Stuck in an artistic rut? Portland artist Sabrina Nichols @brinacasa discusses the importance of online and offline artistic communities in elevating her confidence and combatting her artist’s block in the latest Bee Paper blog.
By Sabrina Nichols
Hi, I’m New Here
Shortly after graduating, I moved away from my hometown, and away from my artsy peers. There was no one making art around me, and I had plenty to focus on besides art, as I just had a new baby. I’d like to say that I started making beautiful art while my child slept, but I didn’t really make any art at all (at least, not on a regular basis) for at least a year after moving. I was living in an artistic desert. I hadn’t realized how important the art community is in providing artistic fuel and inspiration. The creative process can be lonely, but when you have community supporting you (whether or not you realize it) inspiration can be cultivated in surprising ways.
I did a lot of Googling to find something art-related in my neighborhood, and I found a few community artist studios that were way out of my price range, as well as a couple of “drink and draw” events in my neighborhood. I was a Level 1000 Introvert at this point, so it would be another couple of years still before I made it out to one of these magical events. More on to that later.
I found a job at a paint-and-sip studio and was finally in na environment where art was happening around me. True, it was mostly ladies copying paintings of sailboats for their girl’s night, but there was paint on those brushes. Previously being in an artistic desert, I was enthralled upon seeing people create things. This made me start painting a little bit, but I still found inspiration hard to come by.
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Halloween-time rolled around, and all the artists on Instagram started posting about the drawing challenges that crop up this time of the year, with the most popular art challenge being #inktober, created by Jake Parker @jakeparker. I’d seen this art challenge before, but never made it through a whole month of making one drawing per day. Even though each day, all thirty-one days of the month, a different prompt is supplied by the creator of the challenge, it seemed crazy.
“I created Inktober in 2009 as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year.”
-Jake Parker, Inktober.com
A very influential reason I decided to participate this past year is because of my friend, and major art crush, Allie Garcia @blindthesun. I’ve always been amazed by her Instagram because she usually posts at least one drawing per day, and the sheer amount of quality work she produces is incredible. If she can draw every day for literal YEARS, maybe I can do it for at least one month.
I decided to participate in Mab Graves’ @mabgraves October drawing challenge, #mabsdrawlloweenclub. Even if I missed a day, I’d catch up. I chose not to give up, and it was mostly to prove to myself that I could do it. This diligence was new to me but I liked it! It sometimes felt a bit like homework, but I experienced several artistic breakthroughs during this time. It taught me to treat art like a practice, and in doing so, I was able to get more in touch with my creative voice.
Another element that I credit this drawing challenge for is the importance of community ! This concept was made very important by Mab; she wants to be sure that everyone who participated felt supported and encouraged to continue creating, regardless of skill level, medium, or age. Participants were encouraged to comment, share, and connect through this challenge. The engagement element made participating feel important to me, like, “I’m going to make this art today, and people can expect to see it. I’ll be excited to see what they’ve created, and they will be excited to see what I’ve created”. Even if it was all online, creating art didn’t feel so lonely with this challenge.
Reasons Why It’s Amazing:
- The inspiration is supplied via prompts! You don’t even need to come up with ideas, you just do the drawing, or whatever art you do.
- You can gain internet exposure, if that’s your bag.
- There is always a drawing challenge available, even if it’s not Halloween or October-themed. Right now, I’m participating in #doodleaday, created by Rhianna Wurman @ellolovey. Anytime I’m feeling like I need an inspirational boost, I look for a drawing challenge!
Art In Public
Recently, and with my newfound confidence, I’ve been getting out in the real world with my drawing. I feel fortunate that this is an offering in Portland, and that there is even more than one to go to! The first public drawing event I tried was Ink and Drink here in Portland @inkanddrinkpdx
Reasons Why It’s Amazing:
- They invite everyone to come hang out and draw in a very popular Portland bar on a monthly basis
- The art created is then sold at reasonable prices, with half of the proceeds donated to a different social justice charity
- They feature established and emerging artists at each event, so those interested can gain exposure
Another great activity is Drink and Draw Society @drinkanddrawsociety hosted by Nucleus Gallery every Wednesday night. They have a dedicated space for people to hang out and draw in a gallery setting, with beer and cider on tap.
Reasons Why It’s Amazing:
- It’s in an art gallery! The space is inspiring, you’re around like-minded folks, and the inspiration is endless.
- It’s in an art gallery that serves beer!
- They invite patrons to come in and draw any day of the week, but stay open late on Wednesdays for drinkin’ and drawin’.
What I found most valuable was, again, the community. If I’m being honest, I don’t socialize heavily at these events, and I haven’t (yet) made any lifelong friends. BUT, the simple act of creating in tandem with a crowded room of others, who were also creating, fuels my creativity, and has even increased my confidence. Before these experiences, I felt a little shy, or even embarrassed to draw in an unexpected place like a bar or a coffee shop. But now the activity is a little more normal for me, and a lot more fun. Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do, even if I’m the only one drawing! It’s important to feel like you’re a part of something, and these are some simple and fun ways to get connected and inspired to create more.