I spend many of my days working on discrete activities. Carve this layer, print the next color, build a frame… Like most things in life, I find it difficult to assess on any given day whether I am going in the right direction or not. I am always struck at the similarities between being an artist and gambling. On a few golden days, an acceptance arrives in my email, or a new collector takes a linocut home. But the vast majority of days the activities go on without reward or comment.
Evaluation is a way of getting an overall picture of how I am doing. For the curious, here are the things I will be evaluating this year…
What you track you value
I have spent the last two years as a member of Alyson Stanfield‘s Inner Circle, a group of artists that receives valuable guidance from Alyson and shares with and supports one another. Alyson’s advice is to track things over time to truly be able to evaluate and improve your art business. Throughout the year, I track the following data on an Excel spreadsheet:
• Income (sales, prizes, stipends, grants)
• Expenses (materials for printing and framing, advertising, art festivals, continuing education, travel)
From these two categories, I can evaluate 1) my cash flow throughout the year — which is very sporadic and 2) if the events I participated in are worth the cost and effort.
Important edit 12/12/16:
What type of work did I make? How many?
What types of work did I sell?
• Regular sized linocuts (framed and unframed)
• Large sized linocuts (framed and unframed)
• Smaller linocuts
Tracking how I made contact
Marketing art is much more involved than I ever would have imagined. I try to keep tabs monthly on the following:
• # of Facebook likes on my business page
• # of Instagram followers
• # of people on my MailChimp (email) list
• # of people on my postal mailing list (for postcards, etc)
• How many blog posts did I write?
• How many newsletters did I send?
• How many solo emails did I send to my MailChimp subscribers?
• How many postcards did I send?
Where did I go and what did I show?
Now that I have several years of art marketing behind me, I’m going to be considering the types of events I participated in where my artwork was shown. This will include:
• Solo shows
• Juried shows
• Art Festivals
• Other exhibits
I used to believe that shear numbers of eyeballs on my work was the goal. Some activities are expensive — festivals have travel costs and booth fees, juried shows have mileage/time costs or require shipping. Which of these activities seemed worth the effort, and which ones should I skip in the future? (Admittedly this is a hard thing to discern. You never know where you might be “discovered” by someone crucial to your success. Refer back to my comparison of the artistic life to gambling.)
What did I give and what did I receive?
Here I am thinking about community involvement. In my local community, many of the art activities are run completely by artists. Time volunteered can be time away from the studio, but it also might mean new skills learned and new connections made.
Asking the larger questions
Numbers give me quantifiable data to make some conclusions about my year. However, numbers alone can’t tell the whole story. They must be placed in the context of what actually happened in my life this year. Here are some of the larger questions I will tackle:
What were the important occurrences in the year? These can be joyful ones and difficult ones, anything that took time away from the studio. Considering this:
• What went well this year? List all of the successes
• What artwork was I most pleased with and which pieces did I feel fell short?
• What did not go well this year? List possible reasons
• What things were left undone? Consider why, and if they need to be done at all.
• What things would I like to make a priority in the upcoming year?
A question of balance
Balance may be an overused goal, but for my physical and mental health it is critical. I will ask myself:
• How did I divide my life between creative, business, personal, relational, physical, and spiritual pursuits? Was this division satisfactory?
• What changes did I make that made my life more balanced?
• What changes do I want to make in the upcoming year?
The task of actually doing the work
I love lists, and there is something about just making a list that is satisfying. The hard part comes when you must do the things on your list. I participate in a twice-monthly video chat with artists who are current or former members of Alyson Stanfield’s mentoring group. I volunteered to lead our discussion on the 13th of this month and talk about my yearly evaluation. So I have a hard deadline.
This will get me ready for making my plan for 2017. 2016 was quite a year, and I am so looking forward to planning for January and beyond…