Creative Living with Jamie Episode 288:
How to Make Art Friends
As adults, it can be challenging to make new friends but finding others who share your love of art is worth the effort. Having art friends that not only ‘get it’ but who are are also ‘in it’ is incredibly important on the creative journey. The thing is, these art friends are not commonplace; they’re precious. It can take a while to find them! That’s why today I’m sharing six strategies for cultivating friendships over the shared love of art-making.
Resources & Mentions
Welcome to Creative Living with Jamie. I’m your guide Jamie Ridler and on this podcast you and I are going to go on a great many adventures together. We’ll explore all aspects of what it means to live a creative life and we’ll embrace ourselves as artists. We’ll get curious, we’ll wonder and we’ll follow inspiration. We’ll wrestle with tough questions and we’ll brave challenges and sometimes will ask our friends for help. Along the way we will discover our courage, our confidence, ourselves and one another. We’ll come to know our artistic hearts and from there we will create. And that’s when the magic happens.
Episode 288: 6 Ways to Make Art Friends
You know, we all have little ‘tells’, little ways we know that there is something in a moment for us to pay attention to. For me, one of my primary tells is tears. So much so that the first show I ever directed the cast and crew called me the ‘crying director.’ I always knew that when tears welled up, we were on to something. That’s still one of my top signals that there is something here.
Years ago I stumbled across a music video that had me bursting into tears. The song was called Pandora’s Box and the artist David Francey. I’ll leave a link in the show notes but the truth is it wasn’t really the music that made me cry. It wasn’t the song. It was the scene. It was the scene of a bunch of artists playing music together around a kitchen table. Coffees picked up on the way. Dishes on the counter. A shared creative experience. It awakened such a longing in my heart, a longing for creative community.
In response I started hosting what I called Journal Jams at my place. I was honestly a little sensitive about the shabbiness of my space but I finally came to realize (it was a bit of work) I did come to realize that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. People wouldn’t remember my cat-clawed carpet as much as they would remember the camaraderie of creating together. So, I pulled some tables together and I tacked up some twinkie lights. I put out containers of crayons and markers and gel pens and scissors. I put on some chili and I invited over some friends, telling them to bring their journals. Sometimes there were three of us. Sometimes there were more.
We’d spend time doodling and we’d spend time cutting and gluing and chatting. We’d laugh and we’d wonder and we’d share. We’d talk about books and resources. We’d have a bite and a cup of tea or maybe a glass of wine. Sometimes we had some pretty spectacular desserts. The most important thing we made were the memories.
Now one of my greatest joys is how creative community shows up in my Devotion program and in the mentorship circle that follows. Together as artists we dance with creative questions, realizing we are not the only ones wondering, “How do I get past self-doubt?” or “How do I know when a piece is finished (or if I’m just afraid of wrecking it)?” We work side by side in co-working afternoons. I just love it! Creatives of different mediums starting by declaring how they’re going to spend the time and then diving into the work. We have viewing parties, followed by great conversations that expand our horizons and deepen our learning. The highs are celebrated, the lows are commiserated, and over and over each artist is reminded, “You are not alone.”
One of thing I’ve learned over many years – through theatre, through dance, through choir, through art days, through journal jams – is that friendships rooted in art are deeply nourishing. Having friends who not only ‘get it’ but who are in it too buoys the creative heart. So, how do we make art friends? I want to share a few tips with you today to make a good start. I originally shared this in the letter I send out from the Studio every Sunday. If you haven’t subscribed yet, come on over to openthedoor.ca and get on the list. You’ll be the first to know of any events or classes, and you’ll get a 10% discount on classes and also on the Studio Yearbook PDF. By the way, the fall yearbook will be coming out in just a couple of weeks. Right now you’ll receive a series of 5 Creative Practice lessons – such a good way to get your creative mojo going for this fall.
Okay, let’s talk about how to make art friends.
How To Make Art Friends
- Engage in Something Creative & Communal
Take a class. (Online classes absolutely count, as long as there’s an opportunity to connect with others.) Join a choir. Volunteer at a theatre. And when you do, remember the operative word here: engage. Don’t hang back or sit on the sidelines. You know what I’m talking about, right? Don’t sneak in quietly, do your thing and leave quickly. I have done that 5 million times and sometimes it is so necessary. If you are trying to do the thing and take care of your energy, it is 100% encouraged but if you are going because you want to make friends, let yourself be a little awkward. Yes, let it be uncomfortable. Trust that other people are also feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Take a deep breath. Meet someone’s eyes. Smile. Say hi.
2. Make No Assumptions.,
This is so important in so many ways. I hear people say it all the time, “There are no creative people around me”. That may be true but also nearby artists may simply be keeping their cards close to their chest just like you! This often happens because creative people don’t self-identify as artists, “Oh, sure, I only dabble in pottery… Oh, well, yes, I’ve been doing it since I was about 12.” “Oh, this? Yes, I made it myself. I’ve been designing my clothes for years. My kids’ clothes too. Oh, and all of the costumes for all the school plays for, like, ever.” “Well, I do love to write. I even have a blog but I don’t tell anyone about it. It’s just a little thing I do. It’s nothing really.” Do those voices sound familiar? So many of us think of our art in this way. You just might be surprised by how many hidden creatives there are in your sphere!
3. Be Yourself.
One of the reasons the artists of Devotion end up connecting so strongly is because in the circle, they risk being who they truly are. They express their feelings, their fears and their hopes. They share their stories and inevitably, no matter where they are in the world, no matter their age, their background, their medium, they start to see themselves in one another. Be brave enough to share who you really are and what you really love. It’s the surest way to connect with like-hearted souls.
4. Offer the Initiative
When you sense a spark with someone, maybe you’re curious about them or you like their energy or style, take a risk and reach out. Tell someone you appreciate their work. I’ve made so many friends that way. Share a resource the person might find helpful or interesting. If you find that turns into chatting easily and often, extend an invitation. Let’s have coffee or maybe a Zoom tea. Maybe we’ll walk together to the bus after class. Keep it light and stay unattached. Just keep creating opportunities for magic to happen.
5. Do Not Be in a Rush.
You may not make a connection right away. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. Art friends are not commonplace; they’re precious. It can take a while to find them. You may have tried a hundred things and then one day you’re in art class, you’re drawing leaves and mutter, “I am a leaf on the wind… watch how I soar” and the person next to you looks up and says, “Wait, what? You know Firefly?” and there you go. You’re off to the races.
6. Remember, Art Is Your Friend
No matter what happens, remember that art is always with you. Cultivate that relationship with love and care. You can always grab your camera, reach for your journal, sing to yourself and dance. When I used to go to choir, I mostly went by myself. The “regulars” knew each other well and it could be painful to be on the sidelines. But one thing I knew was that once we started singing, not a one of us was alone. Not one. The music and the shared experience brought us together just as it had those artists around the table in the music video that made me cry.
In the end, art brings us together.
I hope you find these tips really helpful. I hope you put them into practice and make lots of wonderful art friends.
Let me tell you about one way that art can do just that in my three-month creative immersion program Devotion. I’ll tell you all about it in Studio News.
There is a magical creative world that exists between the poles of art as “hobby” and “play” and art as “paid” and “professional”. Do you know it?
It’s a place of deep passion for colour, design, dance, music, poetry, textiles, film, book-making, sculpture, illustration, any and all of the arts.
It’s a place of reverence for the entire creative landscape: the tools, supplies, skills, secrets, books, works and artists in the field.
It’s a place where time moves around you while your whole being focuses on making.
It’s a place your heart longs for whenever you are not there.
You probably know this place if you have been hurt or offended by someone saying, “Oh, it’s good to have a hobby.” You’ve probably been there if you’ve ever felt guilty for wanting to spend so much time creating. You’ve been there for sure if you’ve lost a beloved art because it wasn’t going to make you a living. You’ve definitely been there if, despite limited time and energy, you have hauled yourself to rehearsals, stayed up late painting, woken up early to write or some version of the same.
This is the path of artistic devotion and it is valid, significant, meaningful and real.
In devotion, you embrace yourself as an artist and deeply commit to your art because you love it, because it is the way you understand yourself and the world. You commit to it because it calls to you and won’t let you go, because it is quite simply who you are.
It doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes muck about and play.
It doesn’t mean you will never be a pro.
It simply means that making art is essential to the well-being of your creative soul. For that reason, and that reason alone, it matters. It matters.
If this has resonance, if you recognized this place of devotion, if you feel called to that passion, that reference. I hope you’ll consider joining me for Devotion this fall. You will spend three months living, breathing and moving in the world as an artist immersed in your creative work. You’ll learn 12 principles of Devotion that will support you during this season and for many seasons to come. You will create art that is uniquely your own based on your own vision, not the fulfillment of a teacher’s – your own. And as you deepen your creative roots and spread your artistic wings, you will be transformed.
Here’s how artist Anne Hallcom describes it…
Hi, my name is Anne Hallcom. I’m a visual artist. I work in watercolour, pastel and oil. Boy, when I signed up for Devotion last year, as Jamie knows, I just felt stuck in my art. I just felt sort of ambivalent and stuck in my art. I think part of it is because I had all these misconceptions about what makes an artist. I thought, it has to be technique. I have to learn to do more of this and that. What I really learned in Devotion is sure, I can always improve ( I mean, there’s so many things technique wise that I still want to work on) but what I really learned in Devotion is that being an artist is up here and in your heart. It’s not just the work you do. It’s your way of being. It’s who you are. And when you honour that about yourself and see that, you’ve always been an artist. It’s not how someone else defines being an artist. A lot of my crazy ideas were really crazy about what I should be doing so.
In Devotion, with Jamie’s help, with the coaching and the prompts, and the discussion of this wonderful community, I really discovered and validated for myself why I’m already an artist. I gave myself permission to live in that space, and I do live in that space. It’s just how we’re wired. It’s what we love and what we love to do. This group has just been amazing. It’s a very supportive art community, non-competitive. It’s all about each individual transforming themselves with the help of the group.
Thanks so much, Anne!
When you join Devotion, you really do become a part of a community. Many of the artists who go through the program stay in touch with one another. Last season one of the members organized an amazing Mail Art exchange – thank you, Gouri! You also have the opportunity to join an ongoing mentorship circle and I host events a few times a year for alumnae to keep us connected and inspired. Come on over to openthedoor.ca and click on ‘offerings’ to find out about this intimate and immersive creative program. I can tell you without doubt, when you spend three months devoted to your creative work, you cannot help but be transformed.
I hope I have planted some seeds of inspiration with you today. I want you to know that I am thinking about you all the time, imagining all the ways the work of the studio can support your creative life. There are so many good things to come. Here’s to your creative unfurling.