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A Journey of Transformation: Creative Fruit and Flowers Retreat in Italy

What can 17 talented and inspiring women coming together for art achieve in a week? More than anything they could have ever imagined. Ohn Mar Win and Victoria Johnson‘s Creative Fruit and Flowers Art Retreat at Oliveto Estate just ended, and the buzz from their excitement is still ringing.

“The retreat exceeded my expectations. The art, the community, the amazing teachers, the inclusive and welcoming community, the food, the venue, the location… I could go on and on. Everything was perfect and this was an experience I will remember my whole life.”  —  Carla Balen

As so many participants expressed, it was a life-changing journey that sparked their transformation into more confident, expressive, and fulfilled artists. One of the things that prompted this transformation was the heartfelt community they created. The artists encouraged and supported each other throughout the retreat. @rebsville said: “you enter the room full of 16 other artists on that first day and it’s daunting! But as the week progresses… all of them add some magic to the retreat mixing pot. I’ve really connected with some incredible new friends, been influenced by their methods and art practice, learned so much from them sharing their life experiences”.

The incredible community that formed during the retreat was a powerful and gentle force that helped everyone feel safe, welcome, inspired, and understood. Many participants feel that the strong friendships they’ve created during the retreat will last for a very long time. More than once, the group got together to celebrate each other’s work, to mingle and connect with other kindred spirits. They shared special moments around the fire, enjoying delicious Italian prosecco and the stunning views of the coast from Oliveto Estate. They swam, danced together, and celebrated their newfound community.

The special context created during an art retreat was what made these friendships possible and helped the guests explore their creativity beyond their comfort zone. When you go on an art retreat, you experience a certain blend of elements that can’t be found in any other context. You are free to create knowing that all your needs are being taken care of. You don’t have to worry one bit about what you’re going to do that day, as the comfortable and inspiring schedule is already set for you. You get to focus on your art and there’s no need to fret over your next meal, as you’ll be eating delicious and nutritious food every day, like the one prepared by the fabulous Chef Barbara Federici at Oliveto Estate.

“Absolutely beyond expectations, food, venue, trips and instruction were 12 out of 10”- Krystin Mann

You are surrounded by a supportive community of like-minded people and guided by incredible teachers in an inspiring setting. @rebsville recognized the value of the special space that opens up for creatives during an art retreat: “This is how you can harness your personal creativity with absolutely no other distractions in your life with ease! Progress unhindered by daily life and all the micro-decisions you usually have to stop and make. So valuable and I can see how planning regular uninterrupted time will really develop me as an artist”. Here are some examples of the beautiful artwork and abundant creativity that was made possible during the retreat.

Authenticity was a bit of a buzzword with the group during the retreat. It has been so transformative to meet incredible artists such as Victoria Johnson and Ohn Mar Win and see them working authentically, in person. Social media is great for connecting visually with people from across the globe, but when it comes to sharing your humanity, vulnerability, and the personal things that make you so beautifully and uniquely you, it can often fall short. The participants were so enriched by the experience of seeing the people they admire making and embracing small “mistakes” in their watercolor painting and seeing how they transformed those mistakes into features that worked better than what they had planned for initially. It was so liberating to not have to do everything perfectly on your first try, to allow yourself to come back to a piece and fix it later, to allow yourself to make mistakes and realize that these imperfections open you up to more creative freedom than you could have ever imagined.

Embracing the happy accident was one of the big themes of the week. Primed by the loving nudges given by Victoria and Ohn Mar, the participants managed to step out of their comfort zone and grow as artists. “If you had told me ‘you’re going to do this — this wonderful, bold, high contrast work on Sunday’ I would have just scoffed and probably just rolled my eyes and said whatever. But I feel so confident today” said @thehappywalaplace during the farewell dinner celebrations. The fact that the participants created work beyond their expectations is testimony to their own courage and creativity. Given the right conditions, with very supportive, gentle, and loving instruction from the teachers, the artists participating in the retreat could bloom. To have someone believe in you as an artist is an incredible gift.

Flowers and props abounded during the retreat. Bright and lovely colors, playful shapes and textures, imaginative combinations, and techniques. Every participant allowed herself to explore and transform the reference setting into a work of art that holds their unique signature to it. It’s safe to say the workshop represented an evolution in the style of all those present.

"Even though I journeyed all the way to Italy I feel I, first of all, journeyed within, and it’s a journey for which I’m genuinely grateful". — Sujanitha Sambasivan

We think no one left unchanged from this retreat, including the instructors, who had a blast and are looking forward to organizing more amazing experiences next year. And so are we!

Thank you to everyone who was part of this special experience: @victoriajohnsondesign, @ohn_mar_win, @sigge_illustration, @wildazure, @rebsville, @freudenwerkstatt, @all.things.interior, @carla_maria_arts, @thehappywalaplace, @lisaparkhillart, @krystin_mann, @carolinacotoart, @annewashereandthere, @elizredsky, @nidiaalire, and 💕 Inger, @arthousewife, @villaolivomarche.

See you soon at our next UpTrek retreat!

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