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A Case for Coming to Art Late in Life-Part 1

The Way 20x21" oil on panel ©2018 Janice Mason Steeves

There are a lot of us out there who have come to art later in life. My workshops are filled with women (mostly) who are between the ages of 50 and 75 (The baby boom generation). Probably most are between 60 and 75. And what interesting people they are! They bring their life experiences with them to their art––their heartaches, joys, achievements, worries, and gratitude. And they are, for the most part, committed artists. They are embracing art like it's finally their time. It's what they've been waiting their whole lives to do. They come with their souls on fire.

"and there was a new voice 
which you slowly
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company
as 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." The Journey by Mary Oliver

 It doesn't matter how old you are if you have passion for life.

That passion can carry us a long way. And while recognition is important in the way of sales, or exhibitions, most older artists don't so much need the money, except to take workshops, buy art supplies and travel. Many are retired and have a pension. There's a freedom that's been earned.

Lunch hour conversations during my workshops are deep and rich. In one especially intense lunchtime  conversation, a woman cried as she talked about her daughter who was born with a serious handicap. She mentioned that after 30 years of constant caring, she finally had time for herself and her art as her daughter was now in a care facility. She was so open, trusting and vulnerable that the rest of the group shared their life stories with the same depth. Two shared that their sons had been suicidal, another talked about how she had been scarred by being adopted into an abusive family.

These are the stories that we bring to our work as we come as mature artists. This is the depth we bring.

"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.........." I will not die an unlived life––Dawna Markova

It's important to acknowledge the wealth of experience we bring to our art and how important it is to remain vulnerable and open, to really show ourselves. This is not the time to hold back.

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is,
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"  The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

The Way 2  16x24"  Oil on panel  ©2018 Janice Mason Steeves


  1. OMG Janice - such a wonderful and important post xo

  2. just found your blog and am inspired....being a woman of 66 years old, and having been a professional potter for almost 30....i've been able to find time and resources for my creative passions....have been using pastels for many years and have just begun using cold wax and oil, and i love it. i'm out on the east coast, Cape Breton, and am happy to know that you are in Ontario (my old home province) and will keep track of ongoing workshops you will be giving. Also, you had me at 'Mary Oliver'....hahahaha....cheers, Linda

    1. HI Linda I might suggest you sign up for my mailing list to find out about upcoming workshops: for my studio workshops and for my art/travel workshops. Thanks for your interest.


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