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A Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists

by Keith Bond on 8/2/2010 2:13:40 PM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

A common trait among artists is that of being somewhat solitary. Especially or particularly while creating. I know that I am. Many artist friends of mine are. Perhaps you are, too. 

This is not a bad trait to have. In fact, it is probably necessary to enable you to focus on your work without distraction. I should clarify. I am not talking about being a recluse. That is different. But most artists work alone. Even if you are surrounded by other people most of the day, when you create your art, you are likely alone.

Think about it. We need a place and time to focus on art. We need to create. We need to allow our thoughts and feelings flow freely. We need to get lost in the zone. When the outside world interrupts this time, productivity is decreased. We artists also need to be able to freely explore our unique voice or vision, without the diluting influence of others.

So yes, there are many good reasons to be solitary while creating your work – including many which go unmentioned. 

But, there are other needs that artists have that also need to be fulfilled from time to time. One of those needs is to be surrounded by other creative types. By associating with other artists, your mind can be opened up to new ideas. You can gain a sense of belonging. You are able to understand and be understood in ways that are impossible with non-creative types. It is a fraternity or sorority of sorts; a brotherhood and sisterhood of artists.

Consider joining a local or regional artists group or association. Go out painting with friends once a month or so. Attend a plein air event. Maybe, you simply have brunch together with other local artists. Perhaps you join a critique group. 

It is sometimes less important what you do while you are with fellow artists than simply associating with them. You will benefit tremendously by having friends who understand and relate to you. You can “talk shop” with them. You will gain confidence that you are on the right path. You will have added (and much needed) support and encouragement. 

You are part of a brotherhood and sisterhood of artists. Why not reap the benefits? But, don’t forget to go back to your solitary studio once in a while to create the work only you can create.

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond 

PS There are many other reasons for associating with fellow artists from time to time. What are your reasons? What have you gained? What have you contributed?

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Topics: inspiration | FineArtViews 

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max hulse
Keith You asked for feedback about associating
with other artists.
I really like having about 3 artist friends that
I can call on from time to time to come look
at my work and give me their thoughts (and I do
the same for them when asked).
I get caught up and know something isn't right
but can't fix it. A fresh eye can sometimes
immediately see the problem and present another
idea or course of action.
Then it is up to me to do it.
Max Hulse

Helen Horn Musser
Hi Keith, Good post; thank you for all your incites.

Karen Winters
Well said. I have met so many wonderful people through different art associations - people who have become some of my dearest friends. Whether it's getting together for paint-outs, exhibitions or just enjoying a meal or glass of wine, these friendships with kindred folks make our creative lives all the richer.

Helen Horn Musser
There are times I don't come out of my cave; like July and August, the temp is in the 90's and 100's in our preciou s state of Texas. Then there are the very cold months of January and December. These are good months for painting in the studio and making progress. So what is wrong with a recluse? I'm close

Michael Cardosa

Interesting article. One one hand, I agree, on the other, I have to admit that the Sunday mornings I spend with other people in a painting class is one of my favorite times of the week. Some days I get more done than others but I enjoy the camaraderie and there is always something to learn from someone else's experience.


Margaret Bobb
Hi, Keith!

Today's topic is near and dear to my heart, for other than my high school art classes and a few workshops here and there over the years--I have always worked alone...until I started taking a weekly class over the past two years.

I have also been a member of a couple of different artist organizations, (I even served as vice-president once), and while it IS good to hobknob with your fellow artists, I don't think it's nearly the same thing as actually painting in the same room with them.

When I started taking my weekly classes, which are taught by a woman with a master's degree in painting, there were about five artists in our group. At first, I was a little disconcerted, because I wasn't used to chit-chat while I was painting. Then, I discovered that I learned quite a bit from hearing other people's comments during class, and I somehow made the "brain-change" of being able to listen to what other people were saying and still paint at the same time...Our teacher always had a quiet time where we could "get in the zone" and then we always ended class with a critique--which used to scare me! But then, I discovered that I learned an incredible amount of info from these friendly and uplifting critiques.

After awhile, my teacher invited me to join her plein air group--whoa! Talk about a different experience! That's another whole subject, but in the context of this article, I will say I have totally enjoyed going out-of-doors and painting with a group of artists. I have now painted with two different plein air groups, and both of them are facilitated by very knowlegeable people who once again, lead very kind and uplifting critiques. I cannot accurately describe how much valuable info I've gained from these sessions. I can say that I have been thrilled with how much I've learned.

I do also paint alone in my studio, and invariably, during my painting time, I will often pause and think about my fellow classmates from "Club Tuesday" led by Lillian Kennedy. Her wonderful teaching and their comments often flow through my head, and I know I'm a better artist from it all. I like to think that perhaps I have helped some of them along the way, too.

There are a couple of the ladies in my class that have also had us over to paint at their houses outside of class. One in particular has been instrumental in getting together a few venues for us to show our work to the public. I'm so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be part of this wonderful group. I have grown by leaps and bounds as an artist over the past two years, and most of it is due to my weekly sessions with my fellow painters.

Carol Schmauder
I am on the steering committee for a studio tour we hold each fall. I love the 6-month association with the others as we plan and execute this event. Then I don't see them for about 5 months and miss them until the next planning phase. I also belong to the Spokane Watercolor Society, which meets once a month. I don't attend all the meetings but know I can when I want to rub shoulders with other artists. I think we need whatever association with others that helps us grow and improve. Thank you for another great article.

Mary E Smith
I joined a plein air group 4 or 5 years ago. Although still life is my first love, I have learned so much painting with these 5 women - we learn from each other, from the experience of just doing it. Plein air forces you to make fast decisions, get those shadows in first, and paint quickly. Those values help regardless of your painting subject. The group have become friends as well as painting buddies - an especially nice thing. I saved 1 year of emails back and forth and made them into a book - funniest thing you've ever seen - 6 women trying to make decisions on where to paint!

Mary E Smith O.P.A. Wilmington, NC

Phyllis O'Shields
Interesting points, balance in life being the key. It gets harder every day to keep our private creative time uninterrupted. With the cell phones, computers etc. it seems to be harder to keep everything turned off and people out of range at times. I have a large time blocked every day to paint and have to really hold tight to it mostly by my own discipline not to be distracted. Being with other artists can easily get put on the back burner but I find that if I don't stay in life drawing classes weekly or plein air opportunities with others deliberately it's so easy to just fade into a routine of painting and leaving off the social time with other artists. Not a good way to go... thanks Phyllis O'Shields

Helen Horn Musser
Phyllis, I would not take for the time spent with other artists and am envolved with an art alliance which meets from September till June but, also time spent alone to study, contemplate, and paint are the most valuable time for me to grow in my work. It is a difficult dance to perform

Stede Barber
What perfect timing. The value to me of having artists as friends is the mutual understanding. There is nothing like talking shop as a way of relaxing and enjoying mutual support. Thank you for bringing up such an important topic. It is too true that many do not understand or like my need for so much "solitude" to do my work, contemplate what's next, work on marketing etc...I need balance between having the quiet undisturbed time to create, and time with friends, family...and other artists.

Joanne Benson
Keith, Excellent points made here. I have benefitted tremendously from my art groups. I belong to several groups and have made some great friends and learned many things from them. They are worth their weight in gold! Some of my best friends are artists from these groups! My Tuesday night group has been together for 10 years. We don't all go every Tuesday but we all go a few times a month! When we purchased our lake cottage, I joined the local arts council and have been able to make some artist friends through that as well. I started getting the group to go plein air painting and now I'm in charge of organizing the paint outs. So we all bring something to the groups we join and we take away ever so much more!

Gloria J Zucaro
I really enjoyed your article and it is something I have been thinking about recently. I have been taking classes now for about 6 years. I find that even though or maybe because I live alone, I need the company of others during the day. I take classes and workshops in oil, pastel and watercolor and find it so uplifting and inspirational to see other artists paintings and share my own for feedback. I usually paint from 9:30 in the morning until 3Pm. After painting I run my errands and do all the other things that everyone does to manage their lives. I belong to many painting groups and find it is the best way to learn about oportunities to exhibit your work either through juried shows or just member shows if you wish. Almost without fail, I have found my artist friends to be most generous in sharing their favorite framers, sources for supplies, and best of all their expertise on anything you might have questions about. I rarely paint alone, but have definitely developed my own style and can paint while listening to others converse without losing my concentration while I paint.

Marsha Hamby Savage
This is a great article because I am always getting some of my friends together for one thing or another -- painting, sharing, on a trip, etc. We learn by doing, by being with our own thoughts, alone in our studio or outdoors. That is a given. But, we also learn by listening and sharing. I believe it is "almost" as important.

I have been teaching in my local area for about 15 years. My Tuesday evening class evolved into a group that was a family. We would maybe lose one occasionally, but another would take that person's place. This group now goes on trips together either to paint or to gather resource material. They take workshops together -- maybe only a few each time. They now hold a yearly Christmas Bazaar Art Show. They inspire each other! They revel in each other's successes and cheer each other on! I am very proud of this group and know even as the teacher, they consider me a friend and cohort in all they do. They have even named themselves -- "The Art Spirits" and have just returned from a trip out to the Tetons.

This post says many important things, and the comments by others adds much to it. Thanks everyone for any little tidbit you have given. I take inspiration from each one of you! And I hope those artists that don't see the value in spending time with their comrades will rethink that and put a little more effort into sustaining their artist friendships. They are invaluable!

Sue Martin
Keith and all, I totally agree that friendships with other artists are one of the great benefits of being an artist. I've grown those friendships through active participation in a couple of local arts groups. But I've also had long-distance relationships with artists that have been mutually supportive. With one artist friend in another state, we exchange phone calls and emails when we are in our "creative desert" and looking for inspiration or when we've just completed our latest masterpiece. I've "met" other artists through LinkedIn and Facebook and looked them up for a face-to-face meeting when I travel. I love to experience others' creative energy and I hope they derive some benefit from mine.

Some years ago I read about a study that showed that people who get together regularly to talk about art suffer less from constipation! Who would have thought this would be among the benefits!

Keith Bond

Thanks for the added insights. Now I know why I am so regular....

Sue Martin
Uh oh, I think I may have changed the tone of the comments (grin).

Ginnie Conaway
Artists do reap benefits from interacting with other creatives. A exchange of ideas, emotional support and business networking are just a few of those benefits.

A simple way to accomplish this is an Artist's Breakfast group. Schedule it early enough for those with 9-5 jobs to be able to attend. Choose a restaurant where the group can all sit around a long table, out of the main area. Encourage members to bring work in progress, ask questions, and share info.

I've started two groups in different states as I've moved around. The first has now been going strong for at least ten years and has spawned a second group across town on a different weekday.

My current group's size varies weekly from six to thirteen. It's interesting to have creatives from different disciples involved. We have Sunday painters, professional artists working with licensing companies, art teachers, potters, authors and musicians within this group.

Why don't you start your own breakfast group. It's a wonderful way to start the day. We meet on Mondays and get inspired for the whole week.

Sue Martin
Ginnie, I'm curious about whether you've had to deal with the perception of exclusivity or elitism with your groups. And have you tried to keep them open to new participants? How do you (or do you) keep them from being so cliquish that they are toxic to others around them? Or maybe this hasn't been an issue at all?

Marian Fortunati
When I first started learning to paint and draw my teacher suggested that it would be a good idea to join one of our local art clubs.
It took a while and I finally joined. Since that time I have met many new friends and enjoy sharing experiences and painting trips together with them.

These new friends have become very important to me... We share common interests and together we help one another grow and learn!!

The advice to join a local art club is the best advice I have been given since beginning this art journey!

Ginnie Conaway
Various regions of the country seem to hold different views on what constitutes an 'artist'. The mid-Atlantic tends to seperate painters from photographers, whereas the south seems to be more inclusive.
Within the breakfast groups, where information exchange and support are primary, artists seem to gravitate to others of their own level. We're always supportive of anyone's accomplishments or concerns, but the Sunday painters aren't necessairly interested in art festivals or the print market. But, anyone looking for information is welcomed into any conversation at any time.

Keith Bond
Thanks everyone for your added insights. They have all contributed. I have a few follow up thoughts as a result:
1. You can benefit in different ways with association with all types of artists. I have benefited from associations with artists who are both similar and vastly different.
2. There is also benefit from both creating art together (open studio time, plein air painting together, lifedrawing group, etc.) as well as simply socializing with other artists. Again, the benefits are different, but both are of value.
3. A few years ago, I shared a studio with 2 other artists - one a fabulous watercolorist, the other used found organic materials (leaves, seed pods, bark, etc.). I think it was good for each of us to be open to other points of view and sources of inspiration. But, the downside of it was that it was harder to get into the zone. We had too much fun!

Sue Martin
Thanks, Ginnie. I asked because the one "breakfast group" of artists I know of here seems pretty closed and cliquish, though I've never actually asked to attend. The closest I've come to that type of group (other than the art club meetings I attend) is a morning walking group. A couple of artist friends and I meet in the park and walk while we talk about art.

Judy Mudd
I enjoy my solitude--alone with my art. But I also enjoy my friendships. I have to say some of my closest friends are my artist friends. We have so much in common with our artistic struggles and desire for improvement. Plus, it is just such fun to participate in art events together. We champion each other on and having that encouragement keeps us going.

Donna Robillard
I am one of those who work best when alone; however, it is very refreshing and inspiring to be around other artists whether in a class, a meeting, a show, etc.

Tuva Stephens
It is important to feel that connection with other artists and sharing ideas. I started out joining a local art association, then kept branching out to many regional groups then the state watercolor society. I am currently the President of the Tennessee Watercolor Society! I have also found that taking workshops can be a great experience for meeting new artists outside of your area. I have found such encouragement from fellow artists. By being active with so many groups I know I have grown as an artist.

Helen Horn Musser
Tuva, Congratulations on your acheivments; being president will take lots of work but, we know you will do a bang up job.

Tuva Stephens
Thanks so much Helen! I appreciate it!


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