Drawing for the ages — or the aged

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.


A cross between an owl and a fox?

Who let the 3-year-old into my art supplies?

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.”

An earlier, more successful exercise.

Enjoying drawing in Guanajuato, Mexico during a summer in the 1990’s.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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10 Responses to Drawing for the ages — or the aged

  1. Nancy Inui says:

    Such fun to read, especially after the lunch discussion about it. I remember the excellent drawing from Mexico quite clearly. In a fit of previously unexpressed art fervor, I tried to sketch a few times on an early trip to England. Truly no good but it was fun and there was no one else to view so the embarrassment factor didn’t apply. Cheers!


  2. Betina Finley says:

    I laughed out loud! Your self-deprecating humor is priceless. Always look forward to your blog posts!

  3. Darlene Bishop says:

    I love that art can be an oasis—it certainly is for me. I remember once upon a time, you gave me a set of notecards with some of your drawings/paintings from Guanajuato—you should return to this medium—you’re talented.

  4. Marilyn Pedersen says:

    Bravo and well done, Ann!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  5. Evelyn Cogswell says:

    Really fun reading–and so true.

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