Anyone who has read Julia Cameron's 'Artists Way' will know that one of the activities which she suggests is that of taking oneself off at regular intervals for 'Artist Dates' - time spent alone at some particular venue which will stimulate your creative juices, so that one's 'well of creativity' can be periodically refilled in order that it can then be dipped into anew.
I had the opportunity to do this two days ago, when I was invited to travel to London to the Victoria and Albert Museum - a temple to creativity - to which my close friend J had been given gift membership last Christmas. As a result, we were both allowed to use the Members Lounge - a quiet room in the upper reaches of the building, accessed via the Glass Galleries...
...and also gain free entry to one of the two major exhibitions open there at the moment - The Treasures of the Royal Courts, celebrating 500 years of diplomatic and trade relations between Britain and 'Muscovy'
You can read more about the exhibition on the V&A's own website - so this post is not really to tell you about that in detail - but more to notice the disruptive, as well as the 'well filling' effect that such a visit can have. As you all know, if you read this blog at all frequently, I am spending a great deal of time at the moment in the garden, which is gradually taking shape again from a fairly neglected patch of greenery. I love almost every minute I spend there, getting my hands dirty, the rest of me often dirty and wet, making my back and feet ache - but standing back periodically, deeply enjoying the natural world and saying 'yes, at last this is becoming a garden'.
But now - after my Artist Date at the museum on Tuesday (large parts of which I did spend on my own, as my friend and I split up most of the time to visit our own favourite galleries), after immersing myself in the balm of a different kind of beauty, and knowledge, and discourse, why - I am totally disrupted!! I am hankering once again to pick up my books and tickle my brain cells in a different kind of way - be creative in a different kind of way to how I create when I am gardening, and also pursue study of some of the collections in both a broader and a deeper manner. What was the historical background of these items? The particular story of the church in which that carving was placed? What do the symbols and postures of the figures denote? How did the cult of devotion to the Virgin Mary in medieval times encourage certain styles and patronages? There is a beauty, too, in discovering all these details, and more in seeing how these works of art do not come to exist in isolation, but for a reason and within a context. As explanations make sense and pieces fall into place, I think there is much beauty in gaining greater and wider understanding, But I need to juggle my days around to enable me to fit in both kinds of beauty; I *need* both kinds - otherwise, one life time will definitely not be enough to enable me to appreciate all that is waiting out there for me!
One factor which makes the V&A museum so impressive is its stated philosophy of being a place to stimulate the creativity of all those who visit as well as a place to admire the creations of the past. They have an exceptional outreach programme of classes, courses, lectures, symposia and visits with related online 'subject hubs' - of which their Creative Writing hub immediately caught my notice. It is worth taking a look if you are at all interested in any form of personal writing - six segments with writing exercises in each, using items from the museum collections to stimulate thought and imagination. Not everyone can travel to London, but anyone can browse the V&A collections, so why not do so yourself - and in so doing, give yourself your own little Artist Date with the museum.
And as a final thought - if you could visit, explore and/or study an area, subject or topic in greater detail - what would it be?