Some people excel in painting, ceramics, collage and other artistic media. I do well in photography, but not so well in others. But that knowledge doesn’t keep me from dreaming of success in every medium.
A group of friends I’ve known for many years used to get together for all kinds of art projects, from coloring and making prints of dead fish (gyotaku), to rubber stamping cards, making birdbaths, and binding books. As we’ve moved farther apart, and our get-togethers involve longer drives, art had to give way to simply catching up.
For months, I’d been admiring my friend Mary’s art projects on Facebook, many done through on-line classes during the covid quarantine. During a recent breakfast with Mary and other friends, I hearkened back to the earlier group’s activities and asked if she’d teach us some of the techniques she’d been learning. These friends were as eager as I to try something new, and we immediately scheduled our first lesson.
Why would a group of retirees, who spent their working lives in high-pressure careers, want to play with art? Creativity and aging have been linked together for decades. To quote a New York Times article (March 1981), called “Creativity in Old Age,” we are looking for an “opportunity to attend to parts of ourselves that we never had the time or the energy or the chance to develop earlier in life.”
A more recent article in Forbes magazine echoes the need for creativity as we age.
Ahead of our date, Mary sent sample designs — birds mushrooms, flowers, and other simple figures— for painting.
She created books for each of us to work in. As if any of us wanted to spoil our new books with our art, we used the paper she brought instead.
Obsessed with a recent experience watching a barred owl dive-bomb a jogger, I’ve become interested in owls and decided to draw one before our get-together.
I soon replaced the old adage, “Lose the need to be perfect” with “Try not to embarrass yourself completely.” Too late.
A day later, four of us sat around a table surrounded by pens, watercolors, pencils, and calming background music, and became completely absorbed playing with paints.
When I got home, my husband made sure I didn’t misjudge my work. “Your fish looks more like an owl than your owl. You need a model.” I followed his advice. Great art it’s not, but he does look angry enough to dive-bomb an innocent jogger.
I dug out things I drew thirty years ago and reminded myself I can do it, though perhaps not anytime soon. I look forward to returning to our class next month. As one woman described the experience, “Our day of art and painting was an oasis in an otherwise overwhelming world. I am suddenly mindful, once again, of the art that surrounds me, and I am so grateful for it.”