Painting with Others vs. Painting Alone

Painting with Others vs. Painting Alone

with 7 Comments

As we develop our skills as painters, should we focus on painting alone or join groups of other artists? I think there are advantages and disadvantages to painting with others vs. painting alone. I’ve enjoyed painting on many occasions with groups of other artists. Sometimes with just one other artist friend. I’ve also spent countless hours painting alone in the open landscape or quietly in my studio.

A few highlights of some of the great memories I’ve made while painting with others:
• Spotting whales off the California coast.
• Experiencing the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon and having a hiker walk by who, upon seeing me with my easel, asked if I was collecting rock samples. ?!
• Putting the finishing touches on a painting of what we thought was an abandoned beached fishing boat in southern Spain when suddenly the boat’s owner emerged from below deck after a siesta (boy was he surprised to be surrounded by painters!).
• Laughing as tourists at Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies lined up and took turns pretending to paint my painting while their wives took photos of them.
• Enduring the 147,981 passers-by who either ask (a.) if we’re part of an art class, or (b.) if we can paint them into our paintings as they walk by. (Oh, and their Aunt paints too.)

Dan Schultz and Dave Santillanes plein air painting in Carmel, California.
Painting with my good friend, Dave Santillanes, in Carmel, California.

I hope there will be many more happy group painting memories to come. But along with the fun times painting with others can bring, there can also be disadvantages to be aware of — especially for beginning painters.

Advantages of painting with others:
1. Scheduled painting trips keep you working outdoors regularly. (Especially if you have a difficult time motivating yourself to get out on your own.)
2. Feedback from artist friends whose opinions you respect can help you improve your work.
3. Painting at a location chosen by someone else can force you out of your comfort zone and give you valuable experience with unfamiliar subject matter.
4. You have the opportunity to learn different techniques from others in the group.
5. A group gives an added element of safety in unfamiliar locations.
6. You can always blame your failed painting on the guy painting next to you!

Disadvantages of painting with others:
1. Painting with a group can prohibit you from focusing as intently on your own work.
2. You may be less prone to experiment with new ideas or techniques because of what others in your group might think.
3. You may become too influenced by the work of others in your group instead of developing your own voice in your work.
4. Sometimes feedback from others can discourage you from following a direction you need to explore more fully.
5. If your group is more interested in chatting than painting, you may not get much work done.
6. The guy painting next to you might blame you for his failed painting.

Perhaps the best choice is to make an effort to paint regularly with others (artists whose opinions and work you respect, if possible). And be sure to spend time painting on your own as well.

Can you think of other pros or cons regarding painting with others?

7 Responses

  1. Nancy
    | Reply

    I can remember one comment from art classes “how did you make that color ” when I may have combined Eight colors to get it!

  2. Dan Schultz
    | Reply

    I’ve had that question before as well, Nancy — I know what you mean!


  3. Nicholas Kennedy
    | Reply

    I am a member of a weekend painters group in LA. This group of 15-30 artist meets every week and travels to new locations and paints as a group, they are all great painters and people but recently I had to stop attending as frequently because I noticed that I was unable to focus as deeply on my process when I was with a large group as opposed to painting alone.

    Im sure Ill go back infrequently but painting alone or with only one other person seems to have more advantages for me.

    Either way, great post!

  4. Dan Schultz
    | Reply

    I appreciate your comment, Nicholas!

  5. Carolyn Lord
    | Reply


    An excellent assessment of the pros and cons of plein air painting with others! I’ve found that for me, the best way to paint with other artists is at a figure or portrait session: 20 minutes of quiet focus punctuated with 5 minute bursts of conversation.

  6. Dan Schultz
    | Reply

    Good point, Carolyn. I’ve liked the figure/portrait session dynamic too. Separated times for focus and times for interaction all in one place.

  7. Jan
    | Reply

    I paint with a small group once a week just started. I hate having to pack up my stuff every week and always needing something I didn’t bring. I like to sit in my art room with my favorite dog at my feet. I try more things when I’m alone. One lady talks too much and too loud… I guess I’m a longer… But then I played golf and spent hours by myself practicing and playing. Spent hours training in a pool. Alone, lap after lap. Guess that answers the question. Alone

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