2018: In Review

What a difference a year makes!

Sweet Peas by Claire Leach

Sweet Peas by Claire Leach

2018 turned out to be a life changing year, my partner Craig and I started looking for a home of our own and decided to start a family too. Today, Wednesday 16th January marks my 38th week of pregnancy and the day that Craig and I are finally able to pick up the keys to our first home together! Buying a home and having a baby are huge decisions, ones that we’ve spent years talking about. 2018 finally felt like the right time to make our ‘next chapter’ plans a reality.  So in spring and summer of 2018 our ‘next chapter’ began as we found out that we were expecting and an offer was accepted on a home of our own. These two big changes shaped our year dramatically and mine in particular as my original plan to get a part time job went out the window. I worked out that with sales from my shop I could still afford to pay my way and decided that being self-employed would work best when it came to welcoming our little one into the world. Luckily Craig’s salary meant that we were able to get the mortgage we needed to get a foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

Wren and Sprig of Leaves by Claire Leach

Wren and Sprig of Leaves by Claire Leach

Besides the big changes personally I found 2018 to be a challenging and rewarding year for my art career. January started fantastically well in my online shop. I added the remaining 50 of my 100 day postcard project as well as woodland landscapes and a series on native British trees to my shop which went down very well earning me over £600 for the month. I also wrote a personal blog post in January all about my struggles with the title ‘artist’ and how I overcame my confidence issues and started referring to myself as an artist without hesitation. The post was shared by Jackson Art Supplies on Facebook and has had to date over 1,000 views making it my most read, liked and commented on journal entry.

The first half of the year was spent making drawings inspired by my eleven month travels from 2016-17 for my solo exhibition at The Sheep Shed Gallery in Weyhill, Andover. The exhibition took place in July and went well, helping me to establish a working relationship with the gallery and getting my work outside the studio and onto gallery walls. Exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery in July meant that when a spot opened up unexpectedly in September I was one of the first to be offered some wall space which I graciously accepted. I created a small series of tree and landscape drawings to display alongside a fellow local artist and was pleased to be able to add another bit of exhibiting experience to my artist CV.

I had my first commissions in 2018, a set of two trees and a robin which I found challenging as I’d only ever been used to making work to my own specification rather than somebody else’s. Luckily the drawings went down very well and gave me confidence in my ability to work to a brief.

Silver Birch and Veteran Oak by Claire Leach

Silver Birch and Veteran Oak by Claire Leach

My social media presence went from strength to strength over the year, I finally achieved over 2,000 Instagram followers and increased my Twitter following from roughly 900 to over 2,000 followers. Focusing on growing my social media helped massively with sales as many of my drawings were bought by people who found me via these channels.

I entered a couple of open submission exhibitions with my drawing Woodland Study IV including the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy for the first time. Unfortunately both attempts were unsuccessful and led me to wonder whether the money and effort of entering open submissions was worth it. I shared my thoughts on Twitter and Instagram and was met with such a lovely and supportive response from fellow artists and creatives.

A campaign that I greatly admire and support called Just A Card featured me on their blog and Instagram account which was such an honour. I also used my own online space to interview ten artists over the year that I admire with the hope of learning from them and increasing their reach online.

Woodland Study IV by Claire Leach

Woodland Study IV by Claire Leach

Woodland Study V by Claire Leach

Woodland Study V by Claire Leach

As the year drew on my income fluctuated massively, one month I made just £30 from my online shop while other months I’d earn more than enough to pay my rent and bills. I went through some tough moments where I felt irresponsible for deciding to start a family without having built up my art business enough. In the end I had to accept that I was at a point where I couldn’t change things and had to learn to accept help financially from my partner. My hope is that in the future as my online following grows and my work progresses and hopefully improves that I’ll be able to earn more from my shop with original drawings and perhaps develop a range of work that can be made into prints to create a more passive income. Despite the income fluctuations I ended the year with 102 drawings sold, something that I’m very proud of as I think of how far I’ve come since opening my online shop in July 2017.

Alongside a year of drawing, pregnancy and house buying I also turned 30 in March, celebrating with a wonderful trip to snowy Norway. I was lucky enough to have a family holiday in Spain in May and a trip to Cornwall and the Forest of Dean where yet again I managed to gather so much inspiration for future work.

It’s been quite a year and I have so much to look forward to in 2019 too. I’ve decided to refrain from making goals this year as I have no idea how I’ll adapt to motherhood and how that will affect my life as an artist. Hopefully I’ll be back to drawing in time and my art career will enable me to contribute financially to our little family.

Have you written a review of your year or hopes and goals for 2019? I'd love to read if so, let me know in the comments below. 

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An Exhibition Realised

While travelling back in 2016/17 I kept a small sketchbook where I recorded little drawings and doodles inspired by the varying landscapes that I was seeing. By the end of the trip I had amassed a small collection of handmade postcards which I could see being developed into a whole new series of travel inspired drawings. On return from my eleven month trip in July 2017 I approached a gallery and submitted a proposal for an exhibition of drawings which was accepted and pencilled in to the diary for July 2018. I had a year to turn eleven months worth of experiences into a collection of work that would fill a space all on its own.

I got to work using the postcards that I had made as a starting point. I had a sketch from a walkway at Iguazu Falls in Argentina, a muddy road in Paraty, Brazil, a forest landscape in Argentina’s Lake District as well as many more. As the months trickled away I found that my drawings were developing, they were getting more detailed and my focus became rugged landscapes; forests and woodland scenes were featuring heavily which matched up with the drawings I was doing on another project which focused on British woodland. I managed to utilise some handmade paper which I had picked up in Pokhara, Nepal just before returning home. I created loose inky sketches using Indian ink, watercolour and charcoal and based the drawings on the stunning Santa Cruz area of Peru.

Three Drawings In Situ at The Sheep Shed Gallery

Three Drawings In Situ at The Sheep Shed Gallery

The Exhibition Poster

The Exhibition Poster

Over a year I’d made 22 drawings for the exhibition which by this time I’d titled ‘From The Road’ a nod to Jack Kerouac’s novel ‘On The Road’. The exhibition deadline had given me focus which I sorely needed as I’d been out of practice with drawing. I framed the drawings myself and fixed the frames with hanging materials. The drawings were then taken to The Sheep Shed Gallery in Weyhill, Hampshire where they were displayed for two weeks. The main objectives for organising the exhibition were to provide a way to take all the ideas and memories from the trip and put them down on paper, to provide a project that would motivate me to draw after a long absence, to gain more exhibition experience and to build a rapport with a gallery. I succeeded in all these objectives which left me feeling fulfilled and grateful that after a year of work I could say that the exhibition was a success.

The feedback I received was positive, apparently upon seeing the drawings close up many couldn’t believe it was done in pen by hand. Aside from achieving my goals I was pleased to have sold one of the drawings and have interest in others. Exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery was such a pleasant experience, at the end of the exhibition I was offered a last minute spot on the gallery’s ‘red wall’ as an artist had withdrawn. If I hadn’t built a relationship with the gallery then this opportunity wouldn’t have been available to me and so I was very grateful for that. With one exhibition finished I was already back in the studio creating a small collection of brand new works for the ‘red wall’ which was displayed for two weeks in early September. I’d gone from having no real exhibition experience for a couple of years due to work and travel commitments to two exhibitions in a matter of months!

I look forward to exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery again in the future and to also finding experience exhibiting elsewhere across Hampshire and beyond.

If you’d like to see all the drawings that were created for the exhibition then please click here. Many of the works are available to purchase in my online shop; to see what’s available click here.

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️