What Did You Do This Year? Your Annual Review

You survived another year as a working artist. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to step back and look at all you have accomplished in the last twelve months. This is an annual ritual to take your mind off of the long task list in front of you and remind yourself that you really have done a great deal.

If you do nothing else, stop reading this right now and set aside time in your schedule to review your year. It’s too easy to neglect this exercise if you try to squeeze it in whenever you feel like it.

©Julia Berkley, Gathering. Mixed media on canvas panel, 18 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

©Julia Berkley, Gathering. Mixed media on canvas panel, 18 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

I suggest committing to two one-hour sessions to start this process. You’ll need to gather your data from calendars, bookkeeping, and journals.

The format here is based on The See Plan (8 Cs for a balanced business). Please adjust and add personal accomplishments if you like.

And … begin!

1. Challenge Creativity

What artistic medium or skill did you attempt or master?
What creative project was uncomfortable but helped you grow as an artist?
What new art events, galleries, and museums did you visit?
What art seminars/workshops/lectures/classes did you participate in or teach?
How did you improve your studio habits?
What business seminars/workshops/lectures/classes did you participate in?
How did you promote your art in a creative manner?

What creative challenge do you think you benefited from most?
How will you challenge your creativity next year?

2. Demonstrate Commitment

Where in your life did you set boundaries?
Were you happy with the studio hours you put in? Describe, explain.
Where did you exhibit or retail your art?
What grants, projects, or residencies did you apply for?
How many blog posts, newsletters, or articles did you write and with what regularity?

When did you take action that was uncomfortable, but moved you forward?
How can you increase your commitment level next year?

3. Seek Clarity

©Nancy Seiler, Aspen Grove Eleven. Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 30 inches. Used with permission.

©Nancy Seiler, Aspen Grove Eleven. Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 30 inches. Used with permission.

How did you do on setting goals and achieving them?

How did you stay on top of your finances?
How did you strategize?
What resources did you discover?
What technological skills did you learn or improve?
How did you make time for regular planning?
Where did you ask for help in your art business?

Where did you have an aha moment that gave you clarity?
Where do you need more clarity for next year?

4. Nurture Community

Who supported you – in any way – during the year?
What organizations were you involved with?
How did you help someone else out?
In what ways were you a leader in your art community?

How did you effectively nurture community around your art?
What changes will you make next year?

5. Cultivate Connection

Who were the top ten cool or influential people you met?
How many people did you add to your mailing list?
How did you use your mailing list?
How did you improve your social media presence?
How did you connect 1-on-1 with VIPs in your life?

What made the biggest difference in your marketing?
How can you improve your marketing next year?

6. Build Confidence

What did you do to enhance your professional reputation?
When and where did you give a gallery talk or lecture?
What classes or workshops did you teach, and how many students did you have?
Where did you introduce yourself to a valuable new connection?
What was your practice for writing about your art?

What gave you the most confidence this year?
What do you need to do to improve your confidence next year?

©Heather Haymart, Makes Us Stronger. Acrylic and texture on wood, 32 x 32 inches. Used with permission.

©Heather Haymart, Makes Us Stronger. Acrylic and texture on wood, 32 x 32 inches. Used with permission.

7. Complete

What new marketing material did you develop and use?
What artwork did you finish that you’re enthusiastic about?
How did you follow up with people and opportunities?
How did you track your growth, and what did you find?

What did you finish this year that was difficult or was a long time coming?
How will you improve your completion process next year?

8. Celebrate

What grants/honors/awards did you receive?

How did you acknowledge and reward yourself for your successes?
How will you celebrate in the New Year?

Your Turn

What was the single best thing that happened to your art career in 2016?

What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

Please share below and feel free to link to anything that illustrates your progress. We want to celebrate with you!

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14 comments to What Did You Do This Year? Your Annual Review

  • Alyson,
    Last year, you posted the 8 Cs. I found it extremely helpful in reviewing 2015 and planning 2016. I sought it out to review 2016 and plan 2017. Excellent re-post!

    Last year, thanks to your 8 Cs, was the first time I’ve ever done a formal review and plan. This system makes Overwhelm find a place on the shelf and be entertained by candy and TV.

    I use your 8 Cs as a mind map. I added the questions for each C into Evernote last week and will use them to fill in mind maps for 2016 and 2017. (Note: I do add the link to the note, as this is your content.) I quickly notice the sections that need more ideas/items and those that I can “back off” because they are “too full” of ideas/items. Well, those with too many ideas get culled into a “later time” file, lol.

    So excited you re-posted this. Thanks!

  • The best single thing for my art career this year was that I committed myself to becoming successful and got out there. I toyed with a full time art career and finally have the time since I no longer work a conventional job. I was consistently trying to produce art for the last 15 years but never had the time to devote to growing MY business. I realized I have the gift of time now in addition to the gift of producing saleable art. So in July I knuckled down. I paint in watercolor and I began private oil painting instruction — with great results. I entered and got into local exhibits — and was thrilled to win prize money. I participated in an online contest – and won a monthly first place award with promotion and a certificate for art supplies. I put myself out there to do a pop-up painting demo at a local historic building — and found I had 3 hours of constant visitors and sold (2) prints. Suddenly this past summer I received a new commission — and just received another one from a client. I rejoined a local art group and found they needed someone to organize and grow their social media presence — so I volunteered to do this since it comes easy for me and will help be keep in touch with what is going on with the art community. I work on creating work every day unless I have other commitments and then I try to focus on studying and exploring other artists techniques in print or via the internet. I committed myself to this just as I committed myself to successfully growing other people’s businesses in the past. And it works, by gosh, it works. Next year year, rinse and repeat. And continue to follow your great advice, Allyson. Thank you for being here to help us.

  • Steven Sweeney

    I made it to Hawaii this year, as well — to get married (again, and as a retiree). Took a painting workshop that challenged me very much, tasked myself with 50 one-hour plein air painting exercises in addition to other work, introduced my 4-year-old granddaughter to oil painting (she’s pretty good!), and have paintings in two metro exhibitions this Fall and an invitation to show in a nearby gallery. Have just settled on a new business name and state sales tax number. NOW: #1 priority: produce inventory. Work on that every single day, in some way. Scuttlebutt is that Santa will be replenishing some of my painting supplies. Website coming in 2017. I don’t know when I’ll need a memorial stone, but I don’t want it to read, “He had much talent . . . but he was so very busy, you know.”

  • Besides the two sales I did get, I’d say the revamp of my website and brand made the biggest difference for the future

  • I’ve already started my review of 2016 and I’m looking at how I can take things up to the next level. My highlight of 2016 would have to be being shortlisted for the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. I have never been involved in television before and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was also my biggest challenge and pushed me out of my comfort zone big time. Completing a painting in 4 hours when I usually create paintings in days. It was stressful, but in a good way. Now I know I can do it, I’m going to try again next year…
    Challenge for next year is to get my work into some offices and more galleries.

  • This is the perfect post for this house. Running both a design and art business, I decided it was time to graduate into a full accounting system (instead of jus invoicing and expenses only tracking) and I am putting that into place retroactive for the year and going forward. You have so many great questions here that can give me better clarity about how to achieve my goal ‘more time for painting’ and what steps I need to take now for a stronger art career tomorrow. Thank you!

  • I recently blogged a year in review. I am extremely proud of my achievements this year, over past years because I really stepped out of my comfort zone and became more visible than I have ever been as a business owner and actually organised my own exhibition to raise funds and awareness for a charity I volunteer at and what is more is I did not have help to organized it, I did it alone on top of working 3 days a week and being ill for two months straight. The exhibition was opened by our councillor who bought a painting from me. I advertised on many places on the Internet including my website and I drove to 7 towns and approached companies to put posters up which they did. It was advertised in the local paper and I was invited for an interview at my local radio station. I have also sold prints and xmas cards this year. It truly has been a very successful year and I can’t wait to top it next year

  • I wait for this every December Alyson! Your year end review is one of my rituals! Thank you!

  • So happy to hear that you have fulfilled your dream of going to Hawaii.
    Enjoy your time delayed honeymoon and have a very happy anniversary.
    Thank you for the work you do helping and lending your support to all us artists.

  • 2016 was a problematic year for me in the studio. I tore my rotator cuff of my dominate arm which cased a lot of pain while trying to make art. I did some but not nearly as much as I had hoped. I’ve had surgery and I’m looking forward to being more productive in 2017.

    One the positive side, I sold a piece to someone I don’t know — my first!

  • Finally started the building of an actual website.

  • I think my biggest accomplishment this year was just surviving.

  • Single best thing that happened to my art career in 2016? Winning Best New Artist at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show!
    What are you most looking forward to in the new year? Learning how to improve my art business with the Inner Circle!

  • Thank you for the great article. I am trying to get better at year end reviews, and a friend sent me a link to your article.

    In 2016 I experimented with posting YouTube videos, and I have hit a small amount of traction. I am making about $50 a month passively through 2 or 3 videos.

    While not enough to make a living off of, seeing some money from doing something, I don’t consider work has been a real eye-opener for me.

    I am planning on starting a few other YouTube channels as experiments to see what I like doing and what people like watching.

    We are about to hit 500 subscribers (probably by Feb 1) and 200,000 views in March.
    You can come celebrate with us at https://www.youtube.com/user/JasonLovesLife

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