18 Ways to Nourish Yourself and Other Insights from my Creative Retreat


I'm back.

I missed this space. I'm grateful for my Creative Retreat, but I'm happy to have turned the page on January.

studio, artist studio, work space, calendar, 2017 calendar, watercolor calendar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I've realized something about January. It's not my favorite month. And winter is not my favorite season. Looking back at past Januaries, I can see a pattern. Each year it's a similar story. With the arrival of the new year I'm filled with ideas and excitement, but once we get into the month I lack energy. The weather makes me want to hibernate. It's cold. Snowy. Icy. Dark. I get irritable. Depressed.

And that's ok.

studio, creativity, artist studio, work space, watercolor, sketches, landscapes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

We all have ebbs and flows of energy and ideas. I've come to realize how important it is to honor my feelings. To honor my energy, not fight it.

(Subconsciously) it's one of the reasons I took the month off this year for my Creative Retreat.

Even so, I think I was hoping that giving myself the time and space to create would magically transform January into something that it's not.

sketchbook, markers, flowers, doodles, sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I imagined that my Creative Retreat would mean immediate, beautiful (successful) paintings, drawings and sketches. That creating would be effortless, easy and fun. That I would come to LOVE January.

I have a great imagination.

It WAS a creative month. I did paint and draw and play and write. Every day. I wrote a lot in my journal. Which was so helpful. I had a lot of insights on those pages. And yes, I had fun, too. I created some art that I liked. But I also created some art that I didn't like. Some of it even ended up in the trash can.

Again, that's ok. It's natural. It's necessary.

I think what I needed more than time and space to create was time and space for rest. Time and space to nourish myself. Time for quiet reflection. I needed to be easy on myself during a time of year that's difficult (perhaps even more difficult this year with the constant, overwhelming news headlines).

Maybe you could use a little NOURISHing, too?

sketchbook, botanical sketches, orchids, micron pen, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

You don't need to set aside a month-long retreat to do it. You can nourish yourself a little bit each day.

Here are some ideas:

  1. have a pajama day (or partial pajama day -- try putting them on as soon as you come home at the end of the day)
  2. sleep in and enjoy a long, slow morning with good food, coffee (and/or tea) and good company (this doesn't have to be a person; a good book or your journal can also be good company)
  3. take a leisurely soaking bath with essential oils and/or epsom salts
  4. curl up with a cozy blanket and a good book
  5. give yourself a foot bath followed by a foot scrub and massage with a healing salve or lotion 
  6. drink more water -- add a squeeze of lemon, close your eyes and imagine the sunshine
  7. get more sleep
  8. mist your face with rosewater and pretend you're sniffing flowers in a garden
  9. write in your journal -- make it a daily ritual; it's a good way to start or end your day
  10. take the time to cook and eat good food (slowly!)
  11. make art with the censor turned off*
  12. play with a new medium
  13. take a creative class or read an art or craft book
  14. make sure you have some flowers in your home -- blooming plants and forced bulbs are a good alternative (or addition) to cut flowers (for me they're a good source of creative inspiration, too!)
  15. light a fragrant candle or some incense
  16. give yourself a honey facial mask (especially nice while in that long soaking bath)
  17. plug in some twinkle lights
  18. go for a walk

Many of these additions to your day won't take a lot of time and won't cost much money, but they make a big difference to how you feel.

One day I realized I hadn't plugged in the twinkle lights in my studio because I didn't want to take the time to bend down beneath my table to do so (and then have to bend down beneath my table to unplug them again later). How much time and effort did that really cost me? Not much. Now I make a point of always plugging in my twinkle lights and lighting a fragrant candle on dark days in my studio.

We all need to be gentle with ourselves. With each other. With this world. Start with yourself. Ripple outward.

gouache, sketchbook, birds, flowers, teapot, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I have a lot of good stuff coming up here this month. An Artist Interview (on Friday!). A gift for you. An invitation of joy and love. Some new paintings. A sale. The return of Sketchbook Conversations... it's going to be a good month.

*read Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa for some inspiration for dealing with that critical voice and other hindrances to your creativity.


  1. Anne, you have no idea how much I have missed you. January has not been as good as I imagined it would be! I kept coming here in the hope that you might have posted something even though I knew you wouldn't be back until February! I love your pot of roses painting - such uplifting colours on a dreary day. Thank you for the self nourishing tips. I am gradually beginning to take more care of myself. Welcome back my friend :)

    1. Hi, Simone! I'm glad to be back! So sorry your January didn't go the way you wished it would. I can relate.

      I hope that now we've gotten January out of the way we can continue the year in joy, creativity and productivity!

  2. Hello, hello, hello!
    Like Simone, I missed you too (but I am so glad you took some time off).
    Looking forward to all the "good stuff" coming up.

    1. Hi, Karen!! I'm glad I took the time off, too. And now I'm energized to begin this new year of blogging. Can't wait to share all the good stuff with you! And to catch up on what you've been up to while I've been gone!!


  3. Another person here who missed you, Anne! Thank you for the wonderful tips. Love your artwork and so happy to see you back! xo

    1. Hi, Judy!! :)

      So glad to be back. Hope your year has been off to a good start. Looking forward to catching up with your blog and to seeing what we both get up to this year!!


  4. I'm glad you're back. It looks like you did create some beautiful pieces <3 I'm the same way about my twinkle lights. I'm glad to know I'm not the only lazy one ;) haha... I've thought of getting one of those extension cords with the roll type switch and making them easier to turn on and off. Maybe you could look into that as well. Happy February!

    1. Ooooh, that's a good idea to have the extension cord and switch, though mine are plugged in on opposite sides of the room. Extension cords, surge protectors and all these things we have to plug in drive me a little crazy in my studio. Part of it is that I need so much light for my work and so I can't even count the number of lamps I have... Hahaha. I'm cracking myself up even writing about it!

      I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been up to so far this year! Hope it's been good for you.

      Happy February to you, too! :)

  5. Anne, you are creative goddess! Love, love your landscapes!

    1. Awww... you're so sweet, Aga!

      Painting those little landscapes was one of my favorite things about the month. I plan on writing a post all about them sometime in the coming weeks. :)

  6. Hi Anne,
    I enjoyed your post and ideas. It is great to have you back. You inspire me. I have missed you!!
    I like photo number 3 ... a perfect cover for a journal or planner calendar.
    LOVE the bright colors.

    1. Hi, Carla!! Glad to be back. :)

      I've been doodling lots of bright pages like that in my sketchbooks lately. It's nice to do if I'm watching tv in the evening and it's really helped me to loosen up. Plus it's fun to create imaginary gardens in the depths of winter.

  7. Welcome back Anne. Even though January wasn't what you had hoped it would be it sounds like you learned a lot. Those little landscapes are just gorgeous. :) There's something so soothing about painting landscapes.

    1. Thanks, Dana! And yes, you're right. It was a good month.

      I really enjoyed painting landscapes and plan on writing a blog post just about that. So different than the rest of my art, but it was just what I needed to help me loosen up a bit.

      Hope to see you back on your blog, too. :)

  8. These are such good suggestions, Anne. Showing ourselves compassion is difficult but necessary for our well-being. I try to always have fresh flowers on my kitchen table in winter. They are often $5 bouquets from the supermarket but they give me so much joy. Your pretty paintings make me want to pull out my watercolors :) Welcome back.

    1. Thank you, Sharon!

      One of the things I miss most about city living is the variety (and affordability) of flowers and plants at the grocery stores. Ah well, I'm happy to be living in a small town even so.

      I hope you will pull out your watercolors! :)


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