After writing yesterday’s post and looking back at where I was a year ago, of course I wondered where I’d been a year previous to that. When I searched back through the blog for August 2017, I found that I was on another hiatus from art, and I knew why.
I was intimidated. In the last post I’d made — dated June 10 — I had shared my excitement about being invited to join our regional fine arts association. I was excited, indeed, but at the same time, I was filled with doubts. Did I really belong among talented artists? Would I really benefit from joining? Or would the whole experience prove to be so humiliating that I would turn tail and run?
The quick answer is that I turned and ran. I felt like a phony. I didn’t belong there, and one had only to look at my amateurish attempts at art to see that. But after a while, I got brave enough to try drawing and painting again.
Now, two years later, I am a member of three art associations, and I’m getting ready to participate in an art show hosted by another association. I guess that would suggest that I’ve found clubbing to be a valuable part of my art journey.
In truth… well, it is and it isn’t.
Let me share a few of my thoughts about art clubs and activities. It goes without saying, I think, that every art club is different, but I think most serve a similar purpose — to promote art within the community and to give local artists a showcase for their work. Beyond that, though, clubs can vary greatly. Some present excellent programs; others not so much. Some make it easy for members to put their artwork on display; others not so much. Some are a lot of fun; others not so much.
And for fairly-inexperienced artists — like me — an art association definitely can be intimidating, more so than encouraging. At least that’s been my experience. Being surrounded by very talented artists showing off their work and talking about the awards they’ve won leaves me wondering what I’m doing there among them. I’m clearly not on their level.
On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the members of these clubs, and when I do have a work I’m proud of, it’s fun to show it off and hear those very talented artists telling me they like what I’ve done.
One of the clubs I belong to doesn’t even ask that members be artists. The requirement is merely that members enjoy art and want to support it in the community. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.
The biggest advantage to being in an art association is the activities the group sponsors. In addition to art shows, the groups I belong to occasionally arrange field trips, plein aire painting events, open studios, and informative lectures about different aspects of art such as art therapy or marketing one’s art.
Having display opportunities is also an advantage, especially if you’re wanting to sell your work. Through the clubs I belong to, I can display paintings at community centers, banks, our public libraries, doctors’ offices, and civic centers. Even though I’m not trying to sell my art, it’s great fun to hang a picture in a public place and feel proud of it.
Another advantage, of course, comes from getting to know artists in the area, making connections, and learning about art activities going on in nearby communities. You’ll soon learn that most of the judges who’ll be reviewing your work are artists that you’ve gotten to know. Not that that will influence their decisions, but it just feels a little friendlier to me somehow. I respect the opinions of these artists, and because I know them I can later talk to them and ask them how I can improve or what advice they might give me.
But before you rush our to join one or more art clubs, let’s talk a little bit about disadvantages.
- The clubs I belong to don’t always meet at times that are convenient for me, or at locations that are close. Especially during the winter months, I miss most meetings because I don’t want to venture out in the evenings when it’s already dark, or the weather might be a bit threatening.
- Club communication is not always what it should be. Most clubs have newsletters that are mailed out or sent by email. Sometimes they arrive in a timely manner, but as often as not I seem to get my newsletters only a day or two before a meeting. That doesn’t give me much time to plan or prepare.
- A lot of good ideas fall by the wayside. More than once I’ve been excited about an upcoming meeting or event, only to have it swept under some rug or put on some parliamentary table and never mentioned again. Occasionally meetings are canceled, programs are rescheduled, and lot of events never get past the talking stage.
- Instead of the helpful demonstrations and instruction I expected, a lot of programs are just “here’s a project — do it”. It reminds me a lot of high school art class. I’ve attended meetings where the project was to create a nocturnal scene, or to work from a still life arrangement. We’re artists, and I guess we’re all expected to know how to do these things. One reason I joined these groups was in hope of seeing techniques demonstrated and having more experienced artists guide me a bit in my efforts. I’m not finding that in every club.
Does it sound as though I’m discouraged by these art clubs? I’ll admit, sometimes I am a little disappointed, and more than once I’ve come home from a meeting feeling so awful I didn’t want to think about drawing or painting again.
But after a few days of licking my artistic wounds, I’ve gone back to my drawing board or back to my easel, and I’ve kept at it, doing what I can to improve my abilities.
I have enjoyed getting to know other artists, and it does feel good to be an active part of the arts community in our region. Had I not joined any art associations, I would never have known about the various art shows or other activities going on around me. For that reason alone, I do consider my club memberships very valuable.
Art clubbing may or may not be for you. Like me, you might feel hesitant to put yourself and your work on display, or to have other artists hovering over your shoulder, watching you draw. You might sometimes feel unsure about whether or not to make a comment or ask a question.
On the other hand, like me, you might find a few supportive friends you can talk to, genuinely talented artists who will share their knowledge, and best of all, a sense of belonging.
Every day I still question whether or not I have the right to call myself an artist, and then everyday I remind myself that I do belong to several art associations. Maybe I don’t have to be an artist to join, but that’s irrelevant. If I belong to an artists’ group, I must be an artist.
Maybe not, but I like to believe that I am.