What is An Artist Residency?

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

I’m just back from a week in Summerville, South Carolina for my artist residency, and I’m excited to share about it with you, in the hopes that you’ll create some dedicated art time for youself.

What is An Artist Residency?

Artist residencies come in all shapes and sizes – but the basic idea is that a residency is a time for an artist – new or seasoned – to focus on their art practice for a period of time without distraction. Most residencies have an application process – and many are competitive, while others are happy to accept many different artists.

How to Structure an Artist Residency

Some folks enter into a residency with a particular project in mind. Others give themselves permission to do exactly whatever feels right in the moment, whether that’s switching to a completely new medium, writing about their practice, or going on long walks.

Approaching a residency in this way is about giving the imagination a lot of space and permission to go where it will. I approached my week with a little bit of both ideas – I had watercolor supplies with me, pens and a pencil – so this would limit what I could create, but I was also open to whatever wanted to emerge. I enjoyed Louise Fletcher’s reflections on how to approach a residency without expectation – I believe it was this episode.

A Week-Long Residency

For the second year in a row, I’ve done a week-long artist residency at South Porch Artists’ Residency in Summerville, South Carolina. Together with my fellow artist and teacher, Kristin Peterson, we painted, drank coffee, went for walks, ate incredible cauliflower with buffalo sauce, and created more art than we ever would have been capable of at home.

Make Your Own Art Residency

I wanted to share more with you to inspire you to think about taking time out for art too – even if it’s a weekend with friends, or an afternoon. If you started dreaming about this a bit boldly, what would that look like? You might apply for a residency yourself. Or, what about asking your friend with the lake house if she would host you and a few artist friends for a weekend? Or you might start small and host some friends at your house one Saturday evening for an open studio. Art time doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be. You might jot some notes in your journal as you read this post.

Let’s start with the view from my outdoor studio space:

Kinda heavenly, isn’t it?

The Japanese Camellias were in bloom, and beginning to fade. Have you ever seen anything decay with so much beauty? As the petals break down, the decay looks like abstract gold trees on the bright pink leaves. These shapes intrigued me, much like the shapes I found in the undersides of a turkey tail mushrooms. I love these connections in nature.

I spent a lot of time with this particular bloom.

And while the end result wasn’t 100% what I had in mind, I learned a lot and the colors seemed to express a warm, welcoming feeling inside me that bloomed during the residency.

The elongated leaf shapes also spoke to me – so distinct from the ones I find in the north. It was fun to combine this little leaf with my watercolor circles.

In the afternoons, when the wasps came to do their work in the sun, and the breeze started picking up my tiny paintings, I would leave my outdoor table for the attic studio where the gold light kissed everything in the room.

It was wonderful to have so much time to dedicate to art without needing to clean the house, go to appointments, or tend to others.

It was also illuminating to see that as the “show and tell” approached, I felt a little anxious. While no one was asking for it, I felt pressure to produce something “finished.” Recognizing and naming this feeling helped me loosen its grip on me and I found a balance. As a teacher, it’s helpful to remember how vulnerable I can feel in the role of “student,” or when I show new people my work.

You deserve some dedicated time for your creativity. How are you making time for your art? Tell us about it in the comments!

Creatively Yours,

Amy

26 Comments

  1. Connie Pike

    Thanks for sharing your time in the residency..I spent 10 days at a residency in Medicine Hat, Alberta.I didn’t know what I was going to do…I brought some small cards that I had been drawing vases on…the mentor said wow…do more drawings….do them bigger…I did that for a day but I was there to do clay…I am a potter..As I looked at the cards I realized I could handbuild the vases and I went to work and created a whole new body of work…I don’t think I would have let myself create these pieces in my own studio…I focus on functional thrown pottery..Now I have made more of these vases and they are in a gallery in Banff, Alberta and I got published in Uppercase magazine…a call for a creative breakthrough..So yes I would love to go on another retreat.Thanks for all your inspiration. I love your finished flower. Connie

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Connie – Goodness, what an incredibly fruitful time indeed. 10 days sounds amazing. I’d love to do something longer in the future. It definitely helps to have more time in order to let things sink into the bones, so to speak. Congrats to you! xo

      Reply
  2. Terrie

    The idea of art retreats sounds so intimidating to me and though I’ve often been tempted, I’ve always chickened out. However, your idea of creating my own with my friends made me wonder why I never thought of that before! What a great idea. I have several artsy-ish friends who would enjoy getting together with a glass of wine and some supplies to play and make fun art together. I’ll be doing it for sure!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Yeees, I’m so happy that this idea has taken root for you, Terrie! Happy creating! xo

      Reply
  3. June Varricchione

    Lovely work, Amy.I love how you positioned your flower bloom off the page.

    Reply
  4. Meryn Higgs

    Thank yiu for sharing your experience and your beautifuk art worj😀

    Reply
  5. Meryn Higgs

    Thank you for sharing your experience . A week like that would be perfect. I guess we have to give ourselves permission to do that too:))
    Your floral watercolours are so very pretty. Can you give us a course like that in the shop?:))

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Meryn:

      I’m super pleased that I’ve got you thinking about taking some art time for yourself 🙂 And yes, I agree it’s a great idea. That’s why there’s a whole section on florals in my new class: Drawing Closer to Nature Happy painting!

      Reply
  6. Jenn Todd Lavanish

    This is wonderful- what a great way to self care and explore your art- thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Jenn: YAY I’m stoked that this touched something in you. xo

      Reply
  7. Annie

    Thank you Amy for sharing these thoughts and images with us. I love that Kristin Peterson was there! I only know her from TUAC but I love how she works and her energy. What a great residency partner to have share this experience with you. I too love getting away and having dedicated time to work and explore. My husband is currently suggesting I plan another one soon as my work always seems to enter an interesting zone on these getaways! Here’s to making special time to indulge the creative muse!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Annie:
      Yes, Kristin is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! And yes, your husband has the right idea!! Happy planning!

      Reply
  8. Anneliese Perinic

    Amy, what a lovely place, I can so well understand you. An uninterrupted time for art – in my case ist is more crafting – is a real gift. Thank you so much for this blog post.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Anneliese:

      I am so happy it spoke to you! xo

      Reply
      • Pauline Magaret Verryden

        Hi, a friend of mine was so intrigued with all the paints ,crafts and painting books I had in my hobby shed as I call it ,that she said she would love to do some painting and so last summer we did just that, we both enjoyed the therapeutic side to it. So going to take your inspiration and do more this summer with friends.

        Love your floral watercolours.

        Reply
        • Amy Maricle

          Hi Pauline: I just love reading all these stories of folks making their own art retreats, workshops and residencies. Art is for everyone. Thanks for opening your hobby shed to others! xo

          Reply
    • Karen Houlding

      I’m so glad to hear about your experience, it sounds restorative! Twice a year, my dear friend & I meet up for a creative getaway overnight where we do 3 or 4 creative nature themed projects for the whole evening in the hotel, as well as nature walks for inspiration! I never really knew what to call it, but I think we can consider it an artist residency! It’s truly delightful! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Amy Maricle

        Karen, what a lovely way to create with your friend. Thanks for sharing it here!
        xo

        Reply
        • Jenn Smith

          We have a cabin on a small lake and I’m now envisioning (at least) several days dedicated to making art with friends this summer. No kids, no chores, just a paintbrush, a walk in the woods, some time by the water, phenomenal sunsets, and some nourishing and delicious food. Your inspiration is very much appreciated!

          Reply
          • Kelsey Swearingen

            Wow – this sounds amazing! You just described the perfect getaway!

  9. Di Collins

    I’m in the UK. I am setting off with a textile artist friend, to the western tip of Cornwall (which Louise Fletcher mentioned in Art Tribe). It’s a place I’ve been visiting for over fifty years. This has helped me to clarify locations and experiences I’m hoping to visit or have. I know I can collect sketches, photographs, and word prompts on at least five themes. These are walls, ancient monuments, derelict buildings, rocky cliffs and vernacular architecture. However, more important will be reacting spontaneously to what presents itself, and working intuitively and playfully.
    There are also several artists who are exhibiting work locally, during our stay. A key thing will be to develop a routine each work day or visit day. It will be easy to be led astray and eat ice creams and cream teas and forget about our main purpose – to give ourselves special creative time.
    We chose this form of residency largely because of cost factors. This should be much cheaper than going on a residency. Plus, as someone who is quite introverted it means I can focus on what I/ we want to do, rather than feeling I ought to socialise with other artists taking part in the residency. Now that I’m in my seventies, I feel that I can move away from that challenge with confidence! The conversations with my friend should enable me to reflect on the work I am doing and see other possibilities. It is a case of ‘watch this space’. If anything exciting develops, I will put this on my website.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Di: It sounds like a wonderful plan. You paint a clear picture with your words and I already felt like I got to go with you! I’m so happy you are carving this space for yourself. One thing I would say is that many residencies you apply for don’t charge anything. I don’t have much experience at all with applying to be clear, but I know artist friends have done longer residencies where they have applied and the cost is just in getting to the destination and your groceries and such. It sounds like your plan fits you perfectly though, which is the most important part. Cheers!

      Reply
  10. Emily Geleske

    That sounds like such an amazing time! It would be a real gift to be able to have a solid block of time to dedicate to creating. I’m so glad you took that opportunity!

    Reply
  11. sofia

    thanks for sharing your experience, this is something very appealing to me.Whiel it seems that it is never the rigth time for having a few days me time I’ve been organizing an art space with friends every monday evening. It’s now 1 year of this beautiful gathering and the group is growing! Just a couple of hours bu it is so important for each of us!!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Sofia: I’m so happy to hear about the space you’ve created with your friends. Such a great idea. Cheers!

      Reply

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