Monday, February 4, 2013


"As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them -- to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well."~ Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Have you ever heard of artist's dates? Julia Cameron talks about them in her book The Artist's Way, but I first stumbled across them in Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance, the very book I am now using for my newest art journal. I have been re-reading the daily essays before covering them with paint and gesso, and sometimes they become the inspiration for a journal page, a blog post, or both. In her February 1st essay Ban Breathnach talks about Creative Excursions: The Gift of Time. "Creative excursions are regular solo rendezvous with your authentic self... In the beginning of any intimate relationship the best gift you can offer another person is the investment of quality time together. So it is with your authentic self. You have probably been ignoring her for decades; now it's time to make amends."

What a novel idea that was -- spending time alone in order to get to know one's authentic self and to fill one's creative well -- to a young mother who already felt like she was juggling way too many balls. But, not only did Julia and Sarah give us permission to undertake this guilty pleasure, they said it was a necessity. So I did. In fact, I became quite good at it. I am convinced that it made me happier, and therefore a better wife and mother. I also believe that it really did put me in touch with my "authentic self", who turned out to be quite the creative person! Who knew?

According to Julia Cameron, "An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child...Spending time in solitude with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing. A long country walk, a solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset, a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds -- your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might like bowling."

Here are some of my own favorite creative excursions:

Thrifting & Window Shopping - I love finding someone else's discard that, to me, is both beautiful and useful, and bringing it home to give it new life. I also love "just looking" -- going to stores that are well-merchandised, like this little shop in Buda, or maybe an Anthropologie store, and getting ideas for new ways to use something I might already have at home.

Garden Excursions - I adore going someplace like The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, The Arboretum in Dallas, or even a good garden center with nice demonstration gardens, such as Natural Gardener in Austin -- someplace that features plants that are especially well-suited to one's particular climate and conditions. I like to visit them during all the different seasons and see what is doing well at times other than spring, so I can get ideas for my own "four season" garden. I pay special attention to any plant and color combos that quiver my liver.

Art Supply Stores, Craft Stores, Yarn Shops, etc. -- pure bliss!

Farmers' Markets - I like to talk to the people who grow and raise my food, ask them how they like to prepare these foods at home. I want to meet the teenage girl who raises goats and makes delicious cheeses from their milk, and find out that she was inspired by a family vacation to France.

Libraries and Bookstores - I love anyplace where you can hold, touch, and smell real books, or thumb through odd magazines that you might not be familiar with. You never know what you might turn up, or where inspiration may strike!

Julia goes on to say "In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do -- spiritual sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended critical text. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery."

Have you taken an artist date lately? If not, why not?

"So you see, imagination needs moodling -- long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." ~ Brenda Ueland

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