I sometimes marvel at how some of the most rewarding things in life simply “happen” of their own accord. We’re at the right place at the right time. A casual conversation leads to awesome opportunities. Somehow we just “happen” to make the right connections at precisely the right moment. It fascinates me and leaves me wondering how life might have been different had I not done a certain specific thing at a certain specific time.
So, what would have happened had I not visited our local library one summer morning? Well, first, let’s consider what did happen. I browsed through the art books, found myself in a conversation with another library patron, and the question came up. “Are you an artist, too?” A few simple words, a moment spent sharing photos of paintings, and an invitation to join a “fine arts association”.
I was excited. I was ecstatic. I rushed home to share my good news with my husband. I was going to become a member of an art club. But then, of course, that excitement turned to anxiety. Was I really an artist? Was I ready to join in and take part in activities with a club? I had a lot of doubts, to be sure.
At first, I did feel out-of-place. I was hesitant to show any drawings or paintings. I even skipped meetings now and then because of various programs — such as the evening the group worked on self-portraits. I was part of the club, but at the same time, I wasn’t really one of the group. I was there, but mostly quiet, staying in the background and rarely speaking up.
About a year later, I had the opportunity to join a second art club, and then a third. Gradually I became a little more comfortable. I met more artists, attended more “open studios” and got to know other club members. Of course, I participated in different shows that our art clubs sponsored, too, and I took advantage of opportunities to put my paintings on display at various locations throughout the region.
Club activities slowed down, of course, last year. With our meeting rooms closed and COVID rampant in our area, there were no opportunities to meet in person. Display sites were closed, too, and art shows throughout the region were cancelled.
Now things have started to open up a little. Several clubs have held outdoor meetings, getting together at local parks, or putting together field trips for members, such as our excursion to The Arboretum. It’s been good to see other artists, many of whom have become good friends.
It’s been four years since I first took that “leap into the unknown”, paid my dues, and joined my first art club. I’m grateful that I did, and I’ve finally come to feel that I’m a true, “full-fledged” member, that I belong there among my fellow artists. I’ve begun to feel accepted, and that feels good.
Being part of the group means sharing my time — and whatever artistic talent I’ve developed — with other members and with the community. I’ve volunteered to assist with several art shows over the years, and in recent months I’ve had additional opportunities to share with the group. I accepted the task of designing a flyer for one club, and I’m proud of what I presented.
And recently I opened our HFAA newsletter with eager anticipation, knowing my name would be there as part of our upcoming meeting program — an introduction to Japanese watercolor, “presented by Judith Kraus”. You read that right. I was the one presenting the program at our most recent meeting.
Yes, I had a few moments of apprehension. Could I really do it? Yes. I love playing with my gansai, and I was happy for the opportunity to share my knowledge — and my paints — with other artists in the club. I was grateful, to, for a chance to see what real watercolor artists could do with my gansai.
The most important aspect of putting on a presentation like this was being prepared. I made a list of all that I needed, wrote up and printed out information sheets, gathered together a collection of water brushes — all filled with water — and cut sheets of my inexpensive “Bee” watercolor paper into half sheets so that we’d have plenty of materials for everyone. I made sure, too, to take along two jars of water and a roll of paper towels. I did take both my small (very used up) set of gansai as well as the 48-color set, plus a few illustrations I’ve done, such as the ink and gansai sketches in my nature journal, a few of my paintings done with leaves and twigs, and another small painting.
I arrived early at our meeting location — a shelter house at the City Park — and quickly set things up.
Despite that initial apprehension, I found that I did enjoy talking about gansai, telling how I first learned about it, discussing my experiences in using it, and answering questions. Yes, it was fun to see what the artists in the group did. The only problem with our early evening meeting was that we had a lot of bugs flying around. Fortunately one member had a bit of bug spray in her car, so that helped.
If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to continue meeting outdoors for the next two months. September should be pleasant; October is usually warm enough for an evening meeting. But then we’ll hit November and December. Winter weather will keep us away from the park. Will our regular meeting room at the library be available? It’s hard to say at this point due to the COVID concerns in the community once again.
I’m currently a member of two art clubs — I dropped the third because of scheduling problems — and I do enjoy our meetings now. I do feel that I’ve been accepted as part of the club, that I’m no long some old woman sitting quietly on the sidelines. It feels good to be stepping out, accepting responsibilities with these clubs, and truly taking an active part.
Are you a member of an arts club? If you are, I’d love to hear about the programs and activities your clubs enjoy. If you’re not a member, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage you to seek out a club and join, even if you’re hesitant. And if you look around and don’t find any art clubs in your area, why not get one started? I’ve found that it’s very satisfying to be part of organizations that are promoting art in our community.