Finding Rest and Gathering Inspiration: Photos and Sketches From My Solo Weekend Art Retreat

Artist Rachel Kroh on a sketching trip in a garden.

May 16, 2022

Making art for a living is a dream come true. So is being a mom of two. Those are two beautiful true facts of my life these days, for which I am endlessly, impossibly grateful. It’s also true that both of these roles are jobs I never really stop doing. I think about my work lying in bed at night, while I’m nursing my baby or playing with my toddler or cooking dinner. I think about my kids while I’m carving my woodblocks, working on product designs or spreadsheets, taking photographs. It’s wonderful, and also exhausting. 

For Mother’s Day this year, my family gave me some time away at our family’s lake house…by myself! I left after dinner on Friday evening and came home Sunday morning in time for brunch. It was the first time in more than four years I’ve had that kind of time alone. I’m an introvert and solitude rejuvenates me, and this weekend was incredibly restorative.

I want to stop here and say that perhaps if you are a parent, you might be thinking, "Wow that would be great but it would never be possible for me to do something like that." And I know that I am deeply privileged in many ways that made this possible: to have a partner, to have flexibility in my work schedule, and to have this cherished place nearby to go. But I still never thought it would be possible. When you are a parent you become so used to your children depending on you that it's easy to slip into thinking that you are indispensable. But it turns out that all I had to do was ask. It helped that I offered to do the same for my husband for Father's Day next month. But in the end it wasn't the impossible dream I thought it was before. So if you are a parent and you are lucky enough to have a co-parent and a couple of days you can take off work, and you think a couple of days on your own would be good for your mind, soul or body, let this be a gentle nudge from someone who cares about you to be bold, think creatively about where you could go (house sitting for someone who's traveling? camping? a cheap motel somewhere nearby?) and go ahead and ask!

When I first arrived I kept hearing phantom cries and crashes but pretty soon I settled into the deep quiet. I spent most of it drawing in the yard that faces the lake, at a garden a few minutes’ drive away, and even in bed on my iPad while streaming Netflix (something I don’t let myself do at home because if I did I would never sleep). I even had a delicious, leisurely meal (with TWO glasses of wine!) sitting at the bar at a restaurant, while reading a Martha Stewart Living magazine, and no one threw food on the floor or banged on the table or yelled at me the whole time! 

I know I’ll be dining out on this experience in my mind for weeks and months to come (pun intended). And some of the drawings I did have already started to make their way into my work for Heartell. Drawing this way, with no specific purpose in mind, is so valuable for me, and I always forget to make time for it. This trip also reminded me that while it was glorious to have long, uninterrupted stretches of time and perfect springtime lakeside views to draw, there are plenty of places in town and little pockets of time I can find to incorporate more aimless sketching into my days. So hopefully I’ll have more to show you as time goes on! In the meantime, here are some photos. I hope you can extract a little bit of the calm joy I was feeling from looking at them.
The first page of a collage of photos from a solo sketching retreat artist Rachel Kroh took in Indiana in May 2022The second page of a collage of photos from a solo sketching retreat artist Rachel Kroh took in Indiana in May 2022 

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