Roberta Combs, a senior signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists is visiting my region and last week I attended a meeting where she shared information with regional artists on setting up a chapter group of the FCA.

I cannot tell you how energizing it was for me to spend an afternoon in the company of artists, talking about our common concerns and goals, and meeting several artists who I had interviewed for the local paper.  I’ve downloaded the application form for the FCA several times and have never felt “ready” to pursue active member status.  2009 was a year of watercolour famine for me as I spent my year crafting, but I still believe I am a painter in heart, and I will be a painter again.

Babysitters are thin on the ground around here, so today I packed up my three children, a bag of snacks, books and toys to amuse them, and two paintings and headed to the art gallery for a second meeting – this one a critique offered by Combs for those wishing to apply for active member status.  Senior signature members of the FCA regularly jury art submitted for membership and exhibitions and Combs has experience in recognizing and “breaking down” paintings of all subjects, genres and mediums.  I’m sure if I had been able to stay and have my work critiqued, I would have learned a lot – I did learn a bit from Combs’ critique of the art that was on the easel that day.

But I have three children, and my son is three.  I overestimated his ability to behave at that time of day, in that environment.  The setting was a bit more formal than I expected, and there were more people there than I had anticipated, and I should have requested to be critiqued first or second so I could leave if the kids got restless.  Instead I hung back, and then had to keep jumping up to referee my children, and just before my head exploded I loaded up my carefully prepared busywork and half-eaten snacks, stuffed children back into socks, boots and coats, and left without getting what I came for – Combs’ expert opinion.

I am disappointed.  I don’t know when I’ll get an opportunity to talk to an artist of Combs’ caliber again, and I was hoping that the critique and application to the Federation would give me some direction, a goal to work toward. Though I am smart enough to know that if I don’t push myself, no one else will, and it’s me that has to decide to make time to paint.  The paintings I brought today were not my best work, either.  While I have technically better paintings, the two I wrapped to bring are indicative of the direction I want to take in my work and that is more important than whether or not I can accomplish realistic landscapes and florals.

Having a chapter group of the FCA in our area will change things a bit, I think.  It will make it easier to become a member if I do go that route, and it will bring dedicated painters together and give us a community of artists who challenge each other and are serious about their work.  I like to think that I am serious about my art, though the last year may not show that.  I do my best not to harbour delusions about what my art is and isn’t, and I know I am only on the beginning of this journey.  My children will get older – one day they will even be able to mind themselves! – and we all have bad days.

I would love to hear about your experiences with art societies.  Are you a member of a national arts society?  Do you enter juried exhibitions?  If you haven’t chosen this route of professional development, why not?  Help me make up my mind on how fiercely to pursue this!