My First Year Running an Art Business - 2020 Recap

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

2020 was a whirlwind, not only with all that has happened in the world, but for me personally as my first year selling my artwork. I first opened my Etsy shop in October 2019, but it took around 4-5 months for anything to happen and to make my first sale.


During the lock-down in early 2020, my work hours from my day job were drastically reduced giving me the unique opportunity to paint more than I would normally have time for. (I am sure a lot of us can relate)


So, here is a little personal recap of my first year selling art along with some things I learned along the way and my goals for the next year.


What Went Well:


I Made 18 Sales Last Year!

I really did not expect to sell that much starting out, and it took me almost 6 months to make my first sale. I got lucky enough to find the right marketplace and platform for my type of artwork, which can take some artist years.


I discovered that night sky, space paintings and northern lights paintings are really popular on Etsy and in general. There also weren't many sellers producing the type of paintings in this area that I was.

A photo of my Milky Way galax art print

Above: My top selling print in my shop, “The Milky Way”.


Commissions

I started receiving requests for commissions which was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time! I even had a customer commission multiple pieces from me this year!


3 commissioned mini paintings completed this year.


I Created 23 New Paintings In 2020

This is a record for me, having a store and starting to post my work online really gave me the motivation to create a lot more art this year, compared to 2019 where I only finished 7 paintings the whole year.


My favorite painting of 2020, and also my largest piece is a sunflower field in the mountains at sunset titled "Alpine Gold". This piece measures 20x24in and took me approximately 2-3 months to complete with breaks in between.


Above: ”Alpine Gold“ painting


What I Learned


This would be a very long article if I shared all that I learned this year, (I will put that in another article someday) so I will focus on just a few things.


Time Management: One of my biggest challenges of the year was figuring out where I should be focusing my time and effort. As a semi-professional artist, there are many things that need to be done besides creating such as marketing, taking photos for my shop, ordering supplies and shipping art. Figuring out which of these things is most important and works best for me and my unique life and situation has been really challenging. This is something that watching internet tutorials cannot teach you because everyone's life and situation is unique, and strategies that work for one artist may not work for you.


Push past the doubt and keep creating. Even the biggest artists online and in the world have doubts. I am sure they have days where they wake up and think "what is the point?". What makes these people successful is that they keep showing up despite the doubts. Building yourself as an artist, and starting to sell your work is a process and often a long one, just like an oil painting it does not (usually) happen in one day. I have learned to be okay with this and just enjoy learning and the process.


Above: “Alpine Goldin progress.

Goals For 2021:


Grow on my own platform: I started my website and blog a month ago with the goal of growing on my own platform and depending less on platforms that I don't own like Instagram/social media. My goal for this year is to grow my blog and release some helpful tips for artists and creatives.


Create a Series: My second goal, that I have had for quite some time now, is to create a series of work. I have started on this now and have picked a theme. I don't finish paintings every week and sometimes it takes me more than a month to finish a larger piece, so this will take time. I also jump around a lot with subjects, so it will be challenging to stick with one theme for a while.


Enter an art show or sell in person: My third goal is to either enter an art contest or gallery, or get my art out there in-person. This was impossible for 2020 since fairs and art galleries were closed, but maybe there is hope of this happening this year.


Anyway, it has been a good year for me artistically and I have learned a lot. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone. Thank you for reading!


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