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. 

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

A Little Life Update

This journal has always been a space to share a little bit of everything; personal thoughts on life as an artist, exhibition summaries and for a big chunk of time an insight into my travels when I spent nearly 11 months backpacking, that seems like a lifetime ago now! As an artist I feel like all sorts influences my work and so it’s important to keep note of whats happening as a change in circumstances might be the catalyst for change in my art practice. With that in mind I wanted to share two life updates, one of which is very significant.

The first is that my partner and I are in the process of buying our first home. We’ve been together for 12 years but never lived in our own home together, rented or otherwise. In those 12 years I’ve lived in Cheltenham to study my BA in Fine Art, he has rented a room from a friend, we’ve spent a total of 19 months backpacking the globe together living in camper vans, hostels and hotels and we’ve lodged with my family. Finally, we will have a little place to call our own. North Hampshire is a pricey part of the U.K. to get on the property ladder (due to its proximity to London) so it hasn’t been easy and with me being a full time self employed artist we are only able to use my partners wage to get a mortgage. Still, we are chuffed to bits that soon we will have the keys and be able to hang all the art and illustrations that we’ve collected over the years as well as display all our travel photographs.

The second and most exciting piece of news is that my partner and I are expecting our first baby! Little one is due at the end of January and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Watching my bump grow over the last few months has been magical and we cannot wait to welcome him/her to the world. Of course, having a baby is life changing and will affect every aspect of my life and especially my art practice. In fact, baby isn’t even here yet and already so much has changed. I haven’t felt in the right frame of mind to create work for some time, the nausea at the beginning of the pregnancy, the overwhelming tiredness and the raging hormones have all contributed to me slowing right down. I’ve been trying not to berate myself for this as it’s just what my body needs at this time and I’ve been extremely fortunate in that working from home I can allow for time off without letting anyone down.

I’ll be the main caregiver to our baby as we need my partners wage to pay the mortgage and bills and I hope that in time I’ll be able to return to some of my work, squeezing in the odd drawing between the chaos. I will not be going on ‘maternity leave’ as such, I receive so few orders that I imagine I’ll still be able to pack and post any that I do receive (though there may be a slight delay) and financially I won’t be in a position to turn down any sales or opportunities to make a few pennies, the pursestrings will be very tight for some time going forward. I envisage that new drawings will be very few and far between and that my social media channels and journal entries may look totally abandoned but hopefully that’ll all be temporary and I’ll be able to bounce back.

It’s been really lovely keeping this news private for us to enjoy with our family and closest friends for so long but as I enter the final trimester I felt it was the right time to share, I didn’t want anyone wondering what on earth had happened to me come January when I’m no longer able to draw/make/share anything!

IMG_3390.JPG
IMG_3386.JPG

Thank you for following along with my art life so far, I hope you’ll stick around while I start this new chapter. I promise I won’t be bombarding my journal/social media with all things baby. If you’d like to help financially support this artist mama-to-be (home buying and having a baby are rather expensive things - especially at the same time!) then don’t forget to take a look at my online shop which is currently filled with lots of intricate original pieces of art ranging from £10 - £300.

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