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2015 and what’s ahead for Jen Dixon in 2016

Greetings! I have gone from being an almost obsessive (personal blog) blogger to a most infrequent long-form typist. This deterioration is the result of a few things: Twitter, depression, and a few major life changes. Dust has, inevitably, settled and you’ll be seeing more regular updates here both in the blog and in the portfolio pages.

2015 was perhaps the best and worst year for me professionally. I’ll explain. I sold a lot of work, both large and small, thanks to a great increase in exposure and hard work via social media avenues. I ended a relationship with one gallery, began (and ended) a relationship with another, had a very successful large, three-week, solo exhibition, followed closely by a well-trafficked Open Studios, great sales and conversations at the unique Cruel and Curious exhibition, and two additional exhibitions including a run (which is still going till the end of this month) at the National Trust in Boscastle.

“How tremendously successful and wonderful,” you might be thinking. And it has been. But… 2015 killed my creativity and led to deep professional depression. I barely painted or made anything creative in 2015 because the focus was on the business end of art, almost exclusively. I didn’t update my portfolio. Or Saatchi. Or get my sales site (minimally) launched until December. I was busy with dates, times, spreadsheets, appointments, sales, space planning, installations, tear-downs, contracts and left the art creation in the cold. I have vowed to myself that 2016 will be different. Here’s how.

Firstly, reclaim the title ARTIST. That’s what I am, and while the business of being an artist is woven into my chosen career, it is not to dominate as it did last year. I was terrible at achieving professional balance in 2015 – and I understand the psychological reasons, which is for my personal blog, not here – so, I am changing the way I operate this year. I am an artist. I need to make art.

Secondly, manage my exterior engagements and opportunities better. I intentionally have not sought another solo exhibition for 2016. I do not need to do one every year – that’s madness. I am doing Open Studios again [28 May – 5 June], but although the work involved is deceptively great for such an event, it is not all-consuming in the same way a solo exhibition is. I am interested in being a part of Cruel and Curious again, but that happens later in the year, so I feel I’m spreading the ‘public engagement’ load.

Thirdly, I am the best salesperson for my art. I have been included in two, very good galleries in Cornwall and have sold one – inexpensive – work through them. That’s after each had a selection of my paintings for – combined – a year and a half. Unacceptable. In the same amount of time, I sold thousands of pounds worth of my paintings, drawings and prints around the world. Direct sales is the way forward, as no one wants to sell like I want to sell. This is my living. I sell to pay rent, go to the dentist, eat, and buy materials to make more art. I don’t buy myself perfume, handbags, or go out to restaurants. I make art for living, and no one will ever sell my art with that in mind but me. So, no galleries this year; I can’t afford them.

Lastly, share the knowledge. I have a huge amount of teaching experience and have had two art book manuscripts started for years. Years. That changes now. I’ll get one written this year, possibly published. I’m also looking into becoming an online tutor with a specific site, and will have packaged, downloadable lessons on my own site as well. Private tuition will still happen in my studio, but growing my student base through online avenues and publications is the way forward.

In summary, 2015 was great and terrible, but that was largely down to me making it so. 2016 is building on all the tough stuff learned and moving very positively forward. Let’s go!

Open Studios

I’ve just completed my first Open Studios event, which means that for nine straight days, between the hours of 11 and 4 every day, I had a sign on the curb and strangers (and friends, and maybe some strange friends) coming into my home to check out what I do. It’s been exhausting, but worth it. I piggy-backed onto the official Open Studios Cornwall event, and in doing so was determined to go the nine day distance with the rest of the participants. In future, I think I may do things a little differently, but overall I came away with a renewed studio discipline (no going up to sun myself midday – work work work), made new contacts, made a few sales, and got more practice at talking about my work and process.

Today is a strange day, as I’m catching up with the business side of art that has been left unattended for a week. I am rebuilding this site, have spreadsheets to add to or create, and a newsletter overdue. People don’t want to see that when they come to an open studio; they expect art happening, so I painted (and painted and painted) for the open hours. Loved it, but still felt a little trapped in those strict hours. Also, as someone who suffers from ADHD and depression, being constantly “on” was tiring. I’m coming away from the event feeling a little mentally and physically hungover, but I expected to.

Now, I have a cup of Russian Caravan tea, some drum and bass music playing, and a website to build. I’ll paint this afternoon, on my terms and during the hours I choose, happily not listening for someone at the door (was distracting, but unavoidable, obviously).

In the immortal words of a Soul II Soul pop song from the late 80s… Back to life, back to reality.

Open Studios Cornwall 2014

Although I’m not an official participant* I’ll be opening my studios to the public during Open Studios Cornwall 2014. It runs from 24 May through 1 June, around 11-4pm. A group of my life drawing class students are exhibiting together on the other side of the valley at the Legion Hall (Legion Hall, St Gennys EX23 0NS) and Max Burrows is exhibiting at Wooda Farm (where we life draw) at Crackington Haven EX23 0LF.

If you’d like to come in to watch me work in my studios (I may be painting in the “wet” studio, or drawing in the “dry” studio) then please do. I’m at Sunset Vista, Crackington Haven EX23 0JH. You’ll know I’m open by the road sign. (I’ll be closed on Wednesday due to my teaching class and a dentist appointment in the afternoon.)

If you’re interested in buying one of my works, I have lots of affordable paintings mounted and ready for standard frames available, starting at £65. I have a chip and pin credit card terminal to accept Visa, Mastercard, or Paypal securely.

Looking forward to meeting you!

(*I didn’t have the fee at the time of last year’s signup to be in the catalogue, but I’m still enthusiastically promoting the event.)