Escaping the Void: Loneliness and the Artist

This particular topic has been nagging at me for the longest time.  I’ve talked about Work at Home Blues when I first started the freelancing life.  Now, a few years into this, I’m realizing some important things via introspection and talking to others in the same business.  Prolonged time alone is not conducive to creativity.

For as much as I thought at the beginning ‘hey it would be cool to be left alone to work on all these projects’, that just has simply not been the case.  I’ve had enough time to sit and think about what really drove my creativity when I was younger and that was being in the presence of like-minded people (artists and otherwise) during my college years.  We did plein air painting in class, where we would sit outside and reproduce a drainage ditch in watercolor.  Painting outdoors got us out of the monotonous classroom and forced us to think about the colors of the world and how they related to the colors on our palette.  The art students and crazy anime club people had a lunch table where we’d all gather, chat, and draw en masse every single day.  Talking to other artists got us excited about our ideas, and oh the jokes that pervaded those sacred lunchtime hours!

But college days are done and after those golden years of childhood come to a close, we are left to our own terrible devices.  There is no teacher over our shoulder saying ‘today you will continue to study and improve your work!’.  There’s no one to drag you outside and make you observe your own world and how it can improve your art.  It’s so tempting to stay inside and avoid going out because you’re going to ‘get more work done’ or ‘gas costs money’.  I find myself making those excuses on a daily basis and it’s led to a lack of motivation and inspiration more than once.

I feel the most inspired when I have experiences in my life driving me onward. This could be as basic as going to the park or Callaway Gardens to marvel at the simple beauty of nature (♥ the Butterfly House).  Or it can be as complicated as animators taking a trip to the Great Wall of China to make sure their project has the authentic feel of ancient Asia in their work (a la the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, whose concept art book I’ve been reading lately).  Creativity evolves from energy, experience, and making the unseen connections.

So how do we combat loneliness?  Get our hermit butts out of the house!  Go to sketch meets. Don’t have one in town?  Start one!  Facebook and Meetup are great tools for that.  If you’re low on funds, try your local park where it’s generally free to go look at some ducks.  There’s also the library where you can read books for free and study quietly (surprising how often we forget libraries exist!).  Join your local art society, which serves the purpose of getting your pale self out of the house and networking with a more knowledgeable crowd (this can also lead to marketing opportunities, too!).

On the note of joining art societies, I have had my own strategies of avoidance, like thinking that nobody will like me because I’m very much in the fantasy arena while most societies around here specialize in fine art landscapes and folk art.  I feel like I won’t fit in, but in my experience so far, people are there because they simply love creating art!  You are there to share the love.  Most societies will just be happy to have new members to carry on their legacy, as well.

Monotony is a killer of the human spirit. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap! Remember that solitary confinement is considered a form of punishment for a reason.

(Know of any places artists can find local meetups and sketch jams? Share in comments!  I’d love to know if there are any in the Newnan, Fayetteville, and Peachtree City, GA area, myself!)


  1. Eirewolf says:

    This is a great reminder, Angela. I have the same problem; I tend to be a hermit, and I know it isn’t good for me.

    Here is something I found in the Silicon Valley that appeals to me:
    I intend to start going to that, hopefully in February.

    Also, I know I need to get over my slight phobia of the telephone, and call a few of the local creative people that I know, to hang out once in a while.

    I think there are life drawing sessions in Palo Alto (in case you have any other Silicon Valley readers), but that’s a little far for me to drive.

    Oh! And Tandy Leather has Saturday workshops, for free. It’s also a bit far to drive, but not too big a deal on Saturdays (no rush hour traffic).

  2. Seth Fitts says:

    I agree with you. I work alone and have been thinking how nice it would be to work in a group setting a couple times per week or month. I remember while in school we would feed off of each other’s ideas and energies which would result in expansions of ideas and how we approached our work. This was one of my reasons for becoming more active on DeviantArt, though it has not had quite the same effect as expected.
    There have been life drawing sessions available in Newnan (Farago Gallery) but I do not feel it has quite the same effect as working on my own work in a group setting. I have been thinking strongly about starting an artist’s group/guild and would definitely keep an art making group session in mind.

  3. RMK says:

    Oh wow, you hit this right on the head. I inherently crave good company to share my ideas, but I’m never have the sort of fellows nearby, even if they’re good friends, to bounce ideas off of. I’ve found people politely disinterested at best and hostile at worst. It doesn’t help that I have a habit of saying unintentionally dumb or abrasive things either. So to keep from either boring or offending someone, I usually don’t talk.
    Your suggestion of starting a group if there isn’t one in your area is decent, but I guess I’d be afraid of starting it and running into people with whom I wouldn’t make a connection and would just feel awkward around (like most others). Ugh, I think I’m just my own worst enemy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Talk about serendipity! I’ve been feeling a bit of the same, and make up all sorts of excuses for not being creative. Local college campuses also have a lot of free nooks and crannies to sit and sketch, but the feeling of a dedicated community just to encourage and bounce ideas off of is both lacking and a little scary at the same time. If you have a local art shop that hosts workshops( out here in Sacramento, University Art and Ultrecht’s) often have members of different societies or just people trying to learn more who are helpful and willing to meet up. I just haven’t summoned up the courage yet beyond the occasional class. I have to warn you that many of my fellow classmates are retired or have been painting for years, so there may be an age difference. However, it’s still all about creating something, and I haven’t run into anyone at these workshops who hasn’t offered some kind of encouragement to the rest of us. Hope this helps and wasn’t TOO rambling.

  5. I totally feel what you’re saying here.

    I always say to myself, ‘stay in, you need to create more stuff’, and when I’ve stayed in almost a week straight I become de-motivated, less creative, and get cabin fever, lol.

    Since I finished school, I stopped really having creative people nearby to hang with. I may take your advice and look on the meetup website 🙂

  6. Maria Arnt says:

    Oh man, can I relate to this. It’s a big problem for me because my town isn’t exactly an artsy town. Which is funny, because we pride ourselves on our wine bars and vegan restaurants and beautiful parks and green architecture. Of course, we also pride ourselves on having successfully run almost every adult entertainment venue out of town on a rail. For some reason this dislike of La Vie Boheme extends to artists. The only “acceptable” artists are middle aged women who paint flowers and landscapes as a hobby.

    The irritating thing is, 50 miles away is the “big city” (the largest in the state anyway, it’s still only a population around 400,000). In the Big City they have legitimate art supply stores, a Dr. Sketchy, and the old quarter of downtown is practically devoted to La Vie Boheme (insofar as Midwesterners are willing to participate in it). But it’s an hour long trip. One way. *sigh* I just needed to rant about that lol.

  7. Eirewolf, sounds like t here are plenty of opportunities to follow in your area. Just got to take the first step and then it will get easier and easier, especially if you can make a habit/routine out of it. That’s what I’m planning to do with the weekly life drawing and monthly art society meetings around here. Making it part of my scheduled routine makes it a lot easier to manage so I won’t forget it!

    Seth, aye you already know from a comment over on DA that I’d love to come to any art meet you might host! Keep in touch. I understand how DA can end up a time sink too. Comments are very addictive! Thanks for the heads up Farago Gallery as well! I’ll have to check it out. I’m hoping getting a regular artist group together at life drawing might equal actually knowing enough people to invite to a Drink and Draw. That’s the plan, anyways!

    RMK, I can understand feeling intimidated by conflicting with personalities that might not jive so well with you, but I should think that at our very basic level, we can be courteous to each other as artists and at least enjoy the time and inspiration that a varied group can give us. It can be a mixed bag, but the risk may be worth it! I know from personal experience that finding someone you *do* get along with well is pure gold! Seeing those golden people can make a long trip or a group involving varied individuals worth dealing with.

    Sasha, I wish you good luck with Meetup! I didn’t find any art places in my area, sadly, but I did find some reading clubs. I’ve also discovered my local chain hobby stores (Joanns, Michaels, etc) have free art activity nights during the week, which might be fun to try!

    Maria, I can relate! I’m living in a small cozy country town, myself, and it’s only just now starting to really get active with the arts (and more varied artists). Atlanta’s near here, but after traffic and looking for parking, it’s nearly an hour to get there! Then that’s cost of gas, money, parking, food, and whatever event I want to go to. I think the trick is making it to that *one* awesome event that can be a night of fun and art once per month so that it’s all worthwhile (and within my shoestring budget)!

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