It’s December and the end of the year… Whaaat?? How did that happen?
I find it helpful to consider what’s happened in the year that’s gone – to look back for forward’s strength. It’s very easy to be overly critical, to regret things that haven’t quite worked out the way I wanted them to, but the purpose of this exercise is to find encouragement, build momentum, and learn from (but not dwell on) things I could do better.
It’s always good to celebrate the journey that you’ve been on as an artist. It’s helpful for me to consider the ground I’ve taken in things: how has my work developed? How productive have I been? What have I learnt? How much work have I shown in exhibitions/collaborated with others/money have I earned? How have I moved my online presence forward?
I keep a simple diary of key things that I did over the year– not only the work I’ve made but also life things that have happened, the exhibitions I’ve seen, films and concerts etc. It’s quite a fun thing going back through the year and reminding myself. I find it particularly helpful to have my work diary alongside my personal diary. It just means I get a holistic, overall sense of the year. So I didn’t make much work in April, but I did get some longstanding DIY projects done and had a holiday with my family – and that’s OK. It’s important for me to put work in its context and perhaps helps me be kinder to myself!
Did I hit my goals?
I don’t know about you but I like to set myself some work goals each new year – an idea of the pieces I want to make, exhibitions to enter, targets for selling work and social media posts etc. As I said in my last blog I find it helps to aim for something tangible. This year, I know I’ve not hit all my targets so I’ll need to reflect on why. One of my aims was to apply for a certain number of exhibitions/opportunities. My early enthusiasm trailed off a little towards the end of the year and I know there were a few disappointing outcomes that probably slowed momentum a little. Being explicit about this link between disappointment and productivity will help me next year to be more intentional about keeping going despite setbacks.
What is success?
Having said all that, I think it’s worth considering what exactly is success? I guess that’s something for whom every person will give a different answer. I’ve made several pieces of art that I’m particularly pleased with this year. One of those was one that I made specifically for an exhibition which it wasn’t selected for. It would be easy to allow the disappointment to override everything, but I’m still really pleased with that work and for me that was a successful piece (if not in the initial way I wanted it!).
Another key aspect of success for me is having that opportunity to connect with others – for my work to be shared with others and to hopefully make some impact; and also for me personally to connect – through conversation, collaborations, networks, exhibitions, social media. I’ve really appreciated the connections that have come this year through participation in exhibitions – I’ve had some new connections to other artists and interactions with members of the general public both of which are crucial for me. It avoids isolation as an artist which can so easily happen, and getting work out there before ‘real’ people is so significant. A stand out memory from this year came from feedback on Coventry Artspace’s Artist on my Street exhibition (at Arcadia Gallery in the early summer). Some young guys who didn’t consider themselves frequent art gallery visitors were animatedly engaged with a piece of work I had in the show because it related to the area where they lived. This was a great bit of feedback for me and is what excites me about art – the thought that it can capture someone’s attention, drawing people in.
So all in all, it has been a good year for me – some things to feel proud of, some areas to work on going forward and overall movement in the right direction. What about you? How would you sum up 2022 and what are the key definers of success for you this year?