|Very encouraging teacher, Timothy Horn.|
OK, since I just posted about a Zen experience, let's mix it up! (And don't worry, no particular religious view is required here, just finding these inputs inspiring my thoughts about art and creativity.) This was a verse that I got from the Salvation Army (somehow) and that I had taped to my car's dashboard for years.
From Thessalonians: "Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
Simple, eh? Yet, not so common in real life.
But when that uncommon spirit of encouragement and generosity happen with a group of artists, sparks fly, courage grows, art expands!
When I moved to Texas, I knew just about no one except a few coworkers. Luckily, I did a little Googling and found the Plein Air Austin group. At that point, I didn't really consider plein air or landscape really "my thing" but I did know that I wanted to meet some fellow painters and that plein air practice always honed my painting skill overall. So I signed up and put a paint-out on my calendar.
Well, I stumbled into just that uncommon and delightful kind of group that does share, does encourage and has a thriving, contributing membership as a result. On my first paint-out, it was the very simplest things that made a big difference: Laurel Daniel made time to come over and introduce herself, having spotted me as someone new. Huge! Others were welcoming and happy to talk about how and what they were painting. The vibe was "come on down, no matter your skill level, and let's learn and enjoy together."
Groups where the opposite attitude prevails tend, in my experience, to wither away. I've been reading "Linchpin" by Seth Godin and am loving his emphasis on how a generous-hearted, fearless attitude gets you everything but a poverty mentality (can't give you anything because then there will be less for me) shuts you down. Same thing as Paul was saying (I think) to his buddies in Thessaloniki.
So, my points are these:
1 - take the time to find a group that has this generous spirit, even if the discipline or focus isn't what you thought you needed or wanted.
2 - if you are part of a group, reach out to newcomers, be generous with your encouragement. Don't think of inspiration or knowledge as something that will diminish if shared. Think the opposite. Especially if you are in a leadership spot, your attitude will make an enormous impact on all the group's activity; trust me!
3 - give yourself a job with the group so you are more likely to show up. I know when I have a commitment to bring something or help out in some way, my obligation to others will stand strong where my duty to my own artistic self might be floudering. Regularly scheduled art activity keeps me from sinking into too long a spell of creative blockage when I do have a spell.
Ideas for finding a group that might keep that creative juice flowing:
1 - Sign up for a workshop or class. Introduce yourself to the people whose spirit and art attract you. Ask them what groups they enjoy or recommend.
2 - Google around for local plein air and sketching (or sketch crawl) groups. Read their blogs or community posts. You can often see a lot about the group that way, but go check it out in person too.
3 - Don't put up with energy vampires and wet blankets. Just walk away.
4 - Start your own group! My mother saw me posting about some sketch-crawl stuff we were doing in Austin and was bummed that there wasn't a group like that near her. But just a few days later, she turned that around and created her own little group who still meet regularly and seem to be having a blast. Go Mom!
5 - Check out "Meetup". I haven't tried this myself yet, but might soon! http://painting.meetup.com/
6 - Look at "Links". Often, when I find an artist who has a great energy and passion for sharing about creativity and art, I can find a 'links' page on their blog or website. Those links can be a good source for ways to connect with others.
-- Kate Merriman