moss like green velvet on the roots of a tree, bluebells and pools of sunlight

The One About the Artist’s Date

Hey there! It’s good to see you here. My name is Lizzie, and I am the redhead who is always wondering! Wondering about life, about this beautiful world, about words and light and colour and form. And mostly about how I can be the best me that I can possibly be. I am a creator of hand bound books and of art, in the form of cyanotypes and photographs. I am also an avid journal-keeper and I’d like to share some of my journal wonderings with you today ….

An Important Tool for Creative Recovery

If you are a creative, or if you simply want to live a more creative life, then there is a wonderful tool which I learned about when I did The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.*

Now, if you’ve been following me for a while, or if you’ve read any of my blogs on journaling, then you will already know that I first got into journaling when I did The Artist’s Way over 20 years ago.

The main tool that Julia Cameron uses in the course is Morning Pages … three pages of writing, first thing in the morning. I started doing morning pages about 24 years ago, and it transformed my life. It opened up a doorway into myself, and once I’d stepped over that threshold, everything changed. Check out my blog My Journaling Life (Part 1) if you want to read more about how this journey began for me. You can find Julia Cameron’s website here if you’d like to read more.

Filling the Well

The other main tool is what Julia Cameron calls “The Artist’s Date”.

“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” Julia Cameron

Basically, it’s giving yourself two hours a week where you do something fun or inspiring (and hopefully both!), ON YOUR OWN, with no other objective than to enjoy yourself.

This is how, as Julia puts it, you “fill the well”, or (continuing with the water analogy, which is good because we are talking about creative flow!), you “prime the pump”.

You’re filling yourself up with good thoughts, ideas, inspiration, all of which can feed into your creative work, or your creative life.

The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.

Stephen Nachmanovitch

Artist’s Dates Don’t Have to Cost You Money

When I first did the Artist’s Way (I’ve gone through the whole course three times over the last 24 years!), the Artist’s Date was the thing that I struggled most with.

I was living in the middle of nowhere in Ireland (it wasn’t really the “middle of nowhere”, but it might as well have been!). I couldn’t drive, and I was a couple of miles from the nearest bus stop. And I was broke, so I wouldn’t have been able to afford one of the very infrequent buses anyway!

I also had an 18-month-old baby.

So, the only Artist’s Dates available to me were long walks. Luckily the “middle of nowhere” was a beautiful place to go walking in!

But it simply wasn’t possible for me to “go” anywhere else on my Artist’s Dates. I did try my best to squeeze two hours of me-time into every week (which wasn’t always possible either, but that’s another story!).

Some of Julia Cameron’s Suggestions for Artist’s Dates

Here are just some of the suggestions from The Artist’s Way …

  • A long country walk (yay! I could do that one!)
  • A solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset
  • A sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music
  • Go to an art supply store with a $10.00 budget. Treat yourself to whatever inspires you. When you get home, use what you just bought…just for fun!
  • Visit a rug store–looking at the beautiful handmade rugs reminds me of the beauty in creating a handmade life.
  • Explore your city: Take a walk, and at every turn, choose the less familiar route. What do you learn about the place you thought you knew?

Think of this combination of tools (Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date) in terms of a radio receiver and transmitter. It is a two-step, two-directional process: out and then in. Doing your morning pages, you are sending – notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your artist date, you are receiving – opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.

Julia Cameron

No More Missing Out

I always felt as if I was “missing” something because of this. Which was probably the main motivation for me doing the Artist’s Way again about eight or nine years ago, when I was so much freer (in every possible way).

These days, it’s different.

These days I have the freedom to do what I want, so I can have Artist’s Dates whenever I want! (Within reason … I still have to go to my day job!!)

Here are some of the Artist’s Dates I’ve been on, which may help you grow your own list of Date Possibilities. First, I should say, if you’re in England, then joining the National Trust is a huge advantage for adding to the list of Date Possibilities. Also, if you live in a city, you’ve got oodles of choices … museums, galleries, public gardens, zoos, etc, etc, etc!

A Trip to Mottisfont Abbey

This is an Artist’s Date that I’ve been on a lot. It’s not that far from me, and Mottisfont alone is worth my National Trust membership!

I love it in Spring when all the bulbs are coming up.

I love it in Summer when the walled garden is in full bloom, and there are so many gorgeous irises and roses.

I love it in Winter, when all is frosted and icy and the trees are bare.

snowdrops and fallen leaves
Spring at Mottisfont Abbey
the walled rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey, roses, foxgloves
the walled rose garden
Summer at Mottisfont Abbey
the bare trees in Winter at Mottisfont Abbey, a bare weeping willow, and a bridge over the river Test
the bare trees
Winter at Mottisfont Abbey
in the kitchen cafe at Mottisfont Abbey, old kitchen utensils
in the kitchen cafe at Mottisfont Abbey

Then there’s the house itself, with its wonderful collection of artworks and decadent 1920’s Décor. There’s a gallery in the attics of the house, so I will visit when there are interesting exhibitions too.

setting the table at Mottisfont Abbey, a black and white of soup bowls and napkins
setting the table at Mottisfont Abbey

A Day out in Bath

I have the most wonderful memories of Bath from when I was in my 20s. It features large in my Memory of the Happiest Time of My Younger Life. Now that I live in Wiltshire, just an hour or so away from this gorgeous city, I just had to go there for an Artist’s Date.

the little girl in yellow, Pulteney Bridge in Bath, the River Avon
the little girl in yellow by Pulteney Bridge
people watching at a market in the gardens by the river in Bath
people watching at a market in the gardens by the river in Bath

This was no two-hour jaunt … this was a whole day out … the train journey through beautiful countryside, walking around the historic city soaking up the atmosphere, visiting a market by the river, strolling in and out of shops … what a glorious day. Hmm, I think, now that the Covid restrictions are lifted, I shall have to do that again soon!

Salisbury Cathedral

I am lucky enough to live on the outskirts of Salisbury, a beautiful English city in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside.

An early morning visit to Salisbury Cathedral, when the cloisters are empty of tourists and the early morning mist shrouds the ancient cathedral, is one of my favourite Artist’s Dates.

early morning in the cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral
early morning in the cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral
ethereal sunrise mist at Salisbury Cathedral, desaturated a bit
ethereal sunrise mist at Salisbury Cathedral, desaturated a bit

Another is to visit the Cathedral for an Evensong service and immerse myself in choral music. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Salisbury Cathedral …

“Salisbury Cathedral is regarded as one of the leading examples of Early English Gothic architecture. Its main body was completed in 38 years, from 1220 to 1258. The spire, built in 1320, at 404 feet (123 m), has been the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom since 1561. Visitors can take the “Tower Tour”, in which the interior of the hollow spire, with its ancient wooden scaffolding, can be viewed. The cathedral has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain at 80 acres (32 ha). It contains a clock which is among the oldest working examples in the world, and has the best surviving of the four original copies of Magna Carta. In 2008, the cathedral celebrated the 750th anniversary of its consecration.”

(If, like me, you use Wikipedia for your research, or just general fact-finding, I would urge you to donate to them. They do an amazing job!)

Early Morning at Stonehenge

Stonehenge and Barrow at sunrise, textured photograph to look ethereal
Stonehenge and Barrow at sunrise

I am also lucky enough to live about three miles from Stonehenge and to be the owner of a 4WD vehicle that allows me to drive on byways.

This means that I am able to take an early morning drive to this most ancient of monuments, to photograph it as the sun rises.

(Note, I only drive on easy byways and leave the scary stuff to Steve!)

Other Date Suggestions

Some other enjoyable Artist’s Dates that I’ve had …

A trip to the cinema to watch a production of Hamlet, live streamed from the National Theatre.

A trip to my favourite garden centre (and maybe buy a plant … or five!).

A visit to Lacock, to walk around the abbey and visit the photography exhibition.

Some of the Hogwarts scenes were filmed in the cloisters!

Then a walk around the village to soak up the Old-English atmosphere (they were filming a street scene for Downton Abbey when I was there … what fun!).

sunlight streaming in the door to the cloisters at Lacock Abbey - this is where some Hogwarts scenes were filmed for the Harry Potter films
sunlight streaming in the door to the cloisters at Lacock Abbey
sign above a door in Lacock village - party (or other public entertainment of the like kind) by parliamentary decree
sign above a door in Lacock village –

for public music or dancing or other public entertainment of the like kind by parliamentary decree

A visit to Grovely Wood at bluebell time, to walk through these ancient woodlands and take a gazillion photographs. The photograph at the top of this blog is of the bluebells!

A trip to a gallery to see an exhibition by an artist I admire.

A massage or a facial.

why is she wearing a fur coat in August - because she can - an interesting stall holder at Wilton car boot sale
why is she wearing a fur coat in August – because she can – an interesting stall holder at Wilton car boot sale
a rather grand walking stick
a rather grand walking stick

A visit to a giant car boot sale.

This one was in the grounds of Wilton House.

(For non-UK people, a “car boot sale” is a big, outdoor flea market type of affair!)

No Excuses!

The list of ideas for Artist’s Dates is endless. Yes, some cost a little money, but there are loads you can do for next to nothing.

And the joy of giving yourself a couple of hours just to have fun, with no other motivation but to entertain yourself is priceless.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.

C.G Jung

If you’d like to know more about me, and my hand bound books, and my journaling journey, and maybe get some tips for your own journaling process, why not sign up for my Wonders out of a Redhead Newsletter. You can sign up here … WOAR!

You can also find me on Facebook or Instagram, where I post a lot about journaling!

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