Artist Date Tuesday: Why these dates are important

Welcome to the first Artist Date Tuesday on this blog! (Missed the explanation post? Read it here!) As I said yesterday, I’ve been wanting to spend some time along the coast. I don’t know why, since it’s been so cold and overcast here a friend dubbed last month “July-vember,” but I just had a hankering to be by the water.

La Riviere trail

Don Edwards Regional Park

As it turned out, I did make it to water today, but to the marshlands rather than the beach. Erik had to go to Palo Alto, so after dropping him off there I backtracked over the Dumbarton Bridge and ventured into a park I’ve always wanted to check out.

In Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she explains artist dates like this:

In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, aka your creative child… Your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to. There are as many ways to evade this commitment as there are days of your life.

It’s completely true that I’ve tried to evade artist dates. I’ve spent so many years of my life trying to be grown-up and responsible, and that side of me thinks the dates are a waste of time. “Why should we bother with this?” it asks. “What’s the point?” The point is to just go. (Albert Brooks’ movie The Muse delightfully illustrates this whole concept.) It’s like taking kids to the zoo: you don’t go with an agenda, you just go, and everyone comes home sticky and tired and glad they went. But the grown-up responsible voice is accustomed to being in charge, and it’s good at rationalizing its way out of these excursions. That’s partly why I dedicated Tuesday posts to artist dates: so I won’t talk myself out of them anymore!

Algae

By grown-up standards, indeed, this date wasn’t spectacular: I didn’t “accomplish” anything. When I got to the park, the elderly woman at the visitor center told me “there’s not much to see. Come back, say, the second week of September, and there’ll be more [birds].” Once I started out on the trails, I wondered what on earth a sun-phobic person was doing out in the open at noon in August, wearing only a hat and SPF 30 against the brilliant sunshine. The park sits right up against the freeway and some industrial buildings, so everywhere I looked I saw water, plants, big-block buildings, and speeding cars. The trails weren’t difficult or particularly exciting to hike. It was definitely not the most inspiring park I’ve ever been to.

Wooden bridge

And yet, I liked it. I was in a place I’d always wanted to visit. I was walking on wooden bridges across a watery landscape, and such structures have always captured my imagination. I was outside by the water, like I said I was going to be. There was deep satisfaction in all this — even  satisfaction at defying my usual sun-cautiousness to be outdoors at noon for once. Sometimes, as kids do, it’s good to throw prudence to the winds.

Empty shack

Empty red shack

And on that note: new places always make me just a little anxious, and a shot of that kind of nervousness seems to be good for the creative soul. I even drove along a weird unknown shore road after I left the park, and there was a part of me that panicked the entire way: “Oh my god we are not supposed to be here! We’ll get in trouble! Let’s turn around before anyone sees us!” I did turn around eventually, but only because the road ended and it was clear there was no other way to get back. My little adventure is more than tame by most standards, but it put my head in nice foreign places, and that’s always good for creativity. Good art involves some level of rebellion, and if taking a new road is as far as I can push myself, then at least I’m putting that much more pushing under my belt.

Me at Don Edwards park

Out in the sun at noon, wearing an uncomfortable warm hoodie for extra sun protection!

I did indeed leave the park sticky and tired, but I recovered afterward by having lunch at Ikea (artist dates are all about satisfying unaccountable cravings!) with The Road to Coorain, and then going to an art store and buying new watercolor paper and some fancy new brushes I’m just itching to test out. It wasn’t a life-changing day, but it shook things up a bit and filled me with new sights (a flying egret), sounds (a very loud shorebird), smells (marsh mud), tastes (Ikea mac & cheese: not highly recommended), and textures (new sable brushes) — so it’s a successful artist date!

Tomorrow, I’ll return to decoupage after a long hiatus. The inaugural Wednesday Craft will have lots more pictures, as well as musings on new directions for my shop and my crafting. See you then!