artist intentions 2019

“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.”


Nelson Mandela

January is a particularly good month for dreams and plans, whether you ‘hit the ground running’ or prefer a more leisurely entry into a new year.

My approach to planning has always been very open and flexible – slippery Piscean that I am, I don’t like to feel tied down!

I have to admit though that having even a General Intended Direction can be a huge help at both ends of the year; something to move towards and something to measure when I look back.

And I do love to research, imagine, daydream, make lists and spidergrams and the odd Pinterest board ;). For the past few years I’ve also made printable ‘non planners’ as a way to create a flexible scaffolding for the year ahead.

{While I haven’t made one for this year, you can find the blog posts containing past copies of that and download any you like here – they get marginally more sophisticated each year. 😉 They’re mostly not dated {apart from the front covers} so can be used any time. There are also sets of questions in this post you can borrow!}

Despite my resistance to concrete plans, I have some considerably-larger-than-usual dreams for this year, so have been busy laying some groundwork to give them the best possible chance of becoming real.

Today I’m sharing that process and groundwork with you as an example of a flexible scaffolding. It’s based on what I already know and what happened last year, along with some questions I found helpful to consider, that might be useful for you too.

Dreams are nebulous things, and they need time to evolve and expand without being forced into a limited framework as soon as they appear in your field of vision.

It’s important to take some time to let the thoughts and ideas swirl and percolate. The time I have spent doing that recently has led to greater clarity now I’m coming to put them into the calendar. In the past when I haven’t allowed for that percolating, clarifying time, I’ve found myself with a stressful feeling of constantly playing catch up.

So, what’s been happening, and what’s coming?


My online courses

Because I knew I wanted to give more attention to my career as an artist in my own right in 2019, my main concern was how I would blend that with my teaching-focused business of the past five years.

I decided to try scaling back rather than burning the whole thing down, which would be pointlessly dramatic and is not what I want anyway. {Although it did cross my mind in a wobbly moment. 😉 }

What will that look like?

Instead of running each course twice – as I did with several last year, which was a bit too full on – I’ll be running each of my five main courses –

– once each, spread across the year. That will leave me, in theory, with six months to focus on my own art, and a month off.

{I now know I do actually need to build in time off, so I’m not desperate for a big chunk of it at the end of the year!}

Needless to say, everything is subject to change, but that feels like a good mix right now and will mean I can give my students my full attention during courses and not feel I’m shortchanging myself when it comes to my own work.

Useful questions to ponder:

  • What new things are nudging at me to explore further or try implementing? {Write all of them down. Even the ‘ridiculous’ ones.}
  • Which of those feels most compelling right now? {Zero in on one or two, knowing that you’re not rejecting the others, just pausing them for now.}
  • What would I need to adjust in order to create space for the new idea I want to bring to life? {Could certain activities stop or be reduced or delegated? Is there any internal adjustment to make around what I believe is possible for me?}
  • Using what I did last year as a guideline for what works or doesn’t work, how could I arrange this year to accommodate the new idea?
  • Can I break down the idea into smaller pieces and slot them into the calendar so I have a rough idea of where I’m going and how I’m going to get there?


My own art

This has been a real old rollercoaster over the past year!

In April I embarked on a year long mentoring programme at the St Ives School of Painting here in Cornwall. My idea was to create my own ‘bespoke degree’ since I never did a formal degree or had any ‘official’ art education beyond a fantastic year long foundation course when I was around 20. {And about a million different short courses since.}

I imagined it would probably be an ‘interesting’ year, not least because it coincided with my decision to move over 300 miles west from Sussex to Cornwall.

I was not wrong. That in itself turned out to be a much more convoluted and stressful journey than I anticipated, but it was the impact on the art that was in some ways the most distressing.

Here are some of the delights I experienced around my personal art practice last year:

  • periods of hating my work
  • feeling completely lost in confusion as it shifted from one state to another with what felt like glacial slowness
  • feeling deeply afraid I’d never build the strong, meaningful, and yes, saleable body of work I wanted to work towards
  • crying in the studio
  • total blankness in the studio
  • completely avoiding the studio
  • frustration at the lack of clear space to work in and the constant chaos and energy drain of being surrounded by moving boxes
  • fending off inner ‘you are so incredibly mediocre, how do you dare to call yourself a teacher or have the audacity to think you can sell your work in galleries’ tirades

It was fun.

And then…

A shift came in the autumn when some new ideas started emerging that actually felt quite sparky, and I just kept following those and trying everything that sprang to mind, no matter how seemingly ridiculous or irrelevant.

One of those things was using a projector to layer images onto paintings, another was installation art, and yet another was a growing fascination with Japanese art and culture. I’m still obsessed with all three.

At this point, I’m happy {understatement} to say I’ve found a groove at last with the work.

Now that the sale and purchase of properties is behind me, and the renovation has officially begun, I feel I have much more mental and emotional {if not physical} space to devote to my art, and indeed all my work, at the level it requires. {You can remind me of this charming naivety later!}

So what’s coming?

Well, every month that I’m not running a course {or taking some time out} will be devoted to my art practice. I have plans for approaching galleries, submitting to publications and competitions, and generally experimenting with ways to build something solid and sustainable. And of course I’ll be sharing what I learn as I go.

Finally, and in a slight burying of the lead…

I’ve built a brand new website just for my art.

The main website {where this blog and all the courses and resources live} is now entirely devoted to you! And you’ll find everything pertaining to my personal work at

While I will be talking about my own work in the Artnotes, there’s a place to sign up at the new site that will give you access to occasional emails just for collectors {and potential collectors!}, with news of upcoming exhibitions and first look at new work for sale.

Useful questions to ponder:

  • What do I want to express with/through my art? {A running, evolving list tacked to the wall can help here}
  • How do my values align with that? How might they inform and support what I want to say?
  • What materials, techniques or approaches would support and reflect that?
  • What feels true-to-me about my work? {Colour choices, marks, subject matter etc}
  • Where can I get support when I’m struggling? {Crucial! Online or offline groups, mentors or coaches, artist friends etc}
  • What helps me get back on track when I’m stuck or confused?
  • Where am I gathering my ideas and inspiration so I can turn to them when I need more fuel?
  • In what ways can I expand and deepen my connections {on and offline} this year to reach the goals I have for my work?


The home front

One of the most significant things that arose out the period of stress and introspection {always a good mix!}, was the idea of honest artAnd not just that, but honest art as part of an honest lifestyle.

Moving to Cornwall has seen a huge shift in my lifestyle, from the bigger picture of moving from city to coastal countryside, down to the day to day details of swapping chemicals for natural products, paring back possessions and wardrobe, spending more time in nature, and endeavouring to cut down on plastic use, to name a few examples.

It might seem irrelevant to be bringing this up here, but I’ve been finding that the way the new art is unfolding in meaning, process, and outcome is actually deeply connected with my new more connected-to-nature lifestyle, the barn I’m renovating, the studio that will be built in the garden, and my deepening interest in ideas like minimalism, slow living, and Japanese art and culture.

I will be talking more about all this in the coming months as it unfolds; for now, suffice to say it centres around the idea of art and life as an integrated conscious whole.

Useful questions to ponder:

  • What theme{s} am I seeing repeated in the different areas of my life? {Try thinking of this in terms of your values}
  • How do each of those themes express themselves specifically in each area?
  • How do they connect each area to make an integrated whole?
  • How might I develop these themes such that they deepen my connection to myself, my work, and those I aim to serve?
  • Is there an overarching theme I can measure my decisions against?


What are your dreams and plans for your art this year? I’d love to hear what you’d like to create in 2019. Feel free to share in the comments!