Art can be a very insular occupation. Many artists work alone in their studios with just a radio or CD player for company. For some, this is the best way to get those ‘creative juices’ flowing. For others, though, working together in small groups is more rewarding, and is the reason some artists choose to share studios or join in co-operative projects of creativity. Others choose to join their local art club, hoping to gain inspiration and enlightenment from their activities as well as meeting other like-minded people.
When I moved to the coast over 12 years ago, I met up with local artists displaying their works on the seafront railings, and eagerly joined them as a new member. What did I expect? I had no idea really. As a child, I knew my mother had been involved with a large Art Society in South London, and she had later been a founder member of an Art Club in Mid Kent, and was currently their President. So what was all this about?
I envisaged a group of ‘old ladies’ sitting at tables, painting and drawing from photographs, and chatting over numerous cups of tea and biscuits, with varying degrees of success. Or maybe regular monthly workshops, with a tutor helping everyone to paint from a photo, and each leaving with the same ‘identical’ painting in watercolour.
Some Art Groups offer exactly this type of experience, oh yes! Oh Horror!!
So what do other art groups do? Well the ‘traditional’ ones like to book professional artist demonstrators, for an evening demonstration in a particular medium, where they offer practical advice, answer questions, demonstrate techniques, and usually end the night with a completed painting.
A traditional group will also offer one or more exhibition opportunities per year, in a suitable venue with proper display stands, labels etc, and facilities for prints or greetings cards, sometimes an official opening, with stewards to welcome visitors and encourage sales.
They may also run ‘’en plein air’ or ‘Al Fresco’ painting sessions, often in a members garden, in the summer, so members are not worried about passers by making comments etc.
Other activities may include coach trips to historic places or art collections, an annual club lunch or dinner, social events, like coffee mornings, a Christmas party or a quiz night. Some may hold a ‘critique’ evening, many will host an annual themed art competition for their members. Some work with local schools and art teachers, by offering sponsorship, awards or prizes for achievement.
What does all this activity mean and how can it benefit you?
A healthy thriving Art Club will be one whose membership welcomes many age groups, and all levels of experience, from beginners to professionals.
In our group of approx. 120 members, only about 35 – 40 members exhibit with us. Some don’t want to price and sell their work, others feel they are not ready to exhibit, others joined us because they are art ‘enthusiasts’ and are happy to join in our activities, but have no wish to exhibit. A few are ‘professionals’ and some are members of the professional art institutes, some with gallery representation .
All of course, are on the same journey, of learning this incredibly challenging skill, and seeking continual improvement.
So the benefits include:
- Meeting and mixing with others on the same learning journey,
- Learning from professional artists, demonstrators,
- Making new friends among fellow artists,
- Painting together and learning from each other,
- Introduction to ‘plein air’ painting,
- Opportunities to exhibit and sell work,
- Opportunities to help others, especially newer members.
So what about me, I went on to serve as Secretary for 6 years and now as the Chairman, I seem to be following in my mother’s footsteps.
If you’ve not tried your local art group, then give it a go, it’s not for everyone, but who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.
If you live in East Kent this Art Group may be for you?
This article was written for Artist Hour, a Facebook based weekly live Question and answer learning sessions for artists. Click the link to see what you may be missing!