Star Island Artist Retreat, September 2013

Star Island Artist Retreat, September 2013

(or, how I spent my summer vacation, no, really!)

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Photo by Debra Claffey

As a practicing artist, I want to put my best foot forward and show my work in the best possible light.  After graduating from art school many years ago, and setting up my first studio, I learned how to photograph my paintings onto film, crop and tape the slides, put together a portfolio 3-ring binder, and send out slide packets. Well, things are a teeny bit different now, aren’t they!  I’ve since re-learned how to photograph my paintings with a digital camera, and how to correct and resize images in Photoshop. I’ve built a website, started a blog and Twitter account, and set up my Facebook page.

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Photo Courtesy Kim Bernard

All along, I’ve had an uneasy feeling. What else has changed since I left art school?  Have I learned everything I need to know now?  An opportunity to check this out appeared last summer, when artist and educator Kim Bernard offered a three-day Creative and Professional Practices Retreat on Star Island for Labor Day weekend. Star Island is one in a group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine called the Isles of Shoals.  I had never been and had wanted to see them for quite a while, and here was my chance.  We took a ferry from Portsmouth, NH, over to Gosport Harbor, where the Isles of Shoals “offer a glimpse of life as it was in the 19th century”.

We met in one of the stone cottages, and began with introductions. We were eleven artists with varied backgrounds and different sets of needs and expectations, but we were all there to advance our art and business practices. The point was to find our own particular way to keep a creative life sustainable. We were going to learn how to fit “the pieces of the pie together”, said Kim.  We would leave with an Action Plan and we would get clarity on our goals.

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Photo by Courtesy Kim Bernard

 We spent the next two and a half days exploring what we often assume, or even forget to ask, about ourselves and our work.  Such as “What situations allow me to do my best work?”,    “What holds me back?” And, so importantly, “What do I want?” (Do I know?)

 We also covered the nuts and bolts of a professional artist’s life: where to show our work, how to present ourselves, current styles for resumes, artist statements, bio books, and promotional material.

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Photo by Courtesy Debra Claffey

 No Spoiler Alert needed here. You’ll have to sign up for 2014 to get the nitty-gritty.  I will say that it was so worthwhile!  I’d do it again, and highly recommend it.

I now have new clarity on my goals and aspirations and an action plan for the next year to work with. I have a better picture of what I need to do to put my work in the best light. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones! The island was beautiful, the ocean light magical. And, I took about a hundred photos of leaves and rocks, and natural patterns for inspiration to paint from.

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Photo by Debra Claffey

 For more information on the Star Island Retreat, visit Kim Bernard’s blog.