Don't Fear the Pack

Painting in a group means gaining insights from others and solidifying your own point of view.
Painting in a group means gaining insights from others
and solidifying your own point of view.

As much as the stereotype of the solitary painter working alone and shutting him- or herself off from the world makes artists seem mysterious and cool, I’ve found that artists tend to be fairly social creatures, and their cool factor isn’t lessened by their sense of community. Sometimes this is situational—you are in an art class or drawing workshop, and you swap stories and commiserate and encourage your fellow students because you are working through the same art lessons and assignments.

But I think it is mostly about enjoying each other’s company. Working creatively takes a lot of personal perseverance and being able to come together as a group with friends and fellow artists makes the struggles seem less insurmountable and the successes a lot more worthwhile. And there is always the opportunity to learn from each other—that’s what I enjoy the most. Open and honest dialogue on what we are all passionate about, and art instruction that is organic to the task at hand. I first learned about putting a palette in the freezer to keep it from drying out when I was with a bunch of artists who were just working together.

Sometimes you compare and contrast working methods and come away with a better understanding of how the process can work for you and how you can achieve your own vision knowing what others have tried. I learned way more over a weekend session with a bunch of encaustic and mixed media artists than from just my own experimentations with the medium's art techniques.

You can also get exposed to new ways of working and share discoveries you have made about your medium of choice or working method. One of the most challenging parts of the art process is color. We respond to color, we want to recreate the colors we see in front of us or in our heads, but how to paint and mix colors in order to do it? I think one of the best ways is in a group painting session. When you are all looking at something similar and everyone is experimenting to get there, moments of discovery and insight naturally come about. It's the same with learning the techniques associated with an unfamiliar media, like acrylic painting is for me. That’s why I think of Acrylic Painting with Passion, as the culmination of a really fulfilling group painting session. All of the details on paint texture and surface treatment and the details on color pairings and mixing is more than I could ever discover alone.

Sometimes painting in a "pack" reinvigorates you because you link up with like-minded artists who share many of the same goals. But I think the best takeaway is always leaving the group steadier and more confident in your own work and your own choices. Whether you decide that means meeting up with artists or continuing on your own independent path and making the most of resources like Acrylic Painting with Passion, I wish you much success however you choose to find it.

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “Don't Fear the Pack

  1. I have been taking the same life drawing class for over 10 years as have several others. We have, over the years and with the “permission” of the instructor, turned this class into more of a “Saturday Salon”…experiencing much of what your posting discusses. While my drawings and paintings aren’t always the best, what I do get from my interactions with everyone is always wonderful. We just found out that our instructor won’t be able to be with us this upcoming semester due to health reasons, but we are all still going to keep on going to class. (Heaven help her “sub” if they decide to change to dynamics of the class!!)

  2. My own experience is very similar to your last commenter. I started going to a class as a beginner, and with a number of other beginners we went back year after year for a few years. When the tutor decided to retire we were devastated. We had grown to be very fond of him and his class.
    We could not find another class/group in the area and so decided to start our own. As a group, we are going from stength to strength and after 25 years I now spend a lot of time running the group. Many of the originals have moved on or left for family reasons; but the most difficult part is getting new members who are interested in helping to run the group. Luckily there are enough to keep things running but many are simply interested in the group experience, which in our case now includes occasional demonstrations and exhibtions.