Be Smart About Art

Take time to reflect on projects gone by (and impact future ones)

written by: Susan Mumford Dec. 21, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 3664 views

Take time to reflect on projects gone by (and impact future ones)

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

After you finish a show, commission, or other project, what do you do? Move on to what’s happening next?

When running a one-person or small creative enterprise, it never seems like you have enough time to do everything. And so it’s easy to jump from one project to the next without looking back. Reflecting on what’s gone well and what hasn’t can have a major impact on the success of future endeavours.

The timing of this blog post is deliberate, for the festive break and entry into the new year (or the equivalent in your culture) is a perfect opportunity to reflect on activities of the past year. As much as you are ready to plan the year ahead, how can lessons from the past 12 months inform the future?

For example, one UK-based gallerist I know is planning to repeat the events (art fairs, number of exhibitions, etc) of the past year in the coming one. Nothing more, nothing less. His business is young and according to research, it takes doing specific events such as fairs no less than 3 times to properly gain traction. By repeating the same events and doing them more effectively based on real experiences, the probability is that the gallery (and thus, represented artists) will see an improvement in sales and impact in the period ahead. Doing this will also offer like-for-like comparisons to make even more informed decisions for the subsequent year.

Why not sit down with your favourite festive beverage and reflect on the past 12 months, to help you make informed decisions for the future? If you’ve already mapped out the coming year, don’t forget to pay attention to lessons learned and implement necessary changes. 

Enjoy this ‘Reflecting, Learning & Planning’ exercise:

Step 1: Draw a calendar of the last year (month, days of the week, dates and all).

Step 2: State the various events & projects that took place throughout the year, so that they visually span the dates in the calendar. Be sure to include commissions and the like.

Step 3: On separate paper, list each event / project, with 9 lines drawn under each event.

Step 4: Give headings for the 9 lines, which are separated into 3 categories, with 3 points each: 1) Worked well; 2) Didn’t work well (or could have been done differently); 3) Changes to make next time (for improved results).

Step 5: Complete the 3 areas for each listing. In some cases, you might have even more take-away action points than just 3 items!


When you then look at the plan for the year ahead, incorporate the learning points for relevant happenings. Keep this guide to hand so that when new opportunities come up throughout the year, you don’t simply repeat what you have previously done, but implement positive changes. 
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Photographs © Chris King.

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Ha, I love this idea.

So often it is easy to scoot from one project to another without really thinking about what just happened... I especially like the idea of doing the the review during January, *before* making any resolutions...

I now start my New Year (and attendant resolutions) in February, and I find it a lot easier after using Jan for reflection on the past year :)