By far the majority of students in my painting workshops are women over 50. Most have had long and accomplished careers and many are either retired or planning their retirement. With more time now, many want to return to their love of painting or come to learn how to paint abstractly or to develop new skills.
One thing I often hear is how difficult it is to create a space to work, to be serious about creativity and to make the time for art. It's surprising to me, all these years after the feminist movement, to hear many of these accomplished women talking like this. You'd think that now when the children are grown and gone, and (perhaps) a regular pension is coming in, that there would be much more time for creativity. There are lots of things that seem to interfere. Many regularly babysit their grandchildren or do volunteer work or are the main caregivers for aging parents.
Can you take your creativity seriously? Who will give you that time and space?
I was in my mid-thirties when I began to paint. I took workshops one after another and I painted every day, for an hour or two or more if I could find the time. Still, I had a hard time taking myself seriously. It felt like painting was just a hobby. I had a show in my home a few years after I began and sold everything. Still, I didn't believe I was an artist, couldn't call myself one and didn't take myself seriously. I painted on the kitchen table at first. Then in a corner of the spare bedroom. Eventually I went to art school as a full time student to study Drawing and Painting.
Even when I'd finished art school, friends still phoned during the day, asking me to go for a walk, or for coffee or lunch. When I said I couldn't because I was painting, some would laugh at me and say, "You're not serious are you?" There were always demands on my time from friends and from family as well.
"One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop."...................... excerpt from Mary Oliver's poem, The Journey
How can you take your art seriously?
Do you have to sell your art before you can take yourself seriously? Before others take you seriously?
I came to realize that no one would take me seriously unless I did. It became an issue of boundaries. I set boundaries for myself to allow myself the freedom to work. I made appointments at the end of the day or in the evening. I created a space in my house for a studio. I called it the Studio. I began to set studio hours that I blocked off on my calendar. I didn't answer the phone during the day.
Gradually, gradually, it became a routine. Friends stopped calling in the daytime or left a message. No one asked me out to lunch. I built a bigger studio. I organized my week around my studio time.
I still do that.
"........you strode deeper and deeper
into the world.
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save."..........Mary Oliver, The Journey