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Creating Your Tribe in Your Art Career

Whether you are new to art or have an accomplished art career, there is a advantage to connecting and engaging with others who share our values and viewpoints. When I was searching for a path into the world of art, someone suggested I attend the Portrait Society of America’s conference.

At the time, I was a beginner and had not heard of the Portrait Society. After learning more about the association and its conference, I made a bold move and signed up for the next event. Arriving at the conference in Atlanta, I knew no-one, but within a short amount of time, I met many people from beginning artists to those at the pinnacle of the art world. I always enjoy looking back on how seemingly insignificant choices exceed your expectations and change the course of events in our lives. The choice to attend that conference would become a seminal moment in my life because my whole outlook and point of view on what was possible shifted.

My direction and focus changed because of the people I met and the conversations we shared. Since then, I see even more reasons for maintaining a strong relationship with the larger art community. Each year when I receive my invitation to the next year’s conference, many thoughts run through my head - some excite me, and others may give me pause. My thoughts tend to focus on who will be teaching and painting next year, my financial investment in myself, my growth, seeing old friends, and looking forward to meeting new friends. This leads me to recapping why this has become an important event in my life.

Unlike other professions, artists often work alone in their “own little corners” and don’t have a steady group of associates. Artists often talk about the dangers of isolation as a professional hazard. One of the first things I benefited from was the coming together of like-minded people and the opportunity to engage with so many talented artists who aren’t normally so accessible. For me it’s great fun to walk into any room and see the camaraderie of so many excited artists in their element talking and sharing ideas.

When making decisions that will advance ourselves, whether it’s a conference or something else, there is always that question of “can I afford this?” Where, when and how do we invest in ourselves, and how do we make it a priority? Because most of us are self-employed, we need to seek opportunities which bring us maximum returns. We have to evaluate our situation, our time management, and our financial priorities. As with any commitment we make, there is always a cost, but equally there exists the potential for significant growth. We have to ask ourselves, “how will this best benefit me?”

At this event, creativity, inspiration and fantastic art are always at the forefront from the face-off, people painting everywhere you look, the break-out sessions, and the competition finalists’ works. What has always stood out for me is everyone’s openness and willingness to come together and share their time. Each year I see people ready to learn, to share, and to teach. In this atmosphere, it’s possible to explore other artists’ approaches to their work, hear varied and differing opinions, view different techniques, and learn about others’ paths to their excellence. So much awe-inspiring energy is packed into four days.

Like clockwork, April now represents a time for renewal, self-development, and commitment to my work which the conference facilitates. With each year’s succession, I have the great pleasure to see other artists’ growth, to see their work take shape, and to see them achieve success in their profession. The environment is so dynamic yet constant, and it continues to provide the opportunity to see what’s possible at the next level.

What happens when it’s all over and the exhilaration has diminished when you leave the comfort of this inspirational environment? How do you carry forward that enthusiasm and hold the spirit of the moment? During and after the conference is the best time to evaluate and ponder next year’s steps. It’s the time to think about how to create your momentum, tighten your focus, budget for opportunities, and put yourself out there. Endeavor to develop relationships and connections with other artists who inspire you because the community you establish helps everyone reach higher.

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