Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Artist

by Lise Horton Many of you are no doubt familiar with the concept of the Artist’s Date, as promoted by “The Artist’s Way” author, Julia Cameron. The idea that you need to recharge, refuel, re-energize your creative soul in order to write, productively and joyfully, is truer than ever in times like these. Between personal responsibility, worry over the economy, global warming, disease, and the everyday trials and tribulations of life, a writer – any artistic person – is even more challenged when trying to nurture that oh-so-fragile spark that lets our imaginations soar. I’m going to ask you to make the commitment that Cameron does. A once a week Artist’s Date with yourself. It need not be a time consuming date, nor an expensive one. What it does need to be is something that takes you outside of your everyday experience, your normal environs and into a magical, wonder-filled place. What is magical to you? What makes your mind say, in awe, “Ahhhhh!”? It can be something different for everyone. Something sophisticated, something childish. A carefree excursion, or a contemplative one. There are endless possibilities – something for every sense and sensibility. But in case you need some ideas to get you started, here are a few to whet that creative appetite: The New York Historical Society’s new exhibit on Lincoln The Pierpont Morgan Museum has current exhibits running on William Blake, Maurice Sendak and Puccini and upcoming exhibits on Jane Austen, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Romantic Gardens The Whitney Museum has just opened its Georgia O’Keefe exhibit The American Museum of Natural History’s exhibits include one on frogs, extreme mammals, butterflies and the always awesome host of the beautiful and the bizarre. Or if performance is more your artist’s cup of tea, consider one of the numerous locations in Manhattan to enjoy music (symphonic, jazz, cabaret, rock, R&B), dance (ballet, modern, ballroom), opera, or how about a night at the theatre. You can opt to see Eugene O’Neill’s “Emperor Jones”, Mamet’s “Oleanna”, the upcoming musical of “Ragtime”, the silly and satisfying “Bye, Bye, Birdie” or one of several Sondheim presentations to celebrate his 80th Birthday, including “A Little Night Music” with the Grande Dame of Broadway, Angela Lansbury and a later event with the inimitable Barbara Cook. Or trek on out to BAM and see the imported production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” with Cate Blanchett. Not a moviegoer? Never go solo? Give it a try. Pick a film that is something outside your normal fare. See what all the hullabaloo is about. “Shutter Island” is a guaranteed thriller. “Amelia” pairs Richard Gere and Hillary Swank in the story of the doomed aviator. Or “It’s Complicated” the romantic comedy for the 50-something crowd, starring Meryl & Alec B. The atmospheric “Sherlock Holmes” boasts Robert Downey, Jr., as a seedy Holmes and a dapper Dr. Watson - Jude Law (oh, and VAMPIRES!) Or a host of other holiday offerings. If you eschew the childish or sophomoric, how about you give one a try? You may find a vein tapped in your creative subconscious that opens up a whole new world! For a very different twist, consider pampering your artist’s inner child. When was the last time you bought a coloring book and a big box of Crayola crayons and whiled away an hour with burnt sienna and periwinkle? Coloring outside the lines absolutely encouraged, BTW! Or finger paints, construction paper, glue and glitter. Or a slightly more mature take – do a bookish decoupage cover for your very own daily journal (the inexpensive wire-notebooks are a perfect choice!). Play-doh is still around in a plethora of fun colors, as is clay. Put together a beautiful or complicated or puzzling puzzle while sipping a cup of an herbal tea you’ve never tried. Try painting or sketching or grab a camera and find some odd little spot to take some unusual pictures of some curious places or things that you can use later to prompt your imagination on intriguing flights of fancy. Art and imagination takes many forms. If take-out or a can of soup is your big meal, how about making a big pot of hearty soup filled with myriad flavors and spices? Cutting those veggies can be a very Zen opportunity to relaxing your mind and getting in touch with your body. Or undertake to bake a pie from scratch. Or a loaf of bread, or Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon – look what it did for Julie Powell! Sometimes the simplest retreat from your daily reality can be the most profound. Find a new park that you have not yet explored. Take a walk – this time of year can be especially beautiful with the foliage and falling leaves. Find a spot that “speaks” to you and sit – that’s all. Just sit (no cell phones, Blackberries or iPods allowed!). Breathe, let your mind run free and see what pops out. Or take a long walk in an unfamiliar (but safe!) neighborhood. Stop as your fancy dictates. At a used bookstore, or a funky jewelry store, or an odd restaurant or bar. Sit, alone, and have a cuppa, or a glass of something different and savor the moment – the tastes, sounds, sensations and the solitude. There are adventures to be had, discoveries to be made, and wonders to be enjoyed. They all await you. And it couldn’t be simpler to revitalize your inner artist. Just make a date …. with yourself. P.S. – Be sure to share your experiences with us!


  1. Lise-- a wonderful post. They all sound like wonderful dates. I have the crayons so I need to go shopping for a coloring book, and I am definitely taking my camera out of moth balls. I will let you know how it turns out. And to all others who take your advice, Happy Dating!

  2. If you have kids you don't even have to step outside the house to nourish your inner artist. I sometimes just sit and listen to my daughter as she plays with her dolls -The dolls have come up with a hair twisting game and have to learn how to share by mutually agreeing to entangle their feet in the other dolls's hair. Though one of the dolls won't play.

    Bizarre. Guess I should do some adult stuff too! Nice post Lise!

  3. So many great ideas, Lise! We have no excuses for not treating ourselves well. And it doesn't even have to cost any money. Ideas for my latest blog post (check out if you haven't already :)) came when I treated myself to a luxurious bubble bath, something I rarely allow myself the time to do. The wonderful hot water and fragrant bubbles relaxed my body and mind enough to let the creative juices flow. I grabbed pencil and paper as soon as I got out so I wouldn't forget the ideas that had mysteriously popped into my head.
    Thanks for this great reminder, Lise!

  4. What a great post, Lise! I'm so excited for the Jane Austen exhibit - thanks for bringing that to my attention! And how funny that just today I bought a new coloring book (though I will certainly stay inside the lines! I can't tolerate a mess! LOL!) and was THIS CLOSE to picking up some play dough! I'll get it next time I'm out, because really, it's so fun. I'm also so excited for the revival of Ragtime. I was lucky enough to see it the first time around and perform in it twice in's one of my all-time favorite scores. And really, I cannot wait for Sherlock Holmes...Robert Downey, Jr and Jude still my beating heart! Fantastic ideas for feeding the inner artist! :)

  5. I'm so thrilled that my post may have inspired us to take flight in some new and exciting ways. Change is most definitely a must for the creative mind. New, different, unusual - it is all good for the writer who must continue to experience or suffer stagnation.

    Have great dates, Ladies!