The Art of Collaboration – How can letting go help you grow?

Defined by Merriam Webster, to Collaborate means: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.

Collaboration in art takes the idea to a new level. It is the opportunity for artists to contribute to one piece or to a multitude of pieces in a particular project that may or may not have the same theme. Sound confusing? It can be if there is not some kind of leadership involved; someone to grab the reins so to speak. However, once a group of artists decides on a project there is no stopping the energy that builds when these groups get together; when one idea is presented often times many new ideas spring from this one.

I have involved myself in several collaborative efforts—most notably through mail art groups. These groups can be local, national and international. Usually one person comes up with an idea and posts their Call to Art–artists from all over contribute a piece to the group. Sometimes the art is returned but more often than not, it is gone for good. I actually like that part because now my art is in the hands of another who may love the piece or discover something in it that I didn’t. The act of sharing is vital to collaborative art and you must be able to let go. Artists can get so stuck in doing things their own way – especially when one works alone in a studio, but don’t we learn more by be inspired by others? This is what collaborative art projects truly are…an opportunity to share and learn in the presence of like-minded individuals.

One project that made a huge impression on me was the 1001 Journals project. The website explains it best, “The 1000 Journals Project is an ongoing collaborative experiment attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels. The goal is to provide a method for interaction and shared creativity among friends and strangers.” These journals traveled all over the world and individuals wrote, illustrated, painted and collaged their art inside it. Then they sent it on to the next person. Most of the journals were returned back to the individual who began the project. Some did not. Launched in 2000, “The project officially launched in August of 2000, with the release of the first 100 journals in San Francisco. I gave them to friends, and left them at bars, cafes, and on park benches. Shortly thereafter, people began emailing me, asking if they could participate. So I started sending journals to folks, allowing them to share with friends, or strangers. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.” This is a timeless story told through art where individuals unselfishly shared their talent, and many times their soul.

A Northern California collaborative art group, Kunstanke embarked on an artistic journey inspired by the works of the 17th century artist, Claude Lorrain. A book containing his drawings was cut up and the drawings in the book were distributed among the artists. The artists were to combine the original book page and their art to recreate the image into something new. It was a composition of sorts with the new and the old. 45 pieces were completed. While there were actually more, the group felt that not all of the images succeeded and it came down to this number. The final pieces went into an exhibit where “The result is a diverse and nuanced conversation about ideas, subject matter and materials.” For more about this project please visit the Kunstanke web site.

And just today I came across a collaborative project by the online publisher, Society6. The final project will be a limited edition Zine called “Us and Them”. The rules are simple…create an inspired piece using the theme Us and Them and set the image up as a print on Society6. Society6 will curate the collection and notify the artists if their piece has been selected for the limited edition Zine.

An enjoyable aspect of the idea of collaborative art is the freedom of expression and free flowing ideas that are conveyed. Anyone can start a project, anyone can join a project. And you do not need to be an artist to join. The 1001 Journals project was less about art and more about expression. The last collaborative art project I started consisted of three 11×14 pieces of white paper sent out with a list of instructions. Draw anything, anywhere on the 11×14 sheet then send it off to the next person. The 10th person should return the completed sheet back to my address where I will scan it and have it made into a poster. I love the idea. However, it’s been three years and I haven’t gotten it back. This may be one of those times where we learn to let go.

Copyright 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
You can buy Jan’s beautiful work here

Have you worked on a collaborative project or in a group? How did it work out? Please tell us in the comments…

Post image by Jan Weiss

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