Still Arting


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.



Painting Demonstration


Handcrafted, Acrylic, 12″ x 12″

I sometimes like to watch those artists on the public television station demonstrate how they paint.  They seem so sure of themselves, as if they know from the beginning that this will be a really good painting.  Some encourage their viewers to paint along with them, but they paint so fast that this doesn’t seem practical.  How do they do it?  I recently had reason to ask myself that question.

I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and there is a back room at their gallery where art classes are sometimes held.  The teacher of a weekly afternoon class of primarily senior citizens asked me to demonstrate plein air painting to her class.  Since this was in February, going outside was not an option.  But she wanted her students, who usually painted from photographs, to learn more about the art of painting what is in front of you.  I said I would do it and then had to figure out how to go about it.

When I paint outdoors in a public space, such as a park, people sometimes look over my shoulder briefly to see what I am doing and maybe make comments.  But they come and go quickly and I don’t really talk much to them.  I just keep painting.  This would be different.  I needed to figure out how those artists on TV did it.  I decided on a simple still life that I would paint on a small canvas.  I chose three objects that I had in my house.  They represented simple shapes, a sphere, a cone, and a cylinder, that students in art classes learn to shade.

First I practiced painting the still life at home.  Some of the drawing did not look quite right.  So then I practiced just drawing the still life several times with charcoal.  Finally it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to draw the still life ahead of time on the canvas to be sure to get it right.  Finally the big day arrived and I set up my easel and the still life in the room before the class arrived.  I talked a little bit about plein air painting to the class and about the objects I had chosen to paint.

It turned out to be easier than I had imagined.  Mostly the class members concentrated on their own work, occasionally walking up to where I was painting to see what I was doing and ask questions.  I didn’t quite finish the painting during class time, but I got enough done that they could see how it would look.  I finished it at home.  I plan to enter it in the next Topeka Art Guild show, so they will be able to see the completed painting.

Art and the Holidays

Dec. 31, 2015

While I’ve been too busy to paint during the holidays, art continues to be a part of my life.  And I’ve been learning about a new form that may or may not be something I would consider art.  We had a big gathering of relatives here to celebrate Christmas with lots of presents under the tree.  Among those were crayons, magic markers and paper for a three year old and a big set of art supplies and sketchbooks for an 11 year old.  Both these gifts were requested by their moms and I think it’s great when parents want to encourage creativity in their children.

But then I listened to what several adult women had to say about a new activity for adults, adult coloring books.  One had received a book as a gift and had tried it and enjoyed it.  Another, who has done some creative art, is buying the books for herself as a form of relaxation after a day on the job.  A young woman who works at a senior care facility said a woman of very advanced age who lived in the facility spent many happy hours with such books.

I don’t know what to make of this.  It is true that these books are nothing like the coloring books children used to use.  The adult version features intricate abstract designs that are filled in with colored pencils.  Is this a creative activity?  I suppose some would say so.  I’m not against people following patterns.  Women who sew, quilt, knit or crochet have been doing that for many years and create attractive, creative and useful items.  But what does one do with a completed page in a coloring book?  Another thought.  While both men and women pursue various forms of the arts, I can’t imagine a man using an adult coloring book.  But I’ll try to keep an open mind even though I won’t be buying one for myself.


A Change of Pace


On the Balcony, acrylic, 16″ x 12″

It is easy to keep doing the same things over and over, especially if we’ve had some success doing it that way.  But we never know what we might learn and enjoy if we try something a little different.  For some years I have painted with a small group of women.  The two most faithful members live in the country so we usually paint on their land.  And it can be a problem finding something I haven’t painted before, maybe more than once.

Recently we had a new woman join our group.  Like the rest of us, she’s a senior citizen, but has been a more active artist both in time spent creating art and in entering shows both locally and in other communities.  I was surprised when she said she had never painted with a group before and I admired her willingness to give us a try.  When she invited us to her house in town to paint, I was glad to be going to a new location.

Her home contained an amazing amount of art, not only her own paintings but an extensive collection of pottery that she had collected in her travels, both in this country and abroad.  I can’t imagine buying pottery in some distant location and trying to get it home intact.  As I looked around for a place to paint, there was pottery everywhere.  Finally, I went out on a balcony overlooking the back yard.  The day was a bit cold for painting outside, but this balcony was enclosed in glass, which made it a perfect place to paint.  And of course there was pottery on the balcony t00.

I have been drawn more to still life recently and this pottery was an interesting challenge, as was the tile floor of the balcony.  Exactly what colors were these objects?  It was fun to figure that out.  Drawing the pots took some careful observation.  Exactly what shape are they and how does one make sure both sides are the same?  At home, I checked what I had done in this way.  I drew around one of the pots on tracing paper and then folded it in half.  I decided which half I liked best and then cut around it so that both sides were now the same.  Then I placed this on the painting of the pottery and drew around it with charcoal, which showed me where I needed to make corrections.  You can do this with elipses too, such as the one at the top of the larger pot.

I have a couple ideas of new places to paint and I can’t wait to give them a try.


Rain, Rain, Go Away

Reverie, acrylic, 20" x 8"

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.

Art and the Senior Citizen

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.

Creativity Endures

January 24, 2013

I spent an interesting and productive morning recently with a group of very creative women.  We met in the walk out lower floor studio in the country home of one of our members.  We five are, with possibly one exception, all senior citizens and all have been creative artists of one kind or another for many years. 

Being older can present physical challenges in creating art.  But what amazes me about the older artists I know is that there is always a plan B or C, etc.  When one activity is no longer possible, another creative activity takes its place.  One woman used to be a very creative weaver.  But age can take strength and dexterity from one’s hands.  The looms are now gone from her studio.  She then switched to dying silk and creating beautiful silk scarves.  But now after a long illness she says that process is too long and tiring.

When we met at her studio we marveled at the beautiful nature photos that she has taken and used to make greeting cards.  In addition she showed us the valentines she has been making with a collage on the front of each featuring tiny pieces of painted silk, lace, etc.  They are truly works of art.

So we enjoyed each other’s company, each of us doing our own creative thing.  One woman was spinning alpaca yarn, another was preparing to begin a watercolor by applying mastic to the paper which she wanted to keep white.  Another, who arrived late, was looking through art magazines.

I had brought a 16″ x 12″ painting I had done in the fall that just did not quite work.   With me I brought the means to fix it, which involved removing the canvas from its stretchers, cutting off about the top third and then attaching what was left to 9″ x 12″ stretchers.  I made some minor changes to the painting and then framed it with an old frame from my stash which I stained to a darker color.  There were a few raised eyebrows when I started cutting up my painting, but they later agreed with me that its new look was much better.

We ended our morning with lunch while watching the birds at the bird feeder outside the window.