THE ART OF GOING SOLO
by Janet Miller
It was my daughter’s idea that I attend an Artista Creative Safari. It was a hot Houston afternoon and she was sitting in my kitchen, flipping through my catalogs, and talking about her job when she stopped mid-sentence and exclaimed, “Mom, you have to do this!” That’s how it started. It was her idea. So I don’t see how she can complain now that I’m turning her old room into my new artist’s studio.
Artista Creative Safaris offers extraordinary art retreats for women in the charming village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The moment my daughter read about it, she knew Artista was a perfect adventure for me, a retired advertising executive with a love of all things creative. It did sound fantastic, but initially I was a bit nervous about traveling alone. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I practically begged each of my daughters to accompany me. When none of them could get the time off work, I decided to risk it and take a trip by myself for the first time in my life.
At the airport, Artista’s general manager Chris Sanders greeted me like an old friend. Warm and gregarious, Chris informed me all about the area during our drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was even cuter than I expected. My hotel, the Cypress Inn, was adorable and within easy walking distance of downtown shops, restaurants, and a glorious beach.
At 6 P.M. the ten Artista enrollees and the personable retreat leaders gathered in the lobby for a cocktail party (with delicious tapas-style dinner) and slide show designed to introduce us to the area and to each other. I learned that my new companions were from all over the U.S., and one even came down from Canada. By the end of the slide show, we felt like we knew the lay of the land.
Day One: Black and White
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we walked a few blocks to the Artista studio, a quiet, well-lit space filled with all the tools and paints we’d need. Even more important for awakening my inner artist was the prevalence of mimosas, wines, chocolates, and fresh fruits.
Our instructor, Lauren Taylor, had attended our welcome dinner, where we found out that she was not only a friendly woman, but also an accomplished artist, teacher, and gallery owner. On our first morning together, Lauren spoke to us briefly about the process of creativity before setting us to work with black and white paint. Some of my fellow artists were unsure where to start, and others dove right in. The woman to my left, an entrepreneur from Miami, layered on the paint with such enthusiasm that by the time we stopped painting, she seemed to have created an image of “the blob” from the 1958 horror/sci-fi film. Whatever it was, it turned out to be my favorite.
After lunch at a nearby cafe, we returned to the studio and watched as Lauren framed a small portion of each of our paintings. Using petite, thick-bordered frames, she was able to pull the most beautiful portion of each of our pieces off the page. My painting was the last to be framed, and I was shocked that my playful, black-and-white abstract had become something so visually engaging and beautiful. I’ve always considered myself creative, but not an “artist.” Now I was reconsidering: Maybe I am an artist after all.
That evening we were treated to wine-tasting and a poetry reading at a restaurant that was quintessentially Carmel. A few of us decided to stay for a delicious dinner, and I got to talking with a nursery owner from Pennsylvania who said she had never considered herself artistic. What brought her here? Turns out she had attended a Las Olas Surf Safari, a women’s surfing retreat offered by Manifesta Safaris, the company that also operates Artista. “I’ve gone surfing with them twice, and it was amazing both times,” she said. “I wanted to try something new, to challenge myself.” When I asked her how she was liking Artista, she said, “In some ways, it’s a lot like surfing. You have to learn to believe you can do it.” This little bit of surf wisdom proved true over the next few days, as we each learned to believe that we could make art.
Day Two: Color and Canvas
I awoke on my second morning in Carmel with my fingers itching for a paintbrush. I couldn’t believe I had become hooked so quickly. I went for a walk on the beach before joining a few of my fellow Artista enrollees for breakfast on the hotel patio. When we arrived at the studio, we got to work immediately, this time using color on paper. Lauren gave us pointers, advice, and encouragement. “That is the exact color of sunflowers,” she said of a dark yellow stripe across the bottom of my page. “What a perfect color,” she added. I began adding greens and blues, the colors of the outdoors. With the addition of a brick-tone red, I completed an image that evoked the exact feeling of Tuscany in the summer. “You must be feeling good,” the surfer told me. “This is intuitive abstract painting; it comes from your inner self.” She was right; my inner self was feeling great, like the color of sunflowers and mimosas.
After breaking for afternoon yoga (included in the Artista Safari), I returned to the studio and was greeted by blank canvases. Lauren demonstrated a new technique for us to try, and I was eager to test it out. As soon as I put my brush to canvas, I knew I would have to set up a space in my home for making art. Painting is not only fun and relaxing, it is also freeing, rewarding, and cathartic. And I couldn’t wait to see my family’s reaction to the pieces I would bring home.
After dinner that evening, all the enrollees returned to the studio for a nighttime painting party. The music was pumping. Wine, chocolates, cookies and milk were set out for us. We tied each others’ apron stings, popped a cork or two, and set to work dancing, painting, tasting, and laughing. I completed several canvases, agreed to trade a piece of mine for one made by the surfer, exchanged phone numbers, and kicked up my heels. By 10:30 I had the makings of a beautiful triptych in front of me. All three canvases used the colors of Carmel beach: deep Cypress green, every shade of aqua, toasted sand, darkest blue, and seaweed brown. Satisfied and tired, I took off my apron and headed back to my cozy room, where I indulged in a bubble bath before getting in bed. I also called my husband, who said I sounded wonderfully happy.
Day Three: The Final Touches
Despite the late-night painting session, we were all downstairs eating breakfast bright and early. I happily finished my triptych paintings of Carmel. “I see Carmel in these three pieces,” Lauren commented. “Well,” I answered, “I wanted to take some of it home with me.” The truth was, I wanted to take all of it home with me: the studio, the mimosas, my fellow painters, Lauren, and the beach. But most of all, I wanted to take home the feeling I got when I was painting. That afternoon, as we ate lunch outside the studio together and chatted about our plans, I decided then and there that I’d convert my daughter’s old room into an artist’s studio. I also signed up for another Artista Creative Safari in the fall. This time I’ll try monotype printmaking — I can’t wait! Two of my new artist friends are checking their calendars to see if they can come back too. I’d love to make art with them again, but I wouldn’t mind traveling alone. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at it.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Artista Creative Safaris also offers monotype printmaking and encaustic (hot wax) art retreats. For more information on Artista Creative Safaris for Women, see www.artistacreative.com, call 831-625-5748, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOP 10 REASONS WOMEN SHOULD TRAVEL SOLO:
• Focus on yourself for a change.
• No argument over who gets the window seat.
• Meet friends you never knew you had.
• Shop where you want, for as long as you want, without anyone rushing you.
• No stops at the local theme park, golf museum, antique car show, etc.
• Read your favorite magazine with no distractions.
• No cooking. No cleaning. No problem.
• Dress up (break out those new heels) — or dress down (no one will notice if you’re not wearing makeup).
• You get to hog the covers.
• Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and you’ll enjoy a warm welcome home.