2017 Year in Review

My Story.

It’s April 3rd, and I am FINALLY getting around to writing about what happened in 2017. Funny thing is with tax prep, current art projects and LIFE, I just hadn’t made it a priority to sit down and reflect on what had happened, and what I would like to see happen in 2018. So, here we are!

Last year was a big, fun whirlwind. Being a small art business owner has it’s own unique challenges, but coupling that with being a full time stay at home mom makes the days & tasks all kind of run together. I’ve never been all that great at making time for reflection (as seen in this here blog post, ha!), but I am trying to be better about it.

Sometime at the beginning of the last year I read this article: 4 motivations that make artists successful. In the article, it talks about how there are 4 major things that inspire artists to succeed – people can either be motivated by one, or a combination of all of them:

  • financial success
  • social interactions
  • compulsion to create
  • the freedom of the artist lifestyle

After I read the article, I realized that my desire to paint every day is definitely linked to all four, with financial success at the bottom of the list and social interactions at the top, in terms of importance to me.

The one thing that sticks out to me the most about 2017 is all of the social interactions. I was blessed to be able to work on twice as many custom paintings compared to 2016. Each of those pieces offered me an opportunity to really connect with an individual- to see a glimpse into what they hold dear and see as meaningful in their own life. This is my absolute favorite kind of work. There is just something about being trusted with someone’s memories that really makes being an artist rewarding emotionally. Here are some of the custom pieces I painted last year:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I definitely feel a compulsion to paint (although I really don’t like that word “compulsion” at all.) It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s almost like I don’t feel the compulsion, but more the absence of something when I don’t make time for art. Last year I made time for it, and that felt really good.

It’s true, there is great freedom in the artist’s lifestyle but, as it’s been said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Unlike my previous “traditional” jobs, I have no one giving me a morning to-do list, setting up my meetings, or paying my taxes or contributing to my matching 401k. In 2017 it was a big learning curve for me to manage my time wisely but I am SO thankful that it was ME managing MY time. I had the freedom to say “yes” to projects that really meant something to me and “no” to ones that didn’t.

Here are a few of the highlights of 2017:

 

DSC_2419

  • participated in my first art fair, and a very dark photo to prove it. /\
  • successfully potty trained our daughter
  • got accepted to see on Handmade at Amazon
  • all 50 state paintings were formatted into decals:

igdecal

  • I made our bed EVERY SINGLE MORNING after watching this >video<
  • I was able to collaborate with The Maryland Citizens for the Arts on a project to help raise arts awareness in our state:

DSC_1943

  • I stopped feeding myself solely with the random food left on my kid’s lunchtime plates – ie. goldfish crackers and cold Mac n’ cheese….
  • 37 unique commissions were completed
  • first commercial rights art project completed
  • used colored pencils for the first time since college (15 years ago):

DSC_2110

  • first newspaper article was written about me concerning balancing being a mom and artist
  • successfully learned all of the songs from Disney’s Frozen and then subsequently performed them during my kid’s bath time every day (pro tip: bathroom echoes make for better concerts, let me tell you…)
  • first foreign country painted:DSC_2617

2016/2017 side by side:

Overall, It was a great year with many opportunities for personal growth. There were many “firsts” and even more “what the heck am I doing?!” moments.

So, what are my goals in 2018?

  1. learn to pump the brakes. A perfectionist by nature, I can sometimes try to take on too much at once. I’m learning to be intentional with my time, both as a mother and an artist.
  2. cultivate better friendships, especially with other artists. As much as I love the social interactions that being an artist affords, it can sometimes be a lonely place too. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best friend someone can have- not because I don’t care- quite the contrary- I am simply not very good at reaching out.
  3. grow the wholesale side of the business. There is something very special about the thought of having my work be a part of someone else’s dream to have a small business. It’s like we are in this together, and I love that.
  4. Paint things that make me uncomfortable and force me to flex my art muscles.
  5. Be better about book- keeping throughout the year so I am not writing my 2018 re-cap in April of next year… (2019, don’t quote me on this one. haha!!)

Well, there you have it. Lots of things happened, and here’s to setting (and reaching) some new goals in 2018.

Thank you so much for following along, everyone.

Your support means the world to me!

See more “real-time” art projects on my Instagram >here<.

Have a beautiful day,

– Rachel

Advertisements

7 things I wish I had known when I was graduating from art school.

My Story.

10 thingsI wish I had known before graduating from art school.-2

I went to a liberal arts college that offered a very advanced level of training in the fine arts. My painting professor was incredibly talented, and certainly still reigns as a huge influence on my art to this day. It’s been 2 years since I made the jump into a legitimate art business, and it’s been a bumpy learning curve to say the least. Although many of the technical skills of art were covered in my core classes, there were still quite a few things that were lacking in my college studies to prepare me for a career in painting. I do not blame my instructors- they were doing the best they could to teach their specialties to a room full of hopeful students. And, as we all are well aware: there are too few hours in a day. But, my hope is that this information may help someone else to be better prepared for the jump into a full time career in the arts.

Here is my take on the 7 things I wish I had known when I was graduating art school:

  1. business
  2. business
  3. business
  4. business
  5. business
  6. business
  7. business

Ok, that took WAY too long to type but you get the idea: BUSINESS!!!!

It’s funny that in art school the main focus is on the technical usage of new supplies, the studying of art history and the making of new work, while there is little to no emphasis on the fact that, once you graduate, you are going to be running a business. I can’t help but think that the lack of teaching in this category is what steers promising artists away from pursuing their dreams. I mean, who wants to graduate from an art curriculum, with all of that hope, just to get busy learning about taxes and inventory right away?

But, seriously, here is the real list of the ten things I wish I had known more about before graduation:

  1. business basics – taxes, inventory, profit margins- all of the boring stuff.
  2. marketing
  3. social media
  4. photography
  5. SEO (search engine optimization) and website design
  6. building a “brand”
  7. time management

Business basics: you are going to need a great CPA. Before selling your art, make sure that you are set up legally in your city & state. It is NOT a wise business decision to try to go “under the radar”. I’ve read many horror stories on this- just trust me on this one.

Marketing: In order to market yourself, you have to know who would be buying what you are painting. How old are they? Are they male or female? What kind of home may they live in? Do they like coffee or chai tea or both? (seriously, you do need to dream up your target market- and, be specific!)

Social media: no one will find you. You must be willing to be seen on a variety of platforms other than your own website…which leads me to my next point:

SEO: before registering my business I had never even heard the term “Search Engine Optimization”. And, to be honest, it’s still an enigma to me. In basic English, SEO is a methodology of strategies, tactics and technique used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking in search results pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. My introduction to SEO was thru my etsy shop. Where I had to try to think of specific keywords that my potential customers would type into etsy to find exactly what I was selling. I’m still working on this, and probably always will be. ha!

Photography: If the bulk of your sales will be happening online, then it is CRITICAL that your photography is color accurate and shows size/scale. Think of it this way- when you go into a shop and see a cute shirt- you pick it up, feel the fabric, hold it up to yourself, etc. Obviously, online you cannot do this, so you have to give your customer the most information possible to make their purchase.

Building a brand: This is a big one. If you are selling art, is it peaceful? Is it abstract? What types of emotions do you want to evoke?  Whatever the answer is, that SAME emotion should be mirrored in your logo, images, your bio, etc. If you are an illustrator of silly images and people follow your work to get a good laugh, it probably wouldn’t be best to have serious political banter on your Instagram feed, right? I mean, if I want to laugh I don’t want to be thinking of politics- agree?

Time Management: Oh, man. What a doozie this is. Good thing juggling class schedules and assignments has already helped you a bit here because, you’re going to need it. For me, I try to think of tasks that can be done simultaneously. For instance, one of my goals is to better my Pinterest knowledge. So, when I am painting, I am also listening to podcasts that talk specifically about this topic. Or, if I know that I will need to wait for paint to dry on a commission, I intentionally begin painting 2 pieces at the same time- that way, when one is drying, I can pick the other up and stay in my painting mood.

Ok, folks. That wraps it up. If you are an aspiring artist I hope this helps you know where to focus your energies- but, please do reach out if you have a specific question. If you are already in business, I would love to hear your thoughts. What are doing now that you wish you would’ve known back then?

Have a great week chasing your dreams, everyone!

Want to see some of my work or get in touch? see my website here: www.rachelalvarezart.com