I guess you could say that serendipity and synchronicity played a big part in what my daughter and I now affectionately call our “Artist Retreats.” It all started in March when the electrical power went out at my daughter and son-in-law’s house during an early spring storm. They live in a town close to ours, and although the power outage was widespread, miraculously our home was spared. My son-in-law was at work at the time and as the hours ticked away, it became increasingly obvious to Tracy that the lights and heat wouldn’t be back any time soon. As evening approached, she phoned me and said she was in the process of packing for an overnight stay at our house, and that her husband would be staying with his mom because she lives close to where he works. What we all thought was going to be a one night event turned into a grand three day art adventure for Tracy and me!
My daughter Tracy is also an artist and she was working on a painting when the power went out. Almost as an afterthought, she decided to grab some art supplies and a few paintings to bring with her to our house. After having dinner here that evening, we gravitated towards my studio, each with a glass of wine in hand. We started talking about our current work and the challenges each of us were dealing with. The hours flew by, and we ended the night at 1 am with a plan to paint together the next day and to experiment with some new ideas that excited us both.
We painted the entire next day, and the entire day after that. We also painted in the evenings after dinner and then spent hours talking about our work and art in general. The second night of our retreat we were up until 3 am talking! We’d get on a roll and feel totally inspired. It was such a gift to be so completely removed from worldly and life concerns and have lots of time to focus on our paintings and each other. And the sleepover aspect added a “girl’s night out” vibe to it all.
Last week we had our third Artist Retreat. We have a ritual of sorts now where we begin with a late afternoon “welcome get together” (complete with gift bags!) in the studio. Then we have dinner (we do invite her dad to join us for lunches and dinners), and after dinner Tracy and I have wine in the studio and stay up late talking (we’ve been known to stay up as late as 3am!) and spontaneously come up with a plan for what we’ll focus on the following day. Over coffee the next morning there’s more art talk and bouncing ideas back and forth. We paint all day and stop only for meals and an occasional break to put our up paintings and talk about the progress – or lack of progress – that we made. Sometimes there’s a lot of talking going on while we’re painting, and at other times it’s so quiet in the studio you could hear a pin drop!
Our retreats have been such wonderfully nurturing experiences for both of us that we now feel it’s important that we schedule them regularly. It is amazing how energizing it is to be away from the distractions and interruptions of everyday life and experience what can happen when there’s nothing else to focus on except painting and each other. And being able to follow long thoughts and threads of ideas during our long and deep conversations is also a rare luxury these days. Because of the intense focus on our work, along with being able to talk with another artist in depth about current painting challenges, I have found that our retreats often allow ideas that are still not fully formulated yet to bubble up to the surface. And discussing those ideas with another artist who happens to be your daughter………..it doesn’t get any better that that!
In last week’s retreat, we experimented with stamps, stencils, and personal mark making – something I have been wanting to play with forever but never seemed to find the time for – how fun to finally have that time!
I have also been experimenting lately with planning Artist Retreats of my own. If there happens to be a string of days in a row where nothing is scheduled in my planner, I free up those days and try to do nothing else but paint. I schedule those days in my planner and plan easy meals in advance or enlist Mr. Z to cook for a night. I don’t have the same kind of energy to stay up late at night painting or thinking about painting that I have when Tracy’s here, but it does feel like I’m on a mental holiday from life’s distractions and disruptions. And that’s the whole point of being on a retreat, isn’t it?
I hope you’ve been inspired to begin planning an Artist Retreat of your own!
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