The How’s and Why’s of Swapping Art

first attempt at a face. 2nd July 2008

Sometimes, the progression from perceiving your self as some one who is a ‘crafter’ to someone who is an ‘artist’ is all about the process & the passage of time.  Often times, regardless of the outcome, the process is the most important thing!  THE PROCESS of creating will familiarise you with products & colour, grows your understanding of application of various media to surface and exercises your skills of composition, drawing, printing, etc, etc.  AS WELL as that – you put your art out there into the world & that is the bravery of a TRUE artist.  Release your art from yourself & gift it out into the world.Sometime toward the end of 2005 an online friend from another art group related a story from the book ‘Art and Fear’ to me (via the online group we were both a part of) & it has literally changed my approach to ‘arting’. It goes something like this…………. In one of my favorite books about the process of art (Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland) there is a study cited that is interesting. A ceramics class is told by the professor that they can either be judged by the quantity of work turned in over the semester or the quality of one piece. The students who chose “quantity” would turn in their pieces at the end of the term. The pieces would be weighed and they would receive a grade based on the total weight. The students who chose “quality” would turn in one piece, and be graded on that one piece. The students who chose “quality” spent most of their time planning, plodding, incubating, and designing their one perfect piece. The quantity students just kept turning stuff out. The surprising outcome was that the very best work came from the “quantity”students. moral of the story? Just do it! Skills, techniques & creativity is honed in the caldron of practise:- I have used it as an ‘art ethos’ ever since……………..joining swaps & projects when the topic interests me, which stretches me, keeps me creating & gives me a starting point to create.  I learn new things, discover & develop new processes and get help from my friends along the way.

NOT every piece of art that you create will become a Mona Lisa, much of it will be ‘waste’ and ‘practise’ , refining process, experimenting with colours & product & working out what you like & don’t like…………(although – nothing is TRUELY wasted as a mixed media artist – I just tear or cut it up, paint over it, or use it as a background!!!)     I do not believe that during the time that Leonardo Da Vinci was painting her, Da Vinci knew that he was creating his defining piece of work…..He had to go through the process of creation – he had do the refining work to create the piece – then put it out there in the world to be critiqued – you need to work through the process everytime….  I believe this to be the single most valuable thing you can do to develop your art skills – take the Nike approach – JUST DO IT!!!!!  My addition to that – JUST DO IT – everyday – no matter how minor or how busy you are, art a little everyday, even if it is only organizing your supplies, as it will keep you present with your art……

postscript……June 2010……….I have been following my own advice now for about 4 years, swapping lots across the world, working in various media, arting most days, working at progressing my immature drawing skills  (after years of resigning myself to the fate of a ‘non-drawing artist’, as ‘self-therapy’ I decided to learn to draw on 1st July 2008), I am now studying Visual Arts part time, majoring in Printmaking.  I REALLY didn’t anticipate this would be the path my art journey would travel, but, there you are, you never really know what’s around the corner!

Girl in Pastel Dec 2008

Print making, like anything that looks amazing – it’s simple to do, but deceptively complex – with a thousand things that can go wrong at anytime.  You never quite know what you are going to end up with.After lots of experimentation, false starts and failures I have come to understand that when ever an artist creates something – they begin with an initial idea in their head, and then go about creating it.  It’s the ‘birthing of the creation’  Sometimes, in the ‘growth’ process that brings it to a finished piece, the work evolves from the original idea, which leaves artists often unhappy with what they create.  This is mostly because it doesn’t look or feel like what their original concept/vision was.   However, when someone else, who has not had the original ‘picture’, or been part of the process sees it – they only judge the piece on its merits – not on what it should have/would have/could have been.   Once the work has been put out for other people to view  the work has been set free to just stand on its own merits & speak its own message – to tell its own story.

Therefore – as artists – we need to be brave – and put our work out there for all the world to see – risk the rejection – and embrace the actual process of creating something – rather than looking to the finished product being the end all & be all.

So, in having said all of that, I would encourage you to join a forum, join a group, participate in a challenge – art EVERYDAY – even if it is only a little – and take a few ephemeral moments, to pick a flower, notice a shadow, to watch a bee in a flower, or to drink in the light coming from the setting sun, it will influence the next thing you create.

hand gestures Sept 2009

The easiest way to join into a swap is to join one of the many online Yahoo groups, that regularly swap art.  Paper Traders is a group that I am involved in.   PAPER TRADERS ( is only one of hundreds of groups, there are lots of others, each with their own flavour, some specializing in particular mediums or formats (fabric, oils, watercolours, collage, etc) – some in a particular subject matter (cityscapes, flowers,etc) or presentation style (zetti). Simply type in yahoo groups in your search engine & the home page will come up.  You will need to register an ‘identity’ (it’s best that this is a recognizable word & relevant to you as this is what all your messages come up as). IF you would like to do a ‘blind’ swap with me, ie you send me an ATC & I send you one back, send me an email using the link above.   (A blind swap is one where you send an ATC & receive one back – it is not themed & generally has no timeline)ONLINE FORUMS
Online forums, are not so much for swapping art, as for idea exchange, inspiration & feedback.  Some that you could try are: Ning, diviantART, Facebook & Flickr Groups.

One online forum that I find particularly helpful for hints, critique & instruction is Wet Canvas – not that people on Wet Canvas swap art so much as talk about it and exchange ideas, product knowledge & critique work.

self portrait – hand study Jan 2012

Another fun & perhaps a little less stressful way (because your art is for yourself, though you usually post pics of it to show others what you have created) of participating & giving yourself a little nudge is to participate in one of the many online challenge sites.  I have a whole list of them here – check them out, I am sure that there will be something that will pique your interest….. Have fun!!!


You will be surprised to see what progress you make, even in a short time, when consistently working at your artistic skills.  The top (very primative drawing is one of my early ‘face of the day’ drawings – where I drew/painted one face every day for about a year).  The middle drawing (in chalk & charcoal) is about 9 months into my drawing journey and the hand gestures are after about 18 months.

postscript………Oct 2010
Life has taken another curve recently that I wasn’t expecting & I am no longer studying, but it’s a bit over 2 years since I started my ‘drawing adventure’ & although I still feel as though I have a long way to go, I no longer ‘baulk’ at the thought of drawing something & will have a go and make a half reasonable attempt at it………..well, at least you can recognize what it is!!! LOL!!!

postscript 2………..Feb 2012
As I haven’t been able to study full time & my ‘press’ is still in my hubbie’s ‘creative process’ I have been doing lots of relief prints – mostly lino carving (that can be created without the use of a press) and some online workshops.  I have would some to be a total waste of money & others to be immeasurably valuable – beyond the money I paid.  If you are thinking of taking one of the online workshops – use social media to get some feedback on their content & presentation style as most of them you pay everything up front and there are no refunds once the course has started. (on that note – could I encourage you to keep your ‘feedback’ comments as communication between individuals (IM’s) – not to start an online slagging match.  I don’t think that’s very honourable or what we are about as an art community to put someone down for ‘having a go’.  Let’s face it – most of us are ‘digital immigrants’ (ie born after the intro of all of this technology) & it can be alot to get your head around & it may take a few goes to get it right)  I think that all of the online classes are put out there with the best of intentions & in the hope that it will offer help to it’s prospective students.  That doesn’t mean it will be helpful or of value for YOU.  From experience & so that you don’t waste your money – can I recommend – DO YOUR HOMEWORK!)

You can see more of my drawing journey & my other art here in my flicker albums:

June 2012


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