Becoming an “Artist” at 50

Becoming an “Artist” at 50

When people tell me that they can’t dance, that they’re too old to start,I quote a dear dance friend who says “you only think the window of opportunity has closed. Dance.” Well, I’m applying that to my life now.

I’ve wanted to draw since I was little. I used to try to get my mother (a trained commercial artist) to teach me realistic pencil drawing. I started pestering her when I was five, that I remember. I also remember getting very frustrated that I just couldn’t get mine to look like hers – she was not the best art teacher for a youngster who didn’t want to go through the steps of growing up before creating adult art! I decided I couldn’t draw. And that was that. (Well, not quite. It was underscored by an art teacher in high school when I decided to try again…) The message I received was, “don’t bother, you’re a dancer, not an artist.”

My college roommate was a double major in Art and Theatre (costume design). She also insisted that she could teach anyone to draw. I laughed at her. And then I tried. And then I discovered calligraphy. And put aside the drawing practice. Again. Even though it would have helped immensely. Then I discovered cross stitch design. Did you know that designing needlework of all types can be done quite well even if you can’t draw?

GuardiansS3 Abstract painting 14X17 inches. $75.00 AvailableSo here I am. 50 years old as of last month. And last year I called myself “artist” for the first time, instead of “designer.”  And spent a lot of the year playing with media before I realized that I love abstract acrylic work, but I adore watercolor. Something that requires good drawing skills. So here I am at 50. Deciding that I want to be a REAL artist when I grow up. Possibly in illustration. And in embroidery, because there is no way I’m giving up that medium!

But what does that mean, really? It means that I’m sketching now. A LOT. It means that I’ve discovered that I can’t be precious about supplies. Even the expensive ones. I have to use them. A lot. It means that I’ve filled up a 100 page sketchbook, some pages both sides, in the last 6 months. And that I can see improvement. Am I a professional in my drawing ability? No. Will I be? Quite possibly. Do I wish that I’d had more age-and-skill-appropriate encouragement earlier on, before I’d decided it was impossible? Most definitely.

But my window of opportunity has not closed. It just got stuck barely open. Is there something you always wanted to do? I can pretty much guarantee that your window isn’t closed, just stuck, too. Try it and tell me how it went!

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