Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement from your friends…

I have a young artist friend I used to work with, and we would sometimes take an afternoon break, go to one of the conference rooms with our art supplies, and paint together. She worked mostly with acrylic paints, but she was fascinated with watercolors, so asked me if I’d coach her a bit in watercolor technique. She already had her own distinctive style, so I just helped her a bit (“Draw your pencil lines more lightly!!“), but she learned fast.

Since then, she moved on to another job, but we still keep in touch. I have to admit though, since then, I’ve been busy, and often neglect to get out my watercolors. Sometimes, I paint with coffee, but that lets me work exclusively with value while ignoring color and hue — things which are especially important when working with skin tones in a figure!

A little while ago, up pops a message from my friend, saying she was going to be in the area and asking if I had some time in the afternoon to paint together! She sometimes has a flexible schedule, and I am often working from my home office, so I can take breaks. We agree to drop over to a local coffee shop and set up there. I brought some reference photos, and we start together. After a couple of hours, I’ve been able to pull together this painting of the dancer in a white tutu.

Art, whether it’s watercolor, coffee, clay, writing, music, or whatever, is something we have to keep up. It takes time to develop skill, and the eye (or ear) to know what we are doing. Some things we never forget, but it doesn’t take long for some of that sensitivity and touch to start to erode. It does come back, but the longer we let it erode, the hard it is to recover.

Keep up with your artist friends, and gently (or maybe sometimes, not so gently) encourage them to create together. Don’t just tell them they should be creating. If they (or you) feel like you’re in a hole, offer to get together somewhere, like a coffee shop or a common studio space, even if it’s just to sit at the same table and work. A cup of coffee or tea can work wonders for the imagination when it’s shared together.

Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends.

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