Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why I Participate in Art Retreats

Participating in an art retreat as a student, teacher, vendor or all of the above is always an adventure. The travel planning, gathering of supplies, anticipation of what is to come is all part of the fun.
There is also our fair share of stress - will my supplies get through security? Will the paints explode on the way....

What if I don't bring the right supplies? I have been to many retreats and can honestly say I have never been left stranded with the wrong supplies. Didn't bring the right supply? Usually it mysteriously arrives, between "trades" folks make as a getting to know you gesture and/or generous classmates. I have developed a zen philosophy about this, and I chant it as I am packing for each event. "Whatever I have or am given is enough." It has NEVER failed me. It enhances my experience by forcing me to "make do" with what is in front of me.

I have met some lifelong friends at art retreats. Attending an event where everyone there has something in common with you is a great ice breaker. Even if you are shy or nervous, many creative people have an outgoing nature and pull you into the conversation to put you at ease. Meeting folks who have traveled a long way to attend, hearing their travel adventures - both good and bad provides inspiration to take a risk and travel somewhere you had not considered.

Most artists work in a fair level of isolation and an art retreat allows you to clear the cobwebs off and get real feedback on your work - not just the negative talk that sometimes runs in your head.
I recently attended Art Is You - Mixed Media Retreat in Santa Rosa. A wonderful event run by the tireless Sallianne McClelland and Ellen Legare. These women really know how to create a community.

I met so many amazing, wonderful people this year. I wanted to share a few new friends who touched my life in special ways.

Scott Stabile was the "morning motivator" who helped us gain some focus, before running off to our classrooms. He is one of the most compassionate, gentle humans I have ever met. I loved just hearing him speak, bringing a fresh, kind perspective to life. He has a wonderful book out titled "just love" - which really says it all.....Beautiful inspiration!

Julia Watada a talented jewlery and doll maker. In conversation we found out we both had a common interest as teddy bear artists in the past. It was so fun to find an unexpected connection!

Elena Lai Etcheverry is the founder of Charity Wings Art and Craft Center, in San Marcos, California, my old stomping ground. Elena is a woman of many talents and passionate about giving the gift of art to all. She definitely inspired me to get involved and give back to others the joy that creating has given me. 

Last, but not least, my students provided such memorable experiences. It is always a wonder to see where other creative people will take your class idea. I was blessed with some amazing artists and learned so much from each one of them. Here is a sample of their work:

I hope you will consider attending an art retreat in the future, You will receive much more than new art skills!



  1. Hi Karen,
    I was a student of yours at AIY in Petaluma in 2014 and I have to tell you that being in your class was what gave the confidence to keep pursuing art in my daily life. It gives me so much joy in life and deeper connections to like-minded people. And your class was the tipping point... Thanks so much for introducing me to this journey!
    Art Is You is awesome. I am still on a high from this year's event and trying to hold on to that feeling as long as I can.
    Thanks for being an inspiration to many!

  2. Thank you so much Norah! It helps me continue to move forward as a teacher when I read comments like that. It is why I do what I do!

  3. Excellent write up, Karen. You express your experiences so very well and I can tap into many of them myself, as a participant...

  4. Hi Karen,
    As Norah said, that AIY 2014 class was life changing! You helped me to see that I can draw a face, that I can layer paint & create an amazing painting! You are such a great teacher, thank you for sharing your wisdom!
    Patience Taba

  5. Karen! What a beautiful piece, and I'm so touched that you mentioned me. I absolutely loved connecting with you, too, and your art is the very first things we see when we walk into our apartment. We love him so much. You're a beauty, Karen. Much Love.

  6. Wonderful blog,Karen. Thank you for the reminder that creating in a group enhances the experience for all!