Working Alone and Working With Other Artists

Above is Clifford, my daughter's cat who I wrote about in the previous post "How Do You Know What to Paint?" Shortly after I took this photo he scratched my hand deeply and now I'm sporting a bandage. Would someone remind me what it is I see in these animals?

Was reading Stapleton Kearns' blog this morning. Couldn't agree more with his advice advice to get out there and rub shoulders with other artists. I'm always amazed when I stumble across a new good idea from someone else that I hadn't thought of it before myself. Nowadays one of my personal adages is "Nothing is obvious until you notice it."

There is a tricky balance to being an artist. We have a contradictory need for both contact with others and for solitude in the studio or out painting in the field. I often think about this on my many days where I'm alone painting for hours on end. It can be lonely sometimes, but I'm convinced that's one of the prices we have to pay to really get any momentum going in our painting. Really good ideas don't usually come in and announce themselves with trumpets blaring. Rather they start out giving you little hints and the briefest glimpse out of the corner of your eye about what might be possible. When you work alone without distraction your ear gets attuned to the subtle whisperings that come to you from your inner creative side. Our "muse" is shy and fickle, but she will sooner or later come and visit us in our studio and give us great ideas. When she does, we better give her our full attention. She hates to have to repeat herself.

Like anything else, a steady diet of solitude is too tough on one. None of us is so wise that we can't learn from others. Every artist needs to get out and see what other artists are doing, listen to them, trade jokes with them and simply enjoy their company. Looking back at my own life as a painter, I realize some of my best ideas came to me from unexpected people. I discovered soft pastel chalks for example from watching some of my drawing class students who insisted on working in color. I had at first resisted this as they still had so much to learn about seeing shapes and tones.Yet going through their portfolios at the end of the semester I was amazed at how often I was saying to myself " oh gosh there's a color I could use in my painting."

On Thursday I took a break from my final portfolio reviews for my Life Drawing Class at MICA and went to the end of semester show/reception the school has for its upper class General Fine Arts majors. Each student had about 10' of space to display their latest creations. Everyone went around and checked everyone else's work out. Probably 25% was really good, another 25% needed a lot more time and development, and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. While it partly resembled a madhouse, it was a chance for everyone to see and learn and most of all make up their own minds about what is the right path for


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