Where and How Do You Retreat? (Curious Monday)

Sunset painting by Malcolm Dewey
©Malcolm Dewey, Sunset Over the Links. Oil on panel, 30 x 23 cm. Used with permission.

It’s well proven that we need rest and relaxation for peak performance.

Artists need to get away or get out of their heads in order to be refreshed and newly inspired.

Enter the artist’s retreat.

You might have official getaways planned in the form of retreats. I often refer to Art Biz Breakthrough as a retreat because it allows you to get away from the daily grind and focus on business-building.

How do you get away from it all?

Do you have regular retreats planned? Where do you go? What do you see and do?

Do you plan weekly or monthly retreats?

What do those look like?

Please share in a comment below.

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76 thoughts on “Where and How Do You Retreat? (Curious Monday)”

  1. I retreat at home, taking time off from work and social media, blogs, videos… I usually journal a lot during this time, and meditate, take more walks in nature than usual.
    I like to have a retreat at least once during the summer and once during the winter holidays.
    I dream of taking off for a cabin in the woods, but for now staycationing is the only thing I can afford 🙂

  2. I go to my partner’s cottage as often as I am able. Being in the woods and by the lake calms me like nothing else can. It helps centre me and I find my ideas flow much better when I’m calm and centred.

  3. Nothing restores my soul like a stroll in the State of Georgia Botanical Garden at UGA or a walk in the North Georgia woods.

  4. My favorite retreat on a daily basis is to get up early, grab my coffee and my journal and spend time on my screened porch. While I am in an urban area, I have a yard that is large, full of trees and close to nature trails. I love listening to the chatter of nature as it wakes up (and before the neighborhood gets busy for the day)
    I recently spent some time up on the north shore of Lake Superior for some much needed healing and meditation. I went with journal, paints and sketchbook and just let my instincts lead me. Northern Minnesota does wonders for my soul especially this particular area.

    1. Urban area here too but also many trees and shelter from neighbors. My covered deck early in morning with dogs and coffee is my morning retreat.

  5. I have been to two of the Breakthroughs and they definitely sent me home rejuvenated. Sadly, with caregiving for a loved on now receiving at home hospice, I have let rejuvenating get lost. During my last 10 years caring for my mother I managed to get by with an hour or two snatched here and there. So, the Breakthroughs were really eye-opening events for me in so many ways. My family never took vacations and retreats are very alien to me.

    I hope to find the future allows me to again find ways to rejuvenate as I know I need them.

    1. Patricia,,,as I’m sure you know..as a caregiver, you need to “get away” in more ways than one. It doesn’t mean away so you don’t know what is happening..I have been in this position before. (I still sleep with a phone near my bed and wake at the least little noise) I was not only caregiver for family but that was my profession too. So, alarms, lights, calls etc….Try, try to get some time, like you said, even hours here and there…but more often. It is really important,,,if you don’t use it, you lose it…my grandmother, who was also an artist always told me that. I had many years of what I call the “dry brush” era…and finally came back to create again…better than before. Starting with art journals, with thoughts and feelings coming out…and then a new medium..painting for ME and because God gave me a talent that I felt I was wasting not using…I hope you don’t mind me sharing…sometimes sharing experiences and info helps others.

  6. I live in a beautiful area south of Big Sur, I have a lot of options for day trips.
    Mostly I like to sit in nature, write, and listen to nature, meditate out of time and space. I don’t have formal times.
    I am too pressed for time and just have to do it when I reach burnout.
    Sometimes it is just go to the wineries and talk with owner friends there, sit on the deck and sketch. My biggest love is playing bass guitar with few friends, live on stage or just around a campfire. Playing makes me feel the best of any time, anything and everything… music soothes my soul!

  7. I belong to a small critique group – just 7 of us. We have free access to a couple of vacation homes and try to go 2-3 times a year. Paint, hike, eat, drink wine, talk and much love and laughter.. Refreshing and inspiring. I do love to go alone too. Some best memories are going off to a cabin alone with paints and not talking to another human for days. Critters welcome. Alternatively and more often I shut everything off but the music and hide out in the studio reading, studying and painting.

  8. When I do an artist’s retreat, I tend to go big. I try and plan (and save my pants off for) one in Europe every two years or so. I usually go for two weeks and try to pick somewhere that I’ve never been before. For me the change in culture and surroundings is a huge inspiration boost. I love to get out and explore the spaces I go physically. Unfortunately the US is lagging behind in the number of attainable residencies that they offer–we’re getting better but as a comparison, the US currently offers about 500 residencies, compared to Europe’s 1500. And our approach tends to be more exclusive. If I’m going to pay that kind of money, I’d rather it go towards an entire European adventure than just my room and board for 2 weeks. That being said, I’ve gotten pretty good at making my own residencies–we’ll take a vacation to the Ozarks and I’ll pack my art supplies and a journal or we’ll go to Colorado to see friends and I’ll make sure to set aside a few days to paint and draw or go exploring. It’s hard for me to draw the line between “vacation” and “residency” though sometimes if I don’t have the structured environment often provided by a true AIR.

  9. Gail Folsom Jennings

    I’m so fortunate to live in a place where others come to retreat. I walk with my beloved dog almost every day for an hour in Pike national forest, along beautiful creeks and streams or in aspen meadows surrounded by towering pines. I am, among other things, a botanical painter so I marvel over the abundant wildflowers as they come into bloom then transform into seedheads of every imaginable shape. I try to see it all with a sense of wonder every time. If I need a change I can drive for an hour or a little more and be at the top of Guanella Pass above treeline or wandering in the High Creek Fen in South Park. I occasionally take a road trip to Santa Fe or over to the western slope to the Colorado Monument or on to the fabulous rock formations of Utah. Thanks for reminding me that I live in paradise!

    1. Oh, my gosh, Gail! We are nearly neighbors. I live in Manitou. Like you, I live where others go to retreat. So, my retreats are usually “staycations”however, there is a retreat center near my home that I sometimes go to for a silent retreat. I find 3 days of silence very renewing. Since me work has a strong emotional component ( I hope), getting in touch with with my internal world with no demands to interact is very useful.

    2. Oh, my gosh, Gail! We are nearly neighbors. I live in Manitou. Like you, I live where others go to retreat. So, my retreats are usually “staycations”however, there is a retreat center near my home that I sometimes go to for a silent retreat. I find 3 days of silence very renewing. Since my work has a strong emotional component ( I hope), getting in touch with with my internal world with no demands to interact is very useful.

    3. Gail Folsom Jennings

      I also like to do a few days of silence when I can. I’ve gone to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert near Ghost Ranch in New Mexico a few times where they provide rustic accomodations and the option to wear a medallion that tells others that you are practicing silence. I love traveling northern NM. Where in Manitou do you go to practice silence? It’s a lot closer to home!

  10. Corinne McNamara

    Time, money, and family factors have interacted to make it hard to get away by myself. Usually, it’s been bits of time on family trips, but I really need time for art and a change of scene. This fall, I’ll have less work (& $$), but more time. I’m beginning to plan for some local day trips to the coast, the mountains, a botanical garden –I’m more likely to go if they are scheduled.

  11. I benfit from taking time each am to sit alone with a coffee, read, write and comtemplate. Even just a few minutes.
    Often going over email….but in a calm space, and reading articles i usually rush through. Reading Art Biz posts????????❗
    Longer times out” are critical…but harder to plan.
    Daily moments keep usmgoing. The quiet…and the sense of timelessness for a moment is a great refresh.
    What about You Alyson❓❗
    We love to go to France for rejeuvenation…obviously takes much more effort!

  12. I try to take one three-to-four day retreat every year to Northern Minnesota where I used to live, but when I am at home in New Mexico I take a mini-retreat every time my husband goes out of time–usually for 1 to 2 weeks, several times a year. That means I don’t do any social stuff at all…I just dig in at home, work in my studio, read, take long walks by myself up in the foothills. It’s a great way to get back to a more meditative, responsive state!

  13. My daily mini-retreat is to a pond near my house. No phones, no technology, no chatter.

    My dog and I spend time there looking for frogs, picking berries, and resting in the grass. It’s so simple and yet has such an amazing effect on my mood and stress level.

  14. I just came back from a women’s spiritual retreat…I would like to do this at least once a year…to recenter myself, renew, prioritize, remind myself where my gifts and talents came from and who I am truly creating for.
    This coming weekend I am visiting friends who are opening their farm for a creative workshop/playgroup…for adults and kids…I am the visiting artist. I am bringing my usual mixed medium and teaching that but also all sorts of medium to experiment with and exploring nature and using what we find on “treasure hunts” around the farm…reuse, recycle, repurpose…to show that as we were created so can EVERYONE be creative and find joy in the process…from the altered pages and paintings I will teach to collage, to painted rocks and seashells, to collecting seeds and leaves for paperplate pods for the kids, and “stained glass” crayon creations with waxed paper…sketchbooks, canvas, paints….letting our child out and play….This also lets the cobwebs clear out and ideas flow!

  15. PS…on my next weekend away…I also get to stay in the “Tiny House” the owner build with his own hands…ahhhhh…now THAT will be a treat!! I’m a tiny house fan but as we all know…if you LIVE in a tiny house then we will need a separate STUDIO!! Soni

  16. Like a lot of retired men, I get away from it all by doing what she tells me. Fortunately she’s fair, still working a day job, and doesn’t push my buttons. I have lots of time to paint, and when not painting, there are the shopping, the dishes, the mutts, and a pile of books. All in all, it’s a square deal. Any time off would look pretty much like what I do now.

  17. I just returned from a 4 day backpack with good friends in the North Cascades Mountains in WA state. I don’t know how I could be more rejuvenated than this! I spent time immersed in what I love most to make art about, and painted a few scenes, but mostly frolicked with my friends in the tarns and brooks, wild flowers in full bloom, amazing panoramas….Now I return to my studio to paint what I love…nature. On a smaller scale, my daily retreat is a walk on the bike path close by, or time meditating in the morning.

  18. I do a daily morning quiet time: reading the Bible, journaling, sketching, writing.
    For awhile I did one day a month, but it has not happened in awhile. If I don’t schedule it in it doesn’t happen.
    I just got back from a family holiday where I carved out some time to sketch with watercolors on the beach.
    I teach a spiritual art retreat twice a year and help others to acheive this. I try to take a half day before it and take time for myself before the retreat – and then get up early to have some time during the retreat too.

    It is a lot about planning it in to our busy schedule. It doesn’t just happen.

    1. Julie, I’d be interested in learning more about your spiritual art retreats- what do you teach? Are they to people who are not usually artists? That sounds like something I’d love to explore.

    2. Hi Leslie and Theresa,

      The retreats, Art:Vocabulary for the Soul, are at the end of October and the end of June. They are located at King’s Fold Retreat Centre in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies about an hour from the Calgary, AB airport.
      The retreat is for anyone who would like to connect with God through the arts. We spend time learning to listen to the heart and to what God is whispering to us as we create and respond with more creativity. It is less about creating great works of art and more about understanding ourselves and hearing from God. I paint, write songs,and poetry and my husband writes poetry. We coach/teach people who would like help with their work through the weekend. My husband also is available for spiritual direction during the weekend.
      The next retreat is coming up Oct 28-30. http://juliedrew-artandfaith.com/classes-retreats/item/115-art-vocabulary-for-the-soul-retreat-october (Early bird deadline is Sept 9.)
      You can email me directly julie@shedrewit.com.
      Facebook: @artistJulieDrew

  19. Though “a retreat” of sorts, I find that it does me good to immerse myself with Mother Nature: hiking a trail with the pooches helps to refuel me.

    Time with the dogs and amongst the trees are reminders of what’s important to me. Try to make it out of cell-phone reach, too. : ) (also provides time away to problem-solve any issues on my easel or on my mind)

    I can pull it off once a week (*whew!*), but would like to steal away for a few days one of these times…

  20. Since I’m still running “software” (inner/ mind programs, installed by family, society, & life experience) about avoiding “self-indulgence”, my retreats are based & timed per opportunities such as visiting family & tai chi workshops. I’m finally acknowledging that my art productivity plummets with people around. So this week my husband & I are going camping in Glacier National Park for 5 days or more. He will participate in a woodcarvers’ workshop during the day, leaving me free to hike & take reference photos. We will both take every opportunity we can to sketch; I will do some watercolor studies. MOST IMPORTANT to me: any retreat I take, to feel optimal, must involve two elements: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY & CONNECTION WITH MY DIVINE. These things give me a lasting sense of well-being that boosts my art productivity like rocket fuel! For this reason, the most life-giving retreats for me are for either tai chi or for Oneness (www.oneness.org) events (of which joy- & gratitude- filled dancing is an intrinsic part). MAY YOU ALL FEEL BLESSED….

  21. Artists’ Retreat to me is time away from my art. I get to forget about the studio, forget about who can’t sell pink, forget about the need to scrape up some wax from my tables. For me to really retreat, I let is all go and allow my very chirpy brain some time to slow down and think expansive thoughts.

    Long walks, massage, deep breathing meditation will all assist me in this endeavor.

  22. Funny that this came through today. Thanks to Alyson and Creative Content Camp, I have been inspired to get back to writing my blog. Today’s blog: about my week of painting at a residency workshop in Vermont a couple of weeks ago.!! Beyond wonderful, and I came back refreshed and energized. And thank you Alyson for your support and knowledge!

  23. Seems like art follows me everywhere. I love walking, weather and asthma permitting, get a lot of good ideas just looking around. Some times even wall paper inspires me. As for taking a break, getting involved in my gardening, making a new recipe, writing letters, and yes I DO actually write and mail letters. Spending time with girlfriends in our Wine Club, Book Klub, and just hanging out as couples is very relaxing and refreshing. I’ve never been on a retreat, except church – that was intense. Reading, talking to friends and hubby are a good way to “escape”.
    Yes Thank you Alyson for the Studio Practice – works great! Sharing my art, giving kudos to others -makes it all great. I’m also pursuing getting myself into stores which takes a lot of time and effort. It’s paid off so far – a feed store and an antique mall display case. Others are pending. And yes, thank you for your encouragement!

  24. Hi artists! I traveled constantly from 1992 to 2006–Venice, Rome, Florence. Also Paris, London, Moscow, Munich, and Austria. Besides that I traveled to Santa Fe, Albuquerque, New York, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, etc. Actually I was exhausted! Now with my husband recuperating from a heart attack, I am limited to being at home. He is worth it though!
    I think I had my fill of traveling although I miss California where my 2 children live.

    I play the piano 40 min. a day. A nice balance to my art. And my plans are to visit all the great museums and art galleries in Chicago which is only 40 min. away. My other escape is working out at the local fitness center 2-3 times a week for l hr. 30 min. each time.

  25. I have done spiritual retreats but not artistic ones and am intrigued by those that have done them. I’ve found that I benefit from taking time out every few weeks to go to an art museum, galleries, or even a garden center. I lose myself in my surroundings and sometimes sketch the things that give me inspiration. Now that I have a dog, I’ve also found that taking long walks with him can also be a retreat. Thanks for all of your comments and inspiration- I’ve taken a mini retreat of sorts dreaming about the places you’ve been and hoping to visit some of them someday!!

  26. I don’t schedule retreats- maybe I should- long term care giving takes a toll on your energy and general outlook. But I do back off of everything I’m striving for when I start to feel overwhelmed. Mentally, I accept that I need a break before I can continue pushing ahead. Physically there’s nothing more restorative than a solitary walk through the National Park in my town. Actually any stretch if nature will do! Listening quietly is also very reviving and can be done any time

  27. I have ten-minute mini-me retreats every day. I close my eyes, go inside listen to my heart and my head and this results in some great art related epiphanies in the process.

    I like driving if I do go somewhere so I can bring whatever I want with me with fewer restrictions than airline travel.

    Often my retreats are not about producing art outside my studio, though there is usually some kind of art focus to most of my travel. This allows me to hit the ground running when I come home.

  28. I occasionally take a spiritual retreat at a monastery or retreat house which is not specifically for artists but involves lots of prayer and reflection time. It feeds my artistic practice as well.

  29. I haven’t ever done an art retreat as such. I really like the idea though.

    In some ways, each day has an element of art retreat for me. I start the day with reading and meditation (and coffee!) and then spend a good portion of the day in the studio, often uninterrupted. Even when my hubby is home it’s like that. The only thing that would be great is if someone took care of all the house and food duties. That would be perfect!

    Travel is also like an art retreat because I usually spend my time in a new place checking out the art venues and that is so much fun.

  30. I have two longtime friends who I met through an art organization when I lived in NC. We began the first Plein air group in NC and discovered not only our passion for painting but also other things. We began critiquing each other’s work and when we all moved to different parts of the country we began a retreat once a year. We get together in different areas of the country and we paint, discuss art as well as spiritual things. We totally immerse. We always go to nature filled areas. It always recharges our creativity.

  31. So lovely to hear such a variety of responses to this question. I have a young family so getting away on a regular basis is a bit of a stretch, but I manage at least 2-3 weekends a year, on either a yoga retreat or a weekend in the city. On a daily basis, I find that swimming helps me to clear my mind, and forces me to concentrate on my breathing, which is when ideas flow.

  32. What a timely question! For me, it’s not getting away from art to re-energize that I need so much as a chunk of time away from home when I could concentrate on art without the distractions of errands, family, and to-do lists. Lately I’ve been thinking about how to make this happen. Money is a factor, of course, but if I could line up a workshop to teach near the place I do the retreat, that could help cover some of the costs.

    A few years ago I wanted to do an artist’s retreat but definitely couldn’t afford to go away, so when my husband had a business trip, I devoted the two days to a “silent” artist retreat at home (no phone, no email, no talking to the neighbors). Basing it on some formal retreats I’d read about, I had everything scheduled ahead of time, from what medium I was going to play with during what hours to pre-planned meals. It was incredibly freeing, rejuvenating, and felt spiritual in a way. I don’t know why I don’t do that more often…

  33. The thought of a retreat is very appealing, but the closest I come is the time I spend walking in the lakeside park we live within most mornings, and the time we spend sailing out on the lake. Those are the times that bring me closest to nature, and that is what I find rejuvenating. Walking also helps me think things through, consider problems and solutions, remind myself to relax and let the work flow. Being out on the water quiets and focuses my mind, and I come back in relaxed and sometimes tired; it’s a break that allows me to come back to things refreshed.

    That said I would like to try the kind of retreats some of my friends have been on. Focused and longer lasting is how I would describe them, and my friends always come back full of energy and inspiration!

  34. My mom and I take two art retreats a year — they are our Christmas and birthday presents to each other. We either go away and without the husbands, usually renting a house or condo on VRBO, or we hole up at my house when my husband is off fishing. Both of us create a project that includes a process and a new technique. We usually have a little leeway for the medium, which is usually watercolor or acrylics, but I sometimes throw collage or stamping into mine!

    On night one, we get set-up, gesso canvases, and introduce the first project. The next day, we work on the first project all day, and then break for a drink and dinner, often going back and working afterwards. We usually introduce the next project late in the day, but sometimes the next morning, depending on how much time it needs. Day three involves working on the next project, and again breaking for a drink and dinner, then more painting that night. We usually have some time the last morning to get some work done, but usually finish the projects on their own at home.

    It is really special time for me and my mom, just the two of us, no interruptions and no taking care of anyone else. I love our art retreats!

  35. The closest I’ve come to an artist retreat was taking three days in a distant city to attend a printmaking conference with several friends — it didn’t involve any art-making on our part, but talking with other artists, looking at work in a myriad of exhibits, attending demo sessions, and generally immersing ourselves in an exciting stew of creative energy — and it left us all feeling excited and eager to try new things. Aside from that, I find, like many others here, that any time spent in a natural setting does wonders. My favorite way to jump-start creative energy is a good walk in the woods, especially when I can take time to stop and really look at what’s around me. When I can’t get to the woods, a little time spent sitting outside under the trees in my yard — sometimes reading or journaling, sometimes just listening to the birds — also helps me to reset my attitude and put things in perspective. The important thing in any case seems to be breaking the routine, letting thoughts flow at their own pace rather than being hurried along by an externally imposed schedule.

  36. Reading is my everyday retreat. Without a novel, or excellent article to escape to
    when I’m not sure what to do next in art, or any aspect of my life, I feel
    a bit adrift. Then there is travel, which I love — although most of my travel
    now is to shows. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting, and openings are not
    usually 24/7. My big retreat is our upcoming trip to our place in Nova Scotia, and
    the glory of nothing happening. Stars, the beach, hunting for shells — the world
    recedes. Thanks for the question Alyson.

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

  37. On Saturdays, my hubby is home from his work week and I get to get out of the house for a couple of hours. I usually go to the library and listen to music and – in the opposite of a retreat from my artwork – I sort photos and get some of my art done. My retreat is from my full time homeschool/mama/homemaker/game club founder schedule so hat I can slip away and focus on my photography.

  38. My other sort of retreat from regular life – but it’s also part of our homeschool life – is that my boys and I go camping every other week (in the summer) with our other unschool friends. It’s awesome. There are 3 of us moms, 6 kids and 3 dogs.

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