Sunflower Bouquet, acrylic, 16″ x 12″
This past week I participated in the Art is Ageless show at the Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence. This art show is an annual event and anyone who is a senior citizen can enter, not just residents of the Manor. There are a number of categories including needlework, such as quilts or embroidery. The categories for paintings are either amateur or professional. But all professional means is that you occasionally sell your work. This year I won a second place ribbon for the above painting. The person writing their newsletter interviewed me before this show because I had won a best of show ribbon last year.
As a senior citizen this was a good show for me to enter because it was near where I lived and only required me to deliver two paintings. Best of all, although I could have entered by computer, I didn’t have to. I could just hand in a form filled out by hand when I delivered my paintings. They didn’t even charge an entry fee. Of course there was no prize money either, which may be whey there are not very many entries, although I’m sure Lawrence must have many senior artists.
Often artists keep making art long after the age of 65. In fact some take it up in retirement. The Artist magazine also recognizes this with an annual contest for senior artists. A problem for senior artists is not so much the making of art but showing it. The time when I could lug many paintings to an outdoor show that might last a couple days, find help to put up a tent, and sit out there in all kinds of weather is past. I now only do one outdoor show, Art in the Park in Lawrence, which does not involve long travel and only last a half a day. Also, this show still allows people to enter by submitting photographs.
A major difficulty for senior citizen artists is entering art shows. They almost all require computers not only for the form and to pay the fee but also to submit images of one’s art work. Some seniors don’t even have computers. Others, like me, have them but only use them for a few simple things. I haven’t found the help categories on my computer very helpful. Sometimes my husband can figure it out. My son who knows the most about computers lives too far away.
If you are planning an art show in your community, also make it friendly to older artists. Let people enter either by computer or by snail mail with photographs and a check. If the show, either indoors or out, is the kind where each individual brings a number of paintings, maybe have a few younger people available to help those who are less able. As we share what we are creating we may also encourage others to keep on keeping on.
While many people retire at around age 65 and completely stop doing what they’ve spent much of their time doing for years, this does not seem to be true of artists. Instead, some may find that when they stop earning a living, they have more time for art. And even those who have been creating art for years may not be willing to give it up just because they are aging.
But we artists have to be realistic. As an aging painter I know that there are physical aspects of what I do that become more difficult with the passing years. If I want to keep on painting, and I do, I will have to adapt. And as it happens, I’ve found several ways to do that. The first, which I did several years ago, was to buy a new French easel that had wheels and a long handle like my suitcase. I ordered it from Blick, but their current catalog doesn’t have one. I’m often a plein air painter and carrying a heavy easel and other gear was getting harder. Then there are the acrylic paints that I use. Those small metal lids seem to easily have paint stick in them and are hard to open. If I’m painting inside, I run hot water over them and that helps, but I can’t do that if I’m painting outside. So now I use only Liquitex paints with their big plastic lids that will open no matter where I am.
I find that a camera is a vital tool. I photograph the scene I’m painting in plein air in case I need to finish the painting at home. And I always photograph every finished painting and put the photos on my computer in case I need them to enter art shows. The problem was that my hands are not as steady as they used to be. At home I use a tripod but when I’m outside and want to photograph something I might want to paint some day, I don’t want a blurred picture. When my current camera stopped working and I had to buy a new one, I chose a small Sony that was advertised as taking very sharp pictures. And it does. Husband says it is because of the higher number of pixels.
My latest gadget, which I used for the first time on our recent tour of gardens in England, is shown above, a cane with a fold up seat. I took it because I knew I couldn’t do a lot of walking without having to sit down and rest occasionally. But I discovered it was very useful for sketching, since it provided me a place to sit in the exact location I wanted. I had ordered it on the internet a few years ago for a previous trip and didn’t use it then. So with a little help from these aids, I plan to continue painting.
Reverie, acrylic, 20″ x 8″
June 6, 2013
In the final week of Stems Plein Air at the Overland Park, KS, Arboretum I only painted one day because of rainy weather, of which we’ve had an abundance lately. When one is painting with other artists in a plein air event it can be a challenge to come up with something that looks at least somewhat original, since other artists are painting in the same location. Above is my attempt. I had found a frame I liked that was 8″ x 20″ and I stretched a canvas to fit it. The usual way to paint on a long, narrow canvas is horizontally. So I did a vertical painting and I like the results.
At the end of the event each artist could turn in three paintings for judging to decide which ones will be in a show. The above painting is one of three I turned in. I also turned in the one of the lake I did the first week. I haven’t found out the results of the judging yet.
In the meantime I am in another show that is not dependent on weather, since it is inside on the lower level of Drury Place in Lawrence. I and several other artists are showing there during June. Drury Place is an independent living retirement facility. The people there live in small apartments and probably already have any art that they want, so I don’t expect any sales. But it is still a good thing to do since even people who may no longer be driving can still enjoy and appreciate art. I’ve had compliments from a couple of the residents whom I know.
But the weather is a big concern for Saturday June 8 when rain is predicted. I have agreed to participate in Winesong in the DeSoto, Ks, area. It is an event featuring wine tasting from local vinyards, food, as well as art by 25 different artists. I’ll be there in my tent hoping some of the folks who have already purchased tickets will love wine and art enough to brave any inclement weather.
March 17, 2013
I’ve noticed lately that there is more recognition of senior citizen artists as a category. Two different retirement communities in Lawrence, Presbyterian Manor and Drury Place, are scheduling art shows for senior citizen artists. These artists don’t have to live in the residences but their art must have been produced during the artists’ senior years. I’ll be entering both of these. Also, during the last several years Artist Magazine has featured a competition for senior citizen artists in one issue a year.
While I have occasionally seen a feature article in an art magazine on young or emerging artists, usually artists aren’t defined by their age. They are defined by their work. I’m not sure why senior artists are being featured. Maybe because there are more and more of us becoming seniors as baby boomers age and life expectancy has increased. Also, art is an unusual occupation. While many in other lines of work look forward to ending their careers at age 65 or before, often artists are becoming more active in their chosen field as they age because their children have grown and they have retired from the job that supported them and their art.
This week I have experienced another happy aspect of art and the senior citizen. Some senior citizens now find they have the time and resources to become art appreciators and collectors. I spoke recently with a very enthusiastic senior woman who had bought a small painting of mine from the Topeka Art Guild Gallery several months ago. This week she came to my home to see more of my paintings and bought another one. She said she had very recently begug to collect art and was filling her walls with paintings. What artist wouldn’t like to meet more people like that.
Jan. 28, 2012
At the place where I go for physical therapy, another patient heard the therapist call me by name and then asked me if I was the person who had done the painting of Clinton Store hanging in the hall. I said that I was. He could tell that the painting had been done some years before,14 actually, because the store had since deteriorated considerably. We got to talking and he asked about where some of my other paintings might be hanging. I told him and also mentioned that I would be showing my paintings at Art in the Park in Lawrence the first Sunday in May.
“Oh, are you still painting?” he asked. That seemed such a ridiculous question to me. Unlike other occupations, about the only reason artists retire is if they are too physically disabled to continue. Yes, retirement years are definitely different for the artist and there are some wonderful descriptions of them in the March 2012 issue of “the Artist’s magazine.” This issue features 10 winners in the magazine’s annual Over 60 Art Competition. The winning paintings and short biographies of the artists are included. The article is titled “At Their Peak” and begins, “The winners of our Over 60 Art Competition are joyfully obsessed now that they’re free to devote themselves to making art.”
The truth is that most artists can’t make a living doing what they feel compelled to do. So they must support themselves in some way while also raising families. That doesn’t leave much time for art. Even those who find employment in commercial art may long for the time when they can produce their own vision. Providing one’s health remains relatively good, retirement offers the opportunity to finally devote large chunks of time to what they love doing.
So if you look longingly back on your days as an art student or have always thought that art was something you wished you had time for, it’s not too late. As family responsibilities lessen, begin taking art classes. Join an art association in your community and get to know other artists. Attend their exhibits. And when it is time for you to retire you will be filled with joyful possibilities for a brand new life.