Give yourself an artist date

by Starla J. King on August 23, 2012

“I just get soooooo BORED!” she said, mournfully anticipating the space her daughter would leave as she heads off to college.

Never mind that she lives at the beach, just a breath away from the ocean and the delights of the sea.  That’s just it — she LIVES there.  What to me looks like vacation, to her looks like the place she does chores and makes a living.

It happens to all of us, the fading of our interest.

What visitors see as cool, fresh, and new, we see as … a To Do list … a trip to the post office to send that gift you bought your brother 4 months ago (oops) … a nuisance of a new construction zone and *yawwwwwn* same ole’ same ole’.

It’s time for an artist date.  It’s in detail by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, but in a nutshell, an artist date is pre-planned time you spend ALONE experiencing the world in a different way that’s interesting to you.   

“Art is born in attention.  It’s midwife is detail…  The language of art is image, symbol.  It is a wordless language, even when our very art is to chase it with words.

The artist brain cannot be reached — or triggered — effectively by words alone.  The artist brain is a sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch.  These are the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art.” ~ Julia Cameron

So, the artist date — the intentional sensory tuning in —  what might it look like?

Well, our dear bored beach town resident, for example, might take her usual walk on the beach… but turn up her senses a few notches:

  • See how many colors you can notice across the sand and ocean waves (there’s soooo much more than tan and blue!)
  • Hear as many different sounds as you possibly can.  (Have you ever heard the sound of barnacles? I kid you not. Listen here.)
  • Notice the incredible variance of shadows and light.
  • Discover all the different textures you find in a square foot area.
  • Identify the scents of the sea … and what sub-scents make up each larger one.
  • What do you feel… on your skin, under your feet, inthe air around you, in your emotional response inside you?

Just. Get. CURIOUS.  Deeply, broadly, delightedly CURIOUS.

For in that space of intense curiosity, your mind takes a back seat and your heart finds its voice.

Every important relationship needs the focused, quality time of a date.  Why not give your inner artist that same life-giving gift?

Btw, this post is an example of a creativity coaching exercise. If you’d like to talk with me about your Artist Date experience, contact me for a free sample coaching session.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan King August 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

yes, yes to artist dates; a few more…go to the local farmer’s market and just take in the colors of the produce and the flowers, “shop with your eyes” at a store that specializes in unusual things–just take in the color or texture, spend time sitting on a bench just looking at the shapes and colors of people and take your usual walking path in the other direction….


Starla J. King August 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Joan, what *wonderful* examples of more artist dates… YES!

I’m struck also by the utter profound simplicity in taking your usual walking path in the other direction.

Btw… that photo? Tide pool in Maine. Thank you for facilitating that artist date!


Carmen Shenk August 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm



Starla J. King August 24, 2012 at 9:10 am

<3 back…


Ryan Kitko August 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Very nice, Starla. I think I’ll try to take this lesson with me as I begin my teaching assistant appointment in an introductory biology class for non-majors. The class is huge, the students are bound to be bored, but I find biology fascinating. I just hope they can catch a glimpse of it as they put in just enough effort to get the desired grade in this general education requirement class. I’ll encourage them to do take the lessons from class and spend some time outside thinking about nature or natural systems in a new way, perhaps.

For instance, did you know that Charles Darwin was a barnacle taxonomist? He halted most of his other research and took up work on barnacles because, he figured, he couldn’t rightly address the issue of evolution by natural selection until he thoroughly studied and revised a group of organisms. So he spent more than a decade on barnacles while also refining his ideas on evolution. It’s funny to think that those tiny creatures had such an influence on a founding principle of the biological sciences. And with new knowledge, I’ll tell my students, you may even look at them in new ways.



Starla J. King August 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Ryan, I love that you’re thinking of applying this to your teaching! I’d love to hear how it goes…

I suspect that your enthusiasm will be contagious, especially if you throw in those delicious morsels like Darwin being a barnacle taxonomist. I had no idea! I wonder if that’s why I find barnacles so utterly fascinating — some intuitive part of me senses they have importance on a variety of levels. Or maybe it’s just because they make the cutest noises ever. 🙂

I’m ready to take your class… I’ll be the one in the front row, hanging on your every word.


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