Every year, I like to sit down and think back on what's happened. I do a lot of writing in my journal and really dive deep into what the year has thrown at me. I think about what I've learned and what I might want to change for next year. When I take a moment to look back, I realise just how much has happened. It's easy to only remember the bad stuff, but surely not everything that happened was awful, right?
Taking a good, hard look at the year helps me look beyond the bad stuff and appreciate the good things that happened, the lessons I learned and the chances I got to grow. I want to share all these thoughts with you through this blog post. Maybe you'll find something that resonates with you for your own reflection on the past year. This is my first time doing something like this, but I have a feeling it's going to become a yearly ritual.
Celebrating My 2023 Launches
In retrospect, 2023 was a year filled with exciting launches that laid the groundwork for much of the work I did throughout the year.
Unveiling My First Art Collection
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the unveiling of my first Art Collection, The Rain Tree. Comprising 21 paintings, some featuring individual species while others captured moments of conversation between species, the collection was well received, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the story that inspired the art. Six of these paintings are still available for purchase, along with prints of the collection.
Expanding My Footprint on Skillshare
On the educational front, I expanded my footprint on Skillshare, where I had been teaching since April 2022. In 2023, I introduced two new classes - "Loosening Up With Gouache: Explore Colour and Expressive Detailing in a Landscape" and "Sketch and Paint Birds in Gouache: Learn the Basics of Naturalist Illustrations". The class on birds was a project close to my heart, and I was thrilled to bring it to life.
Launching Standalone Courses
For those of you who preferred not to subscribe to Skillshare, I launched my Courses on my own website, making my classes more accessible. This website is being redesigned at the moment but I’ll add the link here as soon as it’s ready. You could even sign up to my newsletter to stay updated.
Releasing My 2024 Desk Calendars
Among all my launches, the most successful was the release of my 2024 Desk Calendars. The calendar, featuring a different bird illustration on each page, was a testament to my year of birds and was received with immense love and support.
Creating Free Resources
I also ventured into creating free resources to help fellow artists and creatives. After experiencing growth from 0 to 30k+ monthly views on Pinterest, I compiled a guide and workbook to help others get started with marketing on Pinterest. I plan to launch a lot more helpful guides like this through 2024.
Launching My Blog
One of the significant launches was my blog, a platform I had been planning to start for a while. The blog served as an extension of my YouTube videos, converting them into written content for my audience who prefer reading. This move was not only beneficial for SEO but also provided me with the opportunity to create pins for Pinterest, directing more traffic to my website and YouTube videos.
Initiating the Collector's Club
Last but not least, I initiated the Collector's Club, where members can join for free to get early access and discount codes every time I launch new originals, prints, or merchandise.
Looking back, each launch was a step forward in my journey, and I look forward to what 2024 has in store!
The Tough Parts of 2023
Every year has its ups and downs, and 2023 was no different. Here are some of the difficult things I had to deal with.
The biggest issue for me was my health. I've had a bad shoulder since 2020. It wasn't too bad at first, but in August 2023, it got worse. Because of this, I had to slow down with my work and delay some projects. I've talked more about this in this YouTube video.
Keeping a Positive Mindset
When my health took a hit, so did my mood. I love my work, and not being able to do it because of my health made me feel down. It was hard to stay positive and not feel like I was letting my audience and myself down. I had to rest, but I spent a lot of that time feeling guilty and upset about not being able to work.
Improving My Business Marketing
Marketing my business was another struggle. Even though I worked hard on my launches, I think they could have gone better. I'm not upset about it, but I know I need to improve. It was exhausting to keep up the energy and enthusiasm for marketing different offers throughout the year.
Looking back, it's clear that 2023 had its challenges. But each one taught me something important and helped me grow.
The Highlights of My Art Journey in 2023
Last year was filled with some fantastic moments and milestones in my art journey. Let's take a moment to celebrate these exciting developments:
Birdwatching and Art
In 2023, I discovered a new hobby - birdwatching. It was a passion that had been brewing since 2021, but last year, this interest bloomed fully. This newfound love for birdwatching influenced my art in an unexpected way - I found my muse in birds. I've always been fond of painting the natural world, but there was something special about birds that captivated me.
I knew I found my art style (at least for the time being) when I asked myself two questions: Could I imagine myself painting birds in gouache every day for the rest of my life? Would I continue painting birds just for fun if my art business were to fail? The answer to both was a resounding yes!
Becoming a Top Teacher on Skillshare
Another significant milestone was becoming a Top Teacher on Skillshare. This achievement is quite an honour since only 1-1.5% of teachers on the platform hold this title. This accomplishment has motivated me to create more classes that help my students grow, particularly focusing on the business side of art.
Growing My YouTube Channel
My YouTube channel crossed the 1000 subscribers mark in 2023! Despite health issues that slowed down my content production, I was able to create engaging videos that helped grow my subscriber base. If you haven't subscribed yet, I invite you to join my YouTube community.
Experimenting with a New Medium
2023 was also the year I experimented with a new painting medium - acrylic paints. After a long time of painting exclusively with gouache, this new exploration was a fun change of pace. You can check out my experience with acrylic painting in two YouTube videos I created:
Finding Support in My Health Journey
While this might seem unrelated to my art journey, finding an amazing doctor and personal trainer was a significant part of my year. The physical health issues I faced made it difficult for me to paint and led to a creative slump. Thankfully, my orthopaedic doctor and personal trainer gave me hope and helped me believe in my capabilities. Their support reminded me of the importance of having a caring team rooting for your recovery and success.
Consistency with My Newsletter
While I struggled with consistency in marketing and content creation, I managed to maintain regular communication with my subscribers through my email newsletter. This consistency helped me retain a strong relationship with my community. If you're interested, I invite you to join my community of 2000+ subscribers for weekly studio updates and tidbits about painting, reading, and running a creative business.
Looking back, 2023 was a year of growth, discovery, and exciting developments in my art journey. Here's to more creativity and success in the coming year!
Key Lessons From 2023
In 2023, I learned several important lessons that shaped my personal and professional growth. Here's a look at the most significant ones:
Being a solopreneur can often feel like a lonely journey where you have to be a jack of all trades. But trying to handle everything by yourself can quickly lead to burnout. One key lesson I learned is the importance of accepting help and delegating tasks, both in work and personal life. Hiring freelancers or building a team might seem daunting, but if your business is generating income, it's likely that you can afford to invest in support. You can start with a small budget. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Remember, getting help can boost your productivity and growth without draining you.
Prioritise Your Tasks
As an entrepreneur, it's tempting to try to do everything all at once. But in reality, juggling too many things can lead to burnout. In 2023, I realised the importance of planning better and focusing on what's realistic and achievable. This year, my goal is to manage my energy better and concentrate on fewer projects, striving for quality over quantity.
Balance Mind, Body, and Soul
Throughout the year, it became evident that our bodies and energy levels have their own rhythms and seasons. Just like in the book 'Regenerative Business', I learned to be mindful of what my mind, body, and soul need at different times. There are periods when creativity flourishes and you feel unstoppable. But there are also times when your body demands rest. It's crucial to listen to these signals for overall wellbeing. After all, balance is key.
Quality Over Quantity in Content
In an era where there's constant pressure to churn out more and more content, it's easy to forget the value of 'less is more'. This year, I've decided to focus on quality over quantity when it comes to content creation. I want every piece of content I create to pass the "Am I proud of this?" test. Instead of creating more just for the sake of it, my aim is to create content that’s meaningful. Even if that means producing less of it.
My 2023 Literary Journey
If you know me, you'll know that I have a deep love for reading. In 2023, I'm proud to share that I managed to read a total of 33 books! Here's a quick rundown of the books that left a lasting impression on me throughout the year.
My fiction journey took me through diverse landscapes and time periods. Here are some of my top picks:
- The Covenant of Water: This book is a beautiful blend of historical fiction penned by an Indian author, two elements that I absolutely adore. The Audible narration by the author himself added a captivating layer to the storytelling.
- Beartown series: This series of three books by Frederik Backman cemented my love for his writing. I believe this series holds something for everyone, regardless of their preferred genre.
- Cloud Cuckoo Land: This historical fiction novel is another favourite in my preferred genre. The author is brilliant, and if you haven't read "All the Light We Cannot see", I highly recommend it.
- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: This popular 2022 release was a great listen on Audible. I can see why it garnered so much attention!
My non-fiction reading list was just as enriching. Here are some books that stood out:
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: This book is filled with simple yet profound advice for life and business.
- The One Thing: The book revolves around the concept of focusing on just 'One Thing'. This idea has been a game-changer for me, and I now use this technique daily to get my most important tasks done.
- Regenerative Business: This refreshing self-help book talks about balancing your energy and your work to create impact. It was the perfect read for me during a challenging time.
- Radical Acceptance: This book taught me how to cope with my imperfections without self-criticism. Its timing couldn't have been better.
- The Lost Spells: This book combines poetry and stunning illustrations of the natural world. It's absolutely beautiful.
If you're interested in keeping up with my reading list and getting a glimpse into my studio each week, I invite you to sign up for The Weekly Dispatch.
In summary, 2023 was a year of ups and downs, but it was also a big learning experience. I grew my art business, found my passion for painting birds, faced some health struggles, and learned about keeping balance. The books I read gave me fresh ideas and perspectives. And here's where I want to pause and express my deep gratitude.
I’m so thankful for the encouragement and support that you've given me. Your kind words, your interest in my work, and your constant positivity have truly kept me going. It's this gratitude that makes me look forward to the new year. As we start 2024, let's aim to create more, learn more, and share more. Thank you for being a part of this exciting journey with me.