Making an art piece with another artist is so rewarding, whether it is a small illustration, a series of canvases or a giant mural. Together, you can make things you could never create on your own. You can teach each other new techniques, finish bigger projects and reach new audiences.
For shy people (like myself) it's also one of the best ways to network both at home and when traveling. You can easily reach out to an artist you admire, and meet up to do something you both love.
A successful collaborative piece achieves a common vision. It uses each artists strengths to create a result that is unique and that they could not have created alone. After painting with someone, you should feel that the piece is a good joint effort that displays both your skills, surprises you in a good way, and that you are both proud of.
When collaborating goes wrong, the final result leaves you feeling that you've compromised your art and ended up with a piece that is below your standard, looks disharmonious, or favours the work of only one of you. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid that:
Develop a shared vision
Choose a theme that you are both excited about and that you are both comfortable painting. It can be something broad that you both draw inspiration from, or as specific as a particular type of animal. Take time to discuss ideas and experiences around it.
Agree on a common goal, discussing what effect you'd like your piece to have on people. Maybe you are trying to create something calming, communicate a political message, or just weird everyone out. Whatever it is, it should be clear to both artists before you start.
Share inspiration and ideas visually. If you have particular colours, reference photos or artists that inspire you, show them to each other (apps like Pinterest are a great way to do this).
Plan your process
Think carefully about your colour palette. If you paint with heavy contrasts, and the other artist uses subtler colours, your work might overpower theirs. Discuss how you can adjust your use of colour to complement each other's work.
Be mindful of each other's rhythm. One of you might paint a lot faster than the other. Keep this in mind when setting up your workspace and your timeline so that no one feels rushed or bored. Spend some time getting to know your own rhythm so you can communicate about it.
Delegate sections of the painting to each other, choosing in advance which elements will be painted by who. You should both be happy with what you are painting, and if one of you is uncomfortable about their section, discuss alternatives. Share tasks and sections that you might both consider monotonous or challenging.
Before, during and after the painting, chat regularly about your experience and how it's coming along.
Be honest but constructive with your feedback. Before criticizing the other, question your reason for doing so: is something compromising the quality of the work, or are you just not liking it because of your personal preferences? If you think you need to speak up, do so in a sensible way.
Give each other advice in a respectful way. One of you might be more experienced or more skilled, but avoid turning the painting into a one-sided coaching session.
Respect each other's art
Stay flexible and open minded to things not going exactly as you expect. Remember that the result will be something you could not create individually. Respect that your styles might be very different, and try to use those differences to create a dynamic piece. Don't try to control each other's creativity.
Don't make major changes to the piece without consulting each other. If you feel the need to paint over the other's work, speak to them first.
The more you collaborate, the more you'll get to know what works for you and what your boundaries are. Why not get started? If there's an artist you'd love to work with, message them today and invite them to create with you.
Júlia Palazzo is a visual artist from Brazil. Since moving to Melbourne in 2013 she has been running a partnership, Mayfield Palace, creating mural art for businesses and organisations all over Australia. She shares her art daily on Instagram: @julia.palazzo
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