Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog one comment repeatedly surprises me: I’m under 50, but can I still be called an Ancient Artist?
My answer is yes, of course! And I realized I needed to write about why this blog is titled Ancient Artist and why Age has little do to with it.
The power of art to change the way our brains work.
Back in school I wrote a thesis paper titled The Cognitive Benefits of Cave Art for Paleolithic Man. Here is the abstract:
Current archaeological and anthropological opinion supports the theory that the development of man’s creativity in the Upper Paleolithic was facilitated by the development of a complex language. However, this approach overlooks research in the Art Education and Art Therapy fields that identifies complex interactions between drawing, visual thinking and brain functions, a process which may not be dependent upon language, but simply a parallel mode of thought. If the function of art making had a direct influence on the critical thinking abilities within the human brain, then this would indicate that it also facilitated the mental shift from domain thinking into creative thinking, suggesting that the art played a more important role than previously thought.
This idea stuck with me - that art making, as well as appreciating and finding alternative meaning for the imagery could actually affect the way our brains function. Imagine how powerful this idea can be – we make art, benefiting by increasing our own critical and creative thinking, and we send it out into the world where it has the potential of providing a similar benefit to others. The original Ancient Artist was involved deeply in communication, intuition and out-of-the-box thinking, and this is the concept I identified with as I thought about the title for this blog.
Age has everything – and nothing – to do with it.
Ask anyone over the age of 50 how old they feel and they’ll tell you,"I think of myself as 25 or 30." But the real world often sees the external representation of mature age.
As I began this artistic journey, my greatest challenge was not what I expected – I found that each day became a struggle not to feel marginalized. Our society finds it far sexier to encourage earnest young artists than earnest old artists. In the profession, those who have reached a mature age are masters of their craft and have been working hard for decades. The artist who finally finds the opportunity to create at a much later age is often seen as not serious enough, or he would have started years ago.
At age 51, trying to find purchase in this environment, I found myself dealing with both pressures – of not being young enough to excite the public and not being masterful enough yet to be taken seriously. It became difficult not to slip into the "mom’s little hobby" mode of thinking, and as I read blogs and took on-line classes and real-life studio classes, I was not finding answers specifically aimed at the challenges I was experiencing.
I wanted to address what I felt was a growing need – to write a blog centered on the unique obstacles faced by late bloomers of any age. I wanted to provide a platform where I could share insights, solutions, experiences, and education with others, and to have them share their knowledge and experiences with me. Age has nothing to do with this aspect, unless we’re talking about the need for increased lighting for older eyes or the unexpected physical consequences of trying to carry a 24 x 30 inch canvas and French easel on a two mile hike to paint en plein air.
Some experiences are universal. Everyone who finds something worthwhile in the voice of Ancient Artist is welcome here, and it's also the reason why this blog is somewhat eclectic. I don’t talk just about developing an art career after 50, because the definition of art career is so unique to the individual that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I don’t talk just about marketing; there is so much of that information available it would become redundant. I don’t indulge in too much positive thinking but when I do I try to temper it with real solutions that an artist should consider – goal setting, skill building, staying grounded or narrowing your focus. I also talk about my art, how I create, why I create, and the successes and failures that I experience, because I want to share it with you and…heh…improve my own creative thought process.
I draw on my experiences: almost twelve years and counting as a professional artist – defined as someone who has dedicated full time attention to the creation, showing and selling of art, and not as someone who has supported themselves full time in the creation of art. The idea that you aren’t professional if you can’t support yourself entirely is a false argument and does not serve the artist. I have created and sold art steadily for twelve years, and that is my measure of success – that what I create sells even in this economy. I value my collectors, not because they gave an Art Gallery money in exchange for my work but because they saw something there that had meaning for them. The idea that I can continue the tradition of the original Ancient Artist is very humbling, and I am grateful.
I have also spent most of these twelve years talking directly to the public about art, at artist receptions, art walks, studio sales and as a sales person in a gallery situation. I continue to educate myself about artists who inspire me, methods of creating art, and methods of marketing art. In the spirit of a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in Ancient Artist are based upon my own experiences and are not applicable to everyone, although if they do inspire or encourage you then please let others know.
If you would like to read more about age and creativity, here is a post that I wrote years ago, titled The Seven Characteristics that Distinguish Older Artists over Their Younger Peers.
The Sunday Salon for October 17 will feature Fiona Morgan, an Australian artist I think you’ll enjoy meeting. In defining her approach to art, writing and blogging, she says, "People need a connection to a picture to have it stand out..." Be sure to stop by and see what she’s doing.
If you are interested in participating in a future Sunday Salon, send me an email using the link in the sidebar. As always I appreciate the time you take reading Ancient Artist. If you find it worthwhile, please forward it to people who might enjoy it, too.