I’m dying to tell you all about this weekend’s Create & Incubate Retreat (the Second Annual!), but where to start?
When an experience is so rich, it’s like poetry or music or art: there’s more going on than can be expressed in regular words.
We had a conversation about just that at the retreat, in fact, when someone was expressing self-consciousness about her painting. She has never thought of herself as an artist, was exploring with paint for the first time (at the “Creative Sandbox” table I set up, with bottles of acrylics, brushes, and paper from my studio), and she had a hard time seeing what she painted as “art.”
The rest of us could see it, though.
There was feeling there, passion, meaning that words could never say, but that we “heard” loud and clear via color, shape and line. The choices she made and the movements she made with her hand culminated in an expression that nobody else on the planet could have created—it was uniquely hers, and it touched us all.
“That’s what art is for,” said Josiah. “It communicates what we can’t communicate in any other way.”
And because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, I present to you, an incomplete, narrated photo essay of Create & Incubate Retreat 2014!
Create & Incubate Retreat 2014
After loading my car with more stuff than I thought humanly possible, and driving down the freeway and up into the hills, I arrived at 1:09pm on Friday, to find Ruth and Randi already there, waiting to help me set up the room (bless you, ladies!)
We got our exercise for the day taping down the 20’x30′ tarp I bought with blue tape, moving very heavy tables (bless the Presentation Center support staff who graciously answered my call for help–we were so grateful for two strong men to get those 4’x7′ tables into place!), and covering the tables with heavy plastic sheeting.
That done, we took a breath to look at the results of our efforts. Randi asked where I planned to sit, and parked a mysterious, fabric-wrapped bundle on my table.
This is what I found when I unwrapped the fabric:
She made this for me, people!
Seriously, “OhMyGOD!” was all I could get out of my mouth for about five minutes solid! I was blown away.
“A thank-you gift,” she said, “For last year’s retreat, for Your Big, Bold, Creative Life Academy, for all you’ve given me.”
When you get a gift like this, that someone has poured their heart and soul into for a good month, you know you must be doing something right.
I’m not sure yet where it will hang in my (newly overhauled [and still in-process]) studio, but I guarantee you it will have pride of place. I want to have it in view at all times, to remind me, on days when self-doubt gets the better of me, that yes, what I’m doing is making a difference.
Once I recovered the capacity for normal speech, I insisted that we zip right outside for a shot of the three of us: artist, gift, and giddy recipient. (Thanks, Ruth, for snapping this pic!)
(Is Randi not a genius??)
After settling down from my excitement, I got back to work, putting up signs.
The sign on the door of our work room, the Incubator (that’s the original, very imperfect version of my Imperfectionist Manifesto visible through the door on the right):
Then I pulled out some walnut ink and a ruling pen and made a sign for the smaller room next door, which we used for our morning Creative Catalyzing Sessions (and also housed my typewriter, for anyone who wanted to clack-clack-clack on the keys).
And, of course, because I can, and it’s fun, I like to make door tags for everyone’s bedroom doors. Here’s mine (thankfully, the only one that got smudged!)
Gear unloaded, room set up, signs posted, I could start to settle in, welcoming people as they arrived. Holiday traffic caused long delays, but all but one were here in time for a group supper around our very own table.
Alas, no pic of our table, but here’s a shot of the dining room, when all the men from the Catholic Engaged Encounter retreat that was also there (along with the Modern Quilt Guild) got up and serenaded their sweethearts to some classic tunes at breakfast on Sunday, causing giggles all around.
After dinner, when our stray member finally made it through the nightmare traffic, all eight of us gathered in our Catalyzer room for our opening circle.
What happens in our circles is, of course, top secret (you’ll have to come next year to find out what we do!), but I can share that there was a lot of laughter, especially when I whipped out the bag of gremlin finger puppets. Everyone got to choose one, while I gave a condensed, mini version of my Gremlin Training Lab, so they’d have some ninja gremlin-training techniques to use when those self-doubt voices started to act up.
Amy’s gremlin photo-bombed our group picture!
When I co-taught Playing Around Istanbul, we gave our participants gremlin bells, which they could ring anytime their self-doubt/self-criticism gremlins started muttering. (There was a lot of jingling that week!)
I thought about giving everyone at Create & Incubate gremlin bells, but the Incubator room is set at “silent/no talking” all weekend, in order to give each creator total freedom to create without distractions, or the temptation of enticing conversations. Jingling gremlin bells weren’t going to work. Hence the finger puppets, which are probably even better, because they’re funny, and cute, and somehow help everyone to have compassion for those gremlin voices, which are, after all, only trying to keep us safe!
I like to imagine all our gremlins gathering at the nail salon for pedicures and tea, while all of us got down to the business of creating.
Later, Ruth even painted her gremlin’s portrait! Effee, which stands for F.E., which stands for Four Eyes.
The next day was ours to do with what we wanted. I started everyone off with a lot of laughs in our Catalyzer room, right after breakfast. Then I passed a relaxing morning outside, reading and journaling.
Ahhhh! What a treat!
And when I got hot, I moved to the shady side of the table…
While I relaxed and enjoyed just being, others were hard at work in the Incubator. Amy worked on her play:
Typical for me, it took me a good while to find my groove. My relaxing morning of just being was lovely, but after spinning my wheels trying to get Scrivener to work on my laptop so I could work on my book, I threw in the towel and headed to my room for a nap. By dinner that night I was feeling frustrated that I hadn’t gotten anything done!
I decided to just let go of any plans I had for writing, and let myself paint the rest of the weekend.
I also allowed myself to just enjoy the beauty of the space, like Josiah, taking pics of the visiting deer:
AND I gave myself permission to revel in the amazing community, in long talks after meals, and in the kitchen of our cottage on the last night…
With the entire day and night available to me, I got a lot of painting in, even with those long, laugh-filled chats.
Blue Is Just A Color Painted On My Soul, 8×8, mixed media:
12×12 mixed media work in progress, untitled:
Untitled mixed media work in progress, 10×10:
This one, Say Yes, may be done; I’m not sure:
And this one, inspired by Ruth’s paintings — very different style for me, no? Not sure where I’m going with it from here.
One of my favorite parts of the retreat was the evening sharings. We’d meet in the Incubator after dinner and each person would get a chance to share what she or he had worked on that day. It was so inspiring to see the work evolve and transform over the weekend!
By Monday afternoon, this small group of friends and strangers had bonded into a tribe. We spent our last couple of hours after cleaning out the Incubator sharing the work we’d created that morning — here’s Josiah, Amy, and Laurie, doing a reading of a scene from Amy’s play:
The creative output of the weekend was so inspiring! Eight panels of a graphic novel; many completed paintings and drawings; a good start on a short story; scenes from two different plays; needlework; more sketches; plein air paintings…
Everyone agreed: next year we want four nights instead of three!
I’m counting the days…
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!