I went on my first creative retreat almost two years ago. It wasn’t a conference that was packed with classes and activities. It wasn’t a family vacation where I was wrangling kids between pockets of relaxation. It was a time away specifically for the purpose of filling my creative tank and stepping outside of my daily routine, so I could think without distractions. I came back from that first retreat with clarity and excitement and I immediately knew this had to be a regular thing.
Since then, I’ve done a few creative retreats and they’ve all been beneficial in different ways.
Last week, I went down to Panama City Beach to spend a few days with Shaunna at her parent’s condo. We had a to-do list, but it wasn’t so aggressive that we wouldn’t have free time to read, journal, paint, walk on the beach, or just go to bed early and get a full night of sleep.
The first day was cloudy and cool. As it turns out, Shaunna was getting hit with a virus, so she was in her jammies and glued to the couch most of the day. We did get some work in, but she wasn’t feeling up to doing too much. While she napped, I walked on the beach, listening to an audiobook. I watched the waves, dug my toes in the sand, and observed the seagulls stretching and then tightly tucking their wings and the sandpipers as they scurried quickly through the surf. I almost had the beach to myself, which I enjoyed. As a driven person who likes being productive, I tend to hop rapidly from one thing to the next. When I walk on the beach, it all slows and I have time for contemplation that isn’t hurried or wedged between two items on the to-do list. There was no time limit except for when my feet were numb and I needed to go inside, warm them in a shallow bath, and put on some wool socks!
The clouds made for a spectacular sunset that night…
I sat out on the deck, watching the sun slip behind the horizon.
The next day, Shaunna was feeling better, so we were able to accomplish more and we even sat out on the beach while we worked. Brainstorming is always better if it can be done with a pretty view! We sat in low beach chairs and soaked in the sun. It was still cool (in the 50’s and breezy), but it was too pretty not to be outside, so we bundled in sweaters. The funny thing is, the little bit of my leg that was showing ended up with a sunburn!
We also combed the beach for shells. I found a few olive shells, but mostly collected broken pieces of sun-bleached sand dollars. Their texture and varying shades of white drew me to them.
It was during our time on the beach that we realized we craved more time. I was leaving very early the next morning and we felt like we had lost most of the first day. So, we scrambled to see if we could steal away just one more day. I was able to move my flights and our families gave us that extra time.
I was so thankful for that extra day. We could slow down and soak it in, knowing we had one more full day to work, chat, and play.
Our last day, we pulled out the paints, put on some music, and just played.
I wanted to try something totally different from my usual style, so I did a loose botanical and some abstracts…
Shaunna and I laughed when we compared our palettes.
My palette was tidy, soft, and natural. I always seem to mix the same colors, even if I start with completely different tubes of paint.
Shaunna mixed less, allowing the colors to be bright and bold. Her palette was delightfully unrestrained.
Abstracts are a struggle for me, but I had an idea of painting a “color blob” and felt sort of like a nest or a flower. I ended up really liking how it turned out.
And here is the botanical…
I gained a lot from all of the reading, conversations, idea-development sessions, and journaling, but this creative play-time with paint was perhaps the most enriching.
I feel even more excited to get back to the easel and paint and to create new designs at the drafting table. I just need to get my studio floors finished, so I can put everything back together and do more of exactly that!
And I’m also excited about all of our ideas for The Creative Exponent. We have some really big ideas, but put together some manageable first steps that we can start implementing over the next few weeks and months.