|David Wilson, Shawna Tenney (that's me), Jennifer Eichelberger, Manelle Oliphant, Nasan Hardcastle|
How I started a local illustration critique group
Way back I-can't-even-remember-how-many-years-ago, I was part of the SCBWI (excellent resource for children's book writers and illustrators). There were a couple get together with illustrators back in those days. I met a few friends there. I met a few friends at conferences. I had a few friends from school that I still kept in touch with. So I decided to see if anyone would be interested in having a bi-monthly critique group. I had a few friends that hopped on the opportunity. And so started our critique group.
Every time we met, we would plan when and where our next meeting would be. We were meeting at peoples houses in those days. After a few times, we decided we liked it so much we would start having a monthly meeting. We met more friends at conferences and our list grew. After about 5 years, our group is still going strong- meeting every month. The people in our group range from people starting out to professionals. There are about 80 people on my email list and we have an average of about 5-15 great artists show up every month to talk about art. If the group gets big, we split up into two groups to critique and visit after. We occasionally meet at peoples houses, but mostly we meet at library meeting rooms or other such places that we can find for free. One member of our group has even started hosting bi-monthly draped figure drawing sessions at the library. It is so fun and helpful to everyone. I have learned so much from being in such a group.
My experience with being part of online illustration groups
Just like any group, online groups will only survive with the effort of the parties involved. I am currently a member of two group blogs. I have been a member of three other ones in the past that have fizzled out. The problem is that people are eager to start these blogs, but decide they are too busy and want to focus their efforts elsewhere. There usually needs to be a leader and regular activity efforts going on. One of my current shared blogs is a private blog which only members can see where we critique each others work. We have about 11 members, but sadly, only about 4 who actively participate. I have also recently joined a college revival group blog with friends that I went to school with- The Argyle Sock Club, where we are given weekly challenges for art, which is lots of fun. So hopefully with the effort of members, these groups can keep going.
You can also find artists to connect with through their blogs (by commenting), twitter, and facebook. You can make facebook groups where you talk about art and share inspiration. I am currently part of two great facebook groups- I have learned a ton from both of them. One is a kidlit group where members are all published authors and illustrators of kidlit, and the other group is for students of the Oatley Academy.
Another great thing I have learned from being part of the Oatley Academy is how to really be social and get to know people in your group by doing Google + hang-outs. It's so fun to be in a group of people, talking and drawing. You can do screenshare and everyone can see what you are doing on your screen, or if you are using traditional media, you can focus your webcam on whatever you are working on. Such a great idea for connecting with other artists!
These are just a few ideas. There's many more. But in any case, I hope you start connecting with other artists around you and get off of that island!