The Benefits of a Tribe: Having an Art Community

Are there benefits to working in a community with other artists?

Art is a solo sport, sort of like playing solitaire. It’s just you and your art supplies. I thrive in the “aloneness” of working on a project. And there are times when I have a model or am making art in public. But even then I’m usually still working from inside myself, monologuing in my head. Creating art certainly isn’t like a soccer team where there’s eye contact and communication in a coordinated, concerted group effort towards a goal; But… could it be?

Tribe: a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

Do you have a team, a tribe, an art community? Looking back at productive times in my art career they usually involved a sense of community and a common goal. When I was on the Hudson River Fellowship, 15 artists and I had the same drive waking us up early each morning: Get outside and paint like there’s no tomorrow. When I was in my academic years, every day was the expectation of creating and keeping up with my classmates. Being in different art associations, there would be meetings where naturally we’d talk about latest projects. Showing in galleries, I along with the other artists of the gallery would collectively be gearing up for a show; checking on each other/seeing how we were pacing. Different charities each year would have annual art auctions where artists donated work; At those events us artists would clump together like zebras being hunted on safari, watching through the slates of our fingers paintings being sold to the highest bidders. Each of these experiences was healthy for my creative proficiency as well as my mental health.

Why was I creating more art, and having more fun doing it, in times of community? Well, there’s a science to it. In 1954 Roger Bannister was the 1st to run faster than a 4-minute mile. It was thought impossible for humans up until then. But now, people have been breaking the 4-minute mile ever since! There’s a positive peer-pressure and healthy competition that can come from a community; that in looking at each other we can see what is possible, and dare to reach even beyond that. We can also be for each other a great source of encouragement, connections, critique, mentoring, help and information. Artists are the best with materials suggestions too! At one of my classes recently KC (if you’re a DNY regular, you likely know him) encouraged me to try out pan-pastels, and showed me what they can do. Now I want to/need to try pan-pastels! *Comment below if you have! Do you enjoy them?*

Art and friendship are absolutely connected… Friendship is, after all, sharing a deep part of yourself with another person and receiving the same back. Nina Allen Freeman

You know what is the best benefit of finding an art group? It’s finding friends. I think it’s the coolest thing to read about the Old Masters and find out who were friends, and how they inspired and sometimes even influenced each other’s work; Like the crusty friendship between Manet and Degas. It’s also interesting to read who were rivals and weren’t very nice to each other; Like Michelangelo and Leonardo.  Getting connected to a community can be positive and empowering; guard it from being poisonous. When joining or choosing your circle, weed out the overly competitive, critical, and negative people. Make sure your connections are life-giving. People who smoke know how *extra* hard it is to quit when your friends smoke… Spin it to the positive and artists can be that for you! They’ll help you from quitting creating (which is, let’s admit it, so addictive!). I’m not saying you need a soccer team sized group! Not at all. Weekly I meet with one of my best friends to paint and talk (and I’m revived). On social media, I’m connected with inspiring and encouraging artists. It helps to see people in-the-flesh though. This is also why I love Drawing New York. It’s a joy to hear my students laugh, share tips and supplies, and make plans to meet up at art exhibits or other classes. If you haven’t found your art tribe and you’re in the NYC area, come get connected! *A perfect opportunity is coming up at the Plein Air Paint Out in Union Square* If you’re in other areas of the world: join an art association, start a club, go to art shows and meet artists.

Friendship is unnecessary… like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. C. S. Lewis

Do you have artists you connect with? How did you find your creative community? AND who are your favorite famous artists’ friendships or rivalries? Please leave your thoughts below!

Artist, DNY Instructor and Author
I love painting faces, flesh, and fabric. The more tactile I can make a painting feel, the more I’m satisfied with it! I feel blessed to make art every day and look forward to the next day to continue my projects. Traveling to teach workshops is also something I can’t believe I get to do.
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Kelly Foss Author
I love painting faces, flesh, and fabric. The more tactile I can make a painting feel, the more I’m satisfied with it! I feel blessed to make art every day and look forward to the next day to continue my projects. Traveling to teach workshops is also something I can’t believe I get to do.
2 Comments
    1. That’s great Kathy! Have you tried the colors? I see there’s a flesh color pack, and a full spectrum pack. I really can’t wait to get my hands on some!

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