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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The Golden Forest

I’ve just returned from a short break to the Forest of Dean, a place I have mentioned many times before. It’s my ‘childhood happy place’ and somewhere that holds a lot of treasured memories. This years visit was particularly special as my partner and I went in celebration of our anniversary - 12 years together. It was also our last little getaway before our baby arrives in January. Not only was it special for those two reasons but also because the autumn colours were so vibrant this year; richer and deeper gold, orange and yellow hues than I’ve ever seen before. It felt as though the trees were really putting on a show for us, to make our escape even more precious.

Last years trip to the Forest of Dean inspired many drawings and was the catalyst for starting the woodland studies series which is ongoing and a project that I particularly enjoy working on. It seems a shame that I rarely work with colour nowadays as this time it wasn’t so much the tiny details of the woodland that captured my attention but the incredible copper colours. Perhaps this will signal a change in my practice, from intricate monochromatic drawings in pen to abstracted landscapes focused on colour? Only time will tell.

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I hope you enjoyed these photographs taken by my partner Craig Pendrill. The Forest of Dean is located in Gloucestershire on the English/Welsh border.

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