Are you a visual person still yearning to find a way to express yourself creatively? Are you considering entering the world of fine art?
Whether you’re just starting out or returning to art at a “later stage” of your life, it’s not too late. Let’s say you’ve already had a lifelong career and now you’re ready for your next challenge. This is a great time to shift your focus toward tackling an art practice.
Some friends and family will be supportive while others might view this shift dismissively, and as simply a retirement hobby. Don’t let the “hobby-mongers” influence you. Art-making is a serious business. It’s unfortunate that so many of us had to put our artistic ambitions aside during our “earning years”.
I’ve learned from my own experience that making any major life change as an older person is fraught with challenges. Most cultures don’t readily support mature women starting over. There’s so much more enthusiasm and encouragement for youthful explorations. But we have to get past that.
What might support you in pursuing your new art practice? Maybe you’ve gone to museums, galleries and art shows all your life. Maybe you already know a bunch of practicing artists. Or maybe this is brand new for you. You might begin to make a shift into the art world by immersing yourself. Here are some ways to get started:
- See a lot of art (visit galleries, museums, art fairs).
- Read about art (subscribe to art publications and read art books).
- Talk about art (don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a museum docent or a gallerist).
- Explore and experiment with materials.
- Learn how to explain your work so that others understand your motivations and goals.
- Write an Artist Statement and an Artist Bio.
- Create a work schedule – structure your art practice like a job with regular hours.
- Designate a physical space for making.
- Keep an art journal to keep track of your dreams, ideas, and life experiences.
- Seek out an artistic community because there’s so much to learn and share.
Art is a Business
At some point it is likely you’ll want to exhibit and sell your art. When you treat your art practice as a serious business, others will see it that way too. This means addressing all of the practical aspects of running and promoting your art business.
Gain Recognition and Value
It’s never too late to gain some recognition as an artist. Luckily the art world is starting to open up more for women, people of color, and older folks. Mature women, who have for too long been made to feel invisible, are simply bursting with rich stories to tell through art. People are finally becoming interested in what we have to say. You might already take your art-making seriously but once you begin exhibiting, selling, collaborating with other artists, and having people write about your art you and others are likely to value your work more.
Take time to track your progress and document it. Save it. Frame it. Store it safely. Someday you might have the opportunity to have a retrospective exhibition. It’s not too late for these outcomes even if you got off to a “late start”.
Go for it
I became friendly with a woman artist who I met virtually during Covid through Zoom life model drawing sessions. Although these groups are international, we soon discovered that we live in the same area. Now we’ve met in person, and Ellen told me her story. She’s a great example of someone who, in her mid-70s, chose to become an artist. For the last two years she’s been pursuing an art career with the same vigor with which she pursued her high-powered career. The many lifelong artists she spends time with now through life drawing groups are frequently charmed by her fresh enthusiasm. She is fearless and she is clearly enjoying this artistic stage of her life.
Connect with Others
Through a membership with my local women’s gallery, I’ve met many women artists at varying stages along the path of becoming full-time dedicated artists. They are often retired, or empty nesters, or simply ready to move on to their next all-consuming life pursuit – art.
Get the kickstart you need through women’s groups, classes, workshops, art and critique groups, art studio communities, an art coach or a mentor (there’s an abundance of virtual coaches and in-person coaches), and art co-ops and membership organizations.
Look to your peers – other older women artists – to get recommendations and support. A commitment to spending money, time, and energy becoming the artist you always wanted to be is very likely to pay off and feel great.
Live the Creative Life
If you decide to make visual art the creative channel you pursue, you can look forward to tremendous satisfaction from your achievements. It will likely feel quite different to live the life of an artist compared to your previous career experiences. Success comes from honing your talent, ideas, creative processes, and projects. Tapping into your creative force can help you feel ageless, timeless, and is a tremendous gift to yourself. As some doors in life close to you, you can open others.
Susan R. Kirshenbaum.
Art. Creativity. Lifestyle. Women’s Empowerment.