Artist Dates: a way to reconnect to your playful, creative side

As this latest lockdown goes on (and on and on …), I have found myself occasionally browsing my old blog posts, some going right back to 2010. Stored safely on my hard drive, it’s been a real joy to rediscover memories and creations. I’d like to share with you today a post from way back in December 2015, and sprinkle in some fresh insights.

So here goes …

‘Artist dates and beachcombing treasures’

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” as the old saying goes. And all work and no play is turning this girl into a dull girl. 2015 has been a year of relentless domestic pressures (oh! now doesn’t that sound like 2020?!) and as you know yourself, usually the first thing to slip when we’re up against layers of stress is our precious time to create, to make space to play. Our sanity saver. Our pressure valve. Our mindful moments which gift life to the process of flow. I thought you might like to read about how I turned a ridiculously-early start last week into a way to invite a little more play into my world.

Wide awake at 3.45am after a second night of barely-any-sleep, there was nothing else for it but to get up, drink tea and work until dawn broke … as soon as the first light appeared in the winter sky, I wrapped up against the gales and took myself off on a much-needed artist date.

Artist dates are assigned play. -Julia Cameron

You may have come across Julia Cameron’s famous book ‘The Artists Way’, which has been in print for years. She recommends – amongst other wonderful exercises, such as writing the Morning Pages – that everyone takes themselves off on an artist date once a week. (You might be thinking right now, “oh yeah, right! We’re still in lockdown. I can’t go anywhere!” … but bear with me).

The idea of artist dates are that they become “festive, solo expeditions 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.” (c) Julia Cameron

Now, I’m no stranger to being beside the seaside. I was born and bred in Sussex, and my home – before moving to London in 2001 – was a mere 10-12 minute walk from the beach. But this was my first artist date – indeed, my first dawn walk! – on the pebbles of Brighton beach, in our hideaway home.  A place that CreaTEAvity Studio will host seaside retreats, intimate playshops and tea parties. (Yes, that’s still the dream, 5+ years on …)

Brighton beach in Winter 2015 - by Callie Di Nello It was impossible to NOT do a dance of joy and happiness, energised by the strong winds and the cascades of sea foam bubbles blowing along the beach. The seagulls were showing off a mighty fine balancing act, too, swooping and soaring over the swollen sea and pounding waves, calling out to each other “come play, come play”.

I was amazed at how many people were already out and about on the beach, either walking their dogs, just enjoying a breath of fresh air, or searching for beachcombing treasures. Now that was an idea! I kept my eyes open for beachcombing treasures which could be used for future wet-weather play activities, like sea glass or unusual pieces of fabric or metal.

With the winds buffeting, I kept my head down to steady myself … and my attention was caught by something that looked like an alien.

What on earth was THAT?

Mermaids Purse - Brighton beach, Sussex, UK - December 2015 - by Callie Di NelloI was fascinated by these black alien-like shapes. What on earth were they? There were literally hundreds along the shoreline, presumably tossed up in the winds and high tide pre-dawn time. I managed to connect to Facebook and ushered up a plea … within moments, wise friends soon put paid to the ideas of an alien visitors storming the Sussex shoreline. My enchanting discovery was none other than a ‘mermaid purse’. Wow. Known as good luck talismans, the mermaid purses are – in reality – shark, dogfish or skate egg sacks that nurture eggs until they are ready to be born. I’ve included some links to interesting resources at the end of this article, if you’d like to read more about mermaids purses.

(apologies for the unclear image: it was very windy out there, and my phone kept being tugged by the wind!)

*whooooohooooo* finding these magical mermaid purses makes me even more excited about the annual summer March of the Mermaids, along the Brighton and Hove promenade!

So. 45 mindful minutes + totally free = 1 Artist Date and a happy Callie. I was delighted to have rediscovered my playful side, my desire to jump for joy, and my bounce-ability.

I also trotted home with a small bag full of beachcombing treasures, included driftwood pieces, a lovely chalk pebble from nearby chalk cliffs, a small heart stone … and yet another glorious hagstone – my 3rd hagstone on this particular stretch of beach in only two visits, which is very unusual.  But don’t worry, the pebbles and stones will be returned to the same place they came from, just as soon as I’ve done show-and-tell with my Beloved.

We must look after our precious Gaia, Mother Earth.

So there you have it – a mindful, exhilarating and free Artist Date out in nature. Surely the very best way to blow any cobwebs away, and take inspiration from nature to nurture our creative side.

(And the beauty of this is: you don’t need to go beyond your front door (or garden, if you have one) to capture the beauty of an Artist Date. It’s exactly what I have been doing over these last few weeks: browsing through old blog posts, rediscovering buried treasures, but most importantly, taking time out for me.)

I’d love to know: what will you choose to do as your Artist Date this week (or weekend)?




About Callie Di Nello

I am a therapist specialising in using Creative Arts and Hypnotherapy as insightful and experiential transformational and healing tools. I also work with Nutriri (Food & Body Ease) as a facilitator/1:1 hypnotherapist.  I'm a tea lover and collector of vintage china tea-set; I also love making messes with mixed media. SlowSew #slowstitch enthusiast. Body equality, cancer and mental health advocate. Disabled. (She/Her)

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