Continuing from Part 1 of my annual look back over the year in my art and work…

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.




By far the scariest thing I did this year was…. wait for it…. a podcast interview. Kristen Kalp’s podcast, brilliantly titled ‘That’s What She Said’, to be precise. It was doubly scary because it’s also one of my favourites, so in my mind the pressure to be awesome was even more intense. Thankfully Kristen is amazing and patient and dealt graciously with all my weirdness, and it turned out to be a lovely conversation about art and creative business and process. You can listen to it here.

Lesson learned: It’s ok to ask for time to make a decision. It’s also ok to say yes only to the things that feel significant and meaningful. If you run an opportunity through your personal ‘significant and meaningful’ filter and it it ticks both, and still feels scary, 99.99% certain it’ll be worth it.


Naked Money

This month also saw me taking part in a second community project with Eli Trier, entitled Naked Money. Eli is so fabulous at putting these together and creating a container for meaningful conversations around different aspects of being an artist. She gathered up thirty or so artist friends and each of us wrote an essay {or made a video or audio} about some aspect of making money as an artist.

They generated a great deal of interesting and insightful conversation in the Facebook group, and by the end the openness and honesty had set many minds at ease and encouraged several participants to be braver when it came to making money from their work.

Lesson learned: You can’t underestimate the significance of community as an artist. Not just for discussing process or art history or for learning together or getting feedback, but also for sharing the nebulous emotional side of the artist life, for that all important ‘me too’.


Favourite blog post this month: Using old art to inspire new art




An interview

Tara from Creative Founders – a great website full of resources and useful info for artists – contacted me about doing an interview, written this time, and of course I was delighted to say yes! I always find that a written interview is a great opportunity to find out and articulate what I really think about things. Read the interview here. {I just re-read it and it’s pretty good! She said modestly.}

Lesson learned: A not-too-packed schedule leaves room for lovely surprises. You never know what fun collaboration is just around the corner.


Brand new course

My newest course, that I had been putting together with much joy over the previous months, opened for the first session this month. Artist Inspired II is a kind of sequel to the original Artist Inspired course.

Both are all about taking inspiration from masters throughout art history, and the latest course includes contemporary artists too. The idea is not not simply to copy them, but to allow other artists to teach us while exploring different approaches to making art, and using what we learn to develop our own.

Lesson learned: Divine timing is a thing. It took almost three years for this one to come to life, but when it happened it was a relatively quick and painless birth. I was deeply inspired and excited creating this course, and that tends to mean a richer experience for participants, who can feel that and allow it to enrich their enjoyment in doing it.


Experiments in Collage

While I was in the process of closing down my life as it had been in preparation for the move to Cornwall, I found, unsurprisingly, that I had much less bandwidth, let alone time, for art than usual. So the idea of #experimentsincollage was born. My thinking was that it would be a quick, relatively mess free way to keep exploring artistic ideas during that busy time.

It was great fun, especially since lots of people joined in on Instagram. It wasn’t really a challenge per se; it was meant to both allow me to stay creative in the time I had before moving in a low pressure way, and potentially be an ongoing project that could be revisited any time. I’d like to do more with this next year so will be giving that some thought.

Lesson learned: Stay open to ‘downloads’ – to me this means those sudden sparks of ideas that feel exciting and worth exploring without any end goal or rules about how long I’ll do them. The more relaxed, flexible and forgiving the parameters, the easier it is to just dive in and play. Also, enlist companions to do it alongside you – more fun and helps you keep going!



Move preparations

This month was intense in terms of preparing to move. Every task seemed to have babies, my master list was killer, and although I had serious motivation {see photo above}, it was, unsurprisingly, quite overwhelming at times. Mostly I just wanted to get rid of everything and start from scratch. {I didn’t, but Gumtree and I were best buds during this time.}

Lesson learned: Ask for help, repeatedly. 🙂 And trust trust trust. As Martha Beck says, “Everything always passes, and everything is already okay. Stay in the place where you can see that, and nothing will resist you.”


Favourite blog post this month: Experiments in Collage {an informal, ongoing Instagram project}




Stealth book release

Life and How to Do It: Poems for Humans - click to purchase

I hadn’t talked much about this before unleashing it on the world, mainly because it’s pretty much the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever created, and partly because it’s not strictly painting related.

My dear friend and clever book designer Pauline Leger {who also helped design my first book} spent many weeks helping me compile this selection of my poems and sea photos into a book that I’m both proud of and quite shy about.

Click here to learn more and purchase a copy.

Lesson learned: Don’t dismiss your ideas for personal projects with no real ‘goal’ or potentially lucrative outcome. I love this book, even if no one ever buys it, although I’m also happy that people have! And thank you if that’s you!



Moving sale

This could’ve been awesome. It wasn’t a total disaster, but because I wasn’t operating on all cylinders given that some of my cylinders were fuelling the move, it didn’t go as well as it might have. I did sell some work, and every sale was cherished, but I let myself down a bit on this one.

I also couldn’t quite get past the feelings of discomfort around ‘shouting’ about selling paintings repeatedly. {I find when I feel like this it’s usually because the ‘noise’ of the internet has got to me a bit and adding more just feels too much. A break usually fixes that.}

Lesson learned: Plan ahead more! If I’d had even a few social media posts already set up, I could have marketed this a bit more consistently and effectively. I think the other lesson is, it’s ok for some ideas not to work out how you hoped. Just don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Dust off, move on.


Cornish view

House hunting and painting course

This was my third trip to Cornwall this year, specifically to find a place to rent for six months and do a{nother} painting course. It was exhilarating, terrifying, stressful, and then triumphant, when I found a little cottage at the end of a farm track, with two of the nicest landlords imaginable, and the sea more or less outside the front door. {See photo above.} As soon as I saw it I knew I was home – for the next six months anyway.

Lesson learned: Have faith when you’re doing a huge life changing project! {This felt impossible in the most stressful moments.} Get support – people telling you everything will be ok is both annoying and essential for keeping sanity within reach. Keep walking towards your dream and it will have no choice but to manifest. And it’ll be about a million times better than you envisaged.


Favourite blog post this month: How to start a painting – 7 artists reveal their process



7 Day Series Challenge

I conceived this idea last year, and it was a roaring success. So many of us wish we made more consistent work, but feel daunted or overwhelmed or bored by the idea of doing the same thing over and over. I figured it’d be possible to start seeing consistency in a week with a bit of accountability and a fun project idea, and lo, I was right. {It happens.}

Lesson learned: For this year’s challenge I admit I dropped the ball {understandably I guess, but sorry about that!} and forgot to write the accompanying emails, so it was an Instagram only exercise this time. {Non Instgramming members of my private Facebook group also often take part in these challenges.} But people still created some lovely series and it was definitely worth doing. Next year I’ll make sure to offer the emails as well.



Touchstone courseI think of Touchstone as the sibling to Abstractify; where the latter is about actively exploring with materials and approaches, Touchstone is more introspective and foundational, and together they both help you to develop your unique artist voice and use it with confidence and joy, and a lot less inner critic nonsense. I love this course – it’s full of everything I’ve learned about how to be a happy artist, and consistently gets very positive feedback.

One such piece of feedback was this post from Lianne Williams, who took the course last year. It absolutely blew me away; I hadn’t known she was going to write it and was beyond delighted that she had got so much from it that she wanted to share it in this way. {Yes, she’s an affiliate, but given that I didn’t ask her to write the post I feel like it’s a fair description of what’s possible if you dive right in and make the most of it. Which she really did.}

Lesson learned: I feel a familiar sense of fear every time I open a course for registration, even if I’ve done it many times before and know it works for people. I’m learning to trust that the people who need it most will find it if I keep sharing what I know and intending to help people. That said, I can’t decide how anything I make will help people, so each time I open registration I try to stay open to all possibilities. And sometimes it really really pays off!


21 Secrets


The final session ever of Connie Solera’s fabulous workshop series, 21 Secrets, came out this month, and I was delighted to have been asked to contribute {for the second time} as one of the 21 teachers. The theme was ‘Tell Your Story’, and I created a workshop about creating abstract landscapes based on places that hold great meaning for you, and are thus part of your ‘story’.

It’s still available for purchase and you can jump in any time. Click here to find out more about these art workshops.

Lesson learned: At the beginning of the year I had set a ‘sort of’ intention that I’d like to do more collaborations. I didn’t have any clear idea about what kind of collaborations, which ultimately worked in my favour since they came in various forms through interviews, working alongside other artists in different contexts, and these workshops, amongst other things. So, flexible intentions are the way to go!


Moved to Cornwall

This is not my house


Finally, the time came to drive the six hours from Sussex to Cornwall with my car packed to the gunnells, and start my new chapter. I won’t go on and on about this {more}, but if you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll know that this is possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, or right up there anyway.

Lesson learned: Follow your dreams. Find a way, brace yourself for a rollercoaster, enlist help at every step, and keep going. If you don’t you’ll always wonder, and if you do you’ll never regret it, even if and when those dreams shift and change over time.


Favourite blog post this month: Making art when you’re in transition – 4 ways to make it easier



Started drawing more

For quite a while before now I’d been wanting to do more drawing. It’s such a key part of honing your skills as an artist, of learning how to see and how to translate that onto the page. And although I often draw onto my paintings, I wanted some sort of underlying drawing practice that wouldn’t feel like a chore and become unsustainable.

So I just started a new sketchbook and began to draw without any plans or ideas, just to see what would happen. And to my delight, it has become a part of my life without needing to think too much about it. I don’t draw every day, and as you can see my drawings are basically 100% not like my paintings! Which was unexpected. But I love doing them, which surprised me a lot because I’m not usually interested or patient enough to do fiddly or realistic art.

Lesson learned: Try not to decide beforehand what a thing will be – see what happens if you let it evolve and follow what feels interesting and exciting. Drawing is so therapeutic, and I love hunting down new places here to draw outside as much as possible {not that often now we’re in deepest winter, but there are always photos}.

I never imagined I’d love doing these finicky little sketches, and I make no rules about how often they happen, but they have added another dimension to my art life even if they don’t feel like how I ultimately want to express myself in paint. Wins all round.


kitchen studio

The kitchen studio. Cooking and eating are things of the past. {Kidding.}

Settling in

Overall, this was a quiet month. I was settling into my new {albeit temporary} home; learning where things were, from the cutlery drawer to the nearest shops, exploring the local landscape and generally beginning to land in this new world. My one work priority was to stay present for my students, and keep an eye on my inbox. Ok that’s two priorities. 🙂

Lesson learned: It takes waaaay more than a month to settle into a new home. Obviously. But you can only start where you are and take a single step at a time, and that’s just fine.

Favourite blog post this month: How to let your paintings go




work in progress

Tidied up a bit

Another collaboration

Another collaborative project of a completely different nature emerged this month. I had the idea for a friend and I to make paintings based on the same reference image. His style is the opposite of mine – detailed, accurate, not photorealistic but much more in that direction than my chaotic wibbly approach.

I was curious as to how we’d both approach the same image, and have been secretly entertaining daydreams of a show of many such ‘twin’ paintings, featuring the original images we worked from to show what’s possible and what the artist vision can produce.

He made us each a canvas of the same size – my largest to date: 151 x 98cm – and at time of writing I’m on the home stretch and he’s just started the colour. 😉 It’s been a fascinating, challenging, fun project that has generated a great deal of lovely discussion about process and approach. We’re both keen to do more, and at some point {when he’s finished probably} I’ll write a post sharing both our work.

Lesson learned: Be open to ideas coming from all sorts of unforeseen places. Feel like I keep saying this! But it really makes for a rich and interesting life.

Joined a mastermind

This was very unexpected. My friend Sophy asked me to have a quick read of the info page for her new venture, an online mastermind group for introvert women solopreneurs, to make sure it was clear. I loved it so much I decided to join!

At the time I wasn’t sure I really needed it; I felt like I knew what I was doing {more or less!} and where I wanted to go with my work. But my intuition nudged me and I was right to listen. The move shook things up for me in more ways than one, and now the knowledge that I’ll have a small group of women for connection, sharing, and support as we work on our businesses for the next three months feels exactly right.

Lesson learned: When you get the intuitive nudge, don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t seem to make sense in that moment.


Towards the Mount // Tara Leaver

Artwork Archive

After umming and ahhing for months, I decided to try the 30 day free trial option of Artwork Archive, which is an online cataloguing system for artists. It’s very simple to use, and although I’ve only just started uploading work, I can see it’s going to be helpful as a way to keep track of my work. {Which I’m typically dreadful at.} If you sell through galleries or other outlets it enables you to note which paintings are in which locations, and you can make your account public or just keep it private for your own purposes.

I decided to join for a year and see how it goes after receiving an email saying they were putting the prices up. Nothing like a bit of financial incentive to galvanise you! So far I’m glad I’ve joined, and may yet make my account public.

Lesson learned: Give things a go with a time limit on them if you’re not 100% sure.

Favourite blog post this month: My Creative Year – a free ‘non planner’ for creatives




Are you still there? If so, high fives and a mince pie. I hope you’ve enjoyed this romp through the year and maybe even discovered something new. Thank you so much for all the lovely comments about Part 1!

May you find peace, harmony, love, and the heartwarming sight of fairy lights all around this festive season. And may 2018 bring you an abundance of inspiration, ideas and creativity. See you on the flipside!


[et_bloom_inline optin_id=optin_2]