Artists crave feedback, and it’s not always due to the stereotypical artist insecurity. While most artists labor in isolation to create a finished work of art, the first thing they want to do when they think they’re finished is to ask friends, colleagues, or professors for an opinion. Why is this? While they may ask for validation, what they’re really seeking is collaboration. This is a valuable component in the artistic process. Virtually no artist works entirely alone.
How do artists work together? Believe it or not, it usually starts with sharing materials. For example, Jim Loftus creates assemblages in 3D using found or historically significant articles. He is very resourceful and is always looking for great finds that will fit into his imagined narrative. Naturally, other artists are drawn to him because his work is unusual, and often they are his best sources of supplies. Recently, he received a call from a fellow artist who discovered a discarded treasure that she thought would appeal to Loftus. They met and decided to work together on the piece, both inspired by the others’ vision. The work made its way to a local gallery.
Another way artists collaborate is by means of social networking. The Internet has become a dynamic tool for artists. Dawn Kinney Martin keeps a photographic journal (blog) of her works in progress with a link to her Web site, and sends out regular e-mail messages embedded with photos to keep her “followers” up to date. Artists follow her progress, but the information can and often does translate into sales.
Social networking also allows artists to communicate with others about upcoming events in which they might participate. In an artist education course held at the Decatur Market & Gallery in August, the speaker’s topic was, “Show Economics: Don’t Waste Your Money.” The presenter offered advice on how to plan for a good economic return on the investment of doing an event, festival or exhibit. But the most valuable information from the course was the open dialogue among attending artists who shared their experiences from previous shows and their expectations of upcoming events. This forum allowed artists to collaborate in a very valuable way.
During this challenging economy, artists are working more creatively than ever to maintain their career paths and incomes. Collaboration is a natural solution. The end result benefits more than the individual. Artist collaboration benefits all components of the arts community, including patrons, galleries, and festivals. The best result of all is perhaps the bond achieved among kindred artistic spirits to share their process with others, filling creative isolation with colorful, plentiful inspiration.
Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. He lives in Atlanta. www.patrickgallery.com