We Went on An ‘Artist Date’ With Ourselves: Introducing Your Self-Care MVP!

For the uninitiated, the artist date is a once-a-week solo expedition to do something that enchants you or interests you, for an hour or two. It’s a tool of attention and a practice that, like many other versions of self-care, fuels creative exploration.

Despite what the name may suggest, an artist date doesn’t require you to paint pensively with a rose between your teeth (unless that’s your MO, ofc), so for those of us who struggle to draw a stickman, you’re off the hook. Simply put, the artist date demands that you spend time with yourself, play, have fun or do something that nourishes your soul – a concept we can all get on board with, whether art is in our wheelhouse or not.

For context, the concept came from author Julia Cameron. In her bestselling book The Artist’s Way – a spiritual manual for creative recovery – she created an invaluable step-by-step guide to living the artist’s life, centred around three pillars: morning pages, artist dates and walking. Working with the principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, she provides the toolkit we all need to nurture our creativity. 

So, what does an artist date look like IRL? Julia describes the practice as, “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.”

Whether you take yourself off for a day with your camera to take photos just for you, visit a new coffee shop, head to a gallery or a National Trust property, or simply indulge in a bougie lunch for one with a book in a hand, there are endless ways to top up your creativity and relish in a hearty dose of giddy delights for giddy delight’s sake. They can be as elaborate or as everyday as you want to make them, just as long as it brings you unadulterated joy.  

Carving time for yourself is something a lot of people feel huge resistance towards. In today’s fast-paced overconnected world, spending time with yourself feels like an alien concept to most – a novelty usually dreamt up between the pages of a journal but never really actualised because a better or more pressing offer always comes up. It feels indulgent to focus our undivided attention on ourselves, even for just an hour or two. We’re willing to work on creativity (sometimes) but simple pleasures? Not so much. There’s always something more deserving of our time than sitting with ourselves. 

Team Zoella were keen to put Julia Cameron’s game-changing practice to the test and see what wisdom we could gain from wooing our inner artists and nurturing our consciousness, one artist date at a time. Keep reading to find out how the team got on! 

Charlotte’s Artist Date…

I bloody love my alone time, and despite being quite sociable I definitely lap up any opportunities to sit with myself and my feelings, so the concept of an artist date is right up my alley! I regularly enjoy a walk on my own or taking my book to a coffee shop so for this challenge (if you will) I wanted to do something a little more out of my comfort zone and decided on an evening meal by myself. I absolutely love Purezza- a vegan pizza spot in Brighton- and decided I didn’t want to wait for a friend to be free to come with me and instead made a booking for one!

For some reason, the idea of sitting in a restaurant alone feels far more intimidating than hanging out alone in the day, and during the couple of hours before my booking, I was definitely feeling a little anxious at the prospect of walking in and what other diners and the staff would be thinking (spoiler: nothing). I definitely overanalysed my outfit choice- I’d normally wear something a bit more dressy to go out for dinner but on this occasion, I wanted to blend into the background a little more so opted for a knitted brown midi dress and chunky boots. The restaurant is only a couple of minutes from my house which definitely made the whole experience feel more manageable, and when I arrived I was seated in the window which I was assured was great for people watching.

Of course, it’s lovely being able to catch up with a friend or loved one over dinner, but I realised how much you miss from the experience when chatting away and not just allowing yourself to ‘be’ for a moment. Charlotte

The staff were super kind which I’m sure is normal for them anyway but I couldn’t help but wonder if they were being extra nice because I was alone- over-analytical/anxious brain here! I ordered a glass of wine and read my book whilst I waited for my carbonara pizza (yes you did read that correctly) to be prepared and found myself settling into the experience and enjoying having the space to take in what was happening around me and feel completely present. Of course, it’s lovely being able to catch up with a friend or loved one over dinner, but I realised how much you miss from the experience when chatting away and not just allowing yourself to ‘be’ for a moment. The wine definitely helped me feel more at ease, but I also just realised the whole thing wasn’t as big of a deal as I first thought- yes I was the only one dining alone, but none of the other tables or parties gave me a second look!

Being seated in the window, in a little nook away from the bigger groups celebrating birthdays or occasions was perfect for one as could feel the energy of being around others without then feeling out of place on my own. I finished my pizza, read some more of my book and settled the bill before taking the short walk home and plonking myself in front of Netflix to enjoy Taylor’s Reputation Stadium tour- a fabulous night all around!

I think ticking off one solo date has given me the confidence to explore more activities on my own, and I definitely won’t let it hold me back from the things I want to do in the future if I don’t have company to enjoy something with. Next on my list is a solo gig!

Lareese’s Artist Date…

Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been doing accidental artist dates for… well, years. From mediative walks with a podcast between my ears (Fearne Cotton’s dulcet tones usually) to heading off to the park with a book and a picnic blanket, spending time with myself is how I recharge.

I’ve always preferred shopping on my own, I’d think nothing of ordering a table for one at lunchtime with nothing but a carafe of wine and Sally Rooney for company and I did all my marathon training on my tod but until this ‘We Tried’ feature, I hadn’t really given it much thought. I just knew I liked my own company in a major way. I love love love spending time with people but I often end up feeling quite frazzled afterwards and have to unplug from all forms of communication to feel balanced and creatively raring to go again. The idea of a once-weekly solo expedition whether it be to the cinema, a coffee shop or simply to sit on a bench and stare into the abyss fills me with stupid amounts of joy (can you tell I’m the one who pushed this We Tried on everyone, can ya?) and the chance to prioritise simple pleasures over grand plans will never be wasted on me.

Walking is often my number one means of creative recovery, and I wanted to stick to that because an artist date – from what I can gather anyway – is not really about what you’re doing but how it makes you feel.Lareese

The beauty of an artist date is the creative license is all yours. There are no strict rules other than doing it solo of course, and having fun with it. Walking is often my number one means of creative recovery (I know, apparently we didn’t do enough of that in 2020 for my liking), ideally in the morning before work, and I wanted to stick to that because an artist date – from what I can gather anyway – is not really about what you’re doing but how it makes you feel. Do I feel like I’ve cheated a little bit by opting to… ‘try’ walking? Yes I do, but maybe there’s authenticity in doing something so ordinary it can barely pass for an artist date. And an amble down to the sea or into the woods always leaves me feeling lighter and well-rested so, I’m a cheap date, what can I say!

Of course I loved the opportunity to replenish my inner well. I’m a simp for sea air and putting one foot in front of the other for the sheer hell of it, after all. I watched the waves, I savoured my coffee, I focused on my breathing, I felt the sun on my big arse cheeks. I listened to some Norah fucking Jones. And it was glorious. I took the scenic route home (read: went via Waterstones. PEAK romance. And I’m not even afraid to say I was there for opening like the desperate bibliophile that I am). Jules, babes – your work here is done.

Julia Cameron’s artist date is something that’s readily available to all of us as a free tool of self-nourishment. It’s ‘me time’ stripped back with an artistic twist and a way of committing to some realistic, free and practical self-care and just-for-fun activities. Benefits include: ample serotonin and cancel any time membership, though, you probably won’t even want to (for once).

You heard what the honourable TikTok lady said: you have to start romanticising your life – may as well start with an artist date.

Darcey’s Artist Date…

I’ve always really enjoyed my alone time but I must admit that I am definitely less likely to go sit in a coffee shop or restaurant on my own, I usually have alone time in my bedroom watching a Netflix series, which is a pretty standard thing to do!

I’ve been travelling before and so I’ve sat in many restaurants and cafes on my own to have dinner etc and always enjoyed the time on my own, it wasn’t scary being sat alone but I do think being in a foreign country usually makes you care less about these things. I think because maybe I couldn’t speak the language it feels as if you are in a bubble anyway? But for some reason in my hometown, the idea of going to a restaurant on my own or just out for lunch seems a lot more intimidating!

For my artist date, I thought I’d ease myself into some alone time which wasn’t within the comfort of my own home and took myself out for a wholesome coffee date. There are so many lovely coffee shops around where I live so I took myself to one of those and grabbed my go-to order of an oat milk latte and a croissant. The vibes are always good in these coffee shops, but I decided to sit outside and enjoy the warmer weather. To be honest, I didn’t feel like anyone was even remotely bothered that I was sat alone once I was sat down, I think that’s the biggest hurdle when considering taking yourself on a date is feeling like people will be wondering why you are on your own! I enjoyed my coffee very much so, I didn’t even read a book or scroll too much on my phone and tried to just enjoy the moment, easier said than done I must admit when I’m so used to scrolling when I’m on my own in public.

I wandered down to the flower shop around the corner and bought myself some tulips, because why not buy yourself flowers! I enjoyed my me-time a lot and I proved to myself that actually taking this time for myself is the ultimate self-care and something I should do more often. I think next time I’d like to go on a solo cinema date!

Danielle’s Artist Date…

I don’t really have any qualms with being alone as I think I’m a bit of an introverted extrovert which is to say I need time alone to re-charge my batteries. I wouldn’t say doing things on my own in public scares me but I rarely organise like that because I always assume I’ll be bored. When I’m alone at home I’m usually watching a tv show or doing errands or if I’m out with the dog I have a podcast on, so I’m not left alone with thoughts very often.

I generally don’t arrange to eat at a restaurant or go on a traditional date with myself as I just think I’d be bored which is quite sad, but I think it’s because I spend enough time alone with my thoughts (mostly when I swim, obviously very little distractions there) that anything extra isn’t necessary. I love the idea of doing something nice for yourself, especially if quality time is your love language, and I wanted to challenge myself by doing something that makes me feel a little more uncomfortable which would be a full-on sit-down restaurant on my own! I also have always wanted to go to the cinema on my own but never got around to doing it so I decided to throw this in the mix as well.

I had a day off after my birthday weekend and my boyfriend was working so I thought this would be the perfect time to commit to the artist date! First up I decided on breakfast as this is the meal I have out the least and also the most relaxed. I definitely wasn’t embarrassed to be going to a restaurant alone, I would never judge someone for being there alone so I don’t expect to be judged by anyone else. But the reason I’d be uncomfortable is that I like to be present during a restaurant visit, which would be hard to do whilst steaming a show out of boredom. The waitress did pour both glasses of water when I sat down, probably out of instinct more than anything, but that was the only point I that any assumptions were made about me being on my own as I didn’t pre-book the table. So I just sucked it up and sat with myself, looked out the window at the marina and enjoyed my coffee. I went on my phone a few times but when the food came I was focused on that, which was a delicious pea fritter/poached egg situation for enquiring minds!

Before I knew it I was paying the bill and heading over to Cineworld for a bit of the ol’ batman! I treated myself to sweets and an Ice blast knowing I’d have both the armrests to myself which was a delight. When I got into the cinema I sat on my phone until the trailers started running and after that, it was exactly like any other cinema experience I’ve ever had! I missed having someone to break down the movie with after leaving, but for me, that was the only downside.

On my way home I felt so productive as I used my time to do something fulfilling instead of binging Bridgerton in a 3-hour bath (I’ll probably get round to that this week anyway!). It was such a good feeling that I usually get when I do a bit of self-care, it felt like self-care outside of the home and I’ll definitely be engaging in it again. My BF is off on a stag do in a couple of weeks and instead of planning to go away myself or worrying about being bored the whole time I’m going to take myself on another date!