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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

Rest and Retreat

As many of you know I have been making a folded concertina sketchbook each month of 2023 and filling it with seasonal inspiration. This project began in January 2023 as I decided to step away from my goals of making art to sell. I wanted to make art for myself, art for the soul not for the sale. I had spent the previous year trying to grow my business and I was getting crickets. Time to be with my tribe and working out what was important in life helped me find a new path.

I set myself a new direction, a year of making art and creating, just for me! I carefully choose my colour palette and materials each month, inspired by seasonal alignment. Each month has been different and has built on the skills and techniques from the month before. Before folding and cutting the paper one month, I might make some broad watery marks on the paper with watercolour paint or inks or in another month I may add collage elements so I have something to respond. I folded, cut and assembled the book in a variety of different ways and I would begin to work into the pages, with pencils, inks, pastels and paint.

I shared my process and thoughts on social media, initially as a record for myself, but as the project developed, it became apparent that this new approach was resonating others. What I was doing was actually inspiring others to create, sometimes after years of not doing anything creative, or after big life events such as bereavements, illness and loss. People reached out to tell me how much they were enjoying what I was sharing as it helped them to feel they too could do it.

This new creative project and the enthusiasm of others kept me going for the last months of winter and before we knew it we were into the warmer lighter days of spring and then summer when new energy and ideas seemed to flow effortlessly one month into the next. I consistently turned up and shared what I was making, learning and discovering, and thousands of new followers joined me on my journey. It has been such an amazing journey and I have loved every minute. I even made a course, which takes a deeper dive into the creative process around making the sketchbook. You can find out more about that here.

But as we dip into the season where the days have grown shorter and cooler, I noticed a distinct, and not unfamiliar, change in my energy once again. A lesser urge to make the most of my solo studio time, filming and sharing each stage of my process, making reels, writing my monthly newsletter and blog posts. Just as I noticed it becoming a little more difficult to wake up and get myself out of bed in the mornings I also noticed a new creative lethargy setting it. I can see and feel the reality of how mood, energy, motivation and creativity are all interlinked and I can see this for what it was - a seasonal change. A time for slowing down, hibernating, spiralling inwards. A deep need for rest, reflection and recuperation after an unexpectedly busy year

This is why I've decided to take December off social media, I've stopped sharing my daily creative process and am spending some time resting, reflecting, reading, writing, slowly creating my December sketchbook, thinking and being. And I'm loving it. My creative business is still on my mind and I am already thinking about plans for 2024. BUT I'm intentionally and consciously taking the time to rest!

Rest gives us space and our brains time to switch off. I often find that once I switch off and stop trying so hard, this is when the real thinking happens and I find myself retuning into my imagination and new solutions and ideas come to life.

So, ask yourself what does rest look like for you? Is it something you find easy to do? What helps you to feel restored, rejuvenated and replenished? Leave me a comment and let me know.... Or do you find yourself avoiding rest for some reason? Do you have beliefs about it that stop you from switching off? I'd love to hear from you...

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Sue Hall
Sue Hall

This is a very thoughtful post Sue and one which resonates with me too. I think it applies to whatever art form we make, in my case patchwork quilts. Sometimes it can feel like being a hamster on a wheel, running to stay still, especially with Christmas orders. Social media can become a demanding thing too. Have a good rest and Happy Christmas, best wishes for 2024.

Sue Bulmer
Sue Bulmer

I agree Sue. I'm just pondering what I learned but I'm also realising what I missed after listening to the lates episode of Art Juice podcast. Will be writing a couple of blog posts on my ponderings soon

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