How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Art Retreat

Party Like Picasso by Analisa Brookshier, inside Mingle Spring 2016

You’re headed off to your first art retreat — Awesome! You’re excited, your bags are packed, and your creativity is already kicking into high gear. But before you head out to your art retreat, here are a few tips to make sure that you get the most out of your retreat.

Before the Art Retreat

Studio Aprons by Kathleen Lauth, inside GreenCraft Magazine Spring 2016

Supplies to Remember

  • Always wear clothes that you can paint in. If this is a weekend retreat or requires travel, make sure everything in your suitcase can be paint-stained by the end of the retreat. At one such retreat, I ruined an expensive necklace because I dipped it in paint when I leaned forward to dab my brush in the water glass. Make sure that everything you bring can be a little paint splattered at the end of the day because you don’t want your creativity limited by your designer duds.
  • Bring an apron. Aprons are not always a given at an art retreat, but if you are used to painting with some protection on, you’ll want to bring one in your bag. An apron can also come in handy when you are taking brushes or supplies home because you can wrap the paint-covered supplies in an apron to separate it from your other materials.
  • Plastic baggies. There will always be something at an art retreat that is still drying, still wet with paint, or is too dirty to throw in your suitcase. Having a stash of plastic baggies will quickly make you a crowd favorite when everyone is packing up at the end of the trip.
  • Brushes and other favorites. While they will probably provide the necessary materials at the retreat, it never hurts to bring some of your favorite supplies. If you’ve never made a painting without your favorite brush or you always use book text, bring some along to make sure that you have some comforts of home while you are creating. I never paint without my Little Mermaid water glass for my paint brushes, so I bring it along so that I can get into the art-making zone a little bit easier.
  • Business cards. Although art retreats are not a place to sell your wares, a business card can be an easy way to hand someone your information. If someone wants to follow you on Instagram or email you some art they think you’ll enjoy, a business card can be a great way to stay in touch. (More on that later)

Do Some Research

You may be attending this retreat because it is hosted by your favorite artist, or you may know nothing about the team teaching at the retreat. Either way, try to find out more about the theme or instructors of the retreat.

If it is a Vincent Van Gogh-inspired class, see if you can find out more about his life and find some more ways to connect with his work creatively. If you know a little bit about the instructor, try searching the internet for some of their earlier works, or find out their background.

It’s not necessary to know anything before attending most retreats, but this little bit of research will help you connect with the instructors and spark your imagination.

Art retreat by Laura McCollough, inside Mingle Summer 2016

During the Art Retreat

At the retreat, it is easy to get lost in the momentum of the event. Here are a few tips to keep you at your creative best:

  • Keep an open mind. At a creative retreat, it is important to surrender to the process and not get bogged down with self-doubt or self-consciousness. If the instructor suggests dancing like a chicken, try it. You don’t have to adopt any of these experiences into your regular habits, but it is important to experience the retreat to the fullest extent before making any assessments. It is also important to get out of your comfort zone. Who knows what artwork is waiting to be created just beyond your comfort zone?
  • Find a kindred spirit. Lifelong friendships are formed at art retreats. Be sure to take a moment or two during each class to check out your fellow classmates’ work. You may find someone who’s style is really intriguing or you may connect with an artist whose style is similar to yours. Pull out a business card and exchange information so that you can keep in touch after the retreat. These artist friends can be the encouragement you need during your next creative dry spell, or they can be the sounding board for new art ideas.
  • Remember to stretch. It’s easy to get into the zone with your artwork and spend hours on end hunched over a work table finishing your masterpiece. Even though a retreat is supposed to be 24/7 art, be sure to take some time to stretch your muscles and take care of yourself. Your back will thank you!
  • Take the time you need. At any art retreat, it can be easy to feel the pressure to keep up with the others or to produce work that is as good as everyone else’s. Remember that everyone is on their own creative journey. Don’t compare yourself to others. Take a few more minutes to perfect your technique, or fall behind a little if you need to. You will achieve amazing things when you remove the pressure and give yourself room to breathe.

Art Supply Organizer by Ella Wilson, inside GreenCraft Magazine Summer 2017

After the Art Retreat – 3 steps to staying creative and motivated.

  1. Send a thank you note to the instructor. The instructor put their heart and soul into providing you with a great experience. Be sure to send them a quick note letting them know what you gained from the retreat. If the retreat was horrible (gasp), then this note can also include feedback from your experience.
  2. Take some time for assessment.
    • What did I learn from this retreat?
    • What was my favorite technique? How can I use that in my future artwork?
    • What is my favorite memory from the experience?
    • What should I do differently next time?
  3. Find practical ways to incorporate your experience into your everyday life. After your art retreat, it can be easy to slip back into old habits. Take a moment after the mixed-media workshop or art retreat to hang your artwork around your home. Each time you see it, you will be reminded of the positive experience. Look for ways to incorporate creative practices from the retreat into your everyday life. You may like how the retreat started with 10 minutes of art journaling in the morning, or how the retreat had color boards on the wall to inspire your color palettes. Incorporate that into your everyday life so that each art retreat impacts and grows your artistry in practical and meaningful ways.

Looking for even more art retreat ideas? Check out Mingle Magazine to read about art retreats, mixed-media workshops, and art parties!


Posted: Tuesday, April 17th, 2018 @ 2:01 pm
Categories: Artful Living.
Tags: , , , .
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2 Responses to “How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Art Retreat”

  1. Lisa M says:

    Very helpful advice! I’ve been to a lot of retreats in the past, but the one I’m attending this year is new to me. Thanks to this article, I’ve added a couple things to my packing list!

  2. melinda meyers says:

    I am signed up to attend an art retreat in July for 3 days by one of my favorite artists. I’m attending by myself and it’s out of my comfort zone. Thank you for this inspiriting nugget to remember before I go.

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Sarah Artful Living ,,,

Party Like Picasso by Analisa Brookshier, inside Mingle Spring 2016

You’re headed off to your first art retreat — Awesome! You’re excited, your bags are packed, and your creativity is already kicking into high gear. But before you head out to your art retreat, here are a few tips to make sure that you get the most out of your retreat.

Before the Art Retreat

Studio Aprons by Kathleen Lauth, inside GreenCraft Magazine Spring 2016

Supplies to Remember

  • Always wear clothes that you can paint in. If this is a weekend retreat or requires travel, make sure everything in your suitcase can be paint-stained by the end of the retreat. At one such retreat, I ruined an expensive necklace because I dipped it in paint when I leaned forward to dab my brush in the water glass. Make sure that everything you bring can be a little paint splattered at the end of the day because you don’t want your creativity limited by your designer duds.
  • Bring an apron. Aprons are not always a given at an art retreat, but if you are used to painting with some protection on, you’ll want to bring one in your bag. An apron can also come in handy when you are taking brushes or supplies home because you can wrap the paint-covered supplies in an apron to separate it from your other materials.
  • Plastic baggies. There will always be something at an art retreat that is still drying, still wet with paint, or is too dirty to throw in your suitcase. Having a stash of plastic baggies will quickly make you a crowd favorite when everyone is packing up at the end of the trip.
  • Brushes and other favorites. While they will probably provide the necessary materials at the retreat, it never hurts to bring some of your favorite supplies. If you’ve never made a painting without your favorite brush or you always use book text, bring some along to make sure that you have some comforts of home while you are creating. I never paint without my Little Mermaid water glass for my paint brushes, so I bring it along so that I can get into the art-making zone a little bit easier.
  • Business cards. Although art retreats are not a place to sell your wares, a business card can be an easy way to hand someone your information. If someone wants to follow you on Instagram or email you some art they think you’ll enjoy, a business card can be a great way to stay in touch. (More on that later)

Do Some Research

You may be attending this retreat because it is hosted by your favorite artist, or you may know nothing about the team teaching at the retreat. Either way, try to find out more about the theme or instructors of the retreat.

If it is a Vincent Van Gogh-inspired class, see if you can find out more about his life and find some more ways to connect with his work creatively. If you know a little bit about the instructor, try searching the internet for some of their earlier works, or find out their background.

It’s not necessary to know anything before attending most retreats, but this little bit of research will help you connect with the instructors and spark your imagination.

Art retreat by Laura McCollough, inside Mingle Summer 2016

During the Art Retreat

At the retreat, it is easy to get lost in the momentum of the event. Here are a few tips to keep you at your creative best:

  • Keep an open mind. At a creative retreat, it is important to surrender to the process and not get bogged down with self-doubt or self-consciousness. If the instructor suggests dancing like a chicken, try it. You don’t have to adopt any of these experiences into your regular habits, but it is important to experience the retreat to the fullest extent before making any assessments. It is also important to get out of your comfort zone. Who knows what artwork is waiting to be created just beyond your comfort zone?
  • Find a kindred spirit. Lifelong friendships are formed at art retreats. Be sure to take a moment or two during each class to check out your fellow classmates’ work. You may find someone who’s style is really intriguing or you may connect with an artist whose style is similar to yours. Pull out a business card and exchange information so that you can keep in touch after the retreat. These artist friends can be the encouragement you need during your next creative dry spell, or they can be the sounding board for new art ideas.
  • Remember to stretch. It’s easy to get into the zone with your artwork and spend hours on end hunched over a work table finishing your masterpiece. Even though a retreat is supposed to be 24/7 art, be sure to take some time to stretch your muscles and take care of yourself. Your back will thank you!
  • Take the time you need. At any art retreat, it can be easy to feel the pressure to keep up with the others or to produce work that is as good as everyone else’s. Remember that everyone is on their own creative journey. Don’t compare yourself to others. Take a few more minutes to perfect your technique, or fall behind a little if you need to. You will achieve amazing things when you remove the pressure and give yourself room to breathe.

Art Supply Organizer by Ella Wilson, inside GreenCraft Magazine Summer 2017

After the Art Retreat – 3 steps to staying creative and motivated.

  1. Send a thank you note to the instructor. The instructor put their heart and soul into providing you with a great experience. Be sure to send them a quick note letting them know what you gained from the retreat. If the retreat was horrible (gasp), then this note can also include feedback from your experience.
  2. Take some time for assessment.
    • What did I learn from this retreat?
    • What was my favorite technique? How can I use that in my future artwork?
    • What is my favorite memory from the experience?
    • What should I do differently next time?
  3. Find practical ways to incorporate your experience into your everyday life. After your art retreat, it can be easy to slip back into old habits. Take a moment after the mixed-media workshop or art retreat to hang your artwork around your home. Each time you see it, you will be reminded of the positive experience. Look for ways to incorporate creative practices from the retreat into your everyday life. You may like how the retreat started with 10 minutes of art journaling in the morning, or how the retreat had color boards on the wall to inspire your color palettes. Incorporate that into your everyday life so that each art retreat impacts and grows your artistry in practical and meaningful ways.

Looking for even more art retreat ideas? Check out Mingle Magazine to read about art retreats, mixed-media workshops, and art parties!