It's a Date

March 04, 2011

Yesterday I went on my second “artist’s date” of the year. Somewhere in the needlework aisle of a large arts and crafts store, I realized…I’m not very “good” at artist’s dates. I feel like I don’t quite know what I’m supposed to get out of them. I’m not really sure what to do with myself, maybe because I don’t do them very often. I feel guilty taking time for an artist’s date when I should be working, whether on writing or around my house and for my family, because I already spend so much time at the barn with my horse. At least, I used to feel guilty until I began to think of artist’s dates as part of my work. Yes, I need to put in plenty of time continuing to learn my craft, reading and writing daily, but if I don’t occasionally stop to refill the well, it will run dry.

Part of my problem is that I don’t have many ideas of where to go or what to do for an artist’s date. I don’t always want to go to a store, because I don’t want to spend a lot of money on these excursions—plus I don’t find stores all that inspiring. I finally typed “artist’s dates” into Google, trying to figure out what to do with myself. (Some suggestions I found included going to a nursery to look at plants, getting a blanket and lying down outside to count the stars or find constellations, or visiting a picturesque part of town with a sketchbook.)

For my first artist’s date I went to a thrift store, one of the other suggested destinations. I spent a good two hours trying on clothes, looking at housewares and decorative items, and saving the shelves of books for last, like dessert.

For my second date, I made a trip to the aforementioned arts and crafts store. I needed a hook-and-eye closure to fix a pair of shorts (shorts weather is already here in Florida—take heart, Northerners, spring is on the way) so I decided to combine that errand with an artist’s date.

I went to the thrift store with no list or agenda, but hopeful that I’d find some inexpensive clothing to refresh my wardrobe or maybe come across a quirky item for our shelves, or a book or two. Wandering through the large, sunny space, I took time to look at things, and at my fellow shoppers. At the arts and crafts store, I discovered aisles and aisles of fascinating tools and supplies. While few of the craft supplies tempted me, and I skipped the fabric section altogether, once again I enjoyed the experience of just looking.

What I got from both these dates, aside from a few books and that hook-and-eye closure, was a feeling of possibility. Opportunities for expression, whether through clothing, decorating or crafting, are everywhere, and can be had inexpensively.

Am I doing artist’s dates “right”? Is there a “right”? Should I have walked up and down every aisle of fabric, even though I know I’m not going to sew anything? Would I have been inspired by the colors and textures of cloth? Am I limiting myself with the idea that I’m not going to sew anything? (Yup, I can turn a simple trip to a crafts store into a moral dilemma.)

I guess the point of an artist’s date is that I’m making an effort to step outside the usual confines of my days. It doesn’t matter how I do it, as long as I do it. Like anything else, I’ll get better with practice.

Have you ever gone on an artist’s date? What did you do? What did you take away from it? Any suggestions for my future artist’s dates?

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  1. Artist's Dates are (for me anyway) rather tricky. It seemed my expectations and reality didn't always meet up.

    I've been thinking of a graveyard visit, antique store, a walk around the farmer's market in Plant City, going to the Strawberry Festival, going out to the Hillsborough or Alafia River....what about dressing up and going to have tea or brunch in a restaurant? A picnic? What about going to the mall and trying on prom dresses?! It doesn't matter that you're not going—it would still be fun to dress up in all the fun styles of the season!!

    I think as long as you feel you've gained something—insight, knowledge, feeling refreshed, fun—you're doing it right.

  2. Clearly I live in a cave as I have never heard of an Artists Date.
    Mind you it cant be such a bad cave as I do all the stuff you do on these "dates" ... I just dont give it a name or label ergo there are no definitive expectations. Surely there's no right or wrong way wrt to stuff we do that feeds the soul.

  3. Laure--I'm glad I'm not alone in my "artist's date issues"! I think your ideas sound great. Maybe it's the going someplace alone aspect that is important, too--so that you can hear yourself think.

  4. Possum--I should have explained--artist's dates come from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. They are an exercise to help your inner artist come out and play. You're certainly right that there is no right or wrong way to do things that feed our souls. I'm glad you've been doing that all along with out anyone "telling" you what to do!

  5. I'd not heard of these either, but they sound like you are trying to find inspiration? I think I'd go to a museum or a botanical garden--somewhere that has strong visuals--though I suppose there would be all sorts of places you could go for inspiration. It's a cool idea and it's too bad that we (because I think I would feel the same way) feel guilty about taking time out of our day to do something like this!

  6. Danielle--Yes, I'm looking for inspiration--kind of a jump start for my creativity. It's hard not to feel guilty when I'm doing something "just" for me, even though I know better.