Painting can be a very isolating and lonely experience. We painters work intensely on our paintings, often alone for major periods of time. Even when loved ones are present, we seek the camaraderie of those that paint. We have a shared bond, one forged in the depths of technical and conceptual struggle. There is an unspoken commonality.
Participating in weekly classes, workshops and critique groups are helpful. Here we find painting buddies and form artistic friendships. Joining a pastel organization is another way of reaching out to others that share a common interest. Most states have an organization and some have multiple. A quick Google search will provide information on what is available in your region. You can also check the member pastel societies listings on the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) web site for one that may be close to you. If you belong to an organization that is a member of IAPS, plan to attend the international convention that is held every two years. The next will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in early June 2011. This is a wonderful way of connecting with a variety of artists from all over the world.
If there is no organization in your vicinity and travel is prohibitive, you can stay connected with the pastel community through social networking sites like Wet Canvas. Artists are also networking through web sites like Facebook and Twitter. Look for the ArtistsNetwork page on Facebook here (it combines news from The Pastel Journal, The Artist’s Magazine and other F+W Media fine art properties). Online communities such as these provide offer artists a sense of connection without leaving home. Of course, a subscription to art magazines like The Pastel Journal, will also keep you abreast of current trends, products, exhibition possibilities, while providing a venue to see what old painting friends have been up to, as well as providing exposure for new emerging artists.
I was recently reminded that painting alone could be compared to experiencing a sunset alone. As nice as it might be, it is always better when shared with someone. Near the end of a demonstration during a workshop in Bend, Oregon, the sky turned dark and the threat of rain loomed. Always the plein air optimist (something that has put me in more than a few painting predicaments, I assure you), I opened up a large umbrella and kept painting. “No more than 10 or 15 minutes” is what I told the onlookers. The smart ones packed up and readied themselves for a quick dash to the parking area while I kept on painting. As light rain turned into a pelting downpour and thunder lead to mothball-sized hail, I finished up. Others had kindly held additional umbrellas over my work area to protect the fragile painting and pastel palette. After a mad dash to the car and the rescue of the remaining equipment, a small but totally wet and muddy group of plein air diehards remained. “Looks like it’s letting up,” said one one of the ladies, as she opened a bottle of wine she had safely stowed in the back of her car. Glasses were filled and laughs were had all around as we shared the moment. As wet as we were and as messed up as some of the painting equipment had become, we had shared a wonderful moment together. Alone, it might have been just a disaster, but together it was a plein air moment—one I will not soon forget. Thanks for the wine Lise and thanks for the memories to all you dedicated—albeit wet—painters!