Year in Review: 2019 as an artist and business owner {and human}

For the past few years, I’ve shared a year in review post in December. I love doing this and highly recommend ita; it’s great self-encouragement to see how far you’ve come, and I always find I’ve done and experienced more than I thought. It’s fun to relive the good times and embed them in memory, too.

Each year in my business is different. I had thought that once I found something that ‘worked’, I’d just keep doing that year to year and it’d all tick along. It hasn’t turned out that way, which is both good for the creative in me who needs variety, and sometimes unsettling for the business owner in me who would like more predictability!

This year the focus shifted from running each course twice {which turned out to be a bit too much last year}, to dividing my time between running and promoting courses, and stepping into the world of showing and selling my own art more.

Oh, and there was a full house renovation and a studio build. 😉

As ever, it’s a long one, so grab some sort of beverage and/or snack, and get comfy!



The barn, pre renovation

Quite the life changing month!

Signed the contract with the builders for the barn renovation and studio build, and the renovation started on January 10th.

I’d never done a renovation before so this was a major adventure, and one I had specifically said I wouldn’t do! But if your heart picks the house that hasn’t been touched for 27 years, you buckle up and you renovate. 😉 I shared the journey here and here.

Ran the ever popular 21 Days in My Art World challenge on Instagram, followed by my most most loved course, Abstractify. I’ll be running Abstractify in January 2020 for the last time at the current price. If you’d like to be alerted about either the challenge or the course, or both, click here and sign up! I’ll be sending out emails closer to the time.

This month was the last workshop weekend of the Porthmeor Programme before the end of year show. The programme was part of my personally chosen and designed ‘bespoke degree’ year, and to say it changed my life is not an exaggeration.

On the blog:

Thoughts on honest art

Artist Intentions for 2019


Newlyn Art School

I take far less courses than I used to these days, which is partly a function of running an art based business, and partly because I have unearthed and begun the lifelong work of refining and developing my personal artistic voice, and no longer need them as much as I used to.

But occasionally I like to do a course or workshop, either simply for the pleasure of it, or to strengthen something in my practice that I feel could use a little work. Taking Jessica Cooper’s Painting Essence of Form course at Newlyn Art School on my birthday was a bit of both of those, and a fantastic couple of days.

I’d made a clear and defined commitment to myself and my art as part of my ‘bespoke degree year’, and now that the mentoring programme was done, it was time to start investigating possible galleries to approach.

I created a spreadsheet {significant because I never do this ;)}, and began researching and reaching out to galleries that looked like they carried work in a style and price range that could possibly include mine. Very few outright nos, a lot of non-replies, and a couple of encouraging possible leads followed.

On the blog:

28 painting prompts and actions

What is a body of work?


Penwith Gallery show March 2019

To mark the end of the year long Porthmeor Programme, we held a group show at the Penwith Gallery in St Ives. Although not my first time exhibiting my work, this was my first group show in an established gallery, and a huge milestone for me.

On a whim I signed up for a morning making pottery at the Potager Cafe, with lovely Helena Haran of Studio Haran. I made two mugs, two bud vases, and two, let’s say ‘quirky’ coasters, and it was a very therapeutic and peaceful creative antidote to all the excitement and intensity in my work life. So important to fill the well!


This month I ran Artist Inspired II, which is a course very close to my heart, about exploring and being inspired by a varied selection of women artists. It’s now available with any time access, so you can start whenever suits you and take it at your own pace.

On the blog:

Ten women artists who inspire me daily on Instagram

Artist’s Library: a selection of art books by and about women


Lizard Art Fair 2019

I applied for another group show this month at Trelowarren – the place where my new water related work first began, which seemed fitting. There is an art co-op there, and they run the Lizard Art Fair every year in spring. I was delighted when they accepted three of my paintings! I wrote about it here.

The loveliest thing about this was that although no paintings sold, I was invited to join the co-op, the more encouraging since I know they don’t often take on new artists. I declined, knowing I needed as much time as possible to work on the two developing strands of my business, but it was so nice to be asked.

This month saw my first sea swim of the year – more of a quick dip as it was icy cold – but it marked a shift from the pool to the sea for me, which would become apparent later!

On the blog:

One simple tip for developing your paintings

Is it art if it took ten minutes?



St Ives Society Spring Exhibition 2019

I’d decided it would be fun to aim for three exhibitions in three months, so was delighted when I found out I’d be showing work at the St Ives Society spring exhibition this month, thus bringing me to my target.

I wrote about it here. It’s a fantastic location for a gallery, in an old church, right by the harbour in St Ives. Again, no sales, but it was worth it for the encouragement having your work selected brings, especially as a relative newcomer. And you never know who’s seeing it! It’s a long game this art business, and I’m in it for life.

On the courses front, I ran Expressive Charcoal this month. I’d say it’s a favourite of mine, but since I have said that about all of them at one time or other, let’s just say it’s a good course and has helped lots of people find a previously unknown love for charcoal! It’s also available with any time access now, so no need to wait to start!

On the blog:

Wish you were drawing more? Here are some ideas

Are some painting mediums ‘better’ than others?



window seat reading nook

In some ways the culmination of a two year journey – on June 2nd I moved back into the barn, although it wasn’t quite finished and wouldn’t be for a few months.

There was a lot of snagging to do, curtains and blinds to come, and diggers arrived for a couple of weeks of noise and mess to lay the cables for plumbing and electricity down to the bottom of the garden in preparation for the studio build.

I created a free course and released it this month, titled Free Up Your Art. It’s had some fantastic feedback so even though it’s the only course I created this year, I’m pleased.

On the blog:

4 ways with blind contour drawing

How to create source material for paintings



Battery Rocks

This was the month I started swimming at Battery Rocks in Penzance. Little did I know that under the usually steely surface of the water lived a whole other world – an Underwater Garden, in fact –  or that it would evolve into the next phase of my work.

Or that it would become so much more than that for me too, both personally and in terms of embarking on a new project. I started sharing my daily swims on Instagram stories, and they became much loved. I also wrote a bit about it here.

The course this month was Loosen Up. People love this one for the permission and specific, actionable examples of how you can release the realism and make more true to you expressive art, in fun and diverse ways. Again, it’s now available with any time access, so you can sign up whenever you’re ready and take it at your own pace.

On the blog:

The Halfway Point: a free worksheet to check in on your artist year

10 excellent tools and techniques to loosen up your art



Tin Coast Design

On the route to my daily swims I discovered a gorgeous coastal lifestyle store, run by a lovely lady called Charlotte. We got to talking, and I’d stop by and have a coffee and a chat sometimes {post swim high makes me super chatty ;)}. And then one day Charlotte offered me some space in the shop to show my work!

And soon after that, she sold three paintings in one day!

You just never know where the next cool thing is going to come from.

This month my work was also back in the Penwith Gallery as part of the Associates Summer Exhibition. Four exhibitions feels pretty good going for my first year, it has to be said.

Penwith Summer Exhibition 2019

On the blog:

Swimming lessons for artists {one of the most popular posts this year!}


Artist garden studio

This month the studio build, started around eight weeks previously, was finished! Amazing how quickly a house can go up – which is kind of what it is. My initial idea was more of a glorified shed in the garden, and somehow it morphed into something a person could live in. It was more expensive than anticipated, but it also has more flexibility and ‘future proofing’ than a shed. 😉 It’s also proof that you don’t need a six figure business to be able to build the dream studio.

This month also contained two other work related milestones. I decided to join another business mastermind, and was part of a video created by Jessica of The Artist Market Co.

A face to camera video. This is utterly horrifying for me, and I did about a million takes before getting something I was just about not too embarrassed by. But it was good to do it and not be beaten by the fear. I’d like to do more, but I’d still rather do almost anything else, so nothing’s happened on that front yet!

On the blog:

How to develop consistency in your art {a conversation between artists}



Ephemeral | Tara Leaver | mixed media seaweed painting on wood panel

October is the month of the 7 Day Series Challenge on Instagram, followed by Touchstone. This is my deep dive course; we paint, of course, but we also take a good look inwards, to begin to find clarity and know ourselves better as artists in order to take the route that will fit us and our dreams best.

This makes it so much easier to make the art that’s yours to make, when you know your motivations, your real desires {not the borrowed or expected ones}, and have a chance to explore them in a kind and encouraging atmosphere. And yes! You can take this one whenever you like too, and work through it at your own pace. 🙂

This month, a gallery owner I’d made contact with earlier in the year offered me a very exciting opportunity to show some of my latest paintings at her winter exhibition in February. This is hugely encouraging, to find someone who’s prepared to give you and your work a chance. More on this in the new year!

New blog post series started:

Student Stories: Nicky Oram



Tara Leaver studio desk

Excitingly for me, an article I wrote for Jacksons – the main source of my art supplies – came out this month. I’d had an idea for it, pitched it to them, and they liked it. It was fun to put it together and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

And after much to-ing and fro-ing, I decided to sign up to take part in the Cornwall Open Studios next year. It’s in May, so plenty of time to prep the studio and make lots of lovely new work! More on this nearer the time. This is kind of a huge deal for this hardcore introvert, as it means opening up my private space, but I’m excited to give it a go!

On the blog:

Making art with a chronic health condition

Gifts for Artists



Tara Leaver

A quiet month, while I establish a better rhythm in the new studio, and make plans for 2020.

As of March 1st, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from teaching ‘live’ courses {within specific dates}, although all courses will still be available and I’ll be making provision for students, so don’t worry, you won’t be left stranded!

This is so I can dive fully into my own art career, make a lot of work, reach out to galleries, and sell more paintings! If you’d like to stay up to date with that side of things, I have a blog here, and you can sign up for Notes from the Studio here. {Subscribers have exclusive access to an online shop with a selection of available paintings, as well as studio updates and news of opportunities to see the work in person.}

On the blog:

Student Stories: Gina Axlund


If you made it this far, all the festive sparkles to you! Thank you for not just reading my year in review, but for all your support and interest in any aspect of my work over the past year.

Whether you took a course, bought a painting, read my Artnotes or blog posts or connected with me on Instagram or Facebook, I’m grateful for you and for your presence here.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season, however you spend it, and see you in 2020!