In the past few weeks, I have had a terrific series of evenings with my local Drink and Draw group, culminating with a particularly productive (and fun) evening this week. Attending the last few weeks of group drawing events has had me reflecting on the influence that attending the group has had on my art and my future plans, and so I figured that I would use this week’s blog entry to write about that influence.
However, to set the stage for this, it may help to start by setting out how I came to find my own Drink and Draw group.
Amateurs Isolate and Pros Congregate
Sometime last year, I came across a blog entry that had been posted on the Skinny Artist website, which discussed some of the features that distinguish an “amateur” artist from a “professional” artist (if you are so inclined, you can read the blog entry yourself here: skinnyartist.com/9-warning-sig…)
While I think that all of the points made by that blog entry are interesting and valuable for artists looking to improve their discipline, the one that is most relevant to this week’s blog entry is the final one; namely, that amateur artists isolate themselves from the artistic community, while professionals are connected to the wider, artistic community.
Of all the points made by the Skinny Artist article, I found this suggestion to be the most difficult, as it was not something I could do on my own. While I have always had friends who are fans of comics, I have not ever really had other comic-drawing friends.
As such, if I wanted to meet other comic artists, I would have to go out and meet new people. But, how does one do that?
The Squeaky Wheel Gets Directions
It turns out that my connection to my own group of artistic peers is owed, largely, to my tendency to think things “out loud.”
On a Saturday in January, this year, I was talking to a friend who works at my local comic store. We were talking about the value of working with other artists (she is an author of children’s books, as well as a painter and sculptor) and I had offered to get her the contact information for a local writing group that I had met through a friend. I then joked that I wish I could find a similar group for comic artists.
Well, it turned out that she knew a couple artists who were members of the local Drink and Draw group, and she offered to return my favor by getting me the contact information for them.
A few days later, she had an email address for me and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Perks of Having Peers
Over the past year, I have written a few times about attending my local Drink and Draw group and how it has pushed me to draw things I would not have otherwise drawn, but I would like to specifically set out some of the social benefits I think I have enjoyed from that experience.
The most valuable benefit I feel I have gained from the Drink and Draw group, is an appreciation for the value of a supportive and diverse group of other artists.
Each of the artists I have met through the Drink and Draw group has a distinctly unique style and it was really interesting to see how they would ask for suggestions from each other on the pieces they were working on (some folks are better with hair, some with dynamic poses, some with their linework when inking, etc…).
Even more impressive was the constructive and helpful answers that they would get in return, often which pushed the inquiring artist into trying new things.
Initially, I found it hard to get involved in those discussions and ask for suggestions myself, but the friendly and positive atmosphere on those nights soon made it easy to start benefitting from the suggestions and insights of my new friends.
In those first weeks of meeting up with the Drink and Draw, I also grew to be impressed with the support and encouragement the artists all offered each other.
For instance, in the lead-up to the convention season, most of the members of my Drink and Draw group were busy getting their prints made, sorting out their table arrangements, and coordinating carpools for out-of-town conventions. Everyone seemed to be working together on these plans, they shared info on where to get the cheapest prints, and there was a real feeling that there was more than enough “success” to be found at these cons, to be shared by all.
I am not certain if this collegiality is unique to Calgary (I find the legal community here to be particularly collegial too, so it may be attributable to Western hospitality), but it has been a pleasant surprise and, as I have started making my plans to take part in the comic convention circuit next year, I have appreciated the “more the merrier” response I have received from the other Drink and Draw artists.
One of Us, One of Us
It may be obvious at this point, but I have really come to appreciate the sense of community I have found in my local Drink and Draw group and, particularly in the last few weeks, I have come to love feeling like “one of the gang.” Not only do I feel that the group has helped my art, it also made me a better artist, by pushing me into trying new things, like attending conventions as an exhibitor and participating in group projects, that I would not have otherwise tried. Oh, and best of all, it has proven to be a ton of fun as well (it is not often that you get to gush about your favorite obscure comic and have someone else know exactly what you’re talking about).
For any artist that may read this who is, like I was, without a group of fellow comic-drawing friends, I strongly encourage you to give your local Drink and Draw group a try (there are local groups in most Canadian and American cities and they all seem to have an online presence). You have nothing to lose and only new friends to gain.
Have a terrific weekend, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, and I hope to see you back in seven days!
Until then, I have some drawing to do.
Kevin B. Madison
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