Double hoops on downed tree branch, installation copyright Elaine Luther 2015

Double hoops on downed tree branch, copyright Elaine Luther 2015. Installed at the Uphill Art Farm artist residency.

This summer I had an artist residency at the Uphill Art Farm in West Virginia. That’s got me thinking about ways to bring the best aspects of a residency home.

Most of us can get only get away once or twice a year for a conference or art making intensive experience of some kind, so how can we bring the residency home?

To start, what are the important aspect of a residency? Usually there’s some level of freedom from distraction, preparation, deadlines, inspiration, a change of scenery and community.

How can we create that in our lives, all the time?

Here’s my list!

Photo by Michiel Pruigssers from Free Images.

Photo by Michiel Pruigssers from Free Images.

1. Travel!

Travel can shake things up and that part of a residency can be key to shaking you into trying new ideas, seeing things in a new light. Even a weekend away, sketchbook and camera in hand, can be beneficial.

Can’t travel right now? Be a tourist in your own town. What are the sight-seeing activities you never get around to doing? Do them!

2. Go to a bookstore with no agenda. Just wander around and be surprised. I did this on my trip and realized I can’t remember the last time I did that.

3. Work in a new way, give yourself a challenge.

Art of Abandonment

4. Abandon some art.

In my recent travels, I found myself in a couple of book stores with no agenda. In one of them, I found The Art of Abandonment Project by Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng. It’s just the right book for me right now and I’m sure I’ll be abandoning some art, in a random acts of kindness kind of way, sometimes soon.

5. Create the community you seek. First, look really hard to see if it exists and go join it! If it doesn’t though, use MeetUp.com and create your dream community. You set the rules and attract the people you want!

6. Set expectations.

A Chicago fiber artist I know created her own at-home residency this summer, complete with a partner who would agree to the challenge of committing to making art for 4 hours a day for 5 days a week, all summer.

She’s been keeping herself to this expectation, plus more, and creating oodles of new experimental work.

Another friend is using Project 365 and posting a photograph a day.  I love looking at her photos month by month and seeing the themes and the seasons move across her project.  I’m rather inspired and might join up as well.

What expectations can you set for yourself?

Photo by Gabriel Fiorini via Free Images.

Photo by Gabriel Fiorini via Free Images.

7. Shake up your routine. Do something you never do. Never take time to go walk around the local lake? Go! Never go to art openings? Go!

8. Stick to your routine. Create habits around your art making. Habits can be extremely helpful. You never forget to drink your morning coffee, right?

Read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg to learn how to effectively create new habits.

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes, photo copyright Elaine Luther 2015

9. Get into nature.

At minimum, go outside barefoot and walk around. We talk about getting grounded, but it turns out walking barefoot on the grass or sand really is good for you!

Lots of studies show that time in nature is good for our health. If it’s good for health, it’s good for creativity.

10. See your neighborhood in a new way by doing a color study.

It’s super easy and fun. Just walk around with your camera and take pictures of whatever catches your eye. Come home, upload the pictures, take a look at what they look like as a group, or multiple groupings.

What colors show up again and again? What are you drawn to? What are the colors of your neighborhood?

Here’s one I did at Ox-Bow.

11. Cross-pollinate your creative work by being an audience member for others.

See live theater, go to a story slam, go to a music concert. Soak up the excitement that comes from a live performance.

12. Lay the foundation.

We all work in phases, right? Sometimes we’re making the work, sometimes we’re promoting it, and sometimes we’re laying the foundation by taking a class. Learning a new technique might open up new ways of creating and be just the thing we need!

If you’re in a lull or stuck, sometimes taking a class can be just the thing to get us out of it.

13. Nurture yourself.

Many residencies offer some level of nurturance – food cooked for us, interesting fellow travelers to talk to, perhaps artist talks. How can you bring in some nurturance for yourself, to allow you to do your best work?

Start with what you need most in order to be productive in your art work, spend some time bringing that to your awareness, so that you give yourself the right things.

Quiet time, exercise and healthy food show up on lots of people’s lists. If you’re doing an at-home residency for a specific time period, you could plan the meals. Maybe some of those meals would be dinners out with a good friend. Make it easy, and yummy, so you can focus on the art.

14. Make it easy, remove obstacles.

Clean the studio, plan your meals, tell everyone what you’re doing, set boundaries.

Do any of these resonate with you?  Which ones?  Which ones are you doing already?  Please comment, this is so much more fun for me when we have a conversation!

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