The buddy system in art

16

Dear Artist,

If you’re going swimming, you’re better off if you swim with a friend. So goes the theory. Folks who get together and paint on Thursday mornings know what I’m talking about. There’s something to be said for collective consciousness, shared energy, or maybe just the joy of like-minded companionship.

jack-hambleton_boats

“Vancouver Fishboats” 1979
oil on board, 24 x 30 inches
by Jack Hambleton (1916-1988)

Here’s a buddy system for studio-introverts or home-workers. You need a telephone friend who is in the same business, some music and a clock. Squeeze out and get all your stuff in order. Phone your friend and propose a time-frame. Two or three hours are good, or it can be until your tray of Mozart runs out. Make an agreement not to stop until the appointed time. It’s fun to give an exact start, like a starting pistol. Bang. As you may have noticed from my previous letters, I’m a believer in fast and furious. It’s an automatic work-freshener and you’ll be amazed how much the two of you can get done when you keep on pushing. When the agreed period ends phone your buddy and compare notes. Not surprisingly, across the wires, there’s a feeling of cosmic connection.

jack-hambleton_north-kalamalka-lake_oil

“North Kalamalka Lake”
oil painting 24 x 36 inches
by Jack Hambleton

If you have a digital camera, you might now shoot, jpeg and email an exchange. In today’s world this minor miracle can happen in less than 60 seconds — even if you’re in Wakanacksak and your buddy is in Dover. If you’re into mutual critiquing, you can be each other’s best buddies. A small jpeg actually gives an advantage. Compositional problems pop out in ways that are not always available to the creator who’s sitting in front of his or her effort. Sometimes, what you thought was still unfinished, gets a surprising applause from across a puddle. Start collecting each other. Make regular dates.

Go for new buddies, too. In spite of the time zones, go international. Consider streaming video. Wear odd clothes.

My epiphany arrived when I realized that my art turned out best when I embraced it as an event. When you have a like-minded buddy, it’s easier to make it into a memorable one.

jack-hambleton_tropic

“Tropical Marina”
watercolour, 10 x 12 inches
by Jack Hambleton

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “On Monhegan Island, Robert Henri and George Bellows had a contest to see who could make the largest number of oil sketches in one afternoon.” (Eunice Agar)

Esoterica: My best painting buddy has now passed away. His name was Jack Hambleton. He painted in watercolour, oil and acrylic. We had fun together. “Sit down and shut up,” he used to say. That was his way of telling me to pay attention to what I was doing, be more efficient, and to push against my self-imposed limitations. “Without him I would have given up.” (Renoir on Monet)

This letter was originally published as “The buddy system in art” on February 28, 2003.

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“It’s easier to be creative if you’ve got other people to play with.” (John Cleese)

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16 Comments

  1. John Francis on

    This reminds me of the kind of approaches embraced by Brian Eno. If you’re familiar with his ‘Oblique Strategies’, you’ll know what I’m referring to. Constraints can be catalysts to creativity. Samuel Beckett spoke about the ‘freedoms of restriction’ and ‘the restrictions of freedom’. Even Miles Davis found himself employing such ‘templates’.

  2. Lovely letter, is it your dad “speaking” in esoterica? My friends and I have a buddy system, 10 of us paint together once a week in our mentors home studio. Sometimes it’s the only time I have time in the week to paint. It feeds my soul.

    • …….ONE OF THE MOST PLEASANT EXPERIENCES OF MY LONG LIFE, WAS A COMMUNITY COLLEGE LIFE DRAWING CLASS, TAKING PLACE FOR FOUR HOURS, SATURDAY MORNING, IN A LARGE AUDITORIUM WITH ABOUT FOUR UNCLOTHED FEMALES POSING IN FAST POSES, AND ONE IN A LONG POSE….THE INSTRUCTOR WAS AN EXCELLENT ON SITE ART MUSEUM PAINTER, THAT WAS ALLOWED TO DO COPIES OF THE OLD MASTER COLLECTION, AND SELL THEM DIRECTLY TO THE COLLECTOR……SATURDAY SHE BROUGHT CLASSICAL MUSIC AND BROWNIES, PLUS TEA AND COFFEE…..THERE WAS ONLY A MODEST MODEL FEE……I ATTENDED FOR YEARS AND MADE FRIENDS WITH MANY ACCOMPLISHED ARTISTS, WHO WERE SHARPENING UP ON THE HUMAN FIGURE…..ONE WAS THE SON OF AN EARLY CALIFORNIA PAINTER WHO STUDIED WITH ROBERT HENRI, AND HAD IN HIS HOME STUDIO TWO VERY LARGE HENRI’S, BUT LATER ADMITTED THEY WERE DONE BY HIS FATHER…..BUT NOW AT AGE NINETY, I SIT ALONE AT MY EASEL ALMOST DAILY…..AND AS MURIEL ABOVE SAYS, IT FEEDS MY SOUL……..

      • George,
        Kudos to you. Never quit. Painting is a solitary activity and I hope to be still paInting at 90!
        Warmest regards,
        Ruth

  3. I just quit a group called the Monday painters, for personal reasons, and couldn’t get anyone out on Fridays. So now I paint alone all day, sometimes in the studio and sometimes out on the road, but it’s very lonely. I could use a buddy like this…

    • CAN’T PICTURE ICONIC PAINTERS EMBRACING THE BUDDY SYSTEM. WELL, DE KOONIG DID HAVE DRINKING BUDDY. DOES THAT COUNT?

    • Interestingly, I also quit a Monday painting group for the same reason as John. However,
      I joined a Wednesday group who only allow watercolor. So, I have branched out and began
      watercolor which is different from what I usually do (oil and pastel) but I am loving this
      new direction I have taken . Also, the other ladies in the group are very nice people. Sometimes were are forced to make changes that work better for us in the long run. I see this as a win, win.

    • Hello
      I would love to have a buddy. Lately I’ve been working on some unfinished paintings that I started last summer during a three month road trip across eastern Canada. I took lots of photos when I was there but the atmosphere is just not the same. Now, I’m struggling with procrastination and wondering how to get past it. I work in oil and pastels. I would love to share ideas.

  4. hi Sara

    Articles that define things like this – buddy system and artspals help the mind to see it all clearly and experience it dynamically. Thank you!

    I am NOT in a buddy system right now for my art, because of changes in my path that are good but different. Still, I do enjoy friends and neighbors and groupshowgangs…..LIFE. It’s a life thing, to group up in it

  5. I can paint alone or in an art class/workshop with others. Never tried a buddy system before until three weeks ago when my neighbor asked me if she could come and draw with me on Sunday mornings. We focused on drawings, and two hours later, we both have finished drawings. I think it’s a good system if you could find someone compatible to you. You could also create a closed group on Facebook and invite others who are interested in your program to join you. This requires a moderator to ensure the integrity of the group. Thank You for this post, makes me feel I’m on the right track. :-)

  6. I am a member of the Virtual Art Academy, which offers the opportunity to network with other members from around the world. By networking, I mean share art, share critiques, share the results of assignments, participate in discussions about art. In other words, participate in a community of like minded people – it’s both enriching and a lot of fun!

  7. I used to paint with my cousin every Friday afternoon. It was generally a pleasant experience. I believe it helped me progress more than her. With her encouragement, I took more risks, broadened my subject matter and gained more confidence. I don’t think that it was reciprocal. In a joint show I outsold and though it wasn’t a competition, it did leave a bad vibe. Now I’m looking for a place to have a shared studio model. I love the Singer Sargent piece posted in another letter.

  8. Having a painting buddy makes a huge difference for me. I am grateful that as a Virtual Art Academy student, I have painting buddies from around the globe. Our virtual community keeps me motivated as well as learning and growing from the assignments and feedback. I am also fortunate to be part of a plein air painting group with weekly paint outs in our area. And of course, I relish your newsletters too. Thank you!

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