Artist Dates in the Time of Coronavirus

Artist dates are an important part of the journey in Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. These weekly excursions to feed your inner artist and give you time to listen, both to your inner child and to the whispers of inspiration, are seen as non-negotiable. I’m a great fan of grabbing time to oneself and creating space to feel free, but 2020 and now 2021 are not going to be famous as years when freedom is easily available. When, in the UK at least, non-essential shopping is banned and galleries, museums, parks, gardens, great houses and zoos are closed or open with big restrictions…. how do you get to enjoy quality time with yourself?

Well, play has never had to cost money really. The function of an artist date is to give you space to be alone: if you can manage that in your own home, then there’s really no need to go further. If you have a computer and a room to sit in, then the world is open to you. Julia Cameron herself says that the value of the date lies not in the cost but in the attention paid to it. You won’t be able to virtually date if you sit in the living room with the TV on, or try to squeeze in a date while cooking tea unless, of course, the preparation of tea becomes the date.

I am aiming to take at least an hour to myself once a week, to grab a pot of tea or coffee and to sit in a quiet corner of the house and indulge my inner artist without leaving the comfort of my own house (mostly)

Here, then, is a list of dates to choose from over the next few months: (this is not a complete list, and I will be coming back and adding to it over the months as more possibilities occur to me)

  • Watching an old movie, or a foreign language film by myself with 100% attention. It’s so rare to do this, to watch without doing something else at the same time. Top of my list is Our Town, based on the play by Thornton Wilder, but there are a few old black and white movies available on Prime that I want to watch as well. I also plan on watching I Remember Mama soon. I watched it as a child with both my Mum and my Grandma, who loved old movies, so it will be a proper bit of nostalgia for me.
  • Taking a walk in the local woods. This is good at any time of year, but especially good during the winter when the skies light up corners of the wood that are usually dark. My woods are 300 yards away from the house, and have space for a two or three mile walk, so that’s good enough to build immunity and allow for free time to listen and think and watch.
  • Take £10 and invest in stickers or stationery. Etsy has a lovely range of stickers made by little independent makers, and for £10 (give or take a pound or two) it’s possible to get a few sheets. This was my artist date this week, and I have three separate orders on the way, all on the theme of hygge. No, it’s not as much fun as rifling through all the packets of stickers in a shop, but in reality there isn’t a decent sticker shop near me anyway, so online is the only way I usually get stickers.
  • Sign up for an online gallery tour. Most galleries developed some form of virtual tour when the pandemic struck, so choose a local or distant gallery and visit for an hour. If a picture grabs your interest, stop and stay for a while. Learn about the artist, download or print off a version of the picture. Do all this sitting in a comfy chair with a coffee nearby.
  • Use Pinterest well. Choose a topic, perhaps a colour, a place or an abstract concept like happiness or creativity and follow the links. Save them to one of your boards, or create a new board for The Artists Way. Mine can be found here. Pinterest can suck time away forever, so be specific and be selective. Bookmark interesting pins that are off topic to read later: this date is just about following your word for the day.
  • Borrow or buy inspiring books to use as sources of inspiration: I love Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton, because it’s bright, colourful, full of inspiration for looking, touching, listening and capturing the world around you but other books that feed my visual soul are interior design books, cookery books or the many mindful books such as A Book That Takes Its Time by Irene Smit.
  • Grab a pile of old magazines and start an inspiration folder…. or if you, like me, already have a pile of cuttings, start trimming them and playing with them to create a mood board, inspirational poster or (as I love to do) a scrapbook of inspiring pictures that speak to your soul and spark joy. I have a range of A4 books that I’ve stuck very many cuttings into over the years.
  • Go house hunting in an area you dream of but possibly may never actually live in. Mine is the Llyn Peninsula. I dream of owning a small welsh cottage, and when I need to boost my inner calm I can spend an hour or two house hunting there on Zoopla or Purple Bricks. You want an estate agent site that’s good for photographs and a folder on your computer to download them to. That way, you can re-browse the best of them even after they’ve been sold. Or go for a Google Earth walk in a foreign city like Vienna or Rome. See if you can find the famous sites you’ve never been to.
  • Get your craft supplies out. An Artist Date is the perfect time to use that clay you bought on offer and never got out, the cross stitch kit your Mum gave you for Christmas or the paper you bought when the kids were little that’s been stuck in a drawer for 15 years. Get them out, play with them, enjoy the process and don’t worry about the final product. Play is so valuable for children and adults, and we bog ourselves down in work instead.
  • Cook from scratch, using your whole senses and listening to some reflective music. Making soup, preparing a casserole or baking bread can all be fabulous activities to feed the senses. Be mindful as you do it and talk to yourself: “I can feel the flour sticking to any wet patches on my fingers: strange, as it flows like water into the bowl. The surface is cratered, like the moon, but below is smooth.”

A brief perusal of articles online has led me to quite a few that are looking at the issues of virtual Artist Dates. I’m listing them here for ease of reading later.

How to be more creative during Lockdown: By Julia Cameron and, yes, I think she has absolutely pointed out that imagination must power our virtual Artist Dates. Be creative!

Forty Artist Date Ideas by Katie from Find the Good Everyday: Katie wrote these in 2017, so they’re not designed specifically because of the Coronavirus, but so many of them will work depsite Lockdown. Truthfully, I love the list and may well be using a few myself. And, to make life even more perfect, Katie has a list of Twenty Cosy Artist Dates that are perfectly hygge and so good for hibernating in the winter time! (I’ve ended up following Katie on every social media she does: one can never have too much positivity in one’s life)

How to Set up a Year of Artist Dates by Christina Chang on The Art of Education. Very literally art-based, this article has ideas for creative artist dates, some of which are adaptable. Her reasoning behind why we need these dates is good and clear, though, and you may need to remind yourself that two hours a week to feed your inner soul is not a lot.

10 of the best Virtual Gallery Tours from The Guardian. From Bilbao to Rome to Brasil, the world’s top galleries are open to you from the comfort of home.

The National Gallery, London runs virtual tours, some free and some charge an entrance fee even though virtual. I love the National Gallery. It turns out that sitting in front of the Fighting Temeraire is a good way to come to terms with good news when there’s no one else to share it with.

Likewise, The British Museum is available to tour virtually for free on Google Street View and through social media, online learning and events, many of which are free.

Today’s header is by Brooke Lark on Unsplash. I chose it because it looks like at least one of my artist dates will this year: cards, paper, resources spread over the table and a pot of tea for refreshment stood nearby.

I’m sharing my The Artist’s Way blogposts and quotations in the newly-formed A Year of Simple Abundance Facebook group, as well as any thoughts or emotions thrown up by a reread of Simple Abundance. Membership is free, and only rests on the answers to three simple questions, so if you fancy it do please ask and join.

Like all my blogs, Facebook groups and other social media content, A Year of Simple Abundance is free to join and ad free as far as possible.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

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