Making Time For You: Why Artist Dates Apply to All Creatives

Making Time For You, Why Artist Dates Apply to All CreativesA few years ago, I had the pleasure of working my way through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path for Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. I say work because The Artist’s Way is hardly a simple, leisurely read — despite the joy you might find in soaking it in. Instead, it’s set up as more of a course, with ideas to try and tasks to complete along the way.

One of my favorite notions from The Artist’s Way is that of the Artist Date. As the author describes it:

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”

Festive expeditions filled with mischief that spark whimsy and encourage play? If that doesn’t sound like heaven for the creative, I’m not sure what does. But what I love most about The Artist Date is its focus on using play to replenish our inner well.

Play as replenishment

As an artist, but more particularly as a creative, I’ve realized the importance of play more and more with each year that goes by. Our creativity simply cannot be fully cultivated in front of a screen or constantly focused on a canvas. Yet in a get-stuff-done society, play often gets neglected due to the invisible obligation we creatives seem to have to that which doesn’t stoke our fire: screens, emails, and other distractions.

Play, in its simplest form, is defined as “activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation.”

And the good news is, while the sandboxes and swingsets may have evolved into long nature hikes or robust novels, play is hardly reserved just for children.

Play is the fuel for when your tank is running on empty. It’s the invitation extended to external influences that bring our inner most creativity out. It’s the proactive approach to keeping our wells filled.

The Artist Date: Your recurring appointment for play

As last year came to a close and a new year started, I went on a bit of a personal mission. The objective: Inspiring as many of my clients, colleagues, and friends to make the appreciation of time a priority, and to make the most of every minute we’re given.

This comes in many forms: Presence in the company of others, courage and braveness in our own work, and, perhaps most urgently, vigorous insistence on incorporating play into every day.

I want to encourage you, my fellow creative, to make time for yourself by adopting your own weekly Artist Date. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair — for me, my Artist Dates might include going to the museum, visiting galleries, taking nature walks, getting out on the ski slopes, browsing an antique shop, or taking a couple hours to walk through the library.

The most important thing is that you’re taking time for you.

Selfish? Hardly. When we take time for ourselves — time to play and enjoy the wonders of the world around us — we are able to be more present, courage, and brave in our relationships and in our work.

After all, I’m much better equipped to create inspiring designs for the travel and tourism entities I work with when I’ve actually explored their towns, dipped a toe into their lakes, and had conversations with their community members as I dine in their restaurants. Likewise, I can take on the Bristol Mountain Ski Resort brand in an amplified way when I’ve actually got out and experienced that downhill thrill, the lights that brighten the path at night, the piercing cold hitting your face, and the purity and freshness of the air as the chairlift climbs.

Call it play. Call it an Artist Date. Call it a mind break. No matter what verbiage you choose, I urge you to put an appointment on your calendar for each week, making time for yourself.

Your creativity is counting on it.

What will your first (or next!) Artist Date include?

Gratitude Attitude: Lessons in Being Grateful

alphabet gratitude

Each and every morning, I slip on my shoes and grab Banks, my dog and number one office companion, and we head out for our morning walk. I’ve talked about how this sets my day off right, encourages me to breath in the fresh air, and often acts as endless inspiration for projects, paintings, and work throughout the week.

So when a friend told me about using the “gratitude alphabet” when you walk, I was immediately intrigued. The idea? While out and about, find something you’re grateful for that starts with the letter of the alphabet you’ve progressed to. Simple as that — but also not so simple, when you really think about it.

Turning off to be here now

One of the hardest parts about living in the incredibly wonderful world we live in is that we are constantly connected. There is unlimited opportunity to be plugged in; to be in touch; to always be doing. While there is immense advantage to this, especially as a business owner and traveler, our constant state of connection makes it especially difficult to turn off and allow yourself to just be, in the moment. Right now.

It’s the consistent pull to be plugged in that makes the need for exercises like the gratitude alphabet ever more present.

Walking with gratitude

So for 26 days straight, as I headed out for my morning walk, I took myself out of the always-on mentality and instead seeked to take in all that is around me. And each day, I discovered more and more things that I simply passed before, that are truly amazing parts of my neighborhood; my day; my life.

Day one began with apples by the road.

Day two was Banks overlooking the lake at my favorite place in the world, Brantingham.

Day three? Color. Always so much color.

With a letter in mind each day, I took in my surroundings. When day seven came around, I was amazed at the amount of things I encounter — and often sail by — that begin with the letter ‘g.’ Grapes. Geraniums. Grandma Dier (I often think of her when I walk). Gravel. GREEN! The thought process often went like this, until I landed on the one that meant the most. I was so grateful for all of the shades of green that surrounded me right in that moment. Hundreds of shades — warm, cool, dark, light. The Finger Lakes is home to magnificent greens — and stopping to absorb that gave me the overwhelming desire to capture them and be inspired by them — and later infuse them into a branding project.

On and on this went — from the journal I write in daily to the fresh lavender growing in my yard, the quiet where I get my best thinking done, and the luminescent September sunrises that have graced each morning. The further I got in the alphabet, the more and more I realized exactly how much I am surrounded by — and fulfilled by — each and every day.

Living from a place of abundance

Most of the time, I’m inspired by nature. This “challenge” was no exception — but it also took me outside of that comfort zone and had me looking at everything that surrounds me, and how gratitude can come from even the seemingly smallest things.

And the beauty of it all is this: when we focus on what we are grateful for in each moment, we stop living from a place of scarcity (“I wish I had more…” or “If only things were like this…”) and we start to realize we are infinitely living from a place of abundance, where we have all we need.

Being grateful — and recognizing that gratitude — helps me to stay positive. It reduces worry. It expands my awareness, and impacts my creativity in a positive way. It’s yet another amazing tool in my toolbox of life.

As we celebrate the end of summer and welcome the onset of fall, I encourage you to take a moment each day to connect with where you are right now and recognize something you’re grateful for. And if you’re feeling brave, share at least one thing with me below!

Banks at Brantingham         journaling        September sunrise in the Finger Lakes

BRANCH: A Behind-the-Scenes of My Design Discovery Process

BRANCH design discovery process

While I’d love to say that all of my ideas as a graphic designer and artist come to me while lying in a hammock under the trees in my backyard, I’d simply be dreaming. (That’s only true for some.)

The truth, in fact, is that a good portion of my job as a graphic designer is to get to the bottom of your brand — from the history of your business to the market you’re catering to and everything in between. Intelligent design that connects with your ideal audience is more than just creative ideas based on aesthetics you’re partial to. Intelligent design requires research. That’s where BRANCH comes in here at Harris Studios.

BRANCH: design discovery

My process for working with clients includes three distinct steps before we get into the actual design: a 30-minute Brand Clarity Call to discover where your brand is at and where it needs to be, a package proposal that can make that happen, and, finally, the kick off: BRANCH.

What is BRANCH, exactly? I’m glad you asked.

BRANCH is a research process that gives me true insight into your business and your current brand by analyzing what’s in and around it.

BRANCH is all about qualitative research, through which I’m able to tune in to the foundation of your business, your potential customers’ perceptions of your brand, and how that compares to the competitors in your environment. It’s broken down as follows:

Brand discovery through:


Authentic design


Competitive analysis


To look a bit closer:

Research: I engage in qualitative research to uncover perceptions regarding your brand from current and potential customers.

Authentic design: based on what I learn, I begin the process of creating a brand and design elements that are authentic to your business.

Necessity: a good graphic designer understands how your brand fits into your overall business goals. It’s at this step that I dig into your needs to be sure to meet them.

Competitive analysis: to get an accurate feel for the landscape, I evaluate both your direct competitors as well as like-minded businesses that you wish to emulate.

History: your business’ future should be informed by the best pieces of its past. I dig into the history of your business and brand to understand what’s influential and important to keep around as we amplify your brand forward.


Though the letters describe the process out of order, it all comes together under one umbrella: a holistic view of where your business and brand have been, and where it’s going. I love referring to the process as BRANCH because your brand truly begins with your roots, but grows and spreads over time through the branches.

BRANCH builds the foundation needed to inspire creative ideas in intelligent brand design; design that ignites true growth in your business.

Is your brand in need of a boost? Let’s get to know each other. Sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call to get the gears in motion. We’ll figure out what’s holding your brand back, and kickstart the process to get you where you want to be.