December 27, 2017 | Alyson Stanfield

What Did You Do This Year? Your Annual Review

You've spent the year honing your craft and learning how to be a better businessperson at the same time.

Before you go thinking about plans for the New Year, take some time to look back 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.

©Julie Anderson, Photosynthetic. Hand-build porcelain, 63 x 95 x 8 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 getting your art seen +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?

©Rosanne Wolfe, Orange Lillies. Watercolor on paper, 23 x 18 inches. Used with permission.

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

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?

©Candy Wooding, Tumbleweeds. 420 pieces of hand-folded and hand-painted paste paper, burl wood base, 6 x 6 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

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?

©Cyd Rust, Life: Love Unconditionally. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches. Used with permission.

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?

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?

©Paula Neys, Serenity. Alcohol ink on paper, 4 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

8. Celebrate

What grants/honors/awards did you receive?

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

Your Turn

What was the single best thing that happened to your art career in the past 12 months?

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!

Shadow Separator

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45 comments add a comment
  • 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

  • Michelle Arnold Paine

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

  • Robin Rose

    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

  • The single best thing I did for my art career last year was join the Art Biz Coach Inner Circle. It was a big commitment and I worked my butt off, but it paid off in spades: financially, personally, professionally. So glad I made that investment in myself. My list of celebrations from last year is long.

  • Dannielle

    Love this! I have previously mentioned in comments and emails that I had to dedicate 2017 to completing my MBA- and it’s now DONE!! Cuz a girl has to work (or this girl does!). I didn’t make a lot of art but three things came through when I read your questions: a) I learned a lot as a self-taught artist about finding the courage to create art, finding my style, technique, my technical shortcomings and my vision for myself as an artist including my target audience, where to find them and how much to charge b) I went to Chicago for the sole purpose of studying the great art at the museums there and spent three days in the Art Institute alone slowly investigating and soaking in the paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures there- dazzling, awe-inspiring, instructional- and left with my mind full of new images and vocabulary and concepts c) I came to terms with my schedule- I work 40 hrs, commute by bus and train another 15 (usually standing) and have obligations 3 nights a week to non-negotiables (health and family)- that means that my goal of painting or drawing daily is probably not realistic BUT I can create studio hours in 2018 that take place on the weekend, make them sacred and begin the journey of overcoming those technical deficiencies and making art in my own unique way again. This blog and podcast have been a KEY to this past year, so happy to have found you!

  • Dannielle

    Oh, and I bought a bunch of art I admire, too!

  • The year has been difficult as I now find myself in the role of caregiver to my husband in his battle with cancer. You helped me focus on what I did accomplish including a successful studio tour in the spring, a trunk show at a local gallery and participation in a large group show by artists who have been recognized as “Local Treasures” in the Albuquerque area for what we have given back to our community over the years. My frustration is been that I have little time out in nature which is where I draw inspiration for both my paintings and photography. Well, I have 40 years of material – film and digital to draw from and new techniques to experiment with (including cold wax and oil paint), so there’s no excuse for not getting out in the studio (next to my home) and working hard in 2018.

  • I now see that I am an artist with something to offer others and I have come to deeply value my time….these were the greatest shifts for me this year.

  • Gail

    Thanks for encouraging us all to take a look at what we have accomplished in the past year. It’s so easy for me to bemoan what I’ve not gotten done. I joined a conscious business group that helps me keep my focus. Another member of that group hired me to illustrate a small book she has written. We worked so incredibly well together, it really boosted my confidence and she has become my greatest advocate. I committed to hanging my work at the library in an affluent community nearby for the month of November. I created all new works for the display and challenged myself to work intuitively in media that was outside my comfort zone. I also finished a ridiculously detailed pen and ink drawing that I’ve been tinkering with for years! I finished a challenging commissioned piece plus a fun drawing on deadline. To keep this ship afloat, I did lots of creative framing, photographed items for posting on an online business and did some French mat painting. For 2018 – first priority is to get a website up. I will also play more with two media that I’ve neglected – egg tempera and printmaking. After all, there’s this etching press in the middle of my studio calling out for more use! It sounds so much better written out than rattling around in my head with all those other thoughts…

  • Thanks for this exercise, Alyson!

    Several things stick out in my mind, at the moment. First, the biggest support I received was emotional – from my bereavement support group. Then come the advances: I started a whole new body of work that combines painting with bead weaving, I produced an online facebook shop sale (Earrings on the Go!), I got my first greeting card accepted to GreetingCardUniverse in time for National Family Caregiver Month (November) and I have started spending more time in my studio which finally is (perhaps rudimentary) a studio. Even if it is a room in my house, it is a dedicated room and the only things in there are art related.

    Considering where I’ve been, these are fantastic advances in my opinion.

  • I’ve done my annual review as a retrospective that is posted on my blog at:
    https://caydenise.blogspot.com/2017/12/blog-post.html

    Eecking out quiet time for artwork plus planning and participating in art adventures during 2017 was a major accomplishment that I’m very thankful for!

  • One of the best things I did for my art practice was attending your seminar in San Francisco a decade ago. Thank you, Alyson, for your practical advice through the years to help artists move forward. I am currently in a city-sponsored four-year artist residency that requires a formal annual report of art production, exhibits, professional development, lectures, etc. I love how your 8-Cs format goes beyond a list of resume items to engage the creative and thought processes that underscore the work of successful artists. You’re awesome! The single best thing that happened to me in 2017 was winning the SVLaureate prize for artistic accomplishment and contribution to the cultural life of Silicon Valley. I’d like to say that Alyson Stanfield helped inspire the work that led to the award.

  • I managed to get more people to see my art, more free art models and more people to see me as the artist that I am. This wasn’t easy for me during this time since I broke my right leg in 3 places and tore my muscles,tissue, nerves and Achilles heel on my left foot. I also had the nerve to rip the skin on the top of my femurs when I past out from all this trauma. It was hard to find a way to show me and my work because I was confined to using a wheelchair to get around. My big goal next year is I’m looking forward to a big splash of showing my art everywhere

  • I was awarded 1st Place for a pastel in the Pahrump, NV Fall Festival. I was granted a commission to do a life size pastel portrait of a bride from someone that saw my art at a show. It was surely a challenge, I learned I could do it well and they loved it. I learned HTML to update my website and add my new paintings. I was surprised to see how much work I had done. The main thing I learned from this Annual Review was many things I need to do. I taught esthetics so now I need to teach art. I live in a small town with many people wanting to know how to paint watercolors and pastel. Thank you so much for this Annual Review. You opened my eyes to what I need to do and celebrate what I have already done. My website is almost up to date so here it is: http://www.straitartgallery.com

  • I love you for sending these things! The single best thing I did for my art career, was keep on believing in myself even with all the doubts. To keep on building my new mixed media e-course, painting new art, and booking new shows. I continue to make cards for Trader Joes greeting card line, and have several other licensing contracts (we’ll see how they pan out). And have even started working on a book. Thanks Alyson, I am looking forward to diving into this. Your emails are a constant source of support.

  • The best thing this year was having two museum acquisitions.

    Mischief and Plunder – three bronze Magpies was selected for Birds in Art at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau WI, then purchased for their permanent collection. The Last Whistle, a monumental bronze sculpture of a blue collar worker was purchased by a Foundation during ArtPrize 2016 and was installed on Labor Day 2017 at The Saginaw Art Museum.

    For an artist who travels over 30,000 miles for the past 16 years, setting goals is the most important I do each year. Working on my new list soon. http://www.kennewmansculptures.com

  • The best thing this year was joining your Inner Circle Alyson! By the end of the year I found some real clarity around my arts practice and business. And it was wonderful to make the trip from Australia over to Portland, Oregon to meet many of you in person.

    There are so many great things achieved this year, too many to list!

    Thank you Alyson, I’m coming along for another year in the Inner Circle and can’t wait!

  • Thanks so much, Alyson, for providing us with such a thoughtful Annual Review. Your FBF was one of the best things I did this year. I am putting into place many of the systems and I just sent my first email marketing via Constant Contact today. Because of my first solo show at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art this summer I forced myself to learn how to talk about my art comfortably and participated in many gallery talks. After the show closed in September I finished many art projects that I had promised people over the last two years while I was finishing the work for the show. As of a few days ago those promises have all been delivered and I am starting 2018 fresh. The FBF course influenced all of these things. Thanks again, wishing you and all of us many blessings in 2018!

  • Thank you so much for this annual review Alyson like my art career it continues to evolve. I love spending quiet time filling this out and setting some solid goals. 2017 was the year my art went in a new direction and I am thrilled how it has forced me to grow. Thank you for all you do in the art community. Wishing you much joy and laughter in 2018!

  • Thank you for posting this great article Alyson. We are so busy looking ahead that we forget to stop and assess all of our accomplishments, and our lessons along the way. I will definitely use the review before Planning for 2018! Thank you and much continued success in 2018!

  • This helped me focus & spurred me to move faster to show my art.

  • For the first time ever, nearly all of my income came directly from art sales in 2017.

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