2018 - a year in creative business


**NB: This post is LONG! It’s been a very full year. 😉 If you’re curious about the behind the scenes of this artist’s life in 2018, I suggest settling in with a beverage of some sort.**

I almost didn’t write a review this year. I’ve been on sabbatical for the past two months and although not ‘officially’ back at work till tomorrow, January 1st 2019, and even though it’s the absolute last day of 2018 and I know this post will take me hours to put together and I have a million other things to do today, it still it feels like the right thing to do.

In a nutshell, this year has been one of intense stress, intense joy, anxiety like I haven’t experienced in years, and a lot of moving around! Let’s take a closer look.



The mildly ok view from the rental cottage

At the start of the year, I had been living in a rental cottage in Cornwall for two months, and was searching for a house to purchase. My flat in Hove was on the market, and I had just a few months before the winter let I was staying in needed to be vacated for the much more lucrative spring/summer holiday letting season. So there was a constant undercurrent of time pressure that would chase me all year in varying guises.

Workwise, January was my most successful month ever in financial terms. I ran the 21 Days in My Art World free challenge on Instagram, which is astonishingly popular {join us for the 2019 challenge here!}, and the subsequent enrollment in Abstractify was phenomenal. After years of working to build this business with very very slow growth, this was so heartening.

I joined a small three month long business mastermind group, which was instrumental in helping me achieve almost every goal on my list this year.

This was also the month I found out I’d been accepted onto the Porthmeor Programme at the St Ives School of Painting. I had plans to make it my ‘bespoke degree’ year, since moving to Cornwall has shifted my feelings about my own career as an artist {outside the teaching}, from ‘no thanks’ to ‘I really need to try this’.

I also wrote one of my most popular posts ever in January – 16 Ways to Make a Painting More Abstract.



About to be 40 :), St Michael’s Mount

I turned 40 this month. {WHAT.}

I accepted an offer on my flat that later fell through, and viewed the barn conversion that announced itself as ‘the one’ the minute I got out of the car, despite being in need of total interior renovation, something I’d been adamant I didn’t want. The heart wants what it wants!

It was previously owned by a lovely couple in their eighties who could no longer maintain it {it comes with a fair bit of garden} and needed to be closer to amenities {it’s down a very narrow country lane about a mile from the main road}. The interior hadn’t been touched for 27 years; it felt cosy and homely as soon as I stepped in the door, but does need some work.

My superhero mum came through with a bridging loan so I would be able to make an offer on the barn even though the flat hadn’t yet sold, and I ran Expressive Charcoal.



Let the outdoor swimming commence!

I made a costly mistake this month, joining an expensive art course that ultimately wasn’t right for me. No matter how I try to reframe this one, I wish I hadn’t done it. These things happen, even years into your career. You just have to be kind to yourself about it, take the lesson, and move on.

I sometimes receive requests for one to one feedback on work. I don’t offer it because, despite qualifying as a creativity coach with Eric Maisel a few years back, and experimenting with both in-person one to one and online sessions, it never felt like my most right path. But because I still get the requests, I put together another experimental offering – one to one artist support via email. I did a couple of trial runs which were well received, but when I offered it to Artnotes subscribers there were no takers. Even though I’d given the process of it a lot of thought and was keen to do it if anyone was interested, I noticed I was also relieved when no one was. Sometimes you just have to try things.

Two significant turning points happened this month though. One, I started swimming outdoors – such a seemingly small thing, and yet it’s had a deep impact on my art, how I feel about myself, my relationship with nature, and many other aspects of my life.

Secondly, a new friend and I had a cream tea. That’s not the important part, although cream teas are definitely key to a happy life. 😉 This friend runs a gallery down here, and she offered me space to hang a couple of paintings in it from June to September. It felt like a door opening a tiny crack, and me peeking round.



Drawing workshop with Peter Skerrett on the Porthmeor Programme. {I’m on the far right. 🙂 }

One of the more emotionally intense months in an already intense year.

The Porthmeor Programme started, and I was overjoyed to discover it was indeed 100% the right choice for me. New people, new structure, new art activities, and a commitment to a weekend workshop a month plus self motivated work between, made for a lot of newness, which felt both exciting and slightly overwhelming.

My parents came to visit for a week, and it was both lovely and exhausting, and all the meals out made me feel like I might never need to eat again.

In amongst all this I also ran the 7 Day Series challenge followed by Touchstone, then opened registration for Artist Inspired II at the end of the month.



En route to visit an art studio

This month I got my work professionally framed for the first time ever, ready for displaying at the gallery in June. It blew me away to see how the frames lifted the work to a new level.

It was the Cornwall Open Studios this month; I visited a few, because obviously, and also because I’m thinking of participating myself at some point. {My hermit self finds this horrifying, but I still want to do it.}

I also visited the studio of David Mankin, a local artist I’ve long admired and connected with on Instagram. He’s much further ahead of me in his art career, and it was a delight talking to him, seeing his work, and observing how an art career can evolve.



Out of the Blue Gallery Marazion

My work in Out of the Blue gallery, Marazion

I haven’t mentioned that since January I’d been creating a new course, Loosen Up, which I ran this month. It was fantastic; I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and how it helped people with a very common sticking point among artists.

Some of the ongoing stress around selling my flat and buying the barn conversion was alleviated when we exchanged on the barn this month. There was the worry about how long it would take to sell the flat given that the loan my mum gave me would accrue interest each month, but we took a calculated risk and thankfully didn’t have too long to wait.

The property story, while not directly related to my work this year, unsurprisingly had a huge impact on my day to day life. I experienced so much anxiety this year – including a panic attack, which is extremely rare for me – that in 2019 I’m putting in some greater measures to manage it.

Also this month, my work was hung in a gallery for the first time in years!



My new home

This month, after much convolution, we completed on the barn and I moved in for the summer. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a garden with grass, which sounds funny now I write it down, but it makes such a huge difference to my experience and enjoyment of summer after years of very little outside space. I also met and hired the architect who would redesign the interior.

The barn is a ten minute walk downhill to the beach {slightly longer on the way back!}, so there was sea swimming and beach time this month too. Much needed immersion in nature all round, along with a burgeoning obsession with learning names of plants and planning to grow my own food.

During the summer I really struggled with my art. The Porthmeor Programme was proving to be a bit like an art bootcamp for me – it was breaking down everything I thought I knew, my process, my ‘why’, and creating a space in which to rebuild it as something more ‘true’ for me, more aligned with who I am now and my life as it has become. It was a very emotional time; I cried a lot, even for me, and I’m a serious weeper! I should add that I consider all this a good thing!

Coursewise, I launched a new small course, developed from a successful challenge, Discover Your Painting Language, and also a low cost workbook based on a very successful blog post, 14 Ways to Be a Happy Artist.



painting in the garden

There was a flood due to very old pipes in the barn this month. I’ve noticed that during periods of great stress in my life, the plumbing tends to go awry, which only makes everything worse. {Water is basically a life theme for me!} Thankfully an absolutely lovely local plumber was able to come out and fix it the next day, but it was an expense and extra stress I could’ve done without. The joys of living in old barns!

I spent an up and down month both crying in the studio, and having a great time experimenting with big splashy paintings in the garden. There was also a bit of an aha moment that would slowly become clearer over the following months in terms of the kind of art I wanted to be making.

I did something I rarely do these days – took an online art course just for the pleasure of it. Having discovered the joys of concertina sketchbooks previously, I was delighted when Karen Stamper brought out a course about making art in them. I highly recommend it – you can find it here.



Very slow progress in the studio {I realise it probably doesn’t look that way!}

I collected my two paintings from the gallery this month. They hadn’t sold, and of course that’s a bit disappointing, but it was so great just to have the opportunity, like the universe showing me this IS possible for me.

Also, a fellow student on the Porthmeor Programme told me she’d visited the gallery over the summer, seen my work, and knew it was mine, even though she hadn’t known I was exhibiting there. That was maybe the best part for me!

Rather excitingly, I met and hired an interior designer this month {something I never imagined doing!}. We clicked instantly, and I’m very excited to share the interior as it develops in the coming months, which I’ll be doing over on Instagram.

And perhaps best of all this month, my own art practice, which had been privately causing me so much grief {albeit in a ‘right direction’ sort of way}, finally started to come together into something clear and cohesive. The body of work I’ve been longing to build is at last starting to grow.



Needing more of this – empty horizon at Penberth Cove

I ran the 7 Day Series challenge and Touchstone for the second time this year. My plan had been to run a course almost every month; in the end I ran eight, some twice, and even that turned out to be a bit ambitious! But how can we know if we don’t try?

This month the stress and intensity of the year began to take a toll. We finally exchanged on the flat in Hove, but it had been a horrible journey and then at the last minute I was forced to reduce the price still further.

I started craving white space and quiet, and time to think about things and not be doing doing doing all the time. I love my work, I love the choices I’ve made, I love the students who trust me enough to sign up to the courses I create, but I’m doing us all a disservice if I don’t take care of myself too. Generally I do a good job of this, but this year came with so much extra, and I hadn’t really factored in all the unforeseen and ongoing stresses.

So I decided, after quite a bit of guilt and turmoil, to take a sabbatical. I planned to take November and December entirely away from my online work, and spent weeks putting things in place to make sure everyone would be taken care of. I was afraid of backlash, and not everyone loved the idea, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that your health and wellbeing have to come first, and that it’s an ever evolving lesson.



Doing ‘new life’ everyday things like getting the logs in for the wood burner. I’m so rural.

After a couple of days of euphoria about not needing to be on social media or marketing anything, I soon discovered that I wouldn’t be switching off on the inside that easily! Nor was I going to be having quite the amount of white space I’d envisaged!

I did rest, I read a lot, did day to day life, often with greater presence than usual, and although I wasn’t working IN the business, I actually ended up spending a lot of time working ON it.

I was mostly thinking about where I wanted it to go next year in line with the new discoveries I’d been making about myself and my dreams since I moved here. I spent a huge amount of time planning, preparing posts and developing ideas.

There were a lot of meetings over November and December, with the architects, interior designer and the builders who will be doing the renovation. More stress came in the form of a very inflated quote, which we’re all now working to reduce. This property business is not for the faint of heart! The good news is, the work should be completed, including the building of the studio in the garden, by mid summer.

At the end of the month I moved back into the much loved rental cottage, so that the asbestos could be removed from the barn ceilings, and it would be ready for renovation work to start in January.



The new website for my work {click to see!}

I’d been working on building a new website for my art for several months, with the help of the fabulous Kerstin Martin and her SquareSpace 101 course, which I highly recommend if you want to build your own site and need clear, step by step help. I’m delighted to say it’s now live and you can see it here.

It has its own blog, and houses the collectors list; both will have more occasional output than here, and if you’re interested in possibly becoming a collector, or enlarging your current collection of my work {!}, please do sign up here. I’ll be releasing the new series exclusively to collectors first very soon.

The planning for 2019 continued apace. I do love the piecing together of plans, the research and development of ideas, the list making and mental juggling.

I have a loose structure for 2019 which will allow me to give full attention to students as well as tending to my own career as an artist. I learned some valuable lessons about not trying to pack too much in this year, so next year I will run the main five courses once each, spread out across the year. I’ll be sending an Artnote about this out tomorrow; if you’d like to receive that you can sign up here.

Because it was so effective, I’ve joined another mastermind, and submitted my work to a magazine and an online contest for the first time. This is something I’m planning to do regularly next year, as well as continuing to build a solid body of work and approaching more galleries. Yes, this scares me.


Holy moly that was long! Thank you – and well done, frankly! – if you got this far. As always I’m so grateful for your presence and support; whether you simply read the blog or Artnotes, have taken every course I’ve ever offered or are somewhere in between, your support of my work means I get to keep doing what feels valuable and important to me.

May 2019 be full of rich creativity, delightful surprises, and enough white space to keep us sane. 🙂