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I spent a two week residency in the breathtaking mountains of north Georgia, writing, painting, hiking, playing guitar, and interacting with other writers and visual artists. This was my first residency. In my long career of making and selling and teaching art, I’d never indulged in this most luxurious of retreats. I will be feeling its effects for a long time.

(The photo above is my studio table.) See my other blog for more images from hikes and such.

A residency is applied for and awarded. I was humbled to be among the other talented artists who enjoyed this time at Hambidge Residency for Arts and Sciences. There were nine artists total, and each of us had our own house and studio, all tucked away in the woods with enough distance from each other to have total privacy. Four evenings a week we’d gather for dinner, where a chef had prepared us a meal. After dinner we would talk about art and writing and sometimes animal horror stories.

I got an enormous amount of painting done. Not that output was my goal. I would have been satisfied with any amount of work, as long as I felt like I was following my creative impulses. But as it happened, I felt compelled to spend up to 12 hours a day at the easel, absolutely ecstatic to have weeks to paint without distraction. I finished a first coat on ten paintings.

As a break from painting (which was needed when I caught myself starting to get sloppy) I wrote. I’ve been working on the book/booklet that will accompany my Without a Net cards, and although it doesn’t sound as romantic as novel writing, I’ve never been so inspired about the project. I was able to connect with the overall picture so much better than when I’m at home.

The lack of phone, internet, and all activities besides walking alone in the woods gave me a game-changing insight into how I want to spend my time. When I found myself unable to look up something on the internet for my paintings or writing, I’d have to jot down a note to look it up later. This is an excellent habit to take home, since one peek online can get me sucked into the web hole. I came home much more disciplined about setting aside creative time and staying away from screens.

At home I don’t get to engage with practicing career artists on a regular basis. The lovely dinners together were a refreshing and uplifting connection with like-minded creatives. There were writers, visual artists, and one composer, all making very different work. The novelists wrote horror, sci-fi, historical fiction, and other genres. There was one poet. Among the visual artists were an installation artist, a film-maker, a folk artist, and a few who drew. Our ages ranged from 20s to 60s. We all agreed it was a wonderful mix.

If I had to name the biggest take-away from my residency, I’d say it’d be the spectacular reminder of how much I love to paint and write. The intensity of focus I was able to acquire catapulted me to a connection with passion that is hard to come by during daily life. I can’t complain about how much time I have at home to be an artist, but the total break from distractions that a residency offered a lavish amount of time to revel in doing only what I love. It would seem a residency situation might become more of a priority in the future!