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Retreat, Regroup, Refresh, Renew

Nourish Your Soul and Feed Your Creativity

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The year-end holidays can leave me feeling uplifted and joyous or just as easily overwhelmed and burdened. If your life has been reminding you more of a frustrating battle that won’t end, one that has you pushing and pushing but gaining no traction, maybe it’s time to put down the fight for a minute—not in surrender, but in the knowledge that a brief retreat will bring you back with more strength and a wider perspective than when you left.

When you’re in the thick of battle and simply trying to survive each day, it can be hard to see the bigger picture, to breathe, to summon your strongest heart, and to remember what it is you are fighting for. You and I know the fatigue of a career, the exhaustion of raising children, the disappointment of daily life, the heartbreak of grief and loss. To persevere in the battle—to truly be warriors of courage and compassion—we have to retreat sometimes. Rest is not a luxury; it is essential to nourish your soul and feed your creativity.

A retreat is not a vacation.
A retreat is different from a vacation. Vacations can be just as stressful as your daily life. Vacations are often boozy, jam-packed itineraries that deplete your adrenals, liver, and your bank account. A retreat is an intentional getaway that allows you to immerse yourself in a new environment, dig deeper into your personal growth, detox, heal, and reflect. By stepping away from your familiar environment and going on a retreat, you can find much-needed clarity in your life.

Retreats have been around for thousands of years, but until recently, they were mostly designed to serve religious purposes — involving prayer, fasting, abstinence, and other religious modalities. However, in recent years, retreats have taken on many new forms covering everything from tribal and shamanistic rituals to luxurious resorts offering specialized diets, exercise, spas, and other wellness activities. These days, there is a retreat for pretty much everyone, and the list of options continues to grow.

You can create your own retreat or join a pre-planned program lasting anywhere from a day or weekend to a months-long journey. To create a mini-retreat at home find a spot that inspires you, bring coffee, and spend a bit of time observing your surroundings, noticing, and creating. There are parks and beaches around my city, and even my garden where I love to draw and paint. Your art retreat could be a lunch hour, it could be an afternoon on a weekend where you can sit and create. It could be a class you enroll in at a local university or an art club. The hardest part of an at home art retreat is giving myself the time, space, and permission to create. Knowing it takes 30-40 days to form a new habit, I think getting away for longer is better!

This month I returned from a weeklong retreat in Orlando of advanced meditation with Dr. Joe Dispenza (photo above) and 2,000 attendees which left me feeling uplifted, energized, inspired, hopeful, and happy. In October I attended Karen Knutson’s painting workshop with the Miami Watercolor Society. I regularly sign up for yoga retreats and art workshops to master new skills, make new friends, indulge my curiosity, and stretch myself outside my comfort zone. There are so many choices for where to go and what to experience that it can be stressful to choose. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to get the most from an Art Retreat.

Art Retreats and Workshops:
Art workshops are taught across the world, in every medium, by instructors ranging from relatively unknown artists to internationally acclaimed masters. Before you begin your search, determine what you want to learn and what you would like to experience. Be as specific as possible—it will help you avoid the trap of taking a workshop with someone simply because you like their art, or because a friend is also attending.

As a painter, art classes are where you learn about brushes, paints, mediums, and strokes, how to prepare your surface, how to paint, and how to take care of your tools. A workshop, on the other hand, is where you learn a particular artist's methods. Attending a workshop may help you further your talents and elevate your art, whether you're a novice or an established artist. The artist teaching the workshop assumes you come already knowing how to handle your medium.

Regardless of whether you want to travel abroad for a short-term workshop or commit to a recurring local class, choosing the right retreat has more to do with you than with the location or the teacher.

Benefits of Art Retreats/Workshops:
Flexible Time:
Creatives of all stripes hunger for time to immerse into their own projects, unfettered by the day’s distractions and obligations. We know the desire, but committing to shaping our own time at home or even in our own studios sometimes eludes the best of us. Finding the time to create art at home is a challenge for me and probably for you too. It’s amazing what can be created in 90 supported minutes versus three unsupported hours.

An art retreat is a great way to slow down and embrace the creative process. By leaving the hustle and bustle and stepping into a calm and quiet atmosphere, you can truly focus on your creativity and your relaxation. This is one of the main advantages of choosing a retreat as your next vacation, hands down. Taking the time to slow down, rest, forget about obligations, and observe the world around you replenishes your artistic energy tank. I promise you’ll find out things about yourself and improve your art skills in so many ways!

One of the things I look for in an art retreat/workshop is time and space to create in deep solitude and together. As much as I enjoy community, like most creatives I need to periodically withdraw from the group and retreat from active art-making. Flexibly designed time and safe space gives our minds permission to explore, take creative risks, and simply “collect data” when things don’t work out.

A healthy group retreat creates a flexible structure and a safe space for creatives to experiment together yet alone. We thrive in the safety of knowing we won’t be interrupted and our work will be seen and appreciated by people who understand what we are doing. When on retreat, you can permit yourself to lay on your back in the afternoon, daydream, read, saunter, wander on a path or in your mind. I think booking a few days at the end of a retreat is a great way to transition back to your responsibilities and daily life.

Perhaps you want to loosen up your style or learn a new medium or technique. Or maybe you want to try out plein air painting or sculpting in clay. Identifying what will help you most in your creative pursuits, before you begin looking for a retreat or a workshop, can be instrumental in narrowing down the vast art offerings out there. In other words, if a workshop doesn’t address your goals, don’t sign up

Location Matters:
While there are effective ways to tap into peace within our own homes and offices, nothing awakens our souls the way a new physical place does. In short, physical location matters. Aesthetics and ambiance have a way of stirring us to life again, giving us new eyes to see beauty. Plus, a new location often opens us up to new perspectives and ideas. When we shed our old walls for a bit, we often shed our old biases and limits, as well.

Two years ago I took myself on a weeklong retreat in St. Croix. Every morning I would start my day with yoga and meditation. Spending time outside under the huge trees connecting with nature made me aware of how rushed my life had become. I slept well, ate well, took time for painting and visiting galleries. I also went down to the beach, swam in the waves, collected rocks, took photos, and found inspiration in slowing down.

Beautiful locations offer peace, serenity, and space to create something new and meaningful. Nothing grounds the body and soul quite like nature! Nature settings are relaxing and rejuvenating. The air is clean and the pace is slower. Nature has a long list of physical, mental, and emotional benefits for the body. This includes reducing stress and cortisol levels as well as improving attention spans and clarity. Here’s a scientific study evidencing how nature affects mental and physical health.

From tropical rainforests to high deserts, picturesque villages, or rustic mountain destinations, most retreats are held in scenic nature areas. It is easier to be intentional away from your daily distractions. Picture yourself painting a field of lavender in a small village in Europe, or sitting under a swaying palm tree drawing the fishing boats and children playing in the turquoise surf. By giving yourself permission to pause, reflect, and work on your creativity you will learn new practices, make new friends, and gain clarity on what you want in your art and your life. Placing yourself amid natural beauty with time for nourishing reflection has a remarkable way of opening the heart and the mind.

Workshops are a terrific place to break out of your habitual way of doing things, push yourself and explore new ideas. There is immense growth to be found in participating in the new, in that which ignites our hearts and invites us to step out in adventure and celebration of life. One of the great gifts of attending a retreat is getting reacquainted with your own wild and precious mind at work and renewing your vows to your muse. When you discover again how important your art is to your well being you can create lasting changes in the way you approach your work and your life. You might even be a better partner when you come home refreshed and recharged.

To me, the best part of an organized art retreat is connecting and making new friends. We do not retreat alone; we do so together, alongside open-hearted peers also seeking wisdom and vibrancy. It’s easy to find your tribe in an environment that attracts people with similar passions and interests. I really enjoy establishing stronger friendships, spending time together, and not feeling as alone in the artistic process. Better yet – sometimes older people in the group have already overcome similar challenges to mine, which can be super helpful. Even if the group isn’t facing the same challenges as me, we are often moving in the same direction with similar goals.

Retreats remind us that we aren’t alone. They provide us with the opportunity to bounce off ideas with other people and ultimately help us grow together. Many of these friendships last a lifetime. Sharing our work and seeing what others do brings so much connection and inspiration. The emotional bonding that occurs on retreats is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Skills and Techniques:
Art Workshops offer a unique opportunity to learn new techniques and skills from experienced artists. Most workshop instructors spend time expanding on basic concepts like color theory, composition, and perspective in ways that enhance your understanding. They provide you with a safe space to push beyond your perceived limits. Most workshops are organized around a limited group of workable, flexible, repeatable processes and tools.

You can select whatever it is you would like to try to improve as an artist while exploring new artistic media, techniques, and methods outside of your comfort zone. This might even broaden your skill set and assist you in creating your own distinctive style. I find the structure and direction of a workshop to be a welcome break from staring at a blank page and thinking “Now what?”

Workshops offer a chance to network with other creatives, exchange ideas, and collaborate on projects together. I find it tremendously motivating to be surrounded by other artists and to view their working process. Just seeing a different perspective and solution to a problem I’ve been grappling with helps me improve my skills. These contacts can also be extremely helpful for developing your artistic career, discovering new prospects, and working together on projects. Discussions about marketing and selling your art are frequently included in workshops. This may assist you in creating a new business avenue, learning how to set a price for your service, and discovering fresh strategies for marketing your work.

You will get valuable comments on your work from teachers and other artists during workshops. I find constructive criticism from people I respect helps me to develop as an artist and improve my work. Remember…critiques aren’t meant to be critical—they’re designed to help your work evolve and it always helps to have extra “eyes” on your work. Getting intentional, clear feedback from fellow creatives gives me perspective, and pinpoints problem areas in a way that generates more advanced techniques.

Below are some links to retreats to investigate if you do not already have a retreat or workshop in mind:

One. Make sure you have the right materials
After enrolling in your class, study the supply list that your instructor provides. Rather than waiting until the last minute—and risking not having the right materials at your first class—determine what you need to buy early on, and start shopping as soon as possible. If you’re considering substituting materials on the list, get in touch with the instructor first. They’ve put together a list designed to align with what they’re teaching; tinkering with it could make your experience in the class more difficult.
You should also examine any tools you already own that you’re planning to use to ensure that they’re in good condition. If you’re attending a painting workshop, for example, you’ll have more success with paint that is still juicy than with dried-up or leaky tubes and jars.

Two. Prepare mentally
Before you begin a class or workshop, prime yourself to be open, curious, and adventurous. Leave your own rules about how to make art at home, and plan to accept new methods and ideas, without judgment.
Workshops are an important opportunity to continue to grow as an artist. Growth may be accompanied by discomfort or pain.
One helpful mental exercise is to remember how you felt when you first started making your art. You are likely to be trying a new method or style of painting and may be using tools you are unfamiliar with or inexperienced with. You will likely feel as if you are struggling. That's because you are.
It's important to maintain an open mind and push on with this new approach. As tempting as it may be, it is important to push beyond the struggle rather than succumbing and resuming old practices that are comfortable, familiar, and can be counted on to produce desired results. Old habits may have to be broken, or at least put aside.
Try to become engrossed in the process and take pleasure in handling the materials. Workshops are not where you are likely to turn out your next masterpiece. Prepare yourself for either outcome and remember that the end products are not the point—take advantage of the opportunity to hone your skills and learn new processes.

Three. Get to class early
Something as simple as arriving at your class before the studio fills up can make a difference. You’ll have time to find a good spot, set up your workspace, and meet the instructor. A calm start also means that you’re able to focus on the introductory instructions and absorb more than if you arrive flustered. Just remember that your teacher has also likely arrived early to set up without haste, so give them the space to do so.

Four. Keep notes
Your notes will be gold in the months ahead, when you’re alone in your studio and trying to remember the methods you learned and advice you received. Take the time to jot down step-by-step instructions, and snap some pictures, too.

Five. Keep your ears open
During class, try to find a balance between focusing on your work and listening to your teacher’s instructions and feedback. This includes conversations happening with your classmates—it can be extra learning for you. If you hear your teacher offering a piece of advice over and over again, make a note. It could be a key concept that may help you with solving a problem in your work.

Six. Ask questions
Get involved in your learning by speaking up when something is unclear. If you’re struggling with a technique, someone else is likely, as well. Remember, though, that your instructor has to address everyone’s questions, so be patient and aware of the other students in the room.

Seven. Take risks
Cautious, timid, and anxious efforts will result in cautious, timid, and anxious art. Decide to be fearless; the only things at stake are some art supplies. Remind yourself to focus on the process, not the end product, and take a bold approach to creating. You’ll learn much more by diving deep into new methods and materials than you will by cautiously dipping a toe.

Eight. Expect an emotional roller coaster
Prepare yourself for some ups and downs as you learn. You might be excited at the start, as you begin working with new techniques, then frustrated when things don’t go smoothly. You might feel anxious about grasping a new method, and possibly even envious of your classmates’ success. Don’t let ego become a part of the equation; instead, embrace the feelings that you’re having. Uncomfortable scenarios can shake you out of your old habits and help you grow as an artist.

Nine. Be productive beyond the studio
Whether you’re taking a short workshop or a long-term class, get to know the other students. You have a rare opportunity to spend time with like-minded peers and fellow artists. Join them for dinner and make new friends.
The evenings during a workshop, or the days between classes, are also time to review what you learned. Reread your notes, and think about what you created. What went well? What didn’t? What questions do you have? What should you focus on in the next class? And, importantly, are you learning the thing that you came for? These review sessions will give you clarity and purpose for your next learning day.

Ten. Bring what you learned back to your studio
After finishing a class or workshop, resist the urge to immediately launch into a major project. Instead, take time to process your experience. Reread your notes and expand on them while the information is fresh; look at the work that you made for clues as to what you’d like to explore more deeply. If you learned about color, for example, you might ease back into your work by making color charts or doing small, simple color studies. After so much activity and risk-taking, it’s important to give yourself time for reflection and consolidation.
With preparation and the right frame of mind, you’ll be able to reap the full benefits of taking a class, and it will continue to unfold in your mind and work for months to come.

One of the most challenging things about an art retreat is not being distracted by all the other fun things to do in addition to creating art! I find it difficult to choose between wanting to be outside enjoying nature and spending time in the studio. I think I will probably book extra time before or after my next art retreat to give myself more balance between fun, sunshine, community, and creative time!

A retreat is an investment in your well-being, your personal and professional growth, and your community. The learning starts on the day you commit to it. Stretch yourself in every way you can, including financially. In 2019 I decided to attend a yoga retreat in India and I had no idea how I was going to pay for it when I signed up six months in advance. Fortunately, the retreat leader allowed me to make five monthly payments and miraculously, every month the money I needed was there in my bank account to pay my share. Sometimes it is an expansion of your faith to trust the universe to provide for you when you commit to your growth.

Because art retreats require a substantial commitment of time and money you may find these twelve tips for economizing to be helpful:

One. Begin your homework as early as possible and before committing.
Ask your host for all of the information she has that will potentially save you money in all categories: rooms, transportation, meals, shopping, and sightseeing.
Do online research about travel, accommodations, meals, shopping, etc., at your event destination.

Two. Preset a budget for your entire travel experience.
Consider travel insurance for airfare, lodging, etc.
Have a separate bank account or credit card for travel with unlimited ATM withdrawals and low foreign transaction fees.) A separate account makes it easier to stick fast to a predetermined budget. You can see with each purchase exactly how much of your budget you spent. And it will also help you keep your promise to yourself: When the budgeted money is gone ... it is gone!

Three. Attend workshops and events in the off-season for travel/hotel discounts and in cities that are not expensive tourist destinations,

Four. Book activities outside of those planned with the event ahead of time, allowing the opportunity to take advantage of discounts for special days or times.

Five. Travel during off-peak times and days.
If you are flying to the event check to see if staying longer or arriving earlier will allow you to save money.
Be sure to compare flight savings to additional costs for meals or hotel rooms

Six. Plan your packing carefully.
If you are flying do not take more or less clothing than you will need.
Make certain to check the Supply List for your event. (some supplies can be shared with one or more attendees—but this must be arranged ahead of time).
Take as little of everything as you can. Pack mix-and-match clothing and layered outfits
Plan your wardrobe to include as few pairs of different shoes as possible and make certain that you include comfortable shoes for the event and for walking.

Seven. Bring medications or other emergency items you may need.

Eight. Double-check event accommodations, which are usually the most expensive part of the trip.
Can you split the room price in half if you share a room?
Consider whether an Airbnb might be less expensive both because of the rental fees and because you can prepare your own meals.
In an Airbnb, you can usually divide the rental fees into even smaller amounts when more attendees stay together.
Make certain your Airbnb is sponsored by a well-known organization and has the highest rating.

Nine. Research which meals are included in the price of your event.
Locate the nearest supermarket and buy bottles of water, juice, soft drinks, breakfast foods, snacks, and items for lunches and dinners that are not part of the event
Talk to and make friends with locals who live close to your event or where you are staying. They love to share the best places to visit, eat, shop, and avoid because the prices are higher for tourists.
Remember expensive restaurants do not always equal exceptional food. Research and ask other travelers and locals when you arrive what their favorite restaurants and bars are.
Find out the specialty dish of the area you visit because local favorites are usually less expensive.
Share a meal with a friend. It is better for your digestion and leaves room for cocktails and/or dessert.
Eat larger breakfasts and lunches, which are usually less expensive than ordering larger dinners.

Ten. Transfer/Transport:
Take the time to decide which means of transport is better, less expensive, and best suited for your venue.
Will you need a rental car? Can you share a car rental with other attendees? Remember that renting a car also includes insurance, gas, and parking fees.
Can you take advantage of other means of transportation? Trains, buses, Uber or cab (include calculations for tips),
Walk whenever possible.

Eleven. Souvenirs
Take more pictures.
Don’t buy the first thing you see.
Shop around.
Wait at least an hour to buy something you really want to purchase or, better yet, wait until the next day to purchase the item. When we give ourselves time, we usually decide that we do not need it or love it as much as we thought we did. There will be less buyer’s remorse, more money saved, and no additional baggage fees.
Purchase smaller items you can carry home in your suitcase.
Sometimes taking a second empty suitcase for completed workshop projects and souvenirs is less expensive than shipping them home.

Twelve. Select an International long-distance calling plan.
Many travelers do not realize how much their mobile phone companies charge for overseas calls, Bluetooth, SIM cards, or using a personal Wi-Fi hotspot can be better options.
Whether you're a novice or a seasoned artist, I hope I have inspired you to consider the importance of a brief retreat to bring you back to your daily reality rejuvenated and with a wider perspective than when you left. Retreats and workshops hone your skills, offer new tricks, and the opportunity to network with other creatives. They are a great way to advance your artistic objectives and improve your work.

What more unusual and special gift could you give yourself than protected time to create; a time where you are free from the concerns of everyday living? Imagine a place where phones don't ring, laundry doesn't have to be done, meals don't have to be prepared, bills don't have to be paid. You can set aside time to nourish and replenish your creative spirit and protect it on your calendar. You might even be motivated to produce fresh and exciting new work or be a happier, more compassionate human being when you return.

If you’d like to give yourself a special gift this year I offer private retreats in my home studio in Fort Lauderdale. Paint in my spacious, well-equipped studio alone or with friends. I will pick you up at your hotel and bring you back at the end of the day. We will spend the day(s) creating an art project together tailored specifically to your needs, interests, and experience level. If weather permits we can paint outside at my home or at one of the magnificent stately homes or parks in the area.

My gift to you this holiday season is permission to rest, to nourish your creativity, and to follow your heart for a happier you in 2024. My mentorship, guidance, and advice are available to you for creating new possibilities for your art in 2024. I am happy to share my insights and my knowledge with you.

I welcome the opportunity for conversation, cooperation, collaboration, and commissions.

With Light and Delight


My resources for this month's newsletter were:


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