Artists come in many forms. Screen printers, musicians, graphic designers, and candlemakers all have a few qualities in common.
No matter the medium, collaborating with other makers is one of the most important elements to being successful with your craft.
I know what you’re thinking - aren’t other artists the competition? It’s true, you may be competing for the same limited shelf space in a shop. But by working together, you can both create something more powerful. Surrounding yourself with other artists is also beneficial for other reasons. Here’s why.
The psychology of motivation is split into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation is all about what fulfills your internal desires. So, you may have a distinct inner vision for a piece you want to create, and feel satisfied once you’ve put it on paper. Extrinsic motivation is all about how the world rewards you for what you’ve done: awards, positive comments, and impressing others.
Everybody is motivated by factors in both categories whether we like it or not.
Meeting other artists and building relationships with them introduces more extrinsic motivation to keep you going (and it’s better than scouring comments on the internet in search of praise). These collaborators will be excited to see your newest work, encouraging you to keep going even when your intrinsic motivation peters out. I once hit a creative wall with a sketch-a-day project I was attempting and was ready to abandon ship when a perfectly-timed text from an artist friend gave me the motivation I needed to keep going. I’m glad I didn’t quit, but I may have if it wasn’t for them.
Collaboration and Inspiration
Collaboration is one of the best tools we have to create great art. Why? Because when two minds get together for a project, the best capabilities of those two people combine to exceed the sum of their parts. It also means each artist steps a bit outside their respective comfort zone and gets to try something new. Meeting new artists opens the door to these opportunities to collaborate.
This also lightens the load each person has to carry, and opens up the chance for unexpected developments. You may be inspired to try something new after seeing another artist’s technique. Or maybe you’re impressed by their work ethic and step your game up. In any case, working with like-minded artists can lead to some of your best work.
We’re hardwired to connect and empathize with peers that are like us. By knowing someone else riding the same artistic path, you can form deeper connections than the occasional like or comment. You can share the struggles of late nights, the sting of rejection, and rejoice in the triumphs of success. Having that support system in place will help you feel more satisfied with your work, and make you more confident in your finished pieces.
Though you may consider yourself a successful artist by fulfilling your intrinsic creative needs, most people also want to grow their audience or make more money. (Or both.) The only way that’ll happen is by getting your work out there. Even if your art is good enough to speak for itself, it always helps to know people in the community or at the gallery.
The more connections you have with fellow artists, the more chances you’ll have to know someone who can help you organize a film festival or get into a craft fair. Plus, every new contact you make will likely introduce you to dozens of other artistic contacts, and the deeper entrenched you’ll become in the community. Just be sure to give back to the community as much as you take, and be generous with your time and experience when possible.
Being the lone artist who never ventures beyond their comfort zone isn’t a reliable way to get better. Instead, you need to constantly push your boundaries, whether that means experimenting with a new technique or even an entirely new medium. I never would’ve dabbled in watercolors if it weren’t for a friend who specialized in the technique. Inspiration is right there for the taking.
The need to connect with other artists extends beyond any one format. Everyone with a creative spirit can offer connections, tips, and inspiration. We all share similar paths, desires, frustrations, and processes.
In fact, it may even be better to engage with artists who differ from you in at least some ways - the exposure to different approaches and mindsets can help you break out of your own routines and assumptions.
If you’re looking for new artists to grow your community and inspire your next creation, there’s always room for more here.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffPost.com, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.