I think I was in high school when I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s a beautiful book about how to overcome any number of inner blocks to tap into your own creativity and find confidence and productivity. One of Julia’s non-negotiables in this quest for creative expression is what she calls the Artist Date. She describes it as “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 except you and your inner artist, a.k.a your creative child.”
I think I’ve been going on artist dates ever since. These excursions are meant to fill your well, so to speak. They might seem selfish or nonsensical but the truth is that artists and creative types need to feed the beast. You can’t be working constantly, trying to come up with creative ideas, new techniques and subjects when you’re not feeding your creative soul. An artist is like a cell phone–all the time we spend writing or painting or performing is like a drain on our battery. You have to take time out to recharge or the phone will eventually die. The same is true of our creative spirits–we need to fill up with all the good stuff that makes us artists who we are. Artist dates do that. They fill your mind and your heart with new ideas, colors, objects, sensations, images, and music. These dates with yourself can be anywhere–anywhere that lights you up and sparks your imagination. Anywhere that makes you happy and provides new perspective. Anywhere that you feel like you’d like to go.
These are some of my favorite artist date spots, always guaranteed to fill up my creative well and charge me for many hours of artistic expression:
Antique Shops & Flea Markets: I always get inspired by things from the past. Vintage papers play a large role in my artwork and I get super inspired when I unexpectedly come across an old map, photographs or postcards. I know that I can work them into my art pieces and it starts me thinking about what I’d like to work on next and how I can use these vintage finds. In the end, the old becomes something new again and shows up in my work in a new way. That’s a great feeling.
Bookstores: Whether I’m visiting Barnes & Noble or a great rare book shop down a hidden street, I love being surrounded by books. I find inspiration in old illustrations, beautiful novels, picture books, and even dictionaries. When you’re in a bookstore, you’re enveloped in words, poetry and the best stories ever told. I always feel spoiled for choices and end up with at least one purchase, no matter what. I also love magazines and these are great places to check out what’s trending in all of the art and craft magazines and to pick up new techniques on art as well as on submitting your own article ideas for publication.
Home Decor Stores (Homegoods, Pier One, Pottery Barn, local shops): I get so many great ideas for decorating my apartment and for my brand aesthetic by visiting home decor stores. From artwork to sculpture, lamps to chairs, rugs, kitchenware, and everything in between, I love seeing what’s new in these stores. As the seasons change, so do the choices and the colors and the fabrics. Even if I don’t walk out with a new framed print for my bathroom or some new kitchen accessory, I do walk out with a lot of ideas and inspiration for my work and decor.
Nature: There really isn’s a better artist than Mother Nature. Getting out and into the natural world is some of the best creative inspiration there is. Some of my favorite nature-inspired artist dates include a beach sunrise or sunset, exploring botanical gardens, rambles in the woods (especially in autumn when the leaves have turned gold, and red and brown and they crunch under your feet), hikes to high points, or spending the day sitting by the ocean, letting the waves roll up and touch your feet and then roll back into the depths. Nature is mysterious and beautiful and awe-inspiring. Whether you’re looking at dune grass, the inside of a flower or a shell, or a bird’s nest tucked high up in the tree branches, you are looking at miracles. And in all of it lies inspiration for the artist–color, shape, line, texture, and sound.
Museums or Galleries: There’s something about seeing other artists’ work displayed in a museum or gallery space that is so inspirational. I particularly love the European painting section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I could sit in there for hours looking at how Monet studied light or how Degas obsessed over ballerinas. But more recently, I’ve gotten into studying more contemporary art. I think I avoided it for a long time because I didn’t necessarily think I understood it. But there’s something to be gained from it all–the Masters as well as more modern artists. Now I spend time looking at all kinds of art for fresh perspective and a different take on self-expression and individuality. Whether it’s Renoir or Banksy, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Farmer’s Market: We have a really amazing Sunday farmer’s market nearby that starts up in May and goes through until the beginning of October. And I love going there with my camera in the warm weather to see what beautiful things the farmers and culinary artisans have brought with them each week. Of course, there are the gorgeously colored fruits and vegetables–peaches. tomatoes, plums, corn and cherries. But they also offer golden honey, grass fed beef and soft goat cheeses. The stalls are literally a feast for the eyes and there is music playing and crowds of people happy to be out planning their week’s meals with all the fresh food from New Jersey farms. Great for people watching and some unique photos.