The Art of Practice – Tip #7

 

There’s a bit of a mixed message lurking within today’s tip, and I’d love to know your thoughts. Here’s the tip:

Join a Community of Believers

It’s dangerous to go it alone. Find your people — the ones who are searching for the same inspiration and results.

 

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To me, this tip seems to contradict the earlier advice about keeping secrets. We can’t really do both, can we? We can choose to share our art by joining groups and taking part in workshops, or we can keep our secrets and do our drawing and painting alone, partaking of that intimate experience suggested in the third practice tip.

Yes, there is a middle option — joining online groups yet not fully participating — but what would be the point in that?

To be clear, today’s tip doesn’t specify art-related groups and organizations. A community of believers can be any group of like-minded individuals — a religious congregation, a hiking club, a book club, or a sports team, just to throw out a few possibilities. Of course, while some of these groups may share our passions and while they may be inspiring, it’s unlikely they’re searching for the same results we are. Maybe they’re searching for the same life results — happiness, success in setting and achieving goals, good relationships — but unless individuals are actively involved in the arts world, the results they’re seeking probably aren’t going to coincide with ours.

I believe many of us share a common goal: to become better artists. Regardless of where we may be on our journey, we can always improve. We can learn new techniques, we can work with different subjects, we can develop new skills. Art is a never-ending process of learning and growing. An art club or association can help with those things.

Joining with other artists can be a valuable experience; it can also be intimidating. I remember well how excited I was when I was invited to join our local fine arts association. I remember, too, how inadequate I felt after attending a meeting and seeing so much true artistic talent.

It’s good, of course, to meet other artists, and it’s especially good to know of various workshops, programs, and other art events going on in the community. Joining a group is worth the annual dues just for that information alone, in my humble opinion.

In addition to the local fine arts association, I am now a member of our Tri-County Art League, as well. While I still feel a bit intimidated at times, I’m much more comfortable in the Art League group. So, I’ve learned from experience that not all groups are created equal, and maybe we have to look around a bit to find the groups that work best for us.

Tri-County Art League

One reason I enjoy the Art League is because our meeting time works so much better for my schedule than the local association. The Art League has had interesting, well-planned programs and everyone in the group is friendly and supportive.

At our most recent meeting, we had a sketching session using reference photos from one member’s trip to Leadville, Colorado. It was interesting to learn a bit about the town and its history. We were then given an opportunity to choose a photograph of one of the row houses where the miners once lived. These little houses have been revitalized with fresh paint, decorative shutters, and lots of gingerbread.

I selected a photo and took a deep breath. Lately I’ve been working a lot on linear perspective and how to draw buildings that aren’t skewed out of proportion. I chose what I felt was the simplest structure — and it turned out to be quite a challenge. I came home feeling a wee bit inadequate again. “You should see the talent everybody else has,” I lamented to my husband. I showed him my sketch, and he liked it. Of course he liked it. He’s my husband, right?

The next morning — to my surprise — I saw my drawing posted on the Art League page along with a couple others. I had no idea anyone was taking photos at the meeting, but there was my little row house sketch. Mine’s the one in the lower right corner.

Leadville Drawings

I did, at least, manage to come up with a sketch that resembled the reference photo. Maybe it’s not all that bad, really. Compared to my previous attempts at drawing buildings, maybe it’s not that bad at all. It could be better; it could be worse.

Joining a group opens up many new opportunities — opportunities to meet other artists and make new friends, opportunities to ask questions and discuss drawing and painting techniques, opportunities to try things we might otherwise never do. It provides opportunities to become actively involved within the arts community through workshops, programs, art fairs, local festivals, and exhibitions. We can each decide, of course, how many activities we want to participate in.

Still, groups aren’t for everyone. Had I joined a group when I first began learning to draw, I would have been so discouraged I’m sure I would have quit. Not just the group, but my attempts at learning. My advice is to join a group only when you’ve developed confidence in your drawing or painting.

Groups can be encouraging and supportive. Groups can also be competitive and intimidating. Look for groups where you feel at home, groups which work well with your schedule and location, groups that present programs and workshops that will enable you to grow as an artist. Find a group you like, and become an active participant.

Remember, too, that Facebook offers many, many art-related groups. There are groups for individuals who paint skies and clouds, groups for artists who do seascapes, groups for beginning artists, for floral painters, for watercolorists, for… you get the idea. There are groups for every artist in every genre at every level of experience.

Now you’ve heard my thoughts and experiences. Maybe your thoughts and experiences are different. I’d love to know your opinions about art clubs and associations.

  • Are they helpful?
  • How do we know when we’re ready?
  • What benefits have you received?
  • Would you advise other artists to join?

I look forward to reading  your comments!

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