When the Plein Air Painters Chicago Steering Committee created its mission statement, camaraderie as one element listed after painting, improving, and selling paintings. It wasn’t at an afterthought, but all aspects of painting ranked higher on the priority list. As it turns out, members usually rank the interaction to other artists as the second most important reason they belong to the PAPC. They came for the painting and stay for the people who care about painting, and are willing to console and kavetch about painting. They want to commune with someone who knows what its like to feel discouraged, be driven to paint, or need a nudge to submit a painting for a contest or enter a competition. Camaraderie doesn’t mean family, but it can be the ease of old school friend, the excitement of learning new things from a date or the shared intimacy of disappointment and success.
So, I’ve been thinking about how the members of the PAPC experience camaraderie. I admit, I didn’t love the word when we first placed it in consideration for our mission. I suggested instead, the word fun, but it took little convincing that we should expect more. Words like welcoming, inclusive, and supportive shaped the concept. It was quickly decided that we welcome everyone to paint with us, paid membership or not. If lunch after a paint-out is in the works, everyone is invited. If someone’s discouraged about matching a color, getting the shape of a car, or struggling to give a figure more dimension, they only have to ask. PAPC comrades in art will come to the rescue.
Here are other ways for any of us to show camaraderie.
Social media –
- When a painting is posted on Facebook and Instagram, like it, better yet, make a comment.
- If a fellow artist shares a promotion for a personal or group show, share it, attend it and take friends who like art or like you. Consider sharing promotions from the Palette and Chisel, what helps them helps the PAPC. That goes too for any of your instructors.
- If someone posts a newsletter, share that on the same social channel, and, copy and paste it to another. Whether the newsletter is written for artists or collectors, it may benefit someone.
- If you’re also a figurative or portrait painter, invite models to bring family and friends to a show to see their likeness.
- Grow your network. Keep track of people who buy or are interested in your work. Let them know not only about your own show, but group shows as well.
- We all need support and camaraderie at one time or another. Use your social networks to ask for what you need… be the receiver and expect that your comrades in art will respond.
- Critiques onsite - Plein air painting reminds me of my son’s high school track team. Everyone worked toward personal bests and there were MVPs, but the team stayed till the last competitor jumped. You may choose not to be critiqued or enter a competition, but you sticking around till the end, offers support and encouragement.
- If someone asks you for a critique of their work. Start with a question, How will my critique help you? Focus on that.
- Begin with a positive, ask if they want more. Be precise and don’t offer an opinion if you don’t know how to fix something that’s not working. Err on the side of encouragement.
Go with a fellow artist to museums and galleries.
- There’s nothing like looking at a painting with someone who shares the language and understands what it may have taken to create the image you’re seeing. It doesn’t have to be an art expert, I’ve learned. In fact, for me, some of them have a tendency in explaining to forget the feeling.
- Once immediately after a paint out in Grant Park, Ray Vlcek and I toured plein air paintings at the Art Institute. Maybe it was our fresh encounter with landscapes, but those few minutes we took to notice and discuss the capture of light, composition, shapes and patterns was especially useful. Check out the light in this 1909 plein air landscape on display at the Art Institute of Chicago by George Gardner Symons.
- Discussing online work with a fellow painter can be valuable too. After staring at raucus waves in changing light for a couple hours I was no closer to capturing them. Studying Anders Zorn’s paintings Sommamoje, Caique Oarsman and Pier paintings with an artist, helped me see them better and stop obsessing. BTW, while I still don’t paint water well, but it helps to know that Zorn spent more than two years on some of his paintings.
Camaraderie for me is still about fun and sharing the joy of painting plein air. How can I encourage you? How can we encourage each other?