Here’s a simple but potentially revolutionary way to spark creativity in 2023. Take out your calendar and schedule one day a month for an Artist Date (or just “art date” to keep it simple) .
You’re taking YOURSELF out on this date. An art date gives you permission to do something fun related to art. Crucially, it’s scheduled in advance, so no one has to come with you nor expect anything from you during that time. That’s why it’s so important to literally put the date on your calendar and don’t blow it off – look forward to it, plan around it, let everybody around you know you’re going to be unavailable that day. Make sure you get that moment of freedom.
The idea comes from Julia Cameron, author of legendary creativity book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s famous for encouraging a playful, no-pressure approach to making art. “A working artist is a playing artist,” she says.
Freedom to Flourish
“The Artist Date need not be overtly ‘artistic,” Cameron writes. “Think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
Think of it as “a festive, solo expedition,” Cameron says. “You don’t take any of your significant others with you, you don’t babysit your niece, you go out by yourself and do something that pushes your comfort zone a little bit.”
“What you are trying to do is enchant yourself,” she says. “When we say ‘date’ we think of wooing – this is wooing your consciousness.”
As Cameron points out, we’re very used to “working” at things, especially given the American “Protestant work ethic.” And even though we’re willing to work on our art, we’re reluctant to play at it. Yet, play – especially the kind in which we lose ourselves in carefree, experimental invention – is arguably as important if not more so than the “10,000 hours” we’re supposed to put in before we get good at something. Play is where art originates from in the first place; that’s why children have so little fear and so little trouble being joyful creative artists.
It’s also where the best ideas come from. No one just starts making great art without first playing with ideas, playing with the materials in multiple ways, and playing at putting together pre-existing images and experiences in new combinations that emerge transformed into their own.
“When you’re creating art, you’re drawing on your inner well, you’re fishing,” Cameron says, “and unless you refill it with images and experiences, you go to fish and there’s nothing there. So, with an artist date, you’re refilling your consciousness.”
Here are a few “art date” ideas:
- Visit a local art museum.
- Stop in and check out a gallery, either local or better, one that’s further away that you’ve been following online.
- Shop for (and treat yourself to!) unusual art supplies.
- Order yourself just one expensive, top-of-the-line, color of your choice online.
- Shop for and use a new sketchbook.
- Take a walk in the woods and create something beautiful and secret from natural elements, a la Andy Goldsworthy
- Wantonly dabble in a new medium knowing you’re just having fun because it’s not “what you do.”
- Attend an online or in-person event like Watercolor Live or similar.
- Take a long train or bus ride just to sketch people.
- Tear up a magazine for colors and patterns and collage them together.
- Enter a low-pressure contest, such as the Plein Air Salon.
- Check out a sculpture, glassblowing, or jewelry-making class.
- List and sketch ideas for future paintings at a café.
- Treat yourself to an instructional DVD, (Maybe it’s one completely outside your “field of expertise.” For example, if you’re a plein air painter, get one on portraits or pastels.)
- Watch a movie. Here is a master list of films about artists to check out.
Why are Artist Dates essential?
A regular series of playful art adventures will keep the creative coals glowing, and soon enough the sparks are going to fly. Art is a discipline, but it’s supposed to be a joyful one. Life will keep us as busy as we let it. So build in breaks for yourself. Make sure you clear the decks at least once a month and give your creative spirit the chance to shine.