Thursday, December 31, 2009

Making A Mark in 2009 - the results

This is the final post in my end of year annual review of artistic endeavours in 2008. So far we've had:
This post relates to my own personal review. Once again I'm going to review what I've done in relation to my own personal plan for 2009 - which, I hasten to add at this juncture, I've managed to singularly ignore this year.

Constructing this review is always a slog - and to be honest I only really write it for me - mainly to remind myself how much I did actually manage to get done! The review process itself also throws new light onto what I've enjoyed this year and what I need to be doing next year

However before we go any further, I did have one major achievement in 2009. On 1st January this year I gave up all the naughty calories (eg alcohol, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, cheese and anything else which was packed full of calories for relatively little nutritional value) PLUS vowed to do a lot more walking. As a result, in fits and starts (largely related to things like flu and how active I've been) I'm nudging a weight loss over the course of the year of very nearly 3 stones. Now that's not as good as Stephen Fry who managed to lose 6 stone(!) through diet changes, visits to the gym and walking to audio books - but then I didn't go to a gym or listen to audio books!

This is an art related achievement because I've have been ably supported in my quest by my cyber chums at Sketchercise which I founded this summer (see Sketchercise! for more about it; membership is now by invite only). I'm certainly not the only one who has been getting fit and losing weight! So anybody who is feeling the impact of the celebrations - can I recommend a brisk walk with a sketchbook!

I've also found myself taking a lot more photographs as I walked and a few of them even look like they ought to be in an exhibition! In fact, apart from the exhibitions, you can see where I've been this year by consulting my Flickr sets as I tend to make one for each trip or place I visit. I've started eyeing up expensive cameras but so far have contented myself with investing in a digi camcorder so you now get to see videos of art-related places on YouTube as well!
After a fairly intense period of reading, looking and learning I'm aiming to produce more art in 2009.
Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan
Famous last words! Having said that my production rate in terms of finished drawings has been well down on previous years. Partly because I'm much clearer now that who I am and what I do is not just about producing art - (you can find out more here). This year seems to have seen a distinct shift from producing art to writing about art. I'm not unhappy about that but I would still like to be making more art.

The Grand Plan for 2009 - it was a good idea!

The 2009 Plan was guided by
  • principles - the way I want to be
  • goals - what I want to achieve
  • themes - how I will group activities
  • activities - what I'll be doing
Goals are good for moving forward - but too many goals can leave you spinning!

Principles are great for keeping yourself on track as the world about you changes - if you can work out what works for you.

Being specific about outputs and deadlines keeps people focused on what needs to be done and achieved - but only if your goals and principles are relevant to in an ever-changing world.
I still agree with most of what I wrote in Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan. However as events turned out there was too much activity for the time available

How did I do?


These are all applicable to enjoying art and making art. You can see the explanation of what they are all mean in Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan
  1. Life is too short - In principle I should have been focusing all my available time on doing what I enjoyed and walked away from the rest. In practice I spent a lot of energy this year on developing a residents association and fighting planning policy and a planning application which will affect my home. This wasn't planned - but then life events do tend to come along when we least expect them! I could have walked away however it was important, it was very productive for the most part and I'm glad I did it. The downside was that the learning and effort involved didn't seem to leave a lot of 'oopmh' for art. I now feel like I need a much better balance between the different aims and activities which compete for my time.
  2. The journey is the reward. As I get more and more into art I seem to spend less time making it and more time studying it. Is this a good or a bad thing? I'm not too sure. I guess it rather depends on whether the study is procrastination or the learning and the process of finding out more and more about artists and art movements from the past is a reward of itself. I lean very much towards the latter at the moment - the more I learn the more I realise I don't know! I really don't aspire in any way to be the best artist there ever was but I do want to improve in terms of how I currently create art. I'm still happy to pursue a notion that I'll become a better artist the more I absorb about art in general. I do need to apply myself more to the application though.
  3. The original and the best. The challenge of being me is still one I'm engaged with but I'm not sure I'm making much progress. I'm still trying to get my own interpretation of a painterly style in dry media and my idea of what this should like down on paper - and I'm not too satisfied with the results so far. More effort would probably be a good idea (see 1 above) I would like to emphasise that there's been quite a bit of art which you've NOT seen. I do find looking at the work of other artists does help me to realise better what might be - hence why I make time to go and see exhibitions.
  4. Variety is the spice of life! I've never been able to settle on doing just one thing - I get bored far too easily - and 2009 was no different. This year I got a rest from British art when I went to France and was able to spend two days in The Louvre Museum, The Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie (and made a video of the latter)
  5. There are no shortcuts! In January 2009 I wrote outstanding performance - a talent or 10000 hours of practice? which seemed to strike a chord with quite a few people.
  6. 'Good enough' is good enough. When I didn't even feel like I could achieve 'good enough' I didn't make art in terms of formal drawings. Sketching however continued to be something I did all year - maybe because sketches take so much less time and are easier to fit in?
  7. What goes around comes around and You get out what you put in. You get back what you give out. You get what you deserve. We create our own realities. This year I spent a lot more time on non-art activities and making art suffered as a result.

Did I achieve my goals for 2009?

Here's how I think I've done in relation to different themes and activities - grouped against whichever goal seemed most appropriate. In amongst all this are numerous activities which I hadn't planned - but that's OK!
LEARNING: To look at and learn more about art which I find stimulating. I'm not trying to understand all art. I don't mind if the stimulation is to the eye, brain or heart. I just want to know more about the art which arouses a response in me.
Learning more about art and artists - past and present - and in particular female artists: I've made progress but not done as much as I'd hoped. I've bought a lot of new art history books and visited a lot of exhibitions and art galleries and museums. I do enjoy this aspect of art and I think I might have much more of a 'bent' towards art history than I thought. Two of the female botanical artists I learned more about are:

Having to select artists to feature and write about in my exhibition reviews is also wonderful for making me focus when I visit and exhibition. I've developed a whole new routine for viewing an exhibition as a result! It's a little bit like the way art often gets judged by panels of artists when entered for an exhibition.

The series of interviews with female contemporary artists collapsed somewhat after interviews with coloured pencil artists Alyona Nickelsen and Ann Kullberg plus Society of Botanical Artists President Margaret Stevens in the first part of the year. Which is a pity as I have a number of artists who have agreed to do an interview. However I did also get an interview with Lynn Painter-Stainers Prizewinner Toby Wiggins. (I've just noticed that I can date all the interviews to 'before' and 'after' the planning application!)

Mixed Media: I've started to make tentative steps in this direction but not done as much I had thought I might. I've at least clarified that underpainting does have a role to play in my art

Printmaking - I'm now the proud owner of a set of lino cutting tools but apart from a trial go have not yet had the time to pursue this. I need to find a better way of keeping the lino warm while I cut to avoid my tenosynovitis from flaring. However I have been taking a much greater interest in printing this year - and what the rest of you have been getting up to.

DOING: To make art worth making. I'm more interested in doing better than doing more of the same. I'd like to be able to get what's in my head down on paper! I'd like to get past the feeling that I can't start because it won't be good enough - I know I have to start somewhere!
I've been trying to focus more on developing some themes for my artwork. Something that makes it easier to describe what I do within the context of being a person who likes variety.

Series: The Ecology Park Pond series started well ( I even trecked out to see it on the day of the 'big Snow') and then it wilted under the onslaught of the planning application. Plus it was very odd but I found I liked the pond a lot less in summer. I think that had an impact on visits. I've decided that I like it best when there's no-one there. However I have learned the value of visiting one place a lot - plus I've added two more lakes to my 'keep an eye on and sketch' list and I've now got a massive portfolio of photographs of the pond taken in every month of the the year which should provide a huge amount of material for deciding what to focus on next year. I'm pleased with some of them - this is Textures - a portfolio of photographs of natural textures from an area of East London just over 2 miles east of St Paul's Cathedral

The Face and the Figure
: I've still not submitted my drawings to any portrait competitions/exhibitions. However I am very much clearer that I ought to be doing more finished drawings worked up from my sketches of people in cafes and restaurants.

Flowers and Plants: I haven't as yet settled on a common format for drawings. However working out what to produce for the San Diego exhibition next year was very instructive as was the exercise with photographing textures.

Examples of my drawings of cacti and succulents
coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Places: I continued to draw a lot of water - and started drawing birds as well! In fact I've now drawn birds all over London! That wasn't planned! I've also enjoyed going out with the two drawing groups I belong to and have visited a lot of places in London which I might not have got to otherwise. Most of the work done in terms of drawing places can be seen in my sketchbooks of London, France and Interiors. Finally I sketched my way round Paris, Normandy and the Loire in September and October.

Drawing Technique: It's making progress - very slowly! I now know a lot of ways I shouldn't work!
SHARING: To celebrate what's good in art and to share it with others - whether it's art, artists, art techniques or art supplies. This is a major theme of my life. It's who I am and what I like to do. Sharing has many facets
Overall this has had a much bigger emphasis than I was intending. I'm wondering whether this was because it was the aspect which was easiest to pick up and put down. Work which contributed to sharing activities tends to come in small defined bit-sized chunks and hence is a lot easier to get on with. It also meant that I had a constant sense of achieving some output! Which is not say it wasn't a struggle at time when too many things were competing for my time.

Who's made a mark this week?

I've now done 121 "who's made a mark this week?" posts and some people tell me they've given up reading the Sunday papers and prefer to read my blog post instead. I don't think I missed very many weeks this year but I'm not actually sure how many I did - probably mid 40s. I continue to enjoy highlighting artwork which has impressed me - particularly when it has been done by fellow art bloggers - and

This year I introduced the notion that my weekly post will highlight exhibitions by art bloggers. That wasn't an invite to art galleries to send me their exhibition notices even if some seem to have read it as this. I only accept exhibition notices from the art blogger in person - NOT the gallery.

Exhibition reviews on Making a Mark

I very much enjoy doing my exhibition reviews - although this year other commitments have competed with when exhibitions have been showing and I missed some of the ones I would have liked to have seen.

My exhibition reviews this year covered the following (all listed here in case any of you missed any - I know how much people enjoy seeing my review photos of the artwork!):
I'd very much like to thank all those who I communicate with during the course of the year concerning the exhibitions at the Mall Galleries, Bankside Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery Their co-operation and help makes reviewing exhibitions a much more productive exercise. Thanks to Lewis and Neil in particular.

Making A Mark Reviews
In 2009 I created a brand new blog! I started Making A Mark Reviews...... so that I had a blog which was about being a consumer's guide to quality and value in art books, art supplies and services to artists. I've always enjoyed doing reviews and providing feedback and it seemed a good idea to develop this activity a little further. It now includes: book reviews; reviews of art bookshops; reviews of art shops; product reviews; webware reviews and widget reviews

It's now got over a 100 subscribers and has achieved 10,000 unique visitors since it was created in April. I'm pleased with how it's going and I'll be continuing to develop this in 2010. One of the ways I want to this is for it to act in more of a curatorial role by highlighting good reviews of art products, books or services on other blogs. Sio if you'd like to spread the word.........
Do let me know if you've reviewed:
- an art instruction book
- a book about an artist or period in art history
- an art product you use (art media or support or tool)
If suitable, I'll summarise you review on this blog and link back to your review.
Making A Mark Reviews......
Making A Mark - Resources for Artists
I produced numerous new information sites. I confess I find researching and producing these sites to be very relaxing! You'll find some of the new ones in 2009 referenced throughout this post - here are some of them

Making A Mark Guides
I created only two Making A Mark Guides this year - mainly because something has gone wrong with pdf converter!
The Making A Mark Monthly Polls
I've enjoyed doing these polls and judging by some of the responses disciussing the options a number of you have also enjoyed them too. Given the difficult context of the year some of the polls lent themselves to the notion of the wisdom of crowds - we could see what other people were thinking and doing without anybody having to identify themselves. For example:
You can see all the polls, a summary of the results and links to the blog posts in The Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artist.

Writing and workshops
A total non-starter in 2009. It's still a theme I want to pursue but I think I need to map out some dedicated time for this otherwise it won't happen.
SHOWING: To show artwork because it merits display rather than because it's the thing to do. I much prefer seeing exhibitions to submitting work to them!
Exhibitions have really not been a priority in 2009 - mainly because of the pressures of other commitments. However I do continue to exhibit work in a low key way.

(Peony) Potential and Prelude
8" x 10" and 12" x 8", both coloured pencils on Arches
Juried into the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
In 2009 I had work exhibited in:
  • Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2009 at Central Hall, Westminster - I was VERY pleased to get into this one
  • Society of Feline Artists Annual Exhibition 2009 at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, Waterloo - my work was on the front cover
  • Society of Coloured Pencil Artists Annual Exhibition 2009, RSBA Gallery, Birmingham - and achieved my signature status with UKCPS with my work being included in this exhibition.
The 'showing' goal also generates 'sharing' activities and this year I produced and updated a number of information sites and posts related to exhibitions. These included:
I did succeed at the beginning of the year in producing a schedule of dates and deadlines for various exhibitions and competitions so I wouldn't miss deadlines. Except it meant this year it tended to mean that I now knew when I didn't have the time to meet a deadline! I'll be doing the same this year in the next week or so.
SELLING: To gear selling activity to income targets and the realities of the marketplace. Right now this means that this is a low priority. Picking up on the principle of variety being the spice of life but too many genres makes an artistic identity confusing - I need to try and identify (say) three main genres to pursue.
This totally fell off the 'to do' list in terms of priorities. Although the quantity of work I now have to store does make me think I should get on with sorting out my etsy shop.

Resources for Artists - Selling Art Online

I've got a very big streak of "analyst" running through my heart. Within the context of a very difficult economy, I did a series of blog posts at the beginning of the year about selling art online. I was particularly interested in checking out whether the claims of different websites stood up to scrutiny. The simple answers is that some sites have great hype but not great traffic! In the process of checking out which sites seemed to work best I discovered that I could create charts which would automatically update to provide the latest data on traffic to a site - which in turn would help any artist visiting one of my informantion sites to check out how well an online gallery or auction house was doing.

Information sites I created this year included:

You can find these and others in Resources for Artists - Selling Art Online Headquarters

......and finally
I'd like to achieve 500,000 visitors by the end of June 2008.
Well somehow or other I actually managed to achieve this by the middle of June

By the end of the year Making A Mark has received more than 600,000 unique visitors and had 2,100 subscribers - so I guess I must be doing something right!

Many thanks to all of you who have contributed suggestions and comments during the course of the year - they are always very much appreciated.

[PS This has been such a long slog, I'm taking a break now and coming back later to add in some images from the year!]


  1. Katherine, best wishes for a happy and productive new year.
    I really enjoyed this post for it's honesty and breadth. Congrats on the weight loss- you're an inspiration.
    Congrats on your many accomplishments in 2009.

    Thank you, also, for including my still life in the preliminary awards for Best Still Life of 2009. It was a lovely honor.

  2. I've just finished reading this post for the second time and it won't be my last! Happy new year, by the way! Your plan was certainly ambitious and multi-dimensional---perhaps too much for one person to accomplish and still be sentient ;D. Still, if anyone could do as much as that YOU could---and, really, you have. Your blogs reach so many people, and provide information for us on SO MANY fronts----in that sense, 2009 was a triumphant year for you and we certainly all benefited from your efforts and honors! I always yearn to see more of your own artwork, of course. The succulent drawings are just exquisite---I hope they will be guideposts for you in your development as an artist this new year.
    So, well done, Katherine--you're a star!

  3. Katherine, I know you create this post largely for yourself, but I enjoy reading it. It interests me to see what goals you set and how you did achieving them. I appreciate your honesty and like reading the rationale for what worked in the year and what didn't. Reading about goal setting helps me when I sit down and set my own - which I've done but not made public yet. Best of luck in 2010! And congrats on all of your accomplishments in this past year.

  4. Katherine - Congratulations! You have had quite a year... Thank you so much for sharing.


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