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Although only an occasional artist all my life, when I retired to Costa Rica several years ago I was overwhelmed by the wonders of this country and decided to take up painting wildlife full-time.

It was a life changing initiative, but being in a somewhat remote part of Costa Rica I had minimal opportunity to exhibit and market my artwork, or even to associate with the “Art World” at all.

I did have a computer, and after some string-pulling I managed to obtain a reliable internet connection—so when my sister from Texas sent me a newspaper clipping about a fellow named Duane Keiser and his daily paintings, I immediately went to his blog to find out more about it.

At the time I knew nothing about the internet and had no idea what a blog was. But I was fascinated by his art and his project, and blogging, and went blog-jumping to see what else was out there.

Eventually I arrived at a site called Different Strokes From Different Folks, started by Karin Jurick, an Atlanta artist who had already built up a moderately large blog around her own unique artwork.

Different Stokes is a participation blog based around a bi-weekly challenge. Karin posts a photo and invites artists to participate by submitting artwork based on that photo. The submissions are posted as received, with the name of the artist and link to their site.

I joined the fun on the 8th challenge (October 23-29) with my interpretation of An Alabama Cow. Amazingly, Karin posted it. I created my blog—James Parker Art— and submitted a painting in the next week’s challenge. Karin posted that one too, along with a link to my blog! I was hooked.

When it came time for the year-end portrait challenge on Different Strokes I wasn’t sure how well I’d do, having never attempted portraits before. We were all put into pairs, and each artist was required to paint a portrait of the other from just a photo, with no names and no other clues.

I received a photo of a gentleman whose face was half hidden in shadow, but after doing a little detective work from past submission on Different Strokes, I found that his name was Adebanji. I managed to incorporate one of his previous paintings into the background of the portrait.

alade for jurick

In the meantime, he had done his homework and found my website. He noticed that I—being in the rainforest—paint a lot of frogs, so in his portrait of me I was submersed neck deep in the swamp, surrounded by the little slimers.

CAPTURED! - Copy

All of our fellow bloggers got a big kick out of our submissions, and we soon developed an internet friendship that continues today.

But it wasn’t just Adebanji and I who became friends. After the portrait exchange project, a seed of true community began to grow among the painters of Different Strokes. We began visiting each others’ blogs more often, leaving comments and building deeper relationships.

That community inspired me to start my own blog called Windows to the Words, which combines artwork, photography and writing in a monthly participation challenge.

Through Windows to the Words I met Michelle Burnett, a very talented artist who recently started a participation site called ”Following the Masters.” She already has some marvelous contributions.

The founder of Every Photo Tells A Story noticed my new blog as well, and left some nice comments—I visited hers and acquired a new addiction.

To make a long story short, without the Different Strokes community I would have never met Adebanji, or any of the other artists I now think of as friends. I would not have thought to create Windows to the Words, or met Michelle, or learned about Every Photo Tells a Story.

I will always be amazed at how a group of art bloggers became a real community, with so much more than artwork at its center. For me, that is the true value behind blogging. . . without looking for it or expecting it, I’ve found a camaraderie online that far exceeds in spiritual value the entire treasure of the Louvre.

To read more posts by James Parker, please visit JamesParkerArt.blogspot.com.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

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