The impact of the week on each of the 12 artists, however, will be more permanent.
Many of us were sleeping 2 to a bed, the rest on inflatable mattresses and couches, all 12 of us negotiating just 3 1/2 bathrooms. But despite the tight quarters, the trip was nothing if not organized, mainly through the efforts of Alia, and with help from Diane, who between the two of them had anticipated every conceivable need over the months leading up to the trip. Cooking and cleaning duties had been assigned in advance, massive grocery runs were organized the first days, an improvised but elegant method for reimbursing shared expenses was soon devised by tacking envelopes to the bulletin board. Locations for plein air painting had been scouted, models had been scheduled. Everything was set up for us to work!
Before the trip, most of us only knew 1 or 2 of the others. The idea had started among the three of us who founded the WPW blog, Alia, Diane and myself, and the two artist bloggers Cindy and Lisa of ArtStudioSecrets.com. The five of us then each nominated other artists we knew and admired, and the group quickly took shape. However at the last minute we were all disappointed when life events conspired to prevent Lisa’s attendance. (In the end, we were an even dozen, and next year we are determined that Lisa will make us a baker’s dozen!)
Despite the daunting prospects of travelling with plein air gear, navigating a high-profile opening at Robert Lange, and then embarking on a “Real World” -style living situation, we set a single goal: To make painting the number one priority of the week, putting aside all distractions. And as soon as we started working with a model at 9am our first morning at the house, the collective energy began to carry us all.
Mia was the first one out painting on the beach, and banged out an oil sketch that set the bar high for the rest of us. For the rest of the week, day trips to surrounding marshes, parks, historic cemeteries, botanical gardens, Charleston’s French Quarter, and the lovely home of artist Shannon Runquist, kept us more than busy during the day. We then hired models in most the evenings, so we were often painting until 10pm. Several of us tried our hand at cooking for 12, and we did a good job of feasting in addition to painting.
But the most amazing part of all was how our conversations penetrated to deeper issues during the week. Discussions that began with the best way to prepare a plein air canvas, or about what colors to use in a sky, began to evolve into interviewing each other about how we each address our personal struggles with studio life: Managing time, finances, commissions, galleries, and family; combating isolation and depression; sacrificing other goals and interests for the undivided pursuit of painting. Over and over were heard exclamations of “me too!” when these struggles were confessed. I know for myself, and I am sure for each of us, issues I thought were only my problem turned out to be shared by every artist in the house.
I do know that this week for me was so deeply satisfying, so soul-nourishing, that I am sure in my bones that this kind of connection with sister artists is essential.
Thank you all, for catching the spirit of the trip and bringing your energy and enthusiasm, for being flexible with your needs and generous with your help and advice, and most of all for being so willing to trust us and to reveal yourselves.