I went on a solo retreat and created my artist manifesto.

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Hi guys!

It’s  been two weeks since I quit my day job!

My brain has started adjusting to the fact that I’m not on vacation.  I’ve been getting up early every morning excited and ready to go.  Although my day job was meaningful and good, I had never been so enthusiastic about getting up and going to work.  I feel so alive and engaged.  When I go to bed at night, I can’t wait for tomorrow to come.

I know I’m in a honeymoon period right now and will enjoy it as long as it lasts… 🙂

I shared on my last blog that I went on a mini solo retreat to start my new life as a full-time artist.  As I transitioned from my day job – where I spent a good chunk of last almost 15 years – to my entrepreneur life, I was overwhelmed.

I had many to-dos and ideas in my head and felt I needed to work on all of them all at the same time.   I was pulled in so many directions and didn’t know where to start.

Because I practically grew up at my work place, it was like my home, and my co-workers were like my family.  So I was going through some emotional stuff, too.  It’s a huge identity shift for me!

So I knew I needed to be intentional about switching gears.  I needed to be away from home, away from my daily responsibilities and chores and sit quietly.  I needed to be able to focus on myself and the beginning of my journey alone.

Last fall, I went on a mini solo retreat to spend a couple of days creating art just for myself.  It was lovely.  I rented a cute cottage on airbnb on Whidbey Island, about 1.5 hours from Seattle.  The weather was dreary and grey in a typical Pacific Northwest fashion, which was perfect to stay in and make art.  It was so peaceful and rejuvenating.

So when I thought of going on a solo retreat again, I immediately thought of going away to Whidbey Island.  I asked my good friend who lives on the island to see if I could come and stay in their studio, and they kindly said yes.  A peaceful solo retreat to begin my new journey.

whidbey house
The view from the studio.

As someone who thrive in structure and organization, I set two goals for my retreat.

  1. I wanted to create my artist manifesto.  It will be like my personal and business values statement.   It will guide my decisions and behaviors as I move forward as a working-artist and an entrepreneur.
  2. I wanted to prioritize and organize my immediate/foreseeable to-dos and schedule them on my calendar.

Here is an overview of my Retreat Day 1:

1:00pm – Arrive at the house.  Get settled in, set up work space etc.

2:00pm – late lunch

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To start my afternoon, I made a simple quinoa salad for lunch. It was delicious! And my friend’s hand-painted bowl was perfect.

3:00 – 6:30pm Create Artist Manifesto – I broke down my process below.  This is obviously not the only way to do it, but something that worked for me.

Step1: Brainstorm your values for 20-25 minutes.
Ask yourself “what do I want in my life?  what do I value?”  Write down what comes to mind.  I used sticky notes to make the next step easier, but you can just use scrap paper or whatever works for you.  No order or reasons necessary.  You also want to put a timeline on this activity because it could go on forever, and it is ok to not get everything on the paper.  More will naturally come out during the process.  Also, no judgement!

Step 2: Review what came up and categorize them.
Do you see any themes?  Group them into categories.

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In the photo above, you can see how I categorized my brainstormed values: Internal Resources (something I have or want to have internally), Big Picture Values (social issues/values I care about), My Foundation (basic things I need from outside world to thrive as a person), What I Can Offer (something I can do for others that are also rewarding to me), Self-Care (What I need to take care of myself.  You need to be well physically and mentally to be able to nurture your passion long term.)  Again, this is not the only way.  I’d already been thinking about my personal values a lot, so these categories came pretty naturally.

Step3: Create statements that reflect your values.
Start writing a bunch of draft statements.  They don’t need to be perfect in the beginning.

I used the various values  I came up with as something I will have if I follow my guiding statements. So I asked myself, what do I need to do to have these things in my life?

I tried to write “I will/do…” statements because I’m ultimately responsible for my choices and behaviors.  It is also empowering to acknowledge I have the power to decide what’s best for me and my business.

At this stage, I came up with way too many statements.  I combined some of them or chose the most relevant statements for me and my business.

Step 4: Fine-tune your statements. 
Although I could’ve written a paper about my values and beliefs, this needed to be succinct.  This is something I can look at and “get” without thinking too much.  In my mind, 7-10 statements seemed like a good number.

I worked on making them into simple, short (ish) sentences.

I did a similar exercise at my day job around our organizational values and strategic planning.  Our facilitator told us to use the language a 5th grader would understand because simple language, if used effectively, will have a bigger impact on your audience.

In this case, the audience is me, and my values statements needed to be meaningful and impactful to me.

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More sticky notes.

I also tried to make them reasonable and achievable.  I needed to be able to follow and act on them (at least some of them) every day without stretching too much.

For instance, I have a statement that says “I will create every day.”  I didn’t say “I will create a masterpiece every day.” because that’s probably not going to happen, and it will be discouraging.

You want these statements to support and guide you, and not give you anxiety or reason to feel bad about yourself.

6:30-8:00 pm – Dinner with friends. My friends at the main house invited me over for dinner so we shared a wonderful meal made of their homegrown veggies and got to catch up.

8:00 -10:00 pm After dinner, I continued to refine my statements and started working on the fun part: making the manifesto pretty.

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Sakura Koi Pens & watercolor. My favorite medium to work with.

I had a vision of creating a piece that feels calm, light and spacious.  I didn’t want it to be too busy, so I chose a limited color palette that included blue, yellow and pink.

Since I ended up with 12 statements, I started by drawing 12 bubbles in watercolor.  The layout was pretty loose.  I put in a few larger bubbles and filled in the blank spaces with smaller bubbles.

Once I had all the bubbles drawn in, I hand wrote my statements in the bubble with my Pigma Micron pen (size 01, which is my favorite for loose handwriting).

Typically, I draw or write directly with pen.  I like the casual and more relaxed look when I do that.

I often hand letter or hand write words or sayings in my illustration work, so I can kind of eyeball the space and know how it all fit in.  I’ve been using all cap in my work a lot too.  But sometimes I mix in lower case as well for spacing or emphasis.  I also vary the size of certain words for emphasis.

After all the statements are in, I add embellishments.  This is also a very loose process.  I start adding patterns and different elements around the bubbles using watercolors and markers.

I see the balance of colors on my page and sprinkle different colors here and there.  I also drew some elements along the edges to create a frame.  I added some pen line work to give a little bit of weight and depth to the piece.

And then I stopped when I felt like the piece was done.

Here is the finished piece!  I’m very happy with how it turned out.  I still need to varnish it so it won’t be smudged.  I will then put it up where I can see every day to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing.

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Artist Manifesto, 9×12, marker, pen & ink, and watercolor on paper.

Do you have a manifesto?  Your guiding principles?

This exercise was so helpful for me, and I know I will refer back to it whenever I feel discouraged or off-centered.  It was a perfect tool to put me in a different mindset and prepare for the exciting future full of unknowns.

I will be learning a ton as I move forward and am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.

I will share my process for organizing and prioritizing my to-dos in my blog next Sunday!  There will be more sticky notes involved 🙂

Talk to you soon,

xoxo Yuko

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6 thoughts on “I went on a solo retreat and created my artist manifesto.

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