I can work on my first commission, make more prints for my online shop, sell more originals, have a successful exhibition in July, increase my website traffic and not let self doubt get in the way of my dreams.
Have you written a review of your year or hopes and goals for 2018? I'd love to read if so, let me know in the comments below.
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