Artistic Friendship

Ashley Falls by Judith Reeve
Ashley Falls by Judith Reeve, 28″ x 24″

One of the most difficult things about pursuing the artistic life is its isolation. I am primarily a hermit at heart and prefer a life in contemplation removed to a certain degree from the frenzied routine of daily life. This is part of my nature and why I have a natural tendency toward  the artistic life. But no one can remain entirely isolated and be in touch with the drama of man in his struggle within and without- human nature revealed and changing. Even the ancient Russian tales of the hermit who lives in isolation in the great forests of Siberia, would periodically go on a journey of self discovery- walking across Russia seeking advise from holy men and women and being open to God presenting himself in the ordinary contact with common people. (The Way of the Pilgrim, Trans. Helen Bacovcin)

This week, an artist friend and I went hiking and painting in the Catskill mountains. Although I would call it a retreat since we were in relative isolation, it was one of great companionship. We shared the experience of  common painting subjects, some I have painted before. This presence of another artist seeking and struggling with his own sense of image was very fortifying. Both of us on a journey within and without- without– transforming what we both saw and within-seeking the correspondence between experience and soul. It allowed me to see through another the universal need for all to come to terms with their world and the beauty and mystery that lies there.

This is why I believe artists have always sought an artistic community-to periodically have companionship, common pursuits and the genial criticism of those that support you. It is why historically, we see great artists appearing together- Robert Henri and Sloan, Rockwell Kent, Hopper and Edward Redfield; Delacroix and Chopin; Rodin and Camille Claudel. The list goes on. Guilds were the original gathering places and later retreats in the country away from urban concerns- freedom to get back in touch with the reasons for painting in the first place. I myself, find such community in the Woodstock School of Art. It is a place of companionship that allows the artist to pursue their work unhindered, providing sketching, models, print presses and mental space to work. It still remains close to its historic roots as an artistic retreat.

Ashley Falls by Whitney Prentice
Ashley Falls by Whitney Prentice, 16″ x 12″

Although my friend and I have very different styles our work ethic is similar and we both are driven in an inner way to find all that there is to know regarding craft as well as and more importantly all that is beautiful and engaging in the world. Although most of our time is spent in isolation pursuing our individual sense of image, the time together is one of engagement and insight into why we do this at all.

To see more work by Whitney Prentice go to:

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

One thought on “Artistic Friendship”

  1. Judith, You have expressed it so completely and so eloquently that all I can do is echo your thoughts and say that in the isolation of my studio inspiration seemed to be threatening desertion while doubt about the point of it all was skulking around the hallway scratching at my studio door. Our time painting together was engaging and inspiring for me.The beauty, mystery and companionship of a like minded soul engaged in the same quest freed me from any doubt as to why I paint.
    Your help especially with color was liberating for me and -needless to say -your creative drive is always wonderful to be near. Sharing ideas, painting in such special places with a dedicated and accomplished artist who is a close friend is rejuvenating and brings back a sense of connectedness that is so necessary for me.

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