Take a Creative Retreat in Your Own Backyard

The possibilities are so tempting: nature journaling retreats in Scotland, painting jaunts in Provence, even art cruises to the Caribbean. You can take a painting vacation to Florida in the middle of winter or a summer sketching jaunt in the Rocky Mountains. Who can help but gaze longingly at all these possibilities and think how marvelous it would be to just get away from it all and sketch and paint to your heart’s content? I could work as contemplatively or energetically as I wished, intense with the joy of working with no interruptions or distractions. Then finally I would do my best work.

But I take a hard look at the checkbook and my schedule, and know that a retreat of this type isn’t going to happen—this year, anyway. Work, family, friends, scheduling, obligations and the bottom line of that bank statement make it impossible. But the good news is that you don’t need to heave a resigned sigh and give up. If you can’t go on an extended creative retreat, there’s no reason why you can’t take a retreat in your own backyard—whether it’s literally or figuratively.

  • Change your outlook. You first need to broaden your horizons and alter your expectations—look at what you do have available, not what you don’t. A creative retreat doesn’t have to be a formal affair, led by a well-known artist in an exotic locale, no matter how wonderful that sounds. You can make it happen for yourself or band together with others who have similar needs and goals.
  • Clear the calendar. The next step is to make time for your retreat. I certainly understand that you may not have a summer, two weeks or even a weekend free for a retreat, but you can find time to carve out a few hours for yourself.
  • Establish your structure. Now consider your options for what type of retreat you’d like to have. If you’re more comfortable having someone lead your retreat or if having a leader would make you more likely to actually schedule one, then check with an art school, co-op, university, junior college or adult continuing education program at a high school to see whether you can find one. You could also check with the local art store to see whether it offers classes or the employees know of a teacher. It’s likely you can find someone to fill the need.
  • Find a location. If you can get a whole weekend for yourself or with your sketching friends, consider going to a state park or natural area. Many of these types of places offer cabins or lodges and they often have restaurants or cafes as part of visitor services, as well. All you have to worry about, then, is your work.

Scott Burdick is an artist and instructor living in rural North Carolina.

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