December 17, 2015 | Alyson Stanfield

Wrapping Up the Year with Your Personal Review

I thought I could get by without a personal review for one year. Or at least I thought I would skip mine.

Then I thought that you probably don’t need a reminder either. Who will notice if I don’t send? Who has time to do a personal review anyway?

Then I thought again. (There’s been a lot of thinking going on.) It’s a terrible idea to skip the personal review. And it’s a worse idea to let you think it’s okay to skip it.

©Margaret Dukeman, Reflections of Lilies. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. Used with permission.
©Margaret Dukeman, Reflections of Lilies. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. Used with permission.

As an entrepreneur, it’s critical to review actions and to celebrate accomplishments before moving on to the next phase. We’ll never improve our results until we understand where we are and how we got here. [Tweet this]

So, it’s time to look back on your year and assess your progress.

This year, try using the elements of The See Plan – the 8 C’s – to structure your questions: creativity, commitment, clarity, community, connection, confidence, completion, and celebration.

Grab a notebook and a pen and get started.

1. Challenging 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?

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

2. Demonstrating Commitment

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 that moved you forward?
How can you increase your commitment level next year?

3. Seeking Clarity

How did you do on setting goals and staying on top of them?
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 have an aha moment that gave you clarity?
Where do you need more clarity for next year?

©Sina March, Lakewood Afternoon. Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Used with permission.
©Sina March, Lakewood Afternoon. Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

4. Nurturing 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. Cultivating 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 many social media followers did you gain on the various platforms you use?

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

6. Building Confidence

What did you do to enhance your professional reputation?
When 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?

©Claudia True, Champagne for Two! Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Used with permission.
©Claudia True, Champagne for Two! Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

7. Completing

What new marketing material did you develop and use?
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. Celebrating

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 2015?

I’d love it if you shared this in a comment below so we can celebrate with you.

22 comments add a comment
  • Oh! You can never skip your year end review post! I find it so helpful. I already sent the questions (that you posted online previously) to an artist friend, who wrote them up and she was so amazed at how much she accomplished this year, in spite of having a full time job.
    You ask such good questions, it’s very helpful. In previous years, when you asked, how many add’l email followers did you gain, I didn’t know. This year I know exactly how many! Progress!
    Thanks for all you do to keep artists on track and moving toward greater success!

  • Highlights for 2015: teaching three watercolor journaling workshops in Cuba, Maine and Tuscany with wonderful students in these amazing locations; meeting inspiring local artists; viewing art masterpieces in museums and galleries; painting the landscape and people; and enjoying great food and drink along the way. Look forward to several new adventures (Barcelona and Venice) next year!

  • Michelle Paine

    I had already started my “Alyson Stanfield” year-end review before you published the revamped list of questions which is so much better!! I really wanted to do the review this year because it was such a whirlwind – new baby, moving across the country with my family, buying and selling and buying a house — but the review always helps me see how much I have accomplished even when I fall short of my goals (because that’s pretty much how it is every year — never what I start out to do but lots of good things none-the-less).

  • There were two ‘best things’ that happened in 2015 for me.
    The first was taking a leap in a new direction for the newest work in the studio. I’m getting unanimously very positive feedback.
    The second was to commit to working on my art business in a much more focused way and reaching out to Alyson for help in this regard. I’ve made progress even with the small bandwidth I have had available at this time of year.

  • Using this, I might actually have a 2015 in review.

    I have my notes from your webinar earlier this year about the Cs. ????

    Thank you and Merry Christmas!!!

  • Just finished my review. So much was not done this year that next year review is going to be amazing! Single best thing? Artwise, realization that I have within myself everything I need to succeed with my artistic goals. Businesswise, definitely Bootcamp. The path forward is now crystal clear. Thanks for that!

  • I started my year by reading IRBITS! Reading this made me set my goals for the year, and while I didn’t achieve all of them, I was able to get my website up and running ( and I was invited to teach a professional development workshop for the arts educators of the St. Louis Public School District at the St. Louis Art Museum. The end of the year was capped off with an invitation to do anexhibit at Stephens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis. I owe much of it to implementing what I learned in IRBITS and in your wonderful ArtBizBlog! Thanks, Alyson!

  • I finally created a professional website, with the help of good friends, and I had my first solo show. I also started painting seriously with regular studio hours. And I took a few workshops/art classes which were invaluable. These four things have radically improved my art career.

  • Phil Kendall

    C is for Continuity…
    Get your record keeping up to date and be ready to hit 2016 with everything ready…
    Get your website into evergreen dates…update your copyright dates on the website to 2016.

    C is for Catalogue…
    as in Catalogue Raisonné…the record of your past artworks from the start of your career. You descendants will thank you for it, so too the executor of your estate.

    Seasons greeting dear friends, from the UK.

  • Im so happy that you decided to post this Alyson!! Even though I’m around my family its pretty quiet right now that I can sort of sit with these answers. Being able to have time to reflect on what you are doing is so important and I’m so thankful that you put this together!!


  • I have done annual reviews for the last few years and find them exceptionally helpful in guiding me to complete unfinished business, learn and act on failures and plan for the future.

    I’m writing my review at this very moment and will use some of your questions to further explore my reflections.

    In 2015 one of my biggest successes was being asked to be interviewed by a national television prime time program, as an artist talking about issues that were important to me in an upcoming federal election. Not too arty you’d think, right? Well, yes and no. I was interviewed by a producer for 3 hours in an ocean setting by my home and in my studio for a 3 minute segment that was aired publicly on CBC television nationally in September.

    The marketing/publicity boost that it gave was extraordinary. I sold 10 paintings overnight! I received a lot of interest in my work from across the country and still have contact from individuals who saw that broadcast and are now valued collectors of my work. People usually visiting the province, drop into the gallery that represents my work and ask to see my work based on what they saw on that short television clip.

    Will video and a bigger publicity plan be in my new year’s business plan? Oh yeah…

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