Group Hugs?

The global pandemic and social distancing have meant almost 18 months of isolation, and hopefully you have kept up some art, but working entirely on your own. Or if you are a complete beginner, you have been wondering how to start! Maybe you have been watching You Tube videos and giving them a go.

Painting alone at home

However now with the success of vaccination and testing programmes, things are opening up again, so groups and classes can once more meet indoors. Although hugs may be off your radar right now, joining an art group or class will keep you motivated as an artist, whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist.

Here I am giving a painting demo

Beginners will obviously benefit from attending drawing and painting classes. If you are a complete novice this is a great way to get into learning the skills you need and starting to produce art. If you are an experienced artist then joining an art group is the way to go as usually you do your own thing, but in the company of others.

The benefits are many : Friendship with people who have the same interest as you, sharing tips and materials, learning from each other, the chance to exhibit your work, seeing other mediums being used and techniques you haven’t  ( yet) tried – these all keep you interested and learning, whatever your skill level.

After over a year of only connecting with other people and artists on Zoom, the opportunity to meet in person at an art group is irresistible ! If you’re not already in a class or group I strongly recommend that you seek one out and give it a go. Here’s how :

  1. Find local art groups by searching Google for art groups in your area and then email them to see if they are accepting new members ; get on their waiting list if not.
  2. You can also get the list of evening and day classes run by your local authority and apply. The costs are not prohibitive and sometimes relatively low, and what you gain will be well worth any outlay.

For me art classes and groups have been a lifeline all my life. Even when working ridiculously hard as a teacher I always attended an art group every week which was wonderful for my mental health and my art ! The chance to spend time with like-minded people who shared the same interest was so good for me, so refreshing. And simply devoting a couple of hours to creating art was like a meditation in itself – I forgot any troubles and concerns as I focussed entirely on my drawing and painting.

In my happy place – Painting!

Once early retired in Spain I could devote much more time to my art and gradually started teaching drawing and painting in my home. When the class got too big for my dining room and oil painters were in danger of painting each other,( !) we moved to the social centre in my village. From this grew the Painting for Pleasure Art Group which is still meeting today at the Piscina Bar in El Rafol d’Almunia, near Denia / Ondara / Orba on the Northern Costa Blanca (contact me for details of how to join !)

Our trip to see art in Valencia

The idea of the group – as with most groups –  was simply to encourage people who enjoy drawing and painting but never get round to it to meet up once a week and actually do some art ! Everyone brings their own piece to work on and their own materials, though there are spares in our art cupboard. All levels of experience are welcome – you just need to be interested and friendly ! There were also sketching trips to our beautiful area in Spring and Autumn ( it’s too hot in summer !) and occasionally demonstrations, by me or a guest artist.

Sketching in the blossom groves in Spain.
Sketches finished!

The weekly meetings always include a lot of socialising over a break. There is usually a New Year meal out together too. So it’s an ideal way to make new friends (and see old friends regularly, if you’ve been a member for a while !)

I organised an annual exhibition of our work in one of the Culture Centres in various towns within reach – this motivated us to get things finished and framed or varnished. It’s so inspiring for people to see their work on display to the public and sometimes it’s the first time they have been brave enough to show their work.

There were usually a few sales too, equally encouraging for artists. Some of us were motivated to get cards and prints of our work made to put on sale.

Now that I’m back in the UK and far from family and old friends I’ve joined two art groups here in beautiful Northumbria and am making friends with fellow artists again. I can watch demonstrations by other artists and exhibit and sell with the groups. Those weekly meetings mean that we always have to have a piece of art in mind or on the go- again very motivating. If you know that every Monday you’ll be getting on with a painting, you have to have an idea of what you’ll be doing – find or print a photo to work from, bring an inspiring art book or develop one of your sketches.

Art books and magazines have lots of help and inspiration!

It would be all too easy sometimes to not bother, to let your art slide. So if you keep on putting off doing any art the best thing would be to join a class or group – I can thoroughly recommend it !

Leave a Reply