Monday, June 29, 2015

Coming to Art Later in Life



Writing at the kitchen window at my residency in Sweden. Photo: Rebecca Crowell

I've been back from my artist residency in Southern Lapland for nearly three weeks now. Almost all of my creative time there, and since I've come back home, has been spent working on a book. The idea for this book came to me in a dream about three years ago, when I was on another artist residency, and it's been sitting there at the back of my mind for all this time.

It's a book dedicated to all those artists, who have come to art later in life, as I did. While I was in Sweden, I sent out a questionnaire to a number of artists. The scope of the project grew as those artists suggested others. I've received incredibly touching stories from people, telling me how important it is that they finally have the time to focus on their art. It's as though they are getting in touch now with part of their soul that they'd longed to connect with.

They've come to art later in life for a few reasons. Some, like me, never considered art an option. I grew up in a family where we did lots of family activities and summer camping, but art was not part of our lives. We never once visited an art gallery. The only one in our family who had some artistic ability was my oldest brother who could draw cartoons. I had this magical, childlike idea that whatever talent might be granted to a family, he had received the entirety of it. For me, art wasn't even a possibility until many years later when I took a pottery class.The excitement of the creativity that so suddenly came alive, kept me sleepless every night after class. And later, a watercolour class would do the same. Those initial artistic encounters literally changed my life.

Sometimes people have had to wait for their artistic opportunities. Some of the artists who sent me their stories told me that they weren't able to study art as they were growing up because they were discouraged, even forbidden, by their families who wanted them to be able to earn a living. So they studied other subjects, they took other jobs but always, art was at the back of their minds. They carried that burning desire to connect with art their whole lives, until now, finally, they could do that. Others came late because they had been discouraged by teachers. One woman was insulted by a teacher in her first year of art school, who told her that she 'couldn't paint worth ......". It took her most of a lifetime to come back to art after that. Some came to art through illness, and found it to be  a way of healing. They've continued to paint once they healed. 

These are heartfelt stories of the power of art in our lives that show us it doesn't matter when we connect with art, the important thing is that we eventually do. The timing must be right.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her audiobook, The Late Bloomer, speaks about there being a perfect timing for things. Not everything blooms at the same time. Her Aunt Edna told her, " It's alright to encourage the young geniuses of the world, but it's the old [ones] who know all the dance steps."

8 comments:

  1. Thank you. I have seen your work before and much admired it.
    Far too often I find myself comparing myself to those who have the opportunities to follow their path in art from a young age and I see so many opportunities I have missed.
    But, each lives their own life, there can be no comparisons. Time and experience can be just as valuable and rewarding, no matter how it is gained.

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    1. Hi Kallena, Thanks for your thoughts. I'm reminded of the Saguaro cactus that only blooms after 35 years and the Magasgar Palm that blooms after 100 years. Our blooming time is just a little later! Or our second blooming. Maybe you've already had a chance to bloom in another way before now. I'm grateful to have found art at all!

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  2. This is a sensitive subject for me, having stopped to create for more than 20 years, hurt as I was by a failure in my early artistic career. I will follow the progress of your book with great interest.

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    1. Hi Louise, I'm so sorry to hear this. You can email me if you wish to tell me your story: janicemasonsteeves@gmail.com

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  3. I'm so glad I found you thanks to a referral from Scott Gellatly of Gamblin. I wrote to inquire about Cold Wax process. I have been painting for many years but have not been able to really concentrate due to having to make a living in real estate which, to me, is very chaotic. I'm well past retirement age and about to take the plunge with not much net!

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  4. How's your book coming along?

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    1. Hi Debrah, It's still on the go but with a hiatus to teach some workshops and do some of my own painting. Thanks for asking. I'll post more when I have some new news!

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