Creative People Need Hope… and Each Other

Color Study as a nine patch quilt, KG Taylor

Color Study in Photoshop, paint textures as a nine patch quilt, KG Taylor

 

Quilt makers have long known what some of  we artists are learning sporadically through the years: sharing our work in person may provide a very large golden key to thriving in life. The quilting bee may be a thing of the past, but quilters have replaced it with a multitude of guild meetings, retreats and even cruise trips together. I know because I taught an art quilt/color class on a McCall’s Quilting cruise to the Caribbean a couple of years ago. The community spirit was infectious and impressive. There is now a whole new wave of young modern quilt makers following in the older quilter’s footsteps.

Painters, freelance illustrators and other designers primarily work in solitude, myself included. I can go for days without even having a social conversation beyond chatting with the lady at the grocery store. This can be a problem! In the words of Miss Clavel, “Something is not right!”

Miss Clavel of the Madeleine books. She worries.

Miss Clavel of the Madeleine books. She worries, but only when really necessary. LOve her.

 

I do like the quietness of the studio which allows me to concentrate and produce. But what about the health of the soul that is somehow nurtured by sharing with other people in person? Artists can feel lonely even though they see others on a regular basis. Are they seeing other artists though? Is cyber contact as effective as in-person connections? Does the old “starving artist” term only refer to food and money?

A recent 7 year study out of the University College London determined that isolation can shorten a person’s life span. “We were thinking that people who were socially isolated but also felt lonely might be at particularly high risk,” says Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology at University College London. Steptoe was surprised to find that isolation was more important than loneliness as a risk factor.

The researchers found that social disconnectedness was linked to higher mortality, regardless of the cause of death. The research showed that the most socially isolated subjects had a 26% greater risk of dying. The correlation still held true even after the researchers adjusted for other factors, like pre-existing health conditions, socioeconomic status, sex, and age. Loneliness, as a factor on its own, could not be linked to the deaths.

My little alien character asks, "Am I alone out here?" KGT

My little alien character asks, “Am I alone out here?” KGT

 

 

That said, it’s not practical for some of us to ditch our studios and work around others. So we live with isolation. But feeling lonely is not healthy either. A artist may connect with other people, and still feel socially isolated. Who has experienced a similar cocktail party conversation:

“And what do you do?”

“I’m a painter.” (fill in “illustrator”, etc.)

“Really? I can’t even draw a straight line. Oh hello there Charlie!” Person terminates conversation to chat with someone else.

Or perhaps the artist is pursuing an art career over the years while listening to other family members hint that getting a “real job” would be the wise thing to do. No wonder young artists feel dogged by self-doubt, not just about their paintings, but their very lifestyle that so often involves struggle.

In the 1990s I discovered a group of illustrators on the Internet and joined. I am still friends with many of them to this day. We share work samples on Facebook, and everyone cheers when a buddy has a children’s book published. A small group of us formed a more intimate Internet friendship, although we live miles away. We share several times a week, from art techniques to family stories and future plans. Once in a blue moon we meet in person and hope to have a real life reunion as soon as possible. Here is a sample of the work of Joan Waites, sister Leslie Clark, and Luanne Marten, my illustrator friends.

Illustration art by Leslie Ann Clark. My sister.

Illustration art by Leslie Ann Clark. My sister.

Luanne Marten art.

Luanne Marten art.

Joan Waites art.

Joan Waites art.

Real, in-person contact with other artists is so valuable. I recently re-joined a group of artists meeting monthly, loosely organized around Art Licensing. We meet over breakfast in the Denver area to share each other’s work samples, job contacts, and stories of how to make a living. Member projects range from painting to architectural illustration, fabric design, greeting cards, children’s books and even international artist retreats.

Art Licensing Group friends meeting at breakfast

Art Licensing Group friends meeting at breakfast

I was amazed at the unselfish willingness to share and give simple suggestions. Much laughter. Sketchbooks get passed around the table. Empathy and encouragement over health and other challenges abounds. I come away with many new ideas,  better energy, and gratitude at having found people who speak my language. If I have to stop painting and get a “real job”, my friends would mourn instead of clap.

Artist friends give each other hope. We have an optimistic side that comes with the ability to inspire and be inspired. Beyond my job of creating art, my mission in life is just that. I want to inspire, and be inspired. Meeting with artist friends over coffee is a wonderful exercise in the inspiration game. And that sustains us. We may still work alone, but we feel less alone, knowing there are real artist friends out there we will see again soon.

P.S.

Need help in finding and making new artist friends nearby? Personal connections are a great way to start. Do you know at least one artist nearby? Chances are, that person will have another artist friend too.

I often joke that someday I may move to the city where my younger sister lives. She is more outgoing than me and has many good friends, so if I move there, I can instantly acquire a huge bunch of new friends! I have a wonderful artist friend that came from my non-artist sister. She shares. (smiles.)

Joining existing art groups in the community may also be a good start. It takes more courage to go in “cold”, but may surprise you. Try to be positive that you will find a like-minded soul or two.

Take an art class, maybe one you know very little about. Chances are, you will be needing to ask others for a little help, and people do like to make friendships over helping each other. Be humble. Reach out.

Check out art-related groups, like garden lovers. Artists lurk in many of these groups too! 🙂 Visit a quilting group like Modern Quilters. Did you know that 1 family in 12 in America has a quilter in their midst?

Be chatty at craft fairs. Artists often love to talk about their process, not just want to sell you a product. Exchange cards. Make an unusual looking business card and have fun passing them out. Doesn’t have to be fancy, here’s mine. (It has scribbles and blobs of watercolor.)

Karen's business card 2015

Karen’s business card 2015

 

Thanks for reading,

Karen

“Friendships begin because, even without words, we understand how someone feels.” -Joan Walsh Anglund

“Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light.” -Jennie Jerome Churchill

 

 

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16 Responses to “Creative People Need Hope… and Each Other”

  1. createarteveryday Says:

    Thanks for sharing this; I really enjoyed it. Love your Photoshop piece also.

    Like

  2. Martine Paquet Says:

    Very interesting Karen and a reality…

    Like

  3. Melanie McNeil Says:

    A couple of things: first, if you substitute a lot of things in the introduction at the party, you’ll have a similar response. For example,
    “And what do you do?”

    “I’m retired now, but I was a high school physics teacher…”

    “Really? Physics was my worst class in high school.”

    The real problem there is that people don’t know how to make conversation, using what someone else told them as a springboard to ask more questions.

    That said, yes, RPT (real people time) is essential. As much as I like to be by myself, and as easy as it is for me to spend days without talking to anyone but Jim, seeing people in person makes a big difference in my general mood. It’s nourishing.

    Good post. Thanks.

    Like

    • Karen Says:

      Good conversation takes some skills, true.
      Nourishing is a good word for RPT. It promotes growth, and that fuels the creative process. Something a little magical can sprout from a few hours with other artists, even if their processes are different. I like that. Thanks for commenting, Melanie!

      Like

  4. Sound Art Creator Says:

    Reblogged this on Sound Art Creator.

    Like

  5. kevanjatt Says:

    These are true, true words, Karen. I pine for more social face to face time. The opportunities are there but I am tethered for the time being. I know this will change in time and when it does, I plan on spending a lot more time in front of people that do similar things as me. People I like, people I admire, and people I love.

    Like

    • Karen Says:

      Kevan, we all have seasons and then we have moments of connecting when we can get them. I’m thankful for my artist friends near and far. Sometimes it is a day-at-a-time kind of life, at least for me. I wish you a beautiful day. -Karen

      Like

  6. SARAH SCHULTZ Says:

    What valuable inspiration and I love the photograph at lunch with everyone. Most of all I love your quote from Miss Clevel !!!!
    I remember reading those Madeline stories to my daughter years ago..She is now 50. Reading has helped her along the way. She is a college professor now. Thanks for the memory recall. I continue to admire the paintings I bought from you of the night scenes…I see them every morning and evening .from my bed. Thanks Karen,

    Like

    • Karen Says:

      Sarah, I so appreciate your kind comments, and that you are enjoying the art work. Some story books do stick with a person. I have a collection of my favorites. Picture books probably were top on the list of why I got into art myself. How nice your daughter became a professor. What subject? I have a 27 year old daughter studying in college now.
      Take care, -Karen

      Like

      • Sarah Schultz Says:

        Hi Karen, You ask what my daughter,Jill, is studying. She is a Professor in Sociology at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD.

        Like

      • Karen Says:

        Sarah, my daughter Anne returned to school to get a second BA in Historical Sociology. She wants to get a Masters and teach college. I love seeing how the next generation moves through life. I feel blessed to have our daughters.

        Like

  7. SARAH SCHULTZ Says:

    Our daughter,Jill, has her PhD in Education now. Her work is extremely important to her. She is been a scholar all her life.
    No hobbies to speak of , but loves to read and teach , textbooks or anything ! My buttons are bursting from my top as I brag !. Maybe our girls paths will meet at some point. She plans on taking some students to Itica NY soon. !

    Like

    • Karen Says:

      Indeed you can be proud of her. My daughter is on her path in education, married with a sweet husband, and lives close. (so far!) It’s fun to have some common interests with our great kids.

      Like

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