Towards the end of April, I eagerly prepared for my first trip to Mexico. Only a few weeks beforehand did I discover that I would be taking this trip. After receiving an email from Betsy of February 13 Creative personally inviting me along to her Art Brand Retreat in Tulum, it was an instant yes for me. Not only had I been dreaming about attending Magic Jungle some day, but in combination with Betsy, it became a magical opportunity to attend with a focus on art brand and business. The two sisters behind Magic Jungle, watercolour artist and teacher Ana Victoria and dreamweaver Margarita, were not only hosting us but also joining in this intimate group of artists.
Betsy is a coach who has come from a background of various roles in the commercial art and publishing world, and has worked with many artists that I myself have admired over the years. One of them was a design client of mine which is how we first met. She is the go-to person when you need help with anything relating to business around your art. Whether it’s expanding and fine-tuning your vision, contract negotiations, licensing deals, your business potential and understanding your worth and power as an artist.
For myself, I was coming into a stage in my business where I am considering which paths I might like to explore in terms of publishing, licensing, distribution and wholesaling. To date I’ve self-published all my own work and I’ve come to a point where I think I could also create some amazing things in partnership with other businesses. So the timing of this retreat was pretty ideal.
Above: Ana Leovy and I hanging in the gorgeous pool in between sessions.
Over our few days together we worked through defining our values and mission, shared a lot about what works and doesn’t work, learned how each of us have found success in various different ways, and brainstormed what each of us might be able to do with our marketing and social media.
While this is far from your typical networking event and we were there to learn from Betsy, spending time with artists who have done some things I would like to do; the stories, advice and potential contacts that come up are so valuable. As someone who does not often attend group events, and while it’s sometimes overwhelming, I know that so much value can be gained from doing it. In addition, to have people meet you, get to know you, and then be able to tell you or reaffirm your unique gifts and voice, it’s pure gold as an artist working on your own. I feel like I was spoiled with the people I was able to do this with, and I miss them all terribly.
Betsy really helped us with understanding where each of us currently are, what we can do and how we can do it. And I also wanted to give a shout out to Chuck, Betsy’s husband, who somehow managed to explain a lot of the legal side of an art business in a way that we not only understood but could engage in interesting conversations about. He gave us knowledge that enables us to recognise our rights and our value, how to keep our best interests at the forefront and know what we can do in the future.
Above left: A lovely illustration that Jennifer (@augustwren) created of the group on the last day. Above right: Ana Victoria’s (@anavictoriana) watercolour interpretation of one of the Uplift Each Other card from the Inner Star Oracle which I absolutely adore.
Well the location of our retreat, Holistika Tulum, could definitely be described purely as the magic jungle. Everything around the place has grown and expanded organically. There is sacred geometry embedded everywhere, beautiful mosaics spotted around the place and messages on signs which always make you smile. We were spoiled with the most delicious spread of vegetarian dishes, it was food heaven. Even weeks later I am still dreaming of that food!
We experienced a welcoming ceremony around the fire pit, swam in the purifying waters of a cenote, floated after a sound bath in the most majestic sound temple, meditated (and drew cards from the Inner Star Oracle!) inside a Mayan head and occasionally I’d swim in a huge pool all to myself under the blanket of stars at night. We also triple checked our beds each night to make sure no creatures were already cosy within them, it is the jungle after all!
While we were there, Tulum’s arts and culture festival ‘Art With Me’ was happening as well, so lots of extra creative artists, performers and installations were present around the resort.
Above left: The altar we created on our first night to set our intentions and bring together our energies for the next few days. Above right: Third eye chakra mosaic, one of the many mosaics around Holistika.
Now let me tell you a little about each of the ladies that I was lucky enough to spend time with.
Ana has such a colourful, free and diverse artistic style, and she is very funny and outright adorable.
Dari has such a great balance of not only creating but learning and sharing about the creative process.
I think we were all just in awe of Jill’s imagination and how she uses humour to connect with people.
Salli’s illustrations always feel joyful, playful, and beautifully styled. Exactly as she is in person.
Jennifer Orkin Lewis
Jennifer is the sweetest soul and incredibly talented, her work is a wonderful reflection of her dedicated art practice.
Karen is a fun, quirky, and playful artist, and loves to live in the beauty of the present moment.
Meenal’s kind and loving personality is so evident in her work. It was a real gift to have her in the group.
Ana Victoria Calderón
Ana’s watercolour skills are the bomb, and you’ll always find her painting no matter where she is!
Margarita brought so much magic to the retreat, creating rituals for us, like sending wishes flying into the sky on fire.
See her Instagram
Coming Back Home
It was really hard to leave Mexico! This was such a unique experience and I’m so happy that I took the chance to go. The biggest lesson I walked away with (although there were many) was believing in my ideas and not being as scared to devote myself to them. I have been finding ways to limit myself or play small and this is not what I want to be doing anymore. From everything that each person shared, the real experience behind the scenes of their own businesses, makes it so important to make time to connect in real life, not just online.
I hope you enjoyed the recap!