2008 in Review
The end of the year is a great time to sit down and see how you’ve done. I realize I’m a couple of days late, but what the heck, I was on vacation!
I write down my goals for my art each year and call it a “business plan”. It is loosely structured on a typical business plan; it’s more an “art plan” with business stuff thrown in. I start the year with this plan, then edit it throughout the year as various goals are met (or completely airballed, as the case may be). Longer-term goals are also included, forming the basis for the next year’s plan.
At the end of the year I stop editing the old year’s plan and start a new one. This is when I take account of which goals were met and which weren’t.
As with any business plan, I had laid out how much I hoped to make from sales of my art in 2008. I totally missed my goals in terms of net profits for 2008. Frankly I don’t feel too bad about that, given the abysmal economy. I actually ended the year in the black in spite of some large one-time capital expenditures. My gross sales in 2008 greatly exceeded those of 2007, so that’s a good trend.
Those sales were a direct result of doing a LOT of art festivals in 2008. I really got out there and got my work in front of a lot of people (and nearly killed myself in the process). I exhibited at 10 outdoor art festivals, plus one open studio (at a friend’s studio). This all gave me terrific exposure, but it was too many festivals and totally wore me out. I’ll be cutting back on the number of festivals I do in 2009.
I handed out hundreds of business cards at all these events, and garnered several very welcome follow-up sales as a result. I’m now absolutely convinced that the combination of business cards plus a web-based portfolio is a powerful tool for artists. It’s rare for someone to just stumble onto my web site and decide to buy a painting (it happened to me exactly once, which I consider a complete fluke). But this year I had several people who had seen my work at one of my shows come back and select a painting off my web site, often at a much later date. I was surprised the first time this happened, but when it happened several more times I realized it works quite well this way.
I did pretty well with my blog in 2008. I don’t think it impacts sales much, but that’s not really the point. It is good exercise, forcing me to articulate what I’m doing with my art, and it hones my writing skills. And my hits are steadily rising! My blog visits in late 2008 finally cracked the 1000-per-month barrier, which is more than double my hit rate in 2007. (I realize that in the grand scheme of blogging this is small potatoes, but I’m happy with it.) I’m convinced that posting regularly (once a week is my aim) is the key to steadily increasing visits.
When I first started blogging, I was worried that I’d run out of things to say. I made myself a list of possible topics to fall back on just in case I ran dry. However, I don’t think I looked at this list once in 2008. I don’t seem to be in any danger of running out of things to say about my art. It reminds me of my half-joking comment to a visitor at the open studio who asked me to tell them about my paintings: “be careful when you ask an artist to talk about their work, you’ll never get them to shut up!”
In 2008 I got out and visited several galleries, museums, and exhibits. I got to visit both LACMA‘s new Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the MOCA. (I highly recommend the former over the latter.) I also made it to both of Los Angeles’ big art fairs in January, the Los Angeles Art Show (which I highly recommend) and ArtLA (which I don’t). I hope to get to many more galleries in 2009, and of course will return to the L.A. Art Show later this month.
Perhaps the most empowering action I took in 2008 was joining an artists’ salon. It’s a group of artists who get together once a month to critique each others’ work, network, and talk shop, and it’s been a fantastic experience so far. In December I brought in my work, both the pointillist landscapes and the new experimental abstract pieces, and received some fantastic feedback. I can’t describe to you how exciting it was to have a roomful of artists (most of whom I barely know) discuss my work. I was pretty nervous going in, but the support and encouragement I received was energizing. That was my very first-ever art critique! The first of many, I hope.
So, for me 2008 was a year of hard work, too many shows, a gratifying number of sales, and terrific encouragement. I look forward to 2009!