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Welcoming 2021 by reflecting on 2020

A selection of artwork snapshots made by illustrato Natalie Rowland in 2020.

2020 has been both a wild ride of a year, really, and on the flip-side strangely peaceful too. It has turned out very differently than how I hoped when it started out (for obvious reasons), but I definitely feel that it has given me the time and focus to really push myself and my art to higher standards.

Last January, we were signing a lease for a new flat that would finally offer a dedicated space just for illustrating, I had found ideal part-time employment just the month before that I was thriving in, and looking forward to opportunities like the Bookmarks fair in March. Obviously, by the time we'd moved into the new accommodation by the end of February, the writing was on the wall and fairs were out of the question as a full Lockdown was implemented.

Even an old bike can help broaden horizons.

I was fortunate that furlough pay was able to carry me through until September, when my position became redundant, and having my illustration to keep me productive and driven has certainly been a mental health boon. Not having the option of the gym any more I've explored several options to keep fit, including, but not limited to, a third-hand bicycle that has been a pleasure to explore local parks and pathways with. I've also been studying Scots Gaelic thanks to the wonderful Duolingo app and have completed the course and am now looking at other options to further my language study. And socially we managed to maintain our monthly "Dinner Club" with friends via takeaways with Zoom Chats instead of restaurant visits.

On the Illustration front, I'd like to applaud Creative Circles, Picture Hooks and the Edinburgh Literary Salon for providing many of the highlights of my year. The Edinburgh Book Festival going ahead in an online format had me delighted. Shout-out to the illustration buddies WhatsApp chat where we've been able to support each other too. And the various Discord Chat Servers I've joined have certainly helped keep that lonely feeling at bay while providing a much needed space to seek feedback and share successes with peers.

My highlights for 2020 include:

- Seeing the Birthday Card Range I designed for CHSS become available in their stores. Last I heard over 2000 people got gifted one in 2020, despite shops being shut for months at a time. Nice!

- I uploaded over 20 new designs to my RedBubble Store, and increased sales on that platform six-fold over the previous year, with "Skater Rat" being one of the most popular designs. - I'm gaining confidence in my product range for my Etsy Store, with two five-star ratings from UK buyers just the last month. (Also, psst, it's currently got a sale on!)

- I got 12 cups of Tea from Ko-Fi donations in 2020. Thank you so much for the support!

2020 Projects where I shined:

In 2020, I was still figuring out what subject matter was "Me." My monthly projects, made more ambitious by the extra-time at home enforced by the pandemic, have given me the space to explore and nail down a direction. I feel this has been best exemplified in my Fairy Oil Painting series, the Colouring Things book I made, and some of my digital illustrations from November.

Going into 2021, I very much intend to take this more confident approach further and work on getting more commissions while continuing to build a portfolio of Zines and Artwork to bring that sense of wonder and fantasy I love to the world.

Happy New Year, every one!


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