Image by Heather Larkin

Benefits of running in a pack

By nature, most artists aren’t built to be pack animals. They tend to prefer seclusion and autonomy over team-building activities with peers. Most artists are purists and want work to come solely from themselves instead of a group effort. Part of that is built around ego while another part comes from the need to create something unique and singular. Their works are a way of connecting with their community instead of using a direct approach, like socializing. Artists live-to-make and make-to-live, generally choosing building art over personal connections.

This insular world for creation is something that I noticed myself and others do. Teaching students really made me see the need for community buiding. I saw how much faster they grew when creating an environment for communication. I wanted to remove the obstacles that prevented me from supporting and leaning on other artists. Working with others gives artists the opportunity to share processes, experiences, and common goals.

A picture of the group during one of our meetings at Starbucks. Photo by Hannah Benbow
A picture of the group during one of our meetings at Starbucks. From left to right: Hector, Alyssa, Stephen, Heather, Todd, Maluchi, and Mike. Photo by Hannah Benbow

The start of something big

To form an art posse, I partnered with a fellow colleague at school (Heather Larkin). It took us a year to officially get the group off and running, but we made it happen. Being located Washington D.C., we chose a large public space that’s centrally located in the city for our weekly meeting spot. That’s how we got the name Starbuck’s School of Animation. Officially, the group meets every Thursday to discuss projects, planning, clients, contracts, critiques, and the occasional video game. The Thursday meetings have grown and become so successful that they’ve bled into Saturday work sessions and numerous parties.

Friday night Art Fight with Mike, Todd, and Hannah. Photo by Heather Larkin.
Friday night Art Fight with Mike, Todd, and Hannah. Photo by Heather Larkin.

The benefits of our art posse

  1. Talking about shared interests helps discover new ideas. Whether you’re discussing software or artistic influences. Listening to others can give you ideas and insights into your own work.
  2. Professional development. Every artist has a horror story about a project or a client. Sharing experiences and resources on developing iron-clad contracts or the nuances of negotiations is helpful.
  3. The work. The best part of being part of a group is showing and seeing work. You can work through road blocks in your process or concept. Hearing from other before you get to the point where you’re close to final and don’t want to turn back for revisions is really helpful.
  4. Use the group as a resource. In my daily job, I am an art director for a science publication and commissioning artists is a regular occurrence. I enjoy working with local artists and keeping the work close to where I live, supporting my community. Having a core group of artists with different styles and backgrounds gives me options when I need a specific type of art to illustrate a scientific finding.
  5. Trying something new. Being around so many people using 3D gave me the strength to try my hand at it. I’ve only been learning to model over the past 60 days, but I don’t think I would have gotten there without the encouragement of others. Having that kind of support gives to the ability to step out of your comfort zone and try something completely foreign.
  6. Absolute fun. It doesn’t matter if we’re working on deadlines, sharing work, or playing video games at someone’s house, finding a group that you dig makes your outlook a little brighter creatively and personally.

Using the group

So far I’ve worked with Todd and Maluchi on projects for my day job. Todd created a world of super-hero characters for a story we did on microbes in mother’s milk. Maluchi worked tirelessly recreating an experiment in 3D of twisting silicon and the creation of hemi-helices. It was wonderful working with both of them and exploiting their different strengths. Their elevates our publication and is another bonus for why I love going to work.


Courtesy Science News/Todd Churn
Courtesy Science News/Todd Churn
Courtesy Science News/Maluchi Enyi
Courtesy Science News/Maluchi Enyi

Running with wolves

We have ideas of where we want to take our group in the coming year. Thoughts like building online resources for artists have been discussed. Whatever we decided in the next few years, I can say that this experience has been priceless and the friendships that I’ve created have not only improved my work but also my life. If you don’t have a pack to run with, I highly encourage it. Find some people in your area, create a weekly standing date for meeting and make the magic happen.

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