From Studio Solitude to Professional Movement — The Importance of Art Societies

One of the most difficult aspects of being an artist is the solitude. Here’s how art societies can help you socialize and ultimately help your art career.


One of the most difficult aspects of being an artist is the hours of solitude. After pouring weeks into a piece, artists then need to put on their marketing hat and sell the work, hopefully avoiding the starving artist trope. Then go back into the studio and do it again. And again.

I thought this was how it worked until I discovered the value in connecting with the right art societies. In my case, one of those groups was the National Watercolor Society (NWS).

I can say definitively that NWS and the people I’ve met have greatly helped my career as a professional artist. The exhibitions, mentoring, and motivation have been the springboard for opportunities, growth, and advancement.

Art business advice - Matthew Bird on Art Societies
“Lost in Thought” by Matthew Bird

The NWS recently had its 98th International Exhibition in San Pedro, CA. Visiting the exhibition reminded me of not just the importance of these shows on a cultural level, but also the value of connecting with our peers.

“Everyone attending understands the language of the artist,” says NWS President Robbie Laird. “Solitude is necessary when we create, and the balance of that solitude is to be with others who understand.”

Attending these sorts of events through art societies can be very rewarding, even if you are an artist who doesn’t have a painting in the show. It’s a great opportunity to network, see old friends, and make new ones. It is also a time to be inspired and challenged in new ways by being around people that do things differently than you do. By attending you will likely up your game, meet painters you’ve long admired, and see museum-quality artwork up close instead of on a little screen.

Art business advice - Matthew Bird -
“Spring” by Matthew Bird

As with much in life, there can be great value and reward in just showing up. Yes, it can be unnerving to walk into an event when you don’t know anyone. That was my experience four years ago when I had my first painting accepted into the show. We had young children and many responsibilities, and I almost didn’t fly out for the opening. But attending that exhibit gave me the hope and direction I’d been missing. It was during that weekend that I made amazing friends and connections that led to other opportunities, one of which is serving on the NWS Board of Directors.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that NWS has been promoting water media for 98 years all through the efforts of volunteers. As the centennial anniversary approaches in 2020, there are many more exciting events and opportunities on the horizon, and there’s no better time to get involved.

NWS is a national organization with board members and volunteers from all over the country. To learn more and find out how to get involved, visit the NWS website.

Art business advice - National Watercolor Society
2018 National Watercolor Society Board

Matthew Bird is a Signature member of NWS and serves on the board as a director at large.

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