I began painting with a group of women on Thursday nights in the instructor’s home and I continued that until I felt I needed to “do my own thing”. I maintain ties with these women still, through email and phone. Periodically we see each other and so remain in each other’s lives, even though we don’t see each other frequently.
Several years ago a group of artists got together to paint for a few days, sort of a mini-workshop, at one of the artists’ homes on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. I traveled there with two women whom I had known for a few years, and met three others there. I must say, I went with some trepidation, but after 5 days we realized we had so much fun that we wanted to do it again and we have had a yearly retreat since 2001. This art retreat has become the highlight of my life – an annual gift to myself. It’s my vacation, art workshop and spiritual retreat, all wrapped up with a big bow of laughter (and chocolate!).
There is a certain ebb and flow to these events, because to be with the same people in a confined space for more than a few days is to sometimes tread on each other’s toes. But we seem to tread lightly and our laughter (and tears) seem to overcome those moments. We eat very well, stay up very late, and laugh until we cry and cry until we laugh, all week long, intermittently stuffing ourselves with chocolate. By the end of the week, even though we are ready to resume our normal (???) lives, we have also made our plans for the next year’s adventure.
In the years we have been meeting:
I’ve been hot on the North Carolina coast and cold in basements in Indiana. We have been massaged, manicured and pedicured.
I’ve been so wet in the rain forest of North Carolina that:
· I had to dry my pillow in the clothes dryer before I went to bed at night and my undies in the morning before I put them on;
· my camera got waterlogged and my SD card didn’t work so I lost all the pictures of that trip;
· my watercolor painting on 300 lb. Arches got so damp overnight that it literally draped itself over the top of the garbage can next to my work station. Fortunately, by laying it flat on the table and leaving it alone, it flattened itself out and was good as new (although still damp) the next day.
Fortunately some of these locations have been in close proximity of a Jerry’s Artarama outlet in Knoxville, TN and so we have had the added experience of art supplies mixed with laughter and an overloaded (possibly dangerously so) vehicle.
· Some of us have purchased and loaded full sized easels and a full sized barstool made of wrought iron and canvas which wouldn’t fit into the cargo area while still boxed, so it had to be taken out of that box and inserted into the already full cargo space by “us wimmin” while the workmen watched, shaking their heads.
· I have observed the incredulous looks of men carrying boxes of art supplies (yes, I said BOXES) to a van already so loaded with art supplies, luggage and prior purchases that, when the tailgate was lifted, several items fell out.
· When the workmen say “this won’t fit, we can ship it for you” we immediately tell them, “of course it will fit, there’s plenty of room”, and out comes more “stuff” to be rearranged and reloaded until it all fits (more or less) and we don’t really care, because the next time that hatch is opened we will be home – and let the art supplies fall where they may!
These adventures just give us more to laugh and talk about at our next retreat!
And through it all we have managed to create some pretty darn good paintings. It seems that any painting(s) I create at these retreats go on to be sold or win awards, and that seems to be the case for the other artists as well. I believe it’s because each of those paintings has been created in such a nurturing and loving environment.
Just got back from this year’s retreat and can’t wait for next year!!