There's a popular notion that artists are loners; introverted, unkempt bohemians who hole up in their studios, shunning human contact whenever possible. And there may be an ounce of truth to this. Yet looking over the course of history, the most innovative art wasn't formed in isolation, but in the company of peers. Michelangelo conversed with both Da Vinci and Raphael. Monet and Renoir painted side by side with others in their Impressionist circle. Picasso swapped paintings with Matisse. Even an isolated and unstable Vincent van Gogh reached out to fellow painter Paul Gaugin before entering his most intense period of creativity.
So why did these artists paint with others? And why should you?
1) Constructive feedback. Sure, you can get nice comments from gallery visitors or “likes” on Facebook, but a fellow artist can let you know specifically why the composition or color scheme you chose is to good (or not-so-good) effect. Also, they can help you know when you're done with a painting so you can step away and not work it to death.
"I especially like this bit, where you bravely applied a mauvy shade of pinky-russet."
2) Connections. Your local art scene is smaller than you think. Someone will always know someone you need to get in touch with, or has insider information on a show you'd like to enter.
3) Safety. Whether in the wilds of a national park or a Parisian sidewalk, it's always preferable to have an extra set of eyes to watch your back.
4) Supplies. Absentmindedly forgot your hat, paintbrush, Titanium White, or other essential item? Chances are, someone can lend it out, or at least commiserate. We've all done it before.
5) Cheap models. If you can't find a scene to paint, you can always paint your fellow painters.
Monet, painted by Renoir
An older Monet, painted by Singer-Sargent
6) Stories. There is much to be learned from listening to stories of other's past experiences. Also, once you've been at it awhile, you'll have plenty of adventures to share, yourself.
7) Support. Rejections. Creative slumps. Withering critiques. It's a hard journey at times. Yet it's somehow easier to take when you realize there are others on a similar road.
Monet's take on a scene
Renoir's take on the same scene. What a lovely day of painting they must've had.