Late-life Artists – Transforming Life Experience Into Art

I see an increasing number of professionals who find themselves transforming their life experiences into art. Many of these mid and late-life artists were launched into art by taking a course taught by a professional artist, while others simply find themselves caught up by late-onset creativity.

Whatever the reason, these late-life artists are playing an important part in Floyd. In fact, the majority of students at the residential craft school at the Jacksonville Center in Floyd are grey-haired veterans of life and industry.

A little background for those who are not familiar with the Center: The Jacksonville Center offers a wide range of classes from pastels and watercolors to pottery, glassworking and blacksmithing to students of all ages. The students range from beginning artists and craftworkers to well-known professionals who are cross-training in other disciplines. The cooperative interaction (synergy) between students at different levels is one of many benefits of these classes.

I think the reasons we find so many late-life artists emerging is that "Art" is not an easy way for a young person to make a living . Many young people, myself included, investigated making a living as artists and concluded reluctantly that we were not able to support a family with art although we could do so as engineers, salespersons or business managers. Some artists were making a good living, but I concluded that I did not have the skill or connections to succeed at that time.

Many of us made our choices to work at careers which enabled us to support our families, but once we reached an age where we had no corporate responsibilities, we could reignite our passions for creative work and explore new opportunities as craft workers and artists.

This delayed entrance into the world of art is not necessarily a disadvantage. Unlike ballet, where you are too old at 13 to entertain thoughts of a career, a career in painting can be launched at the age of 79 (Grandma Moses).

Art can be considered a communication where the artist evokes a response in the observer. Artists with a great deal of interesting life experience only need to learn to translate that life experience into a recognizable communication and they will generally find a ready audience.

Late-life artists may even have a certain advantage over young artists. At the same level of technical skill, the older artist has more to communicate about that will resonate with potential buyers.

This also applies to writers, as best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver recently commented:

Learn everything you can about the world. … Having something to say is more important than trying to guess what people want to hear. … Live long enough to have something wise to say.

Many thanks to Colleen Redman for capturing Barbara’s comment.

I have a backlog of interviews I have done with late-life artists and crafters and will be posting them here in the next few days. Their stories are both fascinating and inspiring. I think you will find them thought-provoking also.

Stay tuned…


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