How many of you have peers that can offer you support as an artist?
While I lived in Dubai I had art teacher friends who could help me when I felt stuck with an artwork. They’d give me advice on skill-based decisions, help me as I contemplated meaning and message, etc. One friend was super helpful to have around: she was always honest about what she liked with my work and if I had a question about a compositional decision, or a color choice, she’d really give time to the problem and offer amazing feedback.
While we stay in touch, I miss the ease that came from a shared city and spending time together. Our art critiques were never scheduled, more an informal as needed conversation. Thank goodness for WhatsApp: our message boxes are periodically filled with pictures and discussions about goals and meaning.
Moving here and feeling somewhat separated from art and entrepreneurial community I found other ways to seek it out. One of them was to listen to Entrepreneur on Fire while I make art in the morning. Jonathan Lee Dumas, the podcaster, always shares a quote each and every podcast:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
As I listened those podcasts raised my standard as an entrepreneur. They helped me realize how much I want meaningful connections with the people I serve (yes, that’s you), and that there are other people out there doing the good work too. I’m not alone.
What about my art?
The interactions we have with people around our art are telling. As is telling someone you are an artist. I had a “friend” tell me she didn’t believe I was an artist until she came to my house and saw my artwork on the walls.
Ask yourself: are your friends helping you grow or holding you back from your creative dreams? Are you surrounding yourself with creatives who raise your level of creative standard?
3 Signs you need to protect your creative interest:
(1) Your friend never says anything positive or supportive about your work.
(2) You hear dialogue from loved ones that says things like:
- “What a cute/nice/insert patronizing word here hobby” you have.
- “Is there a reason you are making this?”
- “That’s not art, that’s craft.”
(3) You feel you have to justify your decision to make art to your friend.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. And not all friends are meant to be art friends, those kindred spirits who truly get the desire and passion to create. And that’s okay. I repeat, that’s okay. What you do need to take care of is your art. This may mean sharing limited information about your art, or nothing at all with some of your loved ones, to protect your creativity. It’s more important that you create than navigate the confusion someone else has about art.
In addition to our non-art friends, it is valuable to seek out friendships that will raise your creative bar.
For those of us who studied art in school, I’m sure you remember group critiques. I really valued those times and was always disappointed when no one spoke up. I didn’t realize how important they were to my work until I didn’t have a community of artists to work with, to help me grow and learn.
For those of you who didn’t study art in school, there are other ways you may have discovered the benefit of community. Perhaps you have an amazing local art center with teachers that foster community and connection, where peers have developed skill and artistic voice side by side. Or perhaps you’ve been on the art fair circuit, meeting like minded people and those connections have fostered the artistic development you seek.
Here and there I’ve found people with art interest to connect with and sometimes bounce ideas off of, but never again have I found those moments of consistent critique (and accountability!) with other visual artists.
What it means to raise the bar.
Before I moved to Oman I practiced yoga but I wasn’t really tested in my practice until I reached Muscat. I’d show up to classes where everyone else could do headstands, touch their toes and do jump backs and jump throughs while I was still just trying to touch my toes. At first it made me feel inadequate (“I’ll never get there.”).
No one judged me, in fact all I ever heard were encouraging comments. While I learned a lot from all of the many teachers I had, it wasn’t until I moved to Oman and really raised my bar of expectation that I saw my skill in yoga grow.
I started going to an Ashtanga class, having no clue what that meant (think physically intensive yoga with prescribed recipe of practice). I was around these amazing, talented women who had more strength and flexibility than I thought I could ever have: their practice really was a notch above mine.
But the space is a community and I was encouraged and supported through my own practice and self-discovery. And over time, the poses got easier; I realized I was naturally able to do some poses that others couldn’t, even though I still can’t always touch my toes.
It made me realize: I held myself back by not surrounding myself with yogis who set a higher standard of practice. As soon as I embraced their knowledge and experience, my practice accelerated at a much different pace.
In any discipline, if we surround ourselves with people who hold us to a high standard, perhaps even higher than we feel ourselves capable of going, we reach further than we ever expect we could. Perhaps we never reach “their level,” but being around people who set high expectations and strive to achieve, well, it rubs off on everyone they spend time with, too.
There is no magic button that will help you find the right creatives to align with but we do have a choice to seek those people out to help raise our standard of creative practice.
If you are a creative who desires to grow, learn and better your skill, find other creatives you can partner with: not to create art together (unless you want to), but to chat online, share artwork, and give each other feedback and support. Don’t rely on loved ones without any art experience or knowledge, they will misguide you with the best of intention.
We make a choice to honor our desire to be creative. This means finding ways to connect and grow alongside other artists who set the standard high. It means being open to feedback and listening for those learning moments even when the comments feel hurtful. It means being open to the fact that we can always learn more.
I ache for this connection for my own artist growth and development. I’m going to sign up for some art classes locally in the fall just to build skill and explore new materials and ideas, but I yearn for a community of like-minded artists: creatives seeking to grow and take their art to another level. I am lucky to have cultivated some of that within this very community.
I want to be around artists who want to learn, seek critical feedback to better their work, and have an interest in developing and fostering their unique style and voice.
I want to be around artists who want to show their art: in galleries, in self made shows for family and friends, at fairs, in museums, to their own community and clients.
I want to be around artists who share ideas about promotion and skill development, not because we all want to sell our art, but because it helps us all grow and learn; it helps us understand how and why we create the art we create.
I want to be around artists who don’t feel the need to compete with each other, but see the benefit of lifting each other up: our unique artwork and voice cultivate different viewers with different interests.
You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. Who are they for your creativity? Is it time to raise the bar?
“You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. Who are they for your creativity? Is it time to raise the bar?” (Click to Tweet)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: I’ve created a special space for artists seeking to raise that bar. If you want to be part of a community that lifts you up, celebrates your artist growth, learning and success, that will offer feedback on your art and hold you accountable to your creative dreams sign up here: be the first to know.
I have a large community of creatives online, but locally I don’t.
That’s how some people find their community thank goodness for the digital age.
Yes. Without the Internet, I would have been on my own. Both when it comes to figuring out the art business, and my spirituality.
You aren’t alone in that experience Linda, thank you for sharing. 🙂
I know 🙂 I’ve heard several others saying it too. It’s my pleasure. I love your content.
🙂 I’m grateful you choose to be here as part of our community.
I agree Linda. Without the internet, I’d have no community. I am thankfully I stumbled upon Carrie and her group. It’s been extremely helpful to me.
I’m really happy to hear that Kris! <3
Thanks Carrie! I own an open art studio where hobby and professional artists can come to make art, take classes and enjoy a community of creativity. I absolutely love the quote about 5 people you shared!
Danielle that is such a great idea. I’m sure your community is SO grateful for that opportunity and experience, I know I would be! 🙂 I’m so pleased you like the quote, thanks for reading.
Over this past winter I read the book – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, and one quote struck a chord with me and it was this one “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” ― Austin Kleon.
I have many very very talented photographer friends (thats my area of art) and once or twice a year they end up at an auto race near me and its when I sit in that media room that I realize the only way to raise that bar is to seek out those who are better then you, and study them, emulate them, follow them and their styles, and to also read up on anything art related from any field, as all the answers are out there, you just need to find them.
I also over the winter read the book “Who I Am” by Pete Townshend and he spent countless thousands of hours listening to all kinds of music for inspiration and also reading books. And its from this where he would draw inspiration and ideas for songs.
If you continue to think within the box you currently think within, you will only continue to get the results you currently get.
I learned from one of the sportscar photographers that more often then not well meaning friends and relatives will hold you back by praising you. But these people more often then not know nothing about whatever art form you partake in. You have to be willing to be hammered on and put down by those better then you in order to grow, and only when you take what critiques they are offering to heart will you improve and raise your bar and grow as an artist.
Read books, join facebook pages and Yahoo groups, observe what others are doing and not just within your chosen field of art. Much of my railroad photography is inspired by sportscar and F-1 photography, not from within the railfan community.
You never stand out when you follow the crowd. Be different, be daring don’t be afraid to fail now and then, for failure is growth transpiring if you learn from it.
Gary I really appreciate your thoughtful contribution: thank you. I love your point about how learning new things or reading and experience things outside of our specialty will help us grow within our discipline. I know too many who feel the only way to grow is to be singularly focused on a specific set of skills. And yet, when we read, listen to music, travel, etc. we do have new ideas that make our art stand out. The only failure is giving up on our art. Any “mistakes” we have along the way truly make us who we are: it is “Growth transpiring.”
I love this post. I originally came to Japan 12 years ago via the military. I am a very creative person, be it music or actual drawing. Through music I have met many people, even the ones that I consider to be top notch in music. I have been fortunate to give my music side a chance and I must say it was not a disappointment. But, music is something I learned that I enjoy more so as a hobby, art is something I have been into since the age of 7, though its been off and on. Lately, my drawing has been something I have been into on a regular basis, not taking any breaks and trying to improve nice and slowly. I hope to meet a supportive group like I have with the music. The internet is a great tool to use to meet like minds and after reading this post I have decided to research art groups here in Japan. Thank you for your thought!!!
Benn I am so pleased you commented here. There are so many people who have multiple creative interests, I’m glad to see you highlight that. I also love hearing that you plan to find some art groups in Japan! Go for it. 🙂
I’ve always struggled with friendships. They’ve never come easy for me. BUT, reading this post has helped me understand that I have some good friends these days. Not all of them, but some of the are key supporters. I’ll lean in more closely now. Thank you.
Mandy thank you for sharing, and reading! 🙂
I should think that I am a very lucky person, all my friends says only positive compliments about my drawings and paintings, in spite of myself I do not think it’s as good as they say. I feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed for the most part on these accolades because I think are exaggerated and unrealistic.
Hi Heloneida! Welcome. I think it’s really important you take some time to reflect on why you feel so uncomfortable about the positive feedback on your art. Why isn’t it possible your art makes them as happy as they say they do?
Locally I don’t have anyone but I do hear about my art through the grape vine. My hubby is one of my biggest supporters, sharing what I do with others, but he doesn’t share his thoughts with me… guess he doesn’t want me to get a fat head, lol. Craft shows have also been really good for me as the feedback has been amazing.
Even so I still have a hard time sharing my work, especially unfinished work, when it comes to getting feedback. My art is very personal and I like it to have completely come from me. Having someone provide feedback/input makes me feel that the piece just didn’t come from me but is a collaboration. This may be totally whacked, but it makes me happy to work on it and see what I can do. After I am done a piece, good or not, I am ready to let it go and get feedback. This feedback helps me grow for the next piece.
I guess there are different preferences, or maybe I need therapy hahahaha.
I’m so glad your hubby is so supportive by sharing your work with others! That’s a sign of pride 🙂 if you ask me. 🙂
Being out selling or sharing art can be a great way to get feedback too!
Feedback is only necessary if: you want to build or improve your skill or you are trying to sell to a particular market and are testing things like prices or sizes of works. If your goal is to make what you want to make when you want to make it, feedback is completely optional.
I find people who are overcoming perfectionism have the hardest time with feedback. It’s important for those to be careful when and who they ask, and it may take quite some time before they are really ready for that step.
In terms of this article, we often receive feedback even when we don’t ask for it. You can post an artwork to share online just to share, and sometimes people offer advice or comments just because. Family and friends can do this too. And I want to help people identify ways to protect and honor where they are at with their art so they keep making, which is what I hope for everyone here! 🙂
Thanks for sharing Cheryl and starting an interesting conversation.
Thank you so much for clearing it up for me.
Thanks for sharing your journey with me 🙂