Exploring the Concept of The Artist’s Date
by Fiona Biggins
A few years ago, I first embarked on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, a course in discovering and recovering your creative self. It’s a book that takes you on a journey over 12 weeks, where you get to look at different parts of yourself and your creative blocks. Through the journey you gradually start to reconnect to your creative self, your inner artist. Now, I had never considered myself to be an artist. I’m rubbish at drawing and painting (or so I was told at school), but since doing the Artists Way I now see myself as creative. I appreciate that I’m musical, I can sing and dance and that is what being an artist is too. We’re all artists in our own way. I now see my work as a coach and facilitator as being creative. As an example, being in the moment with a client and creating a question or designing a workshop.
Four months ago I started the Artists Way again but this time with 3 friends who are all creative in their own way, be it in illustration, acting, dancing or painting. We meet every two weeks to share our insights from the previous chapter and we encourage and support each other in between the meetings through a WhatsApp Group. It is magical and wonderful to be in a group that Julia Cameron refers to as “Creative Clusters” with “Believing Mirrors”. Each week there are various tasks to do, related to the theme of the week, plus two pivotal tools known as The Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date. Julia Cameron writes; “ A lasting creative awakening requires the consistent use of both”.
What exactly is an Artist’s Date?
I’m going to talk about my experience of the Artist’s Date as it relates well to Soothed In The City. What exactly is an Artist’s Date? Julia Cameron states, “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. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you pre-plan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist’s date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a your creative child. That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children, – no taggers on of any stipe.”
So how have I got on with my Artist’s Dates?
Well ,I have well-intentioned plans to do an artist’s date every Friday afternoon, finishing work at 3pm. Some Fridays I’ve been successful, some I’ve squeezed in half an hour and some I’ve failed.
One of my successful Artist’s Dates was walking to Portobello Market, one Friday afternoon, in search of a jumpsuit, for a friend’s Studio 54 themed 40th birthday party. Before I left lots of voices were chatting inside my head telling me, “just go to Zara and quickly pick something up”, “what if you don’t find anything”, “you’ve left it too late, the market will have shut”. Julia Cameron calls these voices our “wet blanket”. Despite this and bolstered by the support of my WhatsApp group, I headed to the market. I went into one of two shops and felt a bit hopeless because there wasn’t anything that was right. However the 3rd shop I came across was very different. I had to ring on the doorbell and two guys, funkily dressed, let me in. I explained what I was looking for and immediately one of the more flamboyant men found me two jumpsuits. Both were original 70’s items. I tried one on, came out of the fitting room and the guy adjusted the sleeves for me and brought me out shoes and a few belts to try on with it. I felt very special and looked after and I even got a discount on the item. It was such a funny, unexpected and memorable experience that brought me a lot of joy and for the rest of the day I seemed to see things with new eyes.
Even my squeezed in half hour dates have lifted my spirits and created good memories. One Friday afternoon, having got caught up in a Twitter black hole, I didn’t finish work until 5pm. Honouring my commitment to do an Artist’s Date, I decided I would walk from the Southbank Centre to Borough Market along the river. I walked around Borough Market, bought some gluten-free flapjacks and felt inspired and reconnected again.
I’ve since done a few Sunday artists dates which I’ve booked in advance. These include getting up early Sunday morning to do a beginners knitting course at Tea and Crafting in Camden. I didn’t really fancy going at the time but having made the effort it genuinely reignited my love of knitting, polished my somewhat rusty skills and introduced me to some really nice ladies. By the time the class had finished Camden Lock had come to life so I had a wander and really felt part of it.
As a result of one of the artist’s way tasks, which was to do an artist’s day excursion on my own, last Sunday I went to Canterbury. I had booked the train a month ago and again when it came to going, I didn’t fancy heading out into the rain, minus I hours sleep because the clocks had changed. And the wet blanket voice was telling me “this is ridiculous, what are you doing going to Canterbury?” Nevertheless I went and enjoyed every moment of it. I loved having space and time to myself on the train journey, the different scenery, the inspiration for other places I could go such as Whitstable and Herne Bay. I let go of expectations of myself and of others about what to do once I got there. The freedom of being able to do what I wanted was amazing. I went clothes shopping to M&S (yes I know they have M&S stores in London, but I rarely get the chance to go), I had mac’n’cheese in a café, I browsed in a sewing shop and did an interactive tour through Chaucer’s tales. I had a quick look at the cathedral. I felt a bit guilty not going in but it was my date to choose what I wanted to do. It was exciting.
So although it’s not always done perfectly, and it can feel like a risk, when I allow myself to do an artist date, it brightens up my life and makes me feel more connected and joyful.
Fiona is a certified life and career coach at Mind The Gap , supporting people in their 20s and 30s to overcome common quarterlife challenges.