Quiet Retreats for Artists

Many artists are at their most productive in quiet, distraction-free settings. When they have beautiful, natural surroundings to inspire them and provide subject material, the benefits can be even greater. As such, a quiet retreat can give you a chance to get more deeply involved with art and to get fresh ideas that will continue to feed positively into your future work.

A number of locations around the world can be ideal for artists. They provide the combination of quiet seclusion and beautiful, inspirational surroundings that can be beneficial for so many artists. A break to any of these locations can give you the perfect chance to practice your craft, whether you are a professional or a talented and dedicated hobbyist.

Getting Ready for Your Retreat

When getting ready for your retreat, it is usually best to make sure you have a good supply of all the art materials you are likely to need. A quiet retreat in inspirational surroundings can help artists be incredibly productive, so it is important to ensure you will not run out of anything vital. If you do, the seclusion of the location could make it difficult to buy any more supplies.

Supplies are often best bought online. This allows you the chance to conveniently browse an extensive range, and have them delivered straight to your door. Online shops are often also able to offer better prices, as online businesses have fewer overheads than traditional shops. A site such as http://www.jacksonsart.com/ can be the ideal way to stock up before you leave.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

Sidi Bou Said is a small yet relatively famous coastal village in Tunisia. Buildings follow an attractive, distinctive blue-and-white colour scheme. Around it, the sea stretches in one direction and scenic hills in another, providing plenty of visual material for art. The village is known as one of the country’s top photo opportunities on account of being charmingly picturesque. For the same reason, it has also long been a popular spot with artists.

Sidi Bou Said has an excellent atmosphere for artists. Delightful cafes and old-fashioned cobbled streets create a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere that is good for creativity. Many artists live in and visit the village, meaning there will be other enthusiasts to share your passion with and a number of studios and galleries to enjoy. It is not hard to find art for sale in the village either.

The Lake District, England

The Lake District is one of England’s most popular quiet spots, and is also known as one of the most scenic areas in the UK. For this reason, it has long been a popular spot with artists and other creative such as writers who wish to practice their craft in a quiet place with no distractions.

The beautiful scenery of the Lake District has always inspired artists, and it looks likely that it always will. Incredible views which are perfect for capturing with paint or pencils about, but there is little else to distract you from your craft except for pleasant cafes and small, charming buildings.

Mount Fuji, Japan

Mount Fuji and many of the other mountains in the range provide artists with an attractive opportunity for a quiet retreat. They provide beautiful scenery that is unlike anything else in the world. Where most mountains offer rugged scenery, many Japanese mountains are known for offering landscapes that seem more quiet, gentle and mystical. This scenery will provide a unique source of inspiration for artists of every kind.

As well as unique scenery, the mountains of Japan offer quiet and seclusion that is ideal for focussing on art and avoiding distractions. On top of this, they provide the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique culture of Japan, which will also help to provide inspiration and bring new ideas and influences into your artwork.



Image attributed to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/desiitaly/2228883174/

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/africa/tunisia-the-blue-and-white-village-of-sidi-bou-said-928152.html


As every good traveler my age…heck, as every good person my age…I’ve been making sure to keep my friends and family in the loop via a stream of facebook photo albums and posts. During the past few weeks, and especially the past few days, I’ve had several comments on the pictures that literally have made me laugh out loud. In fact, I would like to take this moment to apologize to the kid in the Paris airport who will forever remember me snorting hot chocolate out of my nose. I’m sure it scarred him for life…it was very much the chocolaty experience.

So, given how funny some of the comments are, I thought I would share some of the best picture/comment pairs I’ve received:


Comment: “love this pic! its so…african safari! lol”

Message in the sand (please note: the description of the photo said, “Baboon hand print!”):

Comment: “i was wondering why you took a picture of dirt and then i saw the description”

The Essence of being German

Comments (more of a dialouge):

My sister:  “could it be more german! lol”
Me: “I think if you added a guy wearing Birkenstocks, lederhosen, and knee high socks it might get more German”
My dad: “That’s racial profiling!!!!”

Thoughts: My dad is only upset because he actually likes wearing birkenstocks and knee-high socks. I rest my case!


The shoes.

I went shopping in Africa for a cocktail dress and shoes. Ten stores later I found them. The dress came easy, the shoes came hard. Apparently African women have tiny feet because a women’s size ten was nowhere to be found. One shopkeeper literally laughed at me – that’s OK though :-)

The shoes I eventually bought actually still had a “Ross” sticker on them, which is a cheap outlet store in Florida. I guess that the shopkeeper got them very cheap (for $19.95, in fact!) and I paid…way more than that. Such is life.

So, as promised in previous blog-post, I’m posting pics of the buys. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve uploaded them here.

Thanks to a water shortage in the city, my hotel room became the showering place for a family that I became very close with. One such night, the kiddies passed the time playing dress up with my new clothes.

The shoes…and some hot models! :-)

Calvin Klein Dress: $100.

Shoes: Way too much money (my little secret…smart women never report real prices!).

Dressing up for the first time in four months in clothes that do not smell perpetually like a camping bonfire and that haven’t been washed on rocks and in hotel sinks: Priceless.

The dress. :-)

Home Sweet Home. I mean…Tent Sweet Tent.

I been asked over and over again what it was like for me to live in the forest, and it occured to me how unbelievable it might be to some people that, along with three other people, I lived without electricity (well, we had a generator that we were able to use about once a week), running water, or regular contact with the outside world. We lived in tents, cooked over a fire, bathed and washed dishes and clothes in nearby freshwater sources, and used ‘latrines’ (AKA holes in the ground).

Despite all of these inconveniences, life in the forest was freaking amazing. We were surrounded by wildlife everyday; one of our camps had a semi-resident group of Pogonias monkeys that, on one morning, decided they would jump around in the trees over our camp.

During our time in the forest, we basically had two on-trail camps that we stayed in, one after the other.

The first was christened ‘Etepo Beta’, and sat on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The camp was pretty awesome, but definitely had some unique topographical issues. For instance, our freshwater source was at the bottom of a soul-crushing ravine that involved a fair amount of controlled butt sliding to get down. It was literally sheer at some points, and I swear I had to use all available handholds to get back up again. Bathing here gave a new meaning to the word clean; by the time we got back to camp we were usually sweating again, so when we said that we were ‘clean‘, what we usually meant was that we had bathed at one point during the day.

Etepo beta bathing area. What you don’t see are the thousands of little crayfish that liked to nip at our feet and seemed to have exponential population growth during the time we were there.

Living in a tent was also not bad at all – I actually slept really, really well. Yes, when it rained incessantly (which it did…a lot), the tarp under my tent usually held some water, which made sleeping on it something akin to a waterbed. But, all in all, it was like a little haven of privacy for all of us.

My tent is the one all the way to the left!

Our kitchen/living room/hang out area. Our bubi porters built us the awesome shelf thing under the tarp.

Hanging out in our ‘kitchen’ on a early evening.

My boss found this plastic chair on the beach, and hiked it back up to our camp…the first of several good beach finds.

At any given point in time, at least 50% of my belongings were soaked or wet. Usually 95% of my belongings were at least damp. Drying out shoes was a losing battle…but I still gave it a go whenever I could, because there is nothing worse in the morning than a wet pair of boots!

After days and days of rain, I would just wake up hoping that enough sunshine would make it through the trees to dry my clothes. Fortunately, at the next camp we could use hot beach rocks to dry our clothes much faster.

Our second camp was like paradise. Really, it was. It was right on the beach and directly next to a nice river – one that did not involve a somewhat dangerous climb. Named ‘seven caves camp’, for the seven caves that were found along the coastline at that point, it was my favorite place during my time out there.

Boss and Seth doing laundry in the river right by our camp.

The kitchen/living area at our second camp was way bigger; Seth is sitting on a plastic chair (different from the first one…this was like a patio chair) that we rescued from the beach trash and sat on in camp.

When we did take days off from doing census we often worked on data entry or doing camp chores. This is me trying to sit away from the generator fumes :-)

Washing dishes was so much easier now that the water was close by.

The last night on the beaches, we had to hike to a different location that was easier pick up point for our boat ride out. We took about two hours to set up camp on a tidal beach that was basically surrounded on all sides by cliffs, ocean, and a river. This involved cutting a camping area in a narrow, densely vegetated piece of land.

Me with a machete…

Me actually using the machete.

For what it’s worth – I would go back in second.

All in a day’s work; yep, this is definitely not sexy.

Want to know what it’s like to start off a work day with a 1.5 hour hike on a rainforest trail involving several ravines and a small mountain?

Until I visited Bioko, I always thought that the cliche “dripping with sweat” statements were simply literary exaggerations. Well, I’m here to let you know that it is most definitely possible to sweat that much. Just moving around camp was enough to get a nice glisten (as my sisters would say). At the risk of forever eliminating myself from being on a reality TV dating show, I’m posting some pictures just to illustrate my point.

I rest my case.

Trail hiking…but without the trail.

During my time working for the BBPP, the objective of our work was basically to census a long coastal trail that stretched through long areas of unexplored Bioko Island habitat. Although we were technically on a trail, I would have to say that the use of the word “trail” became more and more loosely used as we worked our way deeper and deeper into the forest. I would often walk off the trail, at which point, I would have to backtrack to the last marker and try to find my way again.

The trail alternated between running along the beach, veering inland into the forest, going down into ravines, along riverbeds, and around fallen trees. It was marked every twenty meters (sixty feet) with pink flagging tape; it was often easy to see the next marker, but I would sometimes find myself spinning in circles trying to figure out where to go next.

If everything else failed, I usually stopped to look for machete marks. A machete cut is unmistakable, and was my last resort to try and re-find the trail I had lost.

When the trail went along the beach, or along a small bay, we had to hope that we weren’t catching the beach during high tide. Often, our “trail” (AKA the beach) was underwater, so we had to dodge the incoming surf as best we could. Even so, the beaches offered amazing views and were fantastic lunch spots. We would just strip our clothes wet off, hang them to dry on the beach boulders, and just soak up the sun.

Sometimes we would get fantastic glimpses of the coast; enough to literally stop us in our tracks and breathe in the sweet, fresh, ocean air. Other afternoons found us clambering up rock faces and narrowly escaping twisted ankles and bruised knees.

Sunrise on the beach.

Where’s Polly?

Posing in front of a dried waterfall drop-off, below which was a small pool of clear, clean freshwater.

All smiles during an afternoon swim.

Looking for monkeys.

Polly almost hidden by the trees, on an inland part of our trail.

Yep, we hiked up the equivalent of this multiple times every day.

Breathtaking view.

Seth trying to keep dry during a river crossing.

Trying to battle both high tide and the aftermath of a torrential downpour.

Night time, rainforest style.

Nights were a really weird time in the forest; we didn’t have electricity so we would do everything by firelight or by headlamp light beam. It’s strange to describe the feeling of being confined to such a small area because of a lack of power, although I came to prefer having a headlamp on me…even when I got back to ‘civilization’. I think, as with everything about my trip, pictures say much more than anything I could ever describe (I am, after all, just an amateur blogger). That being said, I’ve put together some pictures that hopefully convey would the typical night was at Camp Drew & Crew.

Dinner was usually started before dark, but more often than not, we finished the final preparations using headlamp light.

On the days when our porters were with us in camp, they prepared the food while we took care of other camp business.

Dinner time!

Reppin´the headlamp.

Doing the nightly foot check. I wrote an article for the Naples Daily News about this whole can of worms.

Twice a week we turned on the satellite phone. We would take turns sitting by the phone – it was our only contact with the outside world.

Books became the ultimate entertainment…no facebook or myspace here!

Hot drink time was probably my favorite time of the day after bathing. There is nothing as delicious as a hot beverage at the end of a long day. I preferred hot milk (powdered milk, some sugar, and some cacao powder), while the two guys preferred coffee, and Polly was all for a fully chocolaty experience.

Update your playlist, EG style.

I have realized that I get the most of a place by listening to the local music taste and reading relevant literature. Keeping that in mind, I’ve made a (very) short list of the music that I’ve heard while in Equatorial Guinea and the books I’ve read:

Music (shout out to Mark for getting me all of this onto my computer!) that I’ve heard out and about in EG:

K’naan, “Waving Flag”,
P-Square, “Danger”,
Desmali & Dambo De La Costa, “Sonita”,
Nneka, “Africans”,
Reamonn, “Through the eyes of a child”,
Resistencia Suburbana, “Tuve Que Matar a Un Policia”,
Shaggy, “Strength of a Woman”,
David Guetta, “Sexy Chick”,
2Face Idibia, “African Queen”,
Anything by Akon J

Books (thank you to everyone for letting me borrow all of the reading material!):

Blood River (details the journey of journalist into the Congo),
Wonga Coup,
Myth and Legend in the Rainforest,
Ischmael (not directly related to Bioko, but interesting nonetheless),
Dogs of War.

I would like to take this time to once again thank everyone for everything you’ve done for me. You know who you are; my trip would not even be half of what it is without you. I will truly miss each one of you.

To my readers: thank you for hanging in there. You’re support makes my efforts worthwhile; with the mission to bring relevant information about my travel and work destinations to the world, I can’t succeed without you.

Bend it like Beckham…or the Bubis.

Some videos I took of the hired locals playing their daily soccer games, which were so fun to watch. The natural athletic talent was oustanding – the first video is a clip of the daily soccer game, while the second video is a clip from the large, full-length match that was played out on the beach on the last day of the expedition. Every local participated – the cook was the goalie and the boat driver the referee. Anyway, it was a good time :-)