If Morning Pages are the Noel of The Artists Way, then Artists Dates are the Liam - they’re the the place to let loose and get Supersonic. (if you made it through that Indie metaphor CONGRATS!)
‘Artist Dates are assigned play. The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition
to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.’
Once a week, roughly an hour, time to indulge yourself and inner creative.
IF YOU’RE READING THIS POST DURING LOCKDOWN (optimism that this one day be over guys!)
Now, I can only speak from my current lockdown situ, but I think there is an instinct to assume artist dates look slightly different in lockdown than out of it. My list of what I would play with and explore would probably involve places further afield than the allocated 2km travel distance, for a start. Galleries?! Fancy lunch by the sea?! Visiting an art supply shop?! YES. But do not let this cloud your thinking. I quickly found ways to adapt and experiment within the confines of End of Days (I’m a Mother. Finding pleasure in the small cracks I’m given is my superpower).
‘What can you do, right now, in your life as it currently is? Do that thing’.
This, coincidentally, also applies to all art all of the time.
Back to the dates. The book is very clever at getting you to think about the things that excite and interest you, over and over again. If you think you don’t know what that is anymore, it will draw it out of you like magic. The lists and imaginary writing you do as part of the weekly tasks should inform how you spend your artist dates, and eventually how you live your life (yeah guys this shit runs deeeeep!). And really? The best advice if you’re struggling with this
time is THINK SMALL. NAH, SMALLER. You want to go and see that exhibition you should have been going to? Find a book by the artist instead and get lost for
an hour. That gig that was cancelled? Listen to the album. Rock climbing off
limits? Walk some new terrain, maybe a street you literally haven’t walked down
even though you drive past it every day. Using your lists and discovery of inner yearning that come out of the tasks, you’re going to plan your dates. I see this time as proper letting go time, time for something different or indulgent, always pleasurable. It would be easy for me to pick up my camera and call that my date (I shoot most days anyway and so just chalk that up as over filling my creative cup, brownie points for me!)– but I personally think this process isn’t about getting better or more connected to a certain craft, it’s about e x p a n s i o n. If
you do have a creative area of expertise, I highly recommend avoiding it on your dates for as long as you can.
PLAY. GET WEIRD. BE FREE.
A few artists dates I’ve embarked on during lockdown:
Gardening // Watching documentaries (for me, on artists I love) // Online ballet class // Making tiny ‘zines of scrappy poetry // Walking some place I hadn’t been before // Continuous line drawings // Baking something new// Starting guitar, again // Re-reading favourite essays
There are lists all over the internet as to what you could do, but honestly? The best thing is to follow the tasks in the books and listen to yourself.
The other advice I would give is to my fellow parents who are extremely over extended right now and feel that finding an hour to be alone and indulge is an absolute joke - I GET IT GUYS. But also, humans are extremely good at adapting (oh hi 2020). Be flexible when you can (that last bit is important), as often as you can. Those 10 stolen minutes of strumming a guitar or reading a book is going to feel so much better than having written off finding an hour and ending up with nothing.
At least half of my dates have been done with children in tow. I’ll set up the idea of an hour to garden or make zines or bake and know that the reality of doing this in the middle of the day means a small-ish person will inevitably join me at some point. And you know what? It’s been pretty wonderful. We all spent hours making those tiny zines and it was glorious. Chances are that you’re looking for things to do anyway, and at least this way you get to dictate what that is. Nourish yourself when and however possible.
I’m nearing the end of the course now and I can see how these dates and self exploration have slowly moved out beyond the allocated hour – I know that prioritizing myself and indulging my whims are VITAL for my well being. I’d slowly been doing this more and more for a few years ( I really found having children made it difficult to cultivate), but this solidified those feelings.
If you don’t have the book yet but feel like you’d like to try an artist date then a great way to start would be to list a few things your 10 year old self loved doing. Ballet? Riding your bike? Lying in the grass and making daisy chains? WHAT SOUNDS FUN? Go do that this week. You’ll be glad you did.