Art and Community

Making Good Art Is About More Than Just Practice and Skill

In times of difficulty and hardship, it’s natural to lean on those close to us to provide support and aid to us. Humans being inherently social creatures—even those of us who are more introverted by nature still need some kind of social interaction for our own sanity, albeit more low-key and relaxed than extroverted folk—we tend to seek out a sense of community and belonging of one form or another in our lives. This can take many shapes, but whatever it looks like, the important thing is that you have people around you to support and encourage you

And since a healthy sense of community of one form or another can be so valuable, you can bet it has an impact on our development as artists too, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Encouragement and Praise

Something a lot of budding artists need and even thrive on is praise. Especially when you’re just starting out, but even when you've been making art for awhile, you need to be told you’re doing well, and reminded that other people recognize that you’re doing a good job, and perhaps more importantly, that you’re improving. This helps motivate you to keep on making art.

Equally important is encouragement. Artist’s block and lack of confidence are two incredibly common barriers that most—I’d even say I suspect all—artists go through at one point or another, usually several times throughout their lifetime. Encouragement is quintessential to helping a struggling artist push through a slump. Sometimes we just need to be told that we can do it; that we have what it takes, and gently nudged in the right direction.

And where do both encouragement and healthy praise abound? In supportive communities, of course. We can get both of these things in any healthy communities we’re a part of, whether they’re composed of fellow artists or not, but it’s especially heartening when other artists—especially those we perceive as more skilled or more experienced than ourselves—tell us we’re doing well, and encourage us to keep improving.

Tips, Tricks, and Constructive Criticism

Of course, it’s all well and good to be encouraged to improve, and the drive and motivation garnered by such encouragement is essential, but then comes the question: how does one improve? Naturally, incremental improvement happens though practice; the more you draw, the better you get. But there’s more to it than just that.

A helpful artists’ community will be full of members who will be happy to share with you their own tips on how to improve; who will show you strategies and methods to make your art better. Additionally, a good art community will also provide you ample constructive criticism when you need and ask for it.

Constructive criticism can be one of the more bitter pills to swallow when it comes to our development as artists, but it’s just as essential as encouragement, praise, and sharing of methods. I myself am not proud to admit that I have yet to ever check the “request constructive criticism” box when I submit a piece of art on paperdemon, for I’m afraid to see the art I’ve put so much time, effort, and love into be torn apart by those more experienced than myself. It takes real courage to ask for constructive criticism, and real humility to accept it gracefully.

Shoulders to Lean On

I mentioned dry spells, artist’s block, and lack of motivation earlier. These aren’t the only barriers one might encounter when making art, and encouragement and praise sometimes aren’t the only thing you might need to overcome them.

Equally important is emotional support and space to vent. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to lean on, or even to cry on, and to be surrounded by people who won’t judge you for perceived weakness or vulnerability.

Feeling allowed to be vulnerable in front of someone requires real trust, which can and often is built through interaction in shared communities. If you can achieve that level of trust with another person, it’s incredibly freeing and comfortable.

Sometimes, in times of distress, grief, sadness, trauma, etc, etc, we just need to feel heard, believed, and cared about as people. Artists are no different than anyone else in this regard, and a good community can help us to form these kinds of bonds.

But Where to Find a Solid Community?

Of course, I’ve talked a lot now about the myriad benefits of a community, but not about where you can actually find one and become a part of it.

Well, first off I’ll start by stating the obvious: you can find a wonderful, supportive community for artists right here at PaperDemon! Once upon a time, the only way to have the kind of sense of community I’ve been describing was by actually being geographically close to a group of people you could meet with regularly, which is why many artists from times past would move to a large city, if they didn’t already live in one. Of course, the internet’s changed all that, and now you can connect with fellow artists from all over the world as long as you have a computer an an internet connection, and you can find all kinds of internet-based artistic communities both big and small, including but definitely not limited to

There are plenty of big and small artistic communities out there on the internet, all with different foci, sizes, and general “feel” to them. PaperDemon prioritizes self improvement and helping to motivate one another to be awesome over simply providing a mere avenue to share art. We’re also still pretty small, and very friendly, which makes the community more approachable. Finally, we allow a much greater range of freedom of expression than other sites might. We’re more relaxed about artistic nudity, and in general have a open-minded and affirming attitude towards a wide variety of types of art.

Furthermore, you can also look around your local area to see if anyone’s meeting up to talk about art. If you're in school, try looking for an art club. If you have a community center that offers free classes, take an art class and meet other artists that way. All else failing, you could always start your own community!

What We’ve Learned

  • Communities are essential to our growth and happiness as people
  • Artists need communities just as much as anyone else, to hone our particular craft
  • We need encouragement and praise to help motivate us to be awesome
  • We need tips, methods, and constructive criticism to facilitate improvement
  • We need to feel allowed to be emotionally vulnerable occasionally
  • All of these things should be present in a healthy artistic community, and you can find them all right here!

So if you haven’t already, why not join our community? If you’re already a member, consider sharing with us what you value about the PaperDemon community, and how we can improve. What do you want and need from a community that we don’t already provide? Let us know! We’re always looking to improve.

And finally, engage with your community. Post your art, give encouraging comments to others, and in general, just be awesome to one another!