JillA's BrillAs, Detail, 44.5 x 18" / 113.03 x 45.72 cm, Acrylic on Paper, 2017
Well, why do you think Vincent had his yellow house? (Guess he thought it was a good idea at the time, lol.)
Artists’ communities have been around for like, forever~speaking of Van Gogh, they say he didn’t much care for the one he left behind in Paris; point is, they were there.
Come to think of it, I guess you could say all the movements were communities, which I’ll define rather loosely here as a bunch of like-minded artists hanging out and working together. Like the folks at St Ives, for instance.
Of course, it’ll be a cold day in hell before we ever even begin to run out of artists’ communities over here: there’s the Saturday Group, the folks at Tam-Awan, pretty much everyone at Angono, Ang INK, and bajillions of others.
I’ve never really been a ‘community’ type, so, this is a bit awkward for me to write, honestly. I’m thinking this was brought on following my first online co-working studio session with an artist based over in the States, which I felt compelled to document because I’d never really done anything like that before ^^;
So in this post I’m just doing a little surface-level reflection on the importance of being part of an artists’ community, why I’ve never really been in one, and how being in one can really be a great idea.
Apparently, it takes a village…
Potluck, 9 x 12" / 22.86 x 30.48 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2005
Recently on the jillablog I’d mentioned how I learned that community was key to an artist’s development~the art class I learned that in was often referred to (by the ‘headmaster’) as a community or a tribe, in itself. I’d actually met the artist I had the co-working studio session with, at that art class.
And having mentioned that art class, I’ll go on to say how it was a rather new experience for me. It was something for me to hang out with my ‘classmates’ even if it was ‘just’ online. We were more or less all there to learn and you know, like it ‘wasn’t an art contest’ and it was all just camaraderie and stuff.
I think it was the first time in a long time I’d gotten to talk about art with other artists, versus people at home or at work, which was why it made the impact on me that it did. That felt new or refreshing to me and I thought it was rather nice.
Anyway we had also been told that if you didn’t have an art community, we would be taught how you can go form your own.
I remember that making me pause a bit to think about whether that was really necessary, i.e. if you don’t have a community, you can’t make art? I don’t suppose anybody would go that far, but would you say you’d never be able to make the best art you could if you didn’t belong to one?
Not that I’m dissing villages or anything…
Las Casas Cobran Vida, 34.25 x 42.75" / 86.995 x 108.585 cm, Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Paper, 2016
…unless they’re haunted and you’re armed with nothing but an obscure camera, lol. I reckon it’s just I’ve always been kind of embarrassed or something to be in any kind of group. Maybe that was because the other artists back at school were like you know, the popular girls or something.
But anyway, apart from the time I spent with Ang INK (which did do me a lot of good), I’d never really been part of an art community here, I mean, you know. I have hung out a bit with other local artists~classmates mainly from art school, but I don’t think I can say I was ever really in like a group-group of practising artists.
I think I’ve mentioned on the jillablog how my practice has mostly been a very solitary one (although I do get a lot of help from time to time ^^; )
I guess that could be because of how I’ve had to divide my time (or rather double-time) (two-time? ^O^***) between ‘Batman’ and ‘Bruce Wayne’~I didn’t have much time to hang out with other people (let alone artists) because if I wasn’t ‘at the office’ I was ‘in the studio’ (and whatever time I had outside of those, I spent on pesky little necessaries like sleeping and eating LOL).
Because my time has always been so limited, I’d come to regard other people~including artists~as distractions. Incidentally, I learned that at art school, where I picked up the bad habit (among others haha) of stopping every once in a while to walk around and look at other people’s work. I used to be able to work straight, when I was much younger (like in my teens).
But while I’m being honest, here, I’m thinking another reason I’d shied away from groups or communities was because I’d developed the habit of ‘putting blinders’ on to avoid ‘drinking Compareschlager’.
Also, I’ve sometimes wondered about professional video game players, about whether how playing for a living might’ve somehow taken the fun out of it. Like I was hanging out near a Garena once and I remember like the team captain screaming at his team during a tournament (I think it was a LoL one) and his team was like all tail between their legs…
…it’s kind of like that, for me, for art. I’m not saying being in a community would turn it into some kind of contest (remember what I said about art class?); it’s just yeah, I didn’t want to expose myself to the temptation, I suppose, to compare myself or my work (same thing lol) to my ‘community-mates’. Cowardly of me, I guess, but there you go.
I remembering being invited or advised once or twice to join or at least hang out with a group of some sort. But I also remember there always being a reason for me to not go through with it~too far, too busy cramming for a show or some such with work at the same time and so on.
And I also know that, if I really wanted to do something, I would’ve found a way (or at least tried my darndest)~so I suppose deep down I didn’t really want to, for the lily-livered reasons above ^^;
7 Things Artists Get Out of Being in a Community
Musical Bears, 12.6 x 9.45" / 32 x 24 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2021
In any case, doing the co-working studio reminded me of why community is nice~and how it might be necessary for (some) artists.
If only for the fact that ‘two heads are better than one’ and that whole ‘you can break the sticks individually but not when they’re bundled together’, there are undeniable benefits or advantages to being in a group. Here are a handful I can think of at the moment that might encourage you to get out there and join one if you aren’t in one already.
1. You get to see how other people work. For me, this makes you reflect on how you work and figure out ways for you to work better, which wouldn’t have occurred to you, otherwise. Better if the other people in your community work in ways that are very different from your own.
Like the artist I was in the co-working studio with, for instance, had a more spontaneous, free-flowing way of working. That’s something I seem to have lost along the way and would like to return to or recapture (hopefully in the show I’m doing this year). That artist also was in the habit of working on multiple pieces simultaneously while I’m more of a one thing at a time painter ^_^
2. You get to talk shop. Let’s face it, there are some things that only ‘your own kind’ will ever be able to get. I don’t mean that to sound anything, or anything; think neurologists’ convention or comic con ^^;
I have to say it’s great to be able to talk about things like your process, being true to yourself as an artist, giving artists advice or the shenanigans artists have to put up with, with a fellow artist.
3. You get more done. Not for me, but, I think I get this. For me I can’t get anything done unless I have junk on in the background depending on my mood. It isn’t always loud music (which, given my eclectic taste could be anything); it might be a movie or a cartoon. Or a book or something being read to me. I suppose for some artists, it’s an/other artist/s working alongside.
It may sound trite but I guess they kind of feed off of each other’s creative energy, like how people do aerobics (or whatever it is they do for exercise these days haha) in the gym together or something.
Learning to work alongside other people was something I had to learn in art school, or even in the classes I used to take before that. But it’s not something I’d rather do now, although I do appreciate it, and I think I would now be open to it if circumstances were right.
4. You get inspired. I also mentioned in my ex-Inkie memoirs how being around other artists who were better than myself pushed me to be better. Like how rookies might be inspired to work their way up to being MVPs (or just quit the team and take up knitting lol just kidding ^^).
Conversely, it also keeps you grounded, or humbled, if you will. I’m going to make a super sweeping generalisation and say that artists usually think they’re the best, or geniuses ^O^*** Being in a community, particularly one entirely peopled with art gods tends to keep one’s ego in check ^_^ You know, in a healthy way ^_~
5. You get support. The encouragement you can get from the kind of community that inspires you can be very powerful indeed. I’ve written before about how people can support an artist but when artists support other artists it can be straight-up magical~and even practical. You know, when it comes to things like what fixative to use or did you know Arches made nice oil paper ^_^
And because these are people who get it x know how the cookie crumbles, they can be better able to hold you accountable or keep you on track as you work toward your art goals.
6. You get protection. Those shenanigans I mentioned just now are very real and sometimes it’s up to the artists themselves to look out for each other. To me, communities ought to comprise friends and might be said to be families of a sort, so if I may be *samurai* (or a pirate of Penzance) about this it’d be your duty to protect the other members.
Besides, being artists themselves in more or less the same situation, they’re better able to understand how you might be vulnerable or susceptible, or they’ll know what to look out for.
7. You get to work together. Probably the most obvious benefit of being in a group is being able to collaborate on murals and other such works, or exhibit together. A lot of artists do work in duos or collectives much like musicians (who are artists too ^_^) in bands or orchestras.
And the nice thing about that, I think, is that you all get to grow together as artists, too <3
Music, Professor!, 43 x 30.75" / 109.22 x 78.105 cm, Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Canvas, 2007
In any case, because one can only write of what one knows, I’d very much appreciate it if you were in an artists’ community and you shared what it was like with me. Or, if you were in the habit of collaborating with other artists, or working as part of a duo or a collective~or thinking seriously about joining one~I’d love to hear your story ^_^*
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.