December 20, 2023

December - it's time again for my annual review. My first thought as I looked back was: Phew, that was a tough one! This year has been quite challenging for me, especially mentally. One thing leads to another and in the end the overall impression is that I failed - if it weren't for ...

Yes, if it weren't for the wonderful moments I remember while writing. The year went differently than I had expected, yes. Plans didn't work out, goals were missed. I had to fight a few battles with myself. And yet: I got to know myself a little better, defended my boundaries and celebrated my successes. Even if they were sometimes only small.

Mission complete?

The beauty of writing a year in review is not just the reflection itself. You also have your plans for the next year in black and white. So I reread my 2022 review and realized that the motto for 2023 should be "Spread your wings". - Well, it turned out to be: Dip your toe in the water (but carefully).

I specifically mentioned these goals in my last annual review: I wanted to

  • Attend at least one art fair - I accomplished this goal.
  • Visit exhibitions and galleries - I saw some wonderful art this year. Not as much as I would have liked, but more is always possible.
  • Keep an eye out for exhibition opportunities - Nothing has come up yet, but I have been researching.
  • Continue to network with artists and gallery owners - Some nice contacts were made this year.

Strictly speaking, I was able to achieve my goals, but I wasn't able to achieve this attitude of optimism, to get going, to spread my wings and fly this year.

I started January with a lot of energy and a desire for new things. But then, out of nowhere, depression hit. There was no specific trigger, but suddenly I found myself in a deep, dark hole. It took a lot of strength to get out. Art was my catalyst. It helped me to express myself and to paint against my fears.

It wasn't about creating anything. I was just painting for myself. Color choice was very important. My palette is often quite neutral, but in January, the darker it was inside me, the more vivid and colorful the colors became. My own history with depression goes back several years. In my first blog post of the year, Art and Depression: Expression Instead of Repression, I wrote about it in detail. That helped me as well.

Unfortunately, it remained a recurring theme. Throughout the year, depression kept catching up with me, throwing me back, constricting my space, holding me back, sometimes really stubbornly. So fluttering around happily like a bird and spreading my wings was unfortunately not an option for me this year. But I came out again. Every time!

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Review of the Year: Highlights and Challenges

As soon as I was able to do so, I set out to accomplish my most important goal for the year. I wanted to participate in an art fair. Except for a few group shows, my art business has been mostly online. Going to the fairs was therefore part of my plan to spread my wings. Since I already had a specific market in mind (not too big and not too small to start with), I applied as soon as the call for entries opened and was actually accepted. Yay!

My whole focus was now on this event. I went through my artwork and chose what to exhibit. I created new art and planned the presentation. A car had to be rented for transportation, I needed cribs and other materials. New business cards needed to be printed, a QR code payment method needed to be set up, and samples of materials needed to be provided. There was so much to think about. Sometimes I dreamed about the preparations.

As the date approached, I started to worry about the weather. The summer looked rainy, but that was deceptive. Throughout June and the first week of July, temperatures continued to rise. Later, climate scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Climate Change Service Copernicus determined that July was possibly the hottest month in thousands of years. Overall, the three weeks at the beginning of July were the warmest three-week block ever recorded. We can see climate change at work ...

With solar-powered fans, cooling clothes and plenty of water, we tried to prepare for the weather at the last minute.

Art Fair

On July 9th the time has come. We start setting up at 7:00 a.m., and by this time it's almost unbearable in the sun. I am very pleased with my presentation. It suits me and my art. Stefan is very supportive, even during the preparations, and is at my side the whole day. The guys also come by to help.

My booth neighbors are really nice. In general, it's a nice group of people showing their art. The space I am assigned is also very nice, right on the water. But it soon becomes clear that the 9th of July will be a meteorological desert day (as we call it in Europe). Temperatures will rise to over 38 degrees Celsius. And my stand is on the northwest side of the little cultural island on Lake Phoenix: that means it casts its shadow to the back. If you stand in front and look, you are in the blazing sun.

Soon we turn our fans towards the audience, but they can't do much. And then the market has to end two hours early because of a thunderstorm.

Overcoming Doubts

When a goal falls away - whether because you hit it or missed it - there is often an emptiness. That's how I feel after the fair. But there also are doubts. Existential doubts. Sure, it was really hot and the other stalls were hardly selling anything either, but does it make sense to be here? Are the people who say you can't make a living at this right? Am I putting too much burden on my family? Am I even good enough? I question myself completely, I feel miserable and I'm about to give up everything.

But Stefan and the boys support me and encourage me to go on. So I sit down and take a good look at myself. Will I really only have the costs left in the end? It wasn't worth it financially, that's for sure. But there is so much more.

The response from people has been fantastic. I got a lot of praise and genuine interest. People asked questions, I got to talk to people about my art (quite a challenge for me as an introvert), I got to see how people reacted to my paintings.

I also met other artists and was able to share experiences. I found out which of my preparations made sense, which didn't, and where I needed to improve. These are all experiences that can flow into my business and that I can use. Do I really want to give up because the fair wasn't a success? Of course not, but sometimes you have to deal with failure.

So I keep going. With new knowledge!
The first attempt didn't work - so what? I'll keep trying. However, just keep going until it works at some point, my business is not yet generating enough for this financial framework. Because such an attempt costs a lot of money. That means I have to strengthen my online presence, expand it further and put money aside for the next attempt. I also have to be more selective about what is worthwhile.

I'm also in talks with a gallery owner. This could also be a possible way forward. Let's see if I have something to announce in the new year.


Our oldest has moved out. *sob*.
A big step for him and for us. Letting go can be very hard. But I know he has the ability to go his own way. He is brave and strong and confident. He is responsible and knows that we will always be there to support him. As a gift for his new apartment, I made him a cookbook with all his favorite recipes. Now he has something to look at when he doesn't know what to eat. And later, he can flip through it and remember what his mom used to make.

A friendship also came to an end this year. A relatively young friendship, we had known each other for less than two years, but it still hurts. I feel violated, a little betrayed, and very disappointed. I don't want to write more about it here, it would go too far. But experiences like this need to be processed and are reflected in my art in some way.


In October, I sell some paintings and Stefan gets a generous payout from VG-Wort. Unexpected - and above unplanned - money. We decide to invest some of it in a vacation. We desperately need one! Yan has been dreaming of seeing Paris for a long time, so we fulfill his (and our) wish.

Once again, the three of us set off in a rented car at the beginning of November (our eldest can't take time off at such short notice). On the way, we stop in Épernay, in the heart of Champagne. The weather is mild, almost springlike, and the air is very soft. A great way to start our French adventure.

We arrive in Paris early the next morning. We spend four days wandering the city, experiencing art and history, and watching Yan marvel. It's wonderful! I write about the trip in my November blog post Sketches in Luggage: A Declaration of Love to Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries


Place Dauphine

Visit to the Louvre: 6 Works of Art on the Wish List

Yan's first time in Paris? A visit to the Louvre is a must. He wants to see the Mona Lisa with his own eyes. But a visit to the world's largest museum needs to be well-prepared. After all, there are more than 35,000 works of art on display over 70,000 square meters and a distance of more than 24 kilometers - and that's just a fraction of the art treasures still lying dormant in the storerooms.

So we think carefully about what we want to see. It's impossible to see everything. In addition to the Mona Lisa, we agree on a short list of 6 works of art and are open to everything along the way.

  • The Nike of Samothrace
  • The Wedding at Cana (Paolo Caliari, gen. Veronese)
  • Coronation of Napoleon I (Jacques Louis David)
  • The Raft of the Medusa (Théodore Géricault)
  • Liberty Leads the People (Eugène Delacroix)
  • Gabrielle d'Estrées and one of her sisters (School of Fontainebleau)

Perfectly placed at the top of the stairs to the Denon wing is the Nike of Samothrace. I am especially looking forward to this one. The movement and dynamics of this statue are breathtaking. The rich detail of the wings, how delicately the clothes, damp from the spray, envelop the body of the goddess of victory... I am thrilled! My absolute highlight of this visit to the museum.

A crowd gathers around the Mona Lisa - as always. Even though it is November and we have booked the first visitor slot in the morning. And almost everyone is turning their backs on a truly monumental masterpiece. The Wedding of Cana hangs directly across from the Mona Lisa. At 6.66 × 9.90 meters, it is one of the largest paintings ever created on canvas. It is opulent, stunning and colorful. It's worth turning around!

At 6.21 m x 9.79 m, The Coronation of Napoleon I is slightly smaller than The Wedding at Cana, but just as impressive. Napoleon himself commissioned this painting from the artist Jacques-Louis David for his coronation. Despite this fact and the title, the painting actually depicts Josephine's coronation as the empress.

Fun fact: Napoleon's mother, a typically horrible mother-in-law, thought Josephine was not good enough for her son. So she refused to attend the coronation. That doesn't stop a man with power. Napoleon ordered the artist to include her in the painting anyway. The artist chose his own mother as the model and immortalized her in the famous masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the painting has since darkened and lost some of its luster.

The Raft of the Medusa is also a monumental work. At around 5 x 7 meters, it is smaller than the previous two, but still, that's almost 35 square meters! Canvases of such dimensions were normally reserved for Bible stories, battles or the glory of rulers. But Théodore Géricault had inherited wealth. He was not dependent on patrons or state institutions to buy his work - he could paint whatever he wanted.

Two years before the artist created his work, the French frigate Medusa ran aground on a sandbank and sank. There were not enough dinghies for everyone, so a raft was built to be pulled by the boats. 150 people tried to save themselves on the raft. But the officers and the captain in the boats soon cut the rope and fled ashore themselves. The raft drifted across the Atlantic for 12 days. Only 15 people survived.

Théodore Géricault immortalized this event in his masterpiece, which is unfortunately still very relevant given the number of people we abandon to their fate in the Mediterranean Sea. Right next to the raft should have been The Liberty Leads the People. A painting that Stefan and I had been looking forward to seeing. But it wasn't there. Either it was on loan for a special exhibition or it was being restored. Good for the painting, bad for us!

Felsengrottenmadonna | Virgin of the Rocks Leonardo da Vinci

Kaiserkrönung Napoleon I. | Coronation of Napoleon - Jacques-Louis David

Madame Récamier - Jacques-Louis David

Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci

Statue der Nike von Samothrake im Louvre, Paris.

Die Nike von Samothrake

Floß der Medusa | Raft of the Medusa - Théodore Géricault

The last painting - Gabrielle d'Estrées and one of her sisters - was on the list from the beginning as only-if-it-fits. Just me wanted to see it, and only because I'm currently reading The Purple Line. In it, author Wolfram Fleischhauer spins an exciting criminal story about the creation of the painting with its mysterious symbolism.

The historical fact that Gabrielle died under unexplained and gruesome circumstances just days before her planned wedding to Henry IV, King of France, as well as the strange pose in which the two women are depicted, inspired Fleischhauer to write the story. I've always found this fascinating and would have loved to see the painting.

But we had already been in the museum for more than 4 hours and would have had to go to the other wing. We decided against this walk.


This year I explored new artistic paths for myself. After playing mainly with textures last year, color was very important to me this year. Vibrant nuances and delicate shades give my paintings a refreshing lightness and depth.

The themes of my art this year: light, nature, landscape and the changing seasons. The world I live in. My art is always a reflection of my inner self. With what I have created this year, I am expressing myself: The world is beautiful, life is beautiful and I want to be a part of it - despite all the depression.

In this sense, it is also important for me to be open, to stay curious and to try new things. This experimentation not only opens up new aesthetic possibilities for me, but also reflects my constant search for expression and innovation. My work remains a journey, inspired by the world around me, while continuing to shape my own artistic identity.

In addition to color games and many (travel) sketches, 4 art series have been created this year.



Field of Flowers

A Walk through the Parks

  • Wintermood

The series captures the clear light of a white winter sky. Glistening whites and cool blues dominate, occasionally punctuated by warm earth tones. Wintermood captures the fairytale beauty of winter.

  • Awaken

Spring awakening. With its delicate, often feminine colors, Awaken reflects the spectacle of nature as the world awakens from winter after a seeming standstill.

  • Field of Flowers

Through fleeting gestures with watercolor, lines in ink or pastel, and the addition of a little texture, an abstract Field of Flowers was created on artist's paper.

  • A Walk Through the Parks

As the summer fades, the full lushness of nature unfolds again with its greens, oranges and yellows. In the art series A Walk through the Parks, I wander through these lush landscapes.

Art business: How is it going?

This year I was able to sell several pieces of art, both through the Saatchi-Art gallery and through my own website (a piece from the Cracked series traveled the farthest, to Brooklyn). I have had nearly 3,000 visitors to my website so far in 2023. Both my reach and number of social media followers are increasing. I was able to double the number of my newsletter subscribers in the spring by giving away an original work of art. I'm happy about each and every one of them.

Sure, I would be happy about a "breakthrough" if something of mine went viral. However, I'm happy with continuous positive development, even if it's only step by step.

This is also true for my blog. This is my 22nd blog post this year. I enjoy writing about the things that concern me. It gives me the feeling of going deeper. And the topics don't always have to be serious. My 5 favorite blog posts of this year are

  1. Do you also like personality tests à la: What flower are you? Sure, it's all crap, but it's fun. And I wanted to design one myself. So if you want to know if you're an aesthetic art connoisseur, an empathic explorer, or a collector of memories, have fun with my Quiz: What Art Type Are You?
  2. In my blog post Imposter Syndrome: I'm (not) a fraud, I talk about the feeling of not being enough. It's a personal but universal exploration of the topic, and I also reveal what helps me cope with this feeling.
  3. Inspired by the jazz classic, A Few of my Favorite Things, I ask me 10 questions about my favorite things. Perhaps you'd like to ask yourself questions such as What quality do you admire in others? or What are the top 5 things in your picnic basket? It would be great if you could write in the comments what your favorite things are.
  4. Every artistic era has an impact on the people who live in it and those who come after. In the Renaissance, however, painters went from craftsmen to artists. In the blog post The Renaissance: When Paintbrushes Changed the World, I describe the impact this era still has today-and not just on art.
  5. Species conservation and environmental protection are very important to me. So it goes without saying that sustainability is also important to me, especially in my art practice. In Sustainable Painting with Acrylic I talk about how I, as an artist, avoid microplastics in wastewater.

My Recommendation: Art Blogs and Podcasts

In the spirit of sharing is caring, I would like to share with you some blogs and podcasts that I enjoy reading and listening to. Maybe there's something for you too.

Caroline Millar Art Blog

Caroline is a Scottish artist who writes her blog posts sporadically. But it's worth the wait. With a lot of self-deprecation and what she herself calls Glasgow humor, she writes about inspiration, life and her love for what she does - art. Highly recommended reading!

What can art do - Britta Kadolsky

Under the motto "The more you know, the more you see," the art historian writes mainly about modern and contemporary art and architecture in her blog, but she also makes detours to the old masters from time to time. I especially liked her blog post about the Center for International Light Art in my hometown of Unna. It is, by the way, the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to this art form. In German.

Art Juice

Two artists in conversation. In their podcast, Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan talk about the realities of being an artist, share their work, and discuss practical and philosophical issues.

Close Your Eyes

A podcast about art without being able to see the paintings - is that possible? Yes, it is possible! With a mixture of passion, expertise and humor, the two hosts - one an art historian, the other an art lover - dedicate each monthly episode to a unique artist. They discuss not only their most important works, but also biographical twists and turns. Close your eyes is a great podcast for rediscovering famous artists and their works. In German.

Kunstreiche Blog

In her blog, artist Dagmar Reiche offers a glimpse behind the scenes. She writes about everything related to art, from inspiration to exhibitions. In German.

What else happened: My year in photos

Viele abstrakte Malereien auf Papier

Kräftige Farben

Bereit zur Abfahrt | Ready to go


On its way to a new home

Treasures along the way


 Artist luggage

Sketching in Paris


Happy Place

 The prize of the art raffle

Reiseskizze | Travel sketch

Die kleinen Dinge | The little things

Sommerzeit | Summer time

 Homemade art tools

Looking ahead: My goals for 2024

Next year, I want to be guided by the word Simplicity.

I'm keeping my eye on my long-term goal of making my art business viable. But I want to take the pressure off. Anything complicated, superfluous, anything that doesn't serve me - and anyone that doesn't serve me shouldn't have a place in my life.
I go my own way, I don't get distracted, not even by setbacks. However, I refrain from setting specific goals for the coming year.

That doesn't stop me from making a wish list. But once again, the focus should be on experiencing, not achieving!

What I wish for the year 2024

  • Have a new experience
  • More time for partnership
  • Make my art practice more sustainable
  • Walk on the beach and breathe the ocean
  • Apply for an artist residency
  • Reactivate my yoga practice
  • Sell more art than this year
  • A city break. Dublin would be nice, but I'm not set on it.
  • No more late night work
  • Go to the theater again
  • Discover a new author
  • Art, much more art. Big and small, my own and that of other artists. In museums, exhibitions and studio visits...

Exhibitions I would like to see

The art year 2024 will be marked by a number of special anniversaries and anniversaries. The National Gallery of Art in London will be 200 years old. The very first Impressionist exhibition took place 150 years ago, and both Frida Kahlo and Henri Matisse died 70 years ago. The art world is also celebrating the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich. All of this is reflected in the exhibition programs of the major museums.

I have marked a few exhibitions in my calendar that I don't want to miss:

Paris 1874

To commemorate the anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition, there are jubilee exhibitions throughout the year and around the world. Two of them are entitled Paris 1874, and both are of great interest to me.
The exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne focuses on the transition from the traditional Paris Salon to Impressionism. It will run from March 15 to July 28, 2024.
From March 26 to July 14, 2024, the Musée d'Orsay will show the emergence of an artistic movement in a rapidly changing world through 130 works.

Frans Hals - Master of the Moment

Along with Vermeer and Rembrandt, Frans Hals is one of the great Dutch painters. He was also the first among them to portray social outsiders. His paintings were not about idealization, but about characterization. His paintings radiate joy and vibrancy. Currently in London, the exhibition will be on view at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin from July 12 to November 3, 2024.


The exhibition Women - Artists between Frankfurt and Paris around 1900 at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt also deals with a time of great artistic change. It highlights the role of women in this process. From Paris and Frankfurt, many women artists established international networks and supported each other. Women artists, who were by no means the exception in a male-dominated cultural scene! The exhibition takes a look at the training and working situation of women artists in modern times. It will be on display from July 10 to October 27, 2024.


The naked body is one of the most common subjects in art history. The artist's gaze can be intimate, lustful, politically charged, or questioning of identity, gender, or sexuality. The current exhibition at the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster features 90 works by renowned artists such as Auguste Rodin and Pablo Picasso. It can be seen until April 14, 2024.

What did I learn?

I have learned some lessons this year, some of them painful. What I have taken away is that I can actively decide what and who is not good for me, and that it is even necessary to banish such things from my life, in order to protect my well-being.

This has made me rethink my priorities and focus on what is really important to me - privately, my relationship with Stefan and our family. Self-care and self-respect create space for positive change and healthy relationships.

Sometimes it's hard to let go of certain people or habits, but I've realized that it's a crucial step in maintaining my own happiness and peace of mind. So my New Year's resolution is to let go of anything that is draining my positive energy and make room for growth, joy and fulfillment.


I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart! Whether you're reading one of my blog posts for the first time or you've been following me for a while, whether you've bought a piece of my art, commented, liked or simply followed my work. I am honored to be able to share my creativity, and this support gives me the motivation to continue to pursue my passion. I look forward to another year of sharing, inspiration and growth. Thank you for being a part of this journey and sharing my passion with me.

Finally, I would also like to thank Judith Peters. Several hundred people now write their annual report together each year. She is the originator and creator of this event.

Are you part of this caring and supportive community? Leave a link in the comments. I would love to read your review! Even if you didn't write it in this friendly group - maybe next year?

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About the Author Lea Finke

Lea Finke is an artist with all her soul. In her blog, she talks about inspiration, passion, and encounters with art.

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