I have a date! With Ernest Biggs!
I know, there’s a lot wrong with that, on the surface. I’m married, for one; Ernest is taken by Marge Small, for two; and for three, Ernest, along with Marge, is a fictional, made up character. And if I told you that it’s an artist date, you could find more flaw, because an artist date is supposed to be a solo affair— but don’t forget, Ernest is a made up character, so…
If you have read Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way you know that she defines an artist date as “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” She is clear that this is time for your self, alone time. Just as Cameron’s ‘morning pages’ is ‘a sending’, a means of “notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfaction, hopes”, the artist date is a “receiving— opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance. 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, a.k.a., your creative child.”
When I first read Artist’s Way this idea did not seem at all radical, for I have always been one to indulge in alone time, enjoying solo activities outdoors. I’ve always known that this time is necessary for me to cope with people and life’s demands, though I never articulated that connection. I just went; refresh, repeat. The radical change for me was in admitting that I am an artist; after that I realized that what makes any activity an artist date is the articulation; it is the intent.
By designating your activity as an artist date you are opening a door to possibility and are empowering your inner artist; you are sustaining your Self. Try reframing your activity as artist date; but don’t be disappointed if it feels like any other walk or paddle or bike ride. Take a notebook and don’t be at all surprised that you don’t pull it out even once. Your date may not feel productive, but it is. For this is sowing time, or even just cultivating the soil time— the reaping comes later, in its own time. Just enjoy romping outdoors with your ‘creative child’, your Self. You deserve time to play and relax.
Since realizing my obligation to nurture and sustain my inner artist, I have been better about making time for— art! At art shows, museums, plays, or concerts I am a more appreciative audience, enjoying others’ art and creativity, recognizing it and considering not just the performance but the inspiration and work behind the presentation. Events like these are often locally available and are not costly, but one has to make the time. Make it an artist date by simply declaring it so and by being reflective; in return you will receive insight and inspiration.
You can create art on your artist date as well, but should try new things. If you are a literary artist, try visual art for a change. Try woodworking or sculpting. You will make connections to your usual art form and will broaden and revitalize your creative base. Whatever your art is, go outside the lines!
For example, I don’t consider myself a culinary artist. I can cook, and do if I’m hungry and if nobody else does it for me. So my sourdough has been the source of many artist dates; it is like clay to a potter, wood to a carver. Feeding it requires little time but reminds me to be mindful and nurturing. When I am inspired I make time to consult with the dough and mix it with what is at hand, never using a recipe, but always trusting my inner artist.
But back to the date I have planned with Ernest Biggs. You see, some time ago it was revealed that the first meal Ernest made for Marge was his legendary chili lasagna. Chili lasagna seemed weird to me but in keeping with Ernest’s character, so I went with it. But lately I have been wondering about that dish and the creativity behind it; my inner artist is curious. So I am going to make it, with the guidance of one of my favorite characters, Ernest Biggs.
The ingredients have been purchased. It’s supposed to rain Tuesday. Which means the date is imminent. Later this week look for part two in which I report on the date and share a recipe, as yet unknown to this artist, for Ernest Bigg’s chili lasagna. I think I’ll also share his friend Ilene Higginbottom’s recipe for beer margaritas in that post. Yikes. Could become a party. Well, if there’s not enough room in the trailer, we can bring our camp chairs into the two bay garage and hang out with the gang there. Which is not an artist date, but food and drink with friends can also be just what the inner artist needs.
See you there.