Art @ Better

Every Wednesday morning artists and aspirant artists get together to draw, paint and explore at Better.

Bring what you are working on or make use of suggestions provided. Experiment with new tools and materials. Follow lesson plans or do your own thing. Get inspired by what others are working on.

Check out these reasons to Make Art at Better.

Every Wednesday 9:30 to 12:30 in the studio at Better

Free for members of Better or R100 for access, materials and refreshments (if you haven’t been before, your first visit to Better is free)

 

Make art at Better

Let’s face it, you can draw anywhere. Just pick up your sketch book and a pencil. You can draw at home, in a public space, I even draw at work during meetings (great to have captive models across the table). So why would you come to Better to draw?

I can think of nine reasons:

1. To use equipment that you don’t have at home

We see Better as being a place where more expensive tools can be shared and made affordable. So, for example, we have light box and a projector. We have a list on the wall where you can add what you would like to see at Better. We’ll do our best to add to the range of equipment over time.

2. To try out new materials and media without having to buy them

Better supplies a range of materials for drawing and painting that, as a member, you can use for free. Never tried pastels? Now’s your chance. Want to know what different papers are like to work on? Come and experiment. We even have an electric eraser! If you haven’t tried that out, you should. Check out this YouTube video to see what it does.

3. For the inspiration of new environments, people and conversations

When you work alone, without human interaction or even just the stimulus of new environments, you can get stale. Getting out and connecting with others can inspire you. Have new conversations, with different people. See what others are doing and steal their ideas.

4. For ideas about exercises to try (like a teacher, but less intrusive)

We curate information that’s useful for artists. We have a great collection of books that you can refer to, we are collecting information about exercises you can try and we are collating YouTube playlists of helpful videos. As a member of Better you get access to this information. So whatever medium you work in, there will be things for you to try when you’re not sure what to do next.

5. Interesting subjects: pictures, still life compositions, live models

Each week we compose a new still life to an interesting theme. (Our last one was on a gardening theme.) Come along and work on it whenever you like. We plan to hire models for life drawing, as soon as we have enough interest. We also bring flowers, objects, pictures for inspiration. This is not a class, just set yourself up and draw or paint.

6. The freedom to work on what you are interested in (not like attending a class)

We want to offer a mix of classes, and a work space to get on with your current projects, as you please. If you need structure, join a class. If you are a more experienced or independent artist, come along and work to your own pace and in your own direction.

7. It’s a non-judgemental environment where play and experiment are encouraged

We understand that doing art can be scary. It can be especially scary if you have been subjected to critique in the past. Better is a friendly space. We have no pretensions about what is good art or bad. As long as you are having fun creating, you are welcome and you will find a supportive space. Professionals and amateurs are all welcome.

8. It’s a nice space

The studio at Better is a large open space that is cheerful and comfortable. Unless you are lucky enough to have your own studio you’ll probably find it more comfortable than working at home.

9. The refreshments are free

Your Better membership includes free tea and coffee, rusks and fruit. Help yourself at any time. Lunch can be ordered in, or eat at a local restaurant.

 

Better is a place for working, sharing and socialising. We want to build a community of people who use the place regularly and get to know each other. We’d like you to become a member of Better and become part of this community.

Maybe your art is difficult to do at Better; maybe you are into installations or you are working on 10 meter high sculptures. In that case, please come and visit and bring the pictures to share.

Get in touch!

Coral reefs and tangled banks

Steven Johnson argues that coral reefs and the tangled banks of rivers are the environments that best support innovation. These complex, messy environments that support a variety of intertwined life forms, have unique properties that lead to a rich, fertile and flourishing state. Rich, fertile and flourishing is what we are aiming for at Better. In his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Seven Patterns of Innovation, (also subtitled The Natural History of Innovation in other editions) Steven Johnson delves into the history of innovation to identify seven themes which reflect on the conditions that support creativity. Some of these themes inform our vision for Better as a creative space.

Part of the vision for Better is that it is a place where people can share ideas, projects, knowledge and skills. We want it to be a place where you will be able to bump into people who share your interests and challenges. Andrew talks about it being like a bar for creative pursuits. You go there when you want to meet people and you can usually be sure that there will be someone there.

Johnson talks about a liquid network, one that is dense and viscous enough that ideas can move and collide. Solids prevent movement, while in gasses the particles are so far apart as to make collisions unlikely. We want to be sure that a range of people come to Better – not the same people all the time (which would be like a solid). We envisage having a member base large enough so that you meet different people on different days. We also envisage events that bring non-members into Better to provide fresh ideas. We want to make sure that there are enough people there on any one day for you to find someone interesting to share a coffee with, and we plan on using themed afternoons and evenings to make sure that you bump into the people who share your specific creative domain.

Another of Johnson’s themes is that of the slow hunch: ideas emerge slowly, they take time to mature and grow in response to information and impressions that are gradually added to. This idea reflects the growing concern to rediscover slow scholarship, allowing for deep ideas in academia to emerge. Slow scholarship, the movement’s slog (slow blog) explains, “is carefully prepared, with fresh ideas, local when possible, and is best enjoyed leisurely, on one’s own or as part of a dialogue around a table with friends, family and colleagues”. By being a physical space for actual warm humans, Better provides those local ingredients as well as the tables and the company. In particular Johnson notes that “pressures, distractions, accountability and supervision all work against ideas”. Better is a place where those pressures can be left behind, where you can contemplate quietly, and let your best ideas emerge, slowly.

Another theme in the history of innovation is that error plays an important role. “Innovative environments thrive on useful mistakes” says Johnson. So one of our concerns for Better is that it needs to be a messy space for trial and error, for experiment. One of the challenges of creative work is the ever-present fear that what you have made is not good enough. Particularly when it comes to the visual arts, so many people are paralysed by the fear of their stumbling efforts being seen and criticised. Better is a playful, permissive space, not only for the accomplished. We want people to try, to do things they have never done before, to produce misshapen mistakes in the process of learning and having fun. We welcome and celebrate things that go wrong or don’t work. We hope to see fabulous flops.

And finally, Johnson makes the point that innovation requires platforms, places where innovation can take place, where the habitat needed for innovation is built by what he calls ecosystem engineers. Better invites you to be an ecosystem engineer, and help to build a coral reef or a tangled river bank, to shape Better and make it into the kind of space that supports your creative process.

 

Sources and resources for artists

We’ve had many great ideas from those of you who have completed our survey and from conversations over the past few days.

book shelf small

For artists, it seems that Better could provide access to the kinds of sources and resources that they might not be able to own individually. Some of the things on the wish list include anatomical models, reference books, a light table, studio lights and backdrops.

There was also a request for live models so we are adding life drawing sessions to our list of events.

The idea of things being used communally fits well with our Better ethic, so we love these suggestions. We may not be able to start up with everything, but we’d like to provide a space that you will find well worth visiting.

Look out for more news as we analyse the survey results this week.