Thursday, August 17, 2023

Why You Should Befriend Your Fellow Artists


If you are an author or illustrator reading this, you know how solitary our work can be. At times, it feels like a blessing: Finally! Time away from the busy world to focus on my book. And other times, your desk has turned into a land of coffee mugs and you haven’t talked to another human for a couple of days. (In this scenario, talking to your children’s book character or your cat unfortunately does not count.)

But know that the artist’s life does not have to be a lonely one. During my recent work trip to the U.S. I had the chance to meet up and befriend a bunch of artists, from cartoonists to painters to novelists, and each interaction left me inspired. 

Here are some reasons to put down that pen, go to your local poetry reading, and start a conversation with a fellow artist.

Accountability: let’s get our work done together

I am a big fan of having an accountability partner or study buddy. This may come from my days at school where my friends and I would go to the library to do our work together. I love planning study sessions with my fellow artist friends at a favorite cafe or library. 

A photo of a big and airy room filled with people quietly working or reading at the New York Public Library.
The New York Public Library, one of my favorite places to work.

Taking lunch, stretch, or walk breaks together also helps me remember to get up and away from my work for a little bit. These study sessions can be done remotely too, from weekly group writing sprints to day-long muted Zoom sessions where everyone in the meeting is there to get things done.

Gossip (also known as the sharing of wisdom)

Artists, especially those in your field, will have firsthand experience of the industry. Whether it’s managing contracts, working with editors, changing agents, or figuring out how much to charge for a commissioned project, each artist is packed with knowledge! 

Sharing that knowledge with your artist friends will not only help all of you, but it will also help the industry become a better version of itself. By chatting with an author friend about a term your agent added in your recent book contract, you could help protect them and their work. By sharing your rates for a commissioned illustration project (like on Freelance Solidarity or Lite Box), you could help an illustrator colleague be paid fairly. Every time knowledge is shared in a productive way, you are creating a new precedent for yourself and the industry. 

Inspiration galore!

A few months ago, I received a Fine Arts Work Center Scholar Award to take part in one of their summer workshops during their inaugural Queer Week. While I was collecting and pressing local flora as part of Paloma Barhaugh-Bordas’ “Lavender Press” workshop, other students were taking workshops such as “Queer / Trans Fabulism: Writing the Mythic from the Margins” taught by Andrea Lawlor and “The Intimate Portrait,” a photography workshop taught by Jess T. Dugan. 

A photo of a group of people putting their hands on a copy machine to scan their hands together.
Scanning hands with my studio mates at The Fine Arts Work Center
(Photo by Paloma Barhaugh-Bordas) 

While each student was there to dive into a workshop of their choosing, it was during our communal breakfasts, student presentations, lectures, and coffee breaks where our magical worlds collided. Poets and printmakers were sharing what they had just learned in their morning session; novelists and photographers were obsessing over the beauty of dusk. I found myself incorporating lines of poetry into my prints and by the end of the week, I was posing for one of the photographers in Jess Dugan’s workshop. Isn’t it amazing, what happens when artists come together? 

Camaraderie: we are all artists here and we get it!

Almost every author and illustrator will have gone through a pitch or query process, rejections, uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from, thoughts about changing their medium, moments of self-doubt, and the list goes on.

You do not have to suffer alone! Talking things through with a fellow artist will help clear up some of that mental fog. And if you’re looking for help, they may have just the advice you need.  

As a neurodivergent and introvert artist who enjoys speaking with cats, I once thought that I would be perfectly content in my safe and cozy studio, scribbling away at my manuscript alone. But what I’ve discovered is that artists need artists. By lifting each other up, we can encourage each other to be the best versions of ourselves and actually make the world a kinder and more tender place for everyone.

P.S.: Have any burning questions or interesting stories of your life as an artist? Leave a comment on this post! 

May we find community in each other, 


About the Author

Haruka Aoki (she/they) is a queer Japanese artist and poet-illustrator who is local to Lisbon, Portugal, New York City, and Kamakura, Japan. Their debut picture book Fitting In, which they co-wrote and illustrated with John Olson, was published by Sky Pony Press in 2022. 

Their narrative artwork, often featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, aims to inspire individuals with both wit and sincerity as their hand-drawn characters engage the world around them. Growing up often unsure of where “home” would be next, Haruka found and continues to find comfort in nature and community, a constant starting point in their work. 

Haruka received her BA from Brown University and her MS from Pratt Institute. They are a Fine Arts Work Center Scholar and a recipient of the SCBWI BIPOC Scholarship. She often feels deeply grateful to be an earthling. 


Instagram: @thecosmicharuka 

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