I’ve recently enjoyed unexpected encounters with artists—both those I have known for years and those I was meeting for the first time. These encounters reminded me that we are all part of a community of artists that is, at once, local and global.
The introductions to artists I’ve never met occurred during recent conferences and a vacation to Italy. The people are some of the hundreds of “friends” I’ve met through social networks such as www.artistsnetwork.com, Facebook, and Twitter. As you probably know, these free social networks allow members to post messages or multimedia—such as workshop notices, gallery invitations, artwork, or videos—that can be accessed by other members of the sites. I frequently exchange messages, photographs, and videos with these individuals, but in most cases they live in distant parts of the United States or in foreign countries, and we are unlikely to ever meet fact-to-face.
I recognized several artists when I read their name tags during the Portrait Society of America’s convention in Reston, Virginia, and I was finally able to put faces with the images and words I have been enjoying for months. What was even more remarkable, however, was that Matthew Collins saw me painting along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, and tracked me down after disembarking from a vaporetto water bus. I was wearing an apron emblazoned with the American Artist logo, but Matthew said it was a video of me painting in New Orleans that helped him recognize me from the moving water bus. Matthew has been researching the history of artists’ materials and making his own charcoal, paints, and mediums, and we talked about developing articles on his findings while we enjoyed a summer afternoon in Venice.
Another American artist I connected with in Venice was Tony Green, a New Orleans resident who has been painting and exhibiting in Venice for the past 27 years. I happened upon an art gallery where Tony was mounting an exhibition of his oil paintings and etchings, and we spent time catching up with each other’s activities.
As I’m sure you have discovered, an artist’s work becomes more meaningful when we have some sense of his or her personality, lifestyle, local community, or family. We can see how artists’ images relate to the people, places, and events that inspire their artwork. I certainly have a greater sense of Tony’s and Matthew’s oil paintings now that I’ve visited them in Italy, and I have stronger connections to the portraits created by my friends at the Portrait Society of America.
I’m curious to know if you have been able to expand your understanding of other artists’ drawings and paintings by getting to know them through e-mail, social network websites, or on a personal basis. Do you have a better understanding of what your artist friends are creating, or does the message come through a work of art regardless of whether you know anything about the person?