|Wine with Everything 24x24" oil/cold wax on panel ©Janice Mason Steeves 2011|
Even though I live in the country, I still get caught up in the busyness of life; spending too much time on the computer; doing the business part of my art; keeping up with friends; spending time with family; doing volunteer jobs, appointments. The regular demands of life. I used to have a cottage that had no hydro, and no phone, where I'd spend a week or two at a time by myself painting and writing poetry. I found this to be an extremely creative time.
I decided to create that same retreat space at home. I prepare for it as though I am going on a vacation. I book the week in my calendar and make sure I don't organize any activities or appointments or meetings for that week. It's a week to be alone; painting, reading, writing, walking. A retreat.
My rules for the week are these:
No computer use.
No answering the phone. I check messages in the evening just to make sure that there are no emergencies.
No driving. I buy in all my groceries, rent a few movies, buy all the art supplies I'll need.
No seeing any family or friends. I let them know what I'm doing in advance.
No newspapers or TV.
Other than these rules, I don't structure my time or work. I just let that happen organically if it's going to. But I do work in my studio for long hours each day. And I love that. It would be painful to cut out studio time. Besides painting, I had time to nap, read, and go for long walks. Time stretches out like the endless summer days when we were ten years old.
I have a couple of good books to read: "Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter" by Patricia Albers, recommended by Alyson Stanfield for her Twitter/Facebook Club. "And Life is a Verb, 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally" by Patti Digh.
Alyson asked how artists could do this kind of a retreat if they have to plan it around their husbands/wives and children. I suggested that they could house-sit for a friend, or studio-sit. Plan this for when your kids are at camp and your husband/wife is away. Go alone to your cottage if you have one or ask a friend to stay at theirs. Perhaps you could do a mini-retreat, where you work in your studio space without internet or TV or contact with friends each day from 9-5. Just plan it. It's a fabulous gift to yourself.
I felt a little lonely the first day with the withdrawal from contact, but after that I wasn't lonely for a second and after the 7th day, I didn't want the retreat to end. I wrote in my journal each day, and as I reread these journal notes for Alyson's interview, I noticed that during the retreat, I seemed to become more joyful, more refreshed and relaxed as each day passed. It's like taking an internal shower, or going on a juice fast or lying mindlessly on an air mattress on a sunny day bobbing on the gentle waves.
I begin my next home retreat in two days. Can't wait.
"Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where I renew my springs that never dry up." ~Pearl Buck