Change of Art: 4 Reasons You Should Paint or Draw in a Group

At the beginning of classes, instructor Bruce Cody asks his students to display their works. The group then spends the next 35-40 minutes in discussion and critique mode.

You’re passionate about the visual arts in your community. You actively advocate for arts education. You are, in a word, awesome–and you deserve some benefits, too.

Here’s what you’ll get out of joining an art club, and creating art within a group setting:

1. Feedback.

Can artists create paintings or etchings in the quiet and solitude of their studios? Definitely. In fact, many do. Painting is not softball; you don’t need teammates.

Or, then again, maybe you do.

Painter Bruce Cody, host of GroupWorks’ Drawing and Painting Channel, is a member and instructor at two art clubs based in the master-planned community of Sun City, Arizona. At the beginning of each session he teaches, he says, he asks all of his students to display their works. The group then spends the next 35-40 minutes in discussion and critique mode.

“I think they learn from each other,” Cody says. “They learn from the observations.”

2. Opportunities and access.

From all-comers groups, such as the California Art Club, to invite-only collectives, such as the Plein-Air Painters of America, membership confers the ability to showcase works in exhibitions. In the California Art Club, with chapters from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area, entry-level members, known as Associate Artists, may attend lectures and workshops, too.

Some groups, such as the National Watercolor Society, offer starter-level associate membership, which can be obtained for yearly dues by art lovers and artists alike. This comes complete with a subscription to a newsletter that keeps you current on society-sponsored events (and, by the by, gives you a forum to brag about your latest award-winning work). You also receive reduced submission fees to the society’s annual members exhibition.

3. Love.

A new study from Baylor University found that painting classes help release oxytocin–the so-called “hugging hormone”–among members who participate as couples.

“Typically, an art class is not seen as an interactive date with your partner. But sometimes couples that were painting turned the activity into a bonding time by choosing to interact–putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, ‘Good job,’” Baylor’s Karen Melton, an assistant professor of child and family studies, said in a university-issued press release.

Men were found to be especially receptive to producing art in a group setting–they released as much 2.5 times more oxytocin in art classes than women.

4. Mind matters.

Just as being instructed in art in the classroom works wonders on the young, developing mind, creating art in a group setting sharpens the mature mind. A study published in 2014 in the scientific

journal PLOS One found that adults in their 60s who participated weekly in sessions that asked them to crank out drawings, still lifes and more showed greater improved brain function than those who participated in art-appreciation sessions. Researchers hailed their findings as the first to show that the act of making visual art provides “psychological resilience” even in adulthood.

So, the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words? The one you produce with your art club is probably worth considerably more.