Why we need communities as artists even if we love to work alone

Making art is typically a solitary activity.

While not all artists are introverts or hermits, or shy or anti social, a significant part of the creative process requires a state that needs silence of the kind that only solitude can bring.

Not necessarily aural silence – I like to have music or podcasts going most of the time, to keep my left brain busy! – but an inner silence that allows for a turning inward, to the invisible realm where new creations are born.

For some of us, that silence and solitude is not just a gift but an absolute life essential, something we can turn to for peace, or comfort, to feel like ourselves, or simply for the pleasures of creative immersion.

But for many, perhaps most, that quiet inner connection must be tempered by connection outward, with others.

Whether that’s

  • artist friends who can support and encourage us, and have those all important deep art discussions with us
  • a mentor for guidance
  • classes for learning, companionship, and bouncing ideas
  • studio visitors, or even fellow artists sharing studio space

…most of us need to have access to communities as artists – to conversation and company as well as solitude and silence.

It’s hard to grow in a vacuum. It’s also hard to disentangle ourselves from the demons we encounter along the path – the self doubt and imposter syndrome, the fears and insecurities, the getting stuck and feeling frustrated.

And it’s hard when you don’t have people to share and celebrate wins with – a finished painting, a sale, an acceptance into a show.

So we need artist friends!

And while we can of course get support from the lovely non artists in our lives, I think probably most of us also need access to the companionship of those who really ‘get it’.

The people who get excited talking about paint colours, or who can help us with pricing our work, or offer guidance based on lived experience.

For me, that has been one of the best things about the internet.

I’m very introverted and solitary, very private, and need unusual amounts of alone time to be healthy and able to do my work {and my life generally!}.

I’m never going to be the person who shares studio space, or goes to all the private views, or who loves people dropping by unexpectedly! I’ve done one open studio and that was plenty. 😉

But from the first time I discovered artist blogs, back in 2008, they opened up a world of opportunities to have that all important outside connection in ways that suit my nature.

Over the years I’ve taken courses and workshops both online and off – even I like a {small} group setting from time to time! – and found artist friends and guides all over the world.

Some I connect with via email, some have been through social media, or the groups that gather for courses, both on and offline.

And having that has been invaluable – off the top of my head, here are just some of the things it’s helped me do:

  • grow as an artist
  • clarify and establish my voice
  • develop my skills
  • learn to trust myself
  • develop resilience
  • connect with kindred spirits
  • make friends
  • find opportunities, for both teaching and selling my work
  • collaborate
  • have fun and play
  • go outside my comfort zone
  • clarify and strengthen my boundaries
  • support other artists
  • sell my work
  • express my creativity in all sorts of ways

So, you know, nothing life changing.🤷‍♀️

Even though I still often resist outward connection, I’ve learned to appreciate its considerable value in enriching my life as an artist and human, and in being able to pay that forward.

Of course, if you’re reading this and you’re a raging extrovert, you’re probably thinking, well DUH. 😄

Wherever you land on the ‘social continuum’, for want of a better way to put it, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to seek out communities as artists, whatever form they may take.

There is no little irony for me in what I’m about to say; fundamentally I still resist social activity, and can very quickly start to feel trapped by any kind of social obligation {perceived or actual}.

But, knowing the value having a creative team has brought me, I offer that to other artists who might be looking for a safe place to hang out, enjoy total acceptance of who they are and what they feel called to do, and navigate the artist path with more connection and support.

In the past I did that through my blog, courses, and Facebook groups.

My teaching work has evolved over the years, and now it focuses on the Happy Artist Studio, which comes with its own private community built in.

I ran a survey of Artnotes subscribers earlier this year, to get a feel for how people felt about online communities. 

The results overwhelmingly pointed to a desire for connection, but feelings of disillusionment with Facebook groups, course groups with huge numbers and minimal teacher participation, and mixed feelings about social media generally.

While those can all fulfill certain needs, both I and the artists my teaching tends to attract are looking for something more, something deeper.

We want meaty discussions about process, not just to be told our work is ‘stunning’ {although compliments are of course always welcome!}.

We want to make genuine connections and know there’s somewhere we can go any time to ask a question, get feedback we can actually use, or make use of the accountability a group can provide.

The point is, we want our communities as artists to fill us up, not drain us or trigger insecurities that can make the whole #artistlife harder.

After reading the survey results, I spent a long time thinking about how I might create such a place, without compromising my own need for solitude, and I believe the Happy Artist Studio community offers that.

It seems to be working so far! Current members have been raving about it, which is lovely!

The fact that it’s not on social media means no distractions, no ads, and a space where they can feel safe to express themselves and have thoughtful conversations beyond the often kind but non-constructive feedback social media tends to generate.

If this sounds like something you need in your life, I invite you to come and check out the Happy Artist Studio. It’s a membership you can join just for a month, or for a full year {if you’ve got Big Plans for your art!}, and it contains all my courses and other resources alongside the community.

It’s specifically designed to support artists wanting to get beyond copying, dig deep to uncover and develop their unique artist voice, and gain the confidence to express it freely.

Join the Happy Artist Studio - click here for more infoFind out more HERE, and if you have any questions I’m happy to help you decide either way!