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  • Sue Bulmer

my art retreat retrospective



I realised today as I wrote my newsletter that I didn’t write a blog about my art retreat. Since I got back I can’t believe how the time has flown, so much so I want it to slow right down. What better way to rectify this than to sit down and mull over my experience and sum it all up in a blog post. I think this will be a really useful process for me as well as helping you to understand what I got from my art retreat and how it went in general.


For those who have only recently started following me I decided in March I was going to go on a solo art retreat to Cornwall. I explain why here. I booked some accommodation and left home on 2nd of April for a week of me time and I felt so excited at the prospect. My plan was four nights Airbnb and four nights with a friend. I didn’t know what to expect but knew this was something I really needed to do.


You might be wondering what I actually did while I was away. Well I had asked myself some questions before I left and thought quite deeply about what I actually wanted from this time away on my lonesome. One of the things that really stuck from my conversation with another artist who had also done their own retreat, was to go slowly and to not have any expectations of outcomes. I took this advice and it served me well. After months of working really hard across several jobs I knew I needed some time to switch off, to feel unpressured and unhurried, to be living to my own agenda, to reflect on life, to be curious and open minded and to see what grabs my attention and draws me in.



I got up quite early each morning and went for a walk. I took in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the landscape and took my mobile A4 sketchbook with me and some very basic art supplies. My intention was just to capture very quickly things that caught my attention. After a couple of hours exploring I would come back to my accommodation and make some art. This came in the form of a 'brain-dump' where I just offloaded the visual information I had seen onto a big taped sheet of A1 cartridge paper, shapes, colours etc. When the tape was removed I then had several small abstract landscapes from which to work further. Brain dump complete I then spent the rest of the time cutting up the larger sheets of paper, recording them in my square sketchbook and larger A3 sketchbook and noting what I liked about them. I then selected the smaller abstract landscapes and developing them on. I used my gelli plate and made some prints with the inspiring shapes and colours I had collected on my travels.


I feel like this trip was a way for me to collect inspiration and whilst I did make art while I was there I knew I wouldn’t be making anything resolved as that would be for when I get back to my studio. This part being away from home in my own company was just to reflect on the experience and have fun. I kept in touch with followers with a couple of IG lives and it was a great to feel I was taking people with me. I even had my own hashtag for people. Check out #suesparilartretreat on instagram if you want to see my posts.


Since returning home I have had plenty of time to reflect. I have journaled and I have even fancied taking off again as I enjoyed my experience so much. But I have an open studio event to prepare for and other commitments for this month so that may not be possible. Maybe an art retreat at home is what I need. I’m talking about that in my newsletter this month. So for now I’m working on the compositions and colour palettes I brought back with me, at times wondering where I am going with it, and starting to develop on the abstracts I started in Cornwall. There is a lot more orange and blue in my work, bright colours and bold shapes. I am liking how my work is developing. You can follow my journey on Instagram or you can sign up for my newsletter here. It’s getting more and more of a challenge to be seen on social media so if you’d like to be able to keep in touch directly and cut out the middle man of social media please sign up for my email newsletter here

To sum up my art retreat experience I would review the questions I asked myself before I went, one of which was: what do I want from it and to ask myself 'did I get that?'

I wanted to slow down, to feel unhurried and not under any pressure to do and be anything other than what I was, I wanted to have time to focus but also to stop and stare. I wanted to reconnect with my process without pressure of end product. I wanted to sit with all the feelings, even the impostor syndrome-y uncomfortable ones. These are my metrics for success.

Did I achieve what I wanted from it. YES, I did. and I would love to do it again. Next time I will take the whole week for myself and fully immerse myself in solitude.

If this has sparked a desire to have your own art retreat please feel free to share your experience. I would love to hear all about it.


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