Friday, March 27, 2015

artist date

I have been holding myself accountable for making time for an artist date each month. The idea comes from Julia Cameron's The Artist Way, a book I've been using (and ignoring, and using again) since I was in my 20's. The idea is to get yourself out of your usual creative routine in the studio and go do something creatively fun, even indulgent. I actually scheduled a year's worth of artist dates in to my calendar back in January, so I have a monthly reminder.

Coming up with a "good" artist date with yourself-- and it has to be with yourself, no one else can tag along-- can be difficult, especially for me. I want to create a beautiful, inspiring, and revelatory experience for myself, which is waaaaaay too much pressure for a date, any kind of date. I have to remind myself every month that these dates are about forming a habit of taking time out to try something a little different, not necessarily about a single trans formative experience.

Yesterday I was especially desperate, a feeling that I have been experiencing a lot lately. Desperation may not be the worst feeling to have, but it ranks in the pantheon of worst feelings. I was feeling desperate because every idea I had for my date seemed boring. I was in super judgmental mode and I could not make a decision. Finally, I did what all desperate people do when they need an answer, and I simply asked google what I should do on my artist date.

I ended up bicycling to our local Rose Garden, which is about to go into full bloom. I went with Julia Cameron's suggestion that I color a mandala. Then I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a mandala that I liked. Which made me feel desperate again, and decided to just make my own a la Maria Ramon. I made it with my Prismacolor pens, which have to be the best coloring tool on the planet. It was very satisfying, and fun. Exactly what an artist date should be.

The experience of trying to come up with the exact right date for myself brought me back around to the general problem I have of trying too hard, being a perfectionist, and then freezing myself through judgement. It's torture. When I got back to the studio in the later afternoon, one of my new, big tall pieces was waiting for me. I decided to be completely crazy and just give myself an hour to complete it. No thinking, no processing, just go. I needed to undo a creative clusterfuck I created a few days before when I was inspired by some fabric that was pale, almost translucent yellow with some white designs on top. I worked on the idea with a piece and then undid myself with judgement. I don't know how this one will turn out, but I'm happy I just did it.

Do you keep a regularly scheduled artist date with yourself? Do you know it's something you "should" do, but don't make time? Tell me about your experiences with the artist date.


  1. This is fascinating! I don't go off on tangents as much as l'd like to, but I appreciate when circumstances sort of put me in the position where I have to step outside of myself, get over my own presumptions of what's supposed to matter, and simply do something I'd never have done left up to myself and my mediocre 'wisdom'.

    But maybe the wisdom is in knowing when to make those steps away rather than knowing what they will be. I'll take at least a tiny bit of credit, as you must for dedicating yourself to the artist dates. Forcing ourselves out of our habits is sometimes the smartest thing we can do.....

    So I always look forward to when I teach. I'm not there simply to show students how I would do something, but to give them the wider view of possibility. So I absolutely have to step outside my preferences, to some extent at least, and give them a taste of things I could not anticipate. Almost any demoing or putting together of examples for them to look at requires that I try something that breaks a bunch of my own rules. If I prefer one thing, I now have to do something different, and so on.

    A particularly fun class I sometimes teach is the 'Copying the Masters' course. Generally I like the pots we choose to make, but the truth is that none of the pots are things I would have made on my own, and that seems to be the important part. There is a little bit of educating my hands to do different things, but mostly its about learning how other artists judge the world, what details matter and why, and then also just seeing value in something beyond the way I have trained myself to look.

    We can step outside ourselves in different ways. We can put ourselves in new situations, see where our own sensibilities fit in new media and unusual practices. But we can also adopt different takes on familiar media and comfortable practices. The change can be what things we can do with new materials, but also what we can do with old ones. And that just fascinates the hell out of me!

    Keep up the good work! Keep that curiosity alive!

    All the best!


  2. I really appreciate how you share your process, especially this last year as your work is changing. It's such an important thing for the artist community, I think, to know that we're not alone in our struggles.

    I don't keep a regularly scheduled 'date' but I do give myself permission to explore whatever other things interest and inspire me whenever I'm not in the studio. I think the pressure of selling our work can sometimes stifle creativity, as you've written about before, I believe. So exploring all those other things that I don't sell is how I reignite the spark. Also, I really believe in the power of a good long walk for problem solving. ;)