Art and Age Feed

Sorry, But On This Fine Art Generalization You Are Flat Out Wrong


I’m a fan of Stapleton Kearns.  I enjoy his blog for the information he shares, but sometimes I just have to answer back, particularly to this post about the difference between art and craft – although probably not for the reasons you imagine. 

The discussion about art vs. craft was intended to arouse controversy, something Stape does and does quite well – part of why I like him because he gets people to think, sometimes, and generates a lively conversation.  But it was this statement – which has nothing to do with either art or craft – that was slipped in before the main event and snagged my attention:

"I had someone tell me on Facebook that it was too bad I didn't like older painters. I like em fine, and well enough not to jive em about what their chances are of achieving mastery and competing with those who have done nothing else all their lives."

So here’s the pebble in my shoe: It is human nature to interpret the world from our own viewpoint and to then extend our own reality into the lives of others with similar experiences.  But this interpretation that it takes an extended length of time (i.e. doing nothing else all your life) to reach mastery is flat out wrong from a research standpoint. 

Consider this - in my recent research into creativity and age I came away with these ideas:

  • According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, creativity is a function of our cognitive abilities as well as certain personality traits that are strengthened with age, such as the ability to persevere despite setbacks, to be less influenced by conventional wisdom or peer acceptance, and the emergence of a stronger sense of personal calling or purpose. In this post that I wrote in 2008, The Seven Characteristics That Distinguish Older Artists From Their Younger Peers you will find more information on this idea.
  • Recent brain science supports the theory that, with the development of efficient neural networks within the mature brain, mature adults have the ability to process information faster, discover unique insights due to both education and life experience, and focus more intently upon mastering a technique or subject, making it possible to condense the standard generalization of 10 years of concerted effort to attain mastery into a shorter period of time. 
  • According to research by Stephanie Z Dudek and others from the University of Quebec at Montreal, personality and the level of commitment are the most significant determinants for success in the profession of art.  In their definition, commitment comes from self-awareness and an intense identification with the work, manifesting as a “difficulty in distinguishing where the self ends and the work begins,” adding, “It is possible to work at a profession for a lifetime and never be committed to it.”
  • Early development of artistic skill is often more the result of the artist finding himself in a nurturing and supportive environment, enabling the sustained growth necessary to realize potential; but success as an artist has nothing to do with “when you started,” only that you were able to start at age twelve instead of age fifty.  There is no genuine reason why - if you have the commitment, the willingness to put in the concerted, hard effort to learn and master skills necessary, and the ability to resist conventional wisdom - that you cannot achieve some level of success in the profession of art if you want it bad enough. 

The only difference is the length of time you will have to enjoy the success before really old age takes a toll, but we are living healthy, productive lives well into our 80’s and 90’s so there’s no reason to conclude that if you start to pursue the profession of art at age fifty you cannot realize a measure of success by the time you are sixty, which allows at least two decades or more of pure enjoyment, artistic commitment and creative success. 

Those seem like good enough odds to me.   



As an aside, my painting, Chokecherry Farm, won the Cheap Joe's Award for Excellence in the 12th National American Impressionist Society's Exhibition going on right now at Mountainsong Galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  Plus, the painting sold.  I am both humbled and honored. 


Sunday Salon: Painter, Sculptor, Teacher - Susan G Holland at 73

I’ve recently been in contact with Susan Holland, an 73-year-old artist with the energy and enthusiasm of someone closer to 37.  Hailing from Hoodsport, Washington, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Susan describes herself as a well-worn mark-maker who just wanted to tell me how the blog post, Why Moving Backward Can Be More Powerful Than Moving Forward, had been particularly cathartic for her.  

"I am going on 73, and getting in touch with my old self in this way.  I have influences all around me that are shrieking paint to make money...and the abysmal current state of the economy is one of those influences." (Spp mango sea contoured top view 2Image left: Mango Sea Colored Bowl)

I appreciated her attitude - this is no senior citizen who dabbles in art to fill her afternoons.  Through a series of emails a Sunday Salon began to emerge.

"Could it be that we need the stress of this pull between chic and sale-able products and real art? As you suggest, the contemporary art around us informs our current personal mark-making.  We can no more ignore that than the sort of spirit of our current times.  And our subject matter will reflect our times, too, no doubt.

I try not to think overmuch about the urgings of my benefactors who would have me paint multiples of successful works just to make some money.

I fight with them sometimes, and get very angry.  And then I think, sometimes, they are right.  Why not do the giclee on canvas thing, and put on final touches? Then I think of sweat shops with hired brushes dabbing textured paint on dozens of prints and selling them for fifty bucks in poster frames. And I stick to my guns.  I will paint it fresh each time, from scratch, and in the spirit of today - not yesterday, and certainly not guessing about tomorrow.

Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmers MarketRight now the season is on for my new Silk Purse project (see set-up at left - Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmer's Market) – working with wooden bowls. The bowls are from a source in Seattle.  They are hand carved by other artisans and the rejected ones end up in the discard pile.  I pick and choose from that pile and rework the bowls that have a second life in them.  This is a great opportunity for me - I am the only one doing this with these bowls, so they are really one-of-a-kind, and special because of the recycled nature of the business.  The bowls are a celebration of wood - of the tree, and the nature of wood.  The carving is somewhat rustic, but very skillfully done.  Carving a root is not an easy business.

SPP STIppled mango key bowl  I am working especially on small dishes out of Cunninghamia Lanceolata - fir/cypress, rootwood, and also on contoured turned bowls of Mango wood.  Color is insisting on making an entrance into these natural materials... I am using various kinds of tools and combinations of paint media to come up with exciting decorative pieces. It's important to me to retain the characteristics of wood - its nature - and hopefully to draw attention to it. All products are finished with a sealing coat of varnish or wax oil. (Image: Stippled Mango Key Bowl)

I find I’m fascinated with the collection of Peit Hein's "Grooks" that I’ve discovered.  If I can, I shall get his books-- now out of print and very expensive.  Grooks is the name Peit Hein, Danish scientist and poet, gave his little poems.  Some of them are so wonderful; they will be welcome in people's homes.  This is a direction I may take in my art-making, whether it evolves on carved wood bowls or in paintings.

On the back burner right now is a very viable plan to set up a plein air group here in the Hoodsport area.  It will not be as a class, but rather joining with others to utilize the beauties of this part of the forest with them on a regular basis.  I have passes to get into lovely parts of the Lake Cushman area, and there are all sorts of great places to set up an easel and have at it. 

I do have small works (8 x 10, - 11 x 14) planned for my next season of painting.  Not only am I limited in space for painting here, but the economy lends itself to people buying small, I believe.  They will likely buy a small original rather than frame up a large print...and the prices seem to be about the same.  Why shouldn't my small framed items be on people's walls?  So...I have boats, and trees, and grasses and mountains roughed in on clayboard ('s really a wonderful, versatile, and archival surface to paint on.)  Oils, temperas, mixed media.

So for the time being I have sets of types of art in my studio - small tempera local scenes for local sales,  infrequent large non-objective decorative works in case some hospital needs something for patients to gaze at while waiting,  and then the real art - that's the stuff that says what I am thinking and feeling, and which I want to do exclusively.  They come out without strategy - aside from how to arrange it all on the canvas - and they just work, somehow, without blood, sweat, or tears.  They are keepers, and they live comfortably on any wall for a good long time."

WIDE MANGO FRONT VIEW BLACK W BRN RIMIf you would like to find out more about Susan's Silk Purse Project, to purchase a bowl or painting, or for any other reason you can contact her through email:

or through snail mail:  Susan Holland, PO Box 1138, Hoodsport WA 98548

See what else Susan G Holland is doing here.

 Above: Wide Mango Bowl, Black with Brown Rim


The Argument Against Intuitive Painting

As artists we find ourselves engaging in intuitive painting: responding to what the paint is telling us, or otherwise working in a flow that includes instinctive or habitual responses.  Ideally, we can produce innovative work, much like Jackson Pollack did with his drip paintings, drawing on automatic memory.  More often, though, we are in danger of creating the mundane. 

Creativity is not a unique phenomenon in that everyone is creative on a daily basis.  When describing my painting process to a potential client, she immediately responded by saying, "oh, it's like cooking, you have the recipe as a starting point and then go from there."  But as any chef knows, when you "go from there" some thought has to be put into the expected outcome if you want your restaurant to survive.

So if creativity is not a unique phenomenon, what is painting, or the act of creating any piece of art?  It's worth considering this statement in the book Aging, Creativity, and Art:

"All cognitions, creative or not, include working memory, capacity, speed of retrieval, perceptual fluency, activation of relevant concepts and inhibition of irrelevant ones, recollective ability, inspection of memories, and a host other processes that are used in everyday cognition." 

The author then asks, " Why are some cognitions creative and others ordinary?"

The argument against intuitive painting asks the same: why are some paintings creative, and others ordinary?

If the goal of the artist is to take an abstract idea and intrepret it with a visable image in a compelling and easily understood way, then it requires purposful thought in addition to creative impulse. And as the author of Aging, Creativity, and Art goes on to say, " "creativity-as-cognition is about problem-finding, -defining, -identifying, -discovering, -expressing, -posing, -representing, -translating, -integrating, and -synthesizing."

 The next time you're facing down a potentially mundane painting consider why the word "intuitive" wasn't included in that list.


Aging, Creativity and Art: A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development, by Martin S. Lindauer, 2003, Klewer Academic/Plenum Publishers, NY


Late Blooming - It Might Not Be What You Think

I confess – I’m a closet researcher.  When I’m not painting I’m digging into what other people have to say about creativity – what it is, how it manifests.  In art, the classic Young Genius/Late Bloomer example comes up frequently: Picasso as a child prodigy, and Cezanne, painting for years before he achieved high acclaim.  The analogy supports the idea that our star either rises brilliantly and then slowly declines, or it builds steadily over years of experimentation until finally bursting forth as the Late Bloomer.

On the one hand, I like the reassurance that there are Late Bloomers, but I have trouble with the part about Late Bloomers needing to work all those years before they find success.  What if you start late?  Is it still going to mean years of frustration before the light bulb goes on?

A recent article in Psychology Today points out that the standard definition of Late Blooming is not by itself sufficient.

Here are the takeaways from the full text:

  • The last century added 30 years of opportunity to our lives, often called the second middle age.  This extra time opens doors like never before.
  • Complex gene traits - like creativity - develop in the human brain at a different rate than, say, the motor skills of an athlete, and are often years in the making.  Researchers call it the “10-year rule”, or the 10,000 hours required for mastery – but what the article points out is that “the rule is an average with variation, not a fixed threshold…what may take the average person 15 years to master may take later bloomers only five once their genes sync up: even though they started later, progress can be rapid and make up for lost time.”
  • The reason for this has to do with all those years of neuronal ripening in the older brain.  Information moves through our brains with the help of a fatty coating called the myelin sheath.  Research suggests that the older we get the thicker these fatty sheaths become, “transforming the brain into a high-speed, wide-bandwidth internet-like system.”
  • While myelin speeds access to information, it is the knowledge gained by years of experience that matters.  Experience also comes into play in areas of self-discipline, and the perseverance needed to achieve goals that are a long time coming.
  • Key elements in creative success include finding purpose, a moment of revelation that “this is what I have to do,” and passion, “the thing that won’t let you sleep at night.”
  • Self-teaching is perhaps the most over-looked component, the element of the outsider, one who feeds his passion with his own ideas “uninfluenced by the established order.”
  • Running into roadblocks at any age is not necessarily a negative where creativity is concerned.

It may feel like we’ve missed the boat because life events kept us focused on other things until mid-life, but in fact we’ve been gaining all the experience, brain function, development and insight necessary to make up for the lost time.  It is never too late.

If you would like to read the full Psychology Today article by Scott Barry Kaufman, titled Confessions of a Late Bloomer, you can read the entire text here. 


The Real Origins of Ancient Artists – Are You One?

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. 

Upcoming News

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. 

Janey Cutler at 80

Throughout our lives we come upon opportunities - to take a different path, or explore some inviting experience, to step out of our comfort zone.  These choices come along in the constant stream of our daily lives, and as often as we wonder what our lives might have been like "if only" we also know that we can only go in one direction at a time.  Often, that realization brings with it regret - but if you watch Britain's Got Talent and had the opportunity to see Janey Cutler, you might come away with a sense of optimism about what life gives us and when. 

Just a thought.  

You can watch Janey Cutler here.

The Quixote Effect


Cervantes’ humorous story of Don Quixote follows a country gentleman in his fifties as he sets off on an imaginary quest.  The initial exploits are met with amused tolerance by the townsfolk, supporting the aging Quixote’s belief that he's a knight-errant on grand chivalrous quests.  Despite farcical setbacks, each “success” magnifies the validity of Quixote’s reality. But toward the end of Part Two,  attitudes change. Quixote becomes the butt of mean-spirited jokes.  Well-meaning friends convince  Quixote that his quest is delusion, the product of age and insanity.  The story ends with the loss of Quixote’s faith.  He accepts reality imposed by others, but is gripped with a deep and persistent melancholy.  When Alsono Quixano dies, he's sane in the eyes of the world but inwardly a broken man.

It's a story that has entertained generations and is deep in our collective psyche.  There’s something both humorous and pathetic in the idea of the last “hurrah,” the aging character setting out on a grand adventure after a lost dream.  We laugh at his interpretations of reality, we pity his disillusionment, and secretly fear we might be Quixote and not know it. 

For me, the idea creeps in when I least expect it.   I can feel successful within my own studio, caught up in the pleasure of creation. But I also exist in an interdependent relationship with the people and events surrounding me, which can affect me deeply.  Success is just as stressful as rejection: both could be signs of my own delusion, succeeding out of pity, rejection from reality. 

Is this the Quixote Effect?  I don’t know.  Maybe other people are better at rational thinking than I am.  All I know is I can't allow myself to doubt the validity of my quest.  Short of writing a manifesto, I decided to go into my studio and prove something to myself. 


New sm copy



"Self Portrait at Age 61" @  Sue Favinger Smith, 2009



Is There A Creative Age?

I often revisit books that have interested me in the past, finding new insights  I missed in an earlier reading.  Lately, I've found myself going back to a book by Martin S. Lindauer, titled Aging, Creativity, and Art: A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development. 

Lindauer's research questions the assumption that creativity peaks in youth, and begins to fade by the age of 30, often referred to as the decline model.  Much of his research shows - from various perspectives - that what we identify as creativity persists throughout life, and can actually increase and manifest in new ways with age, arguing that "Aging therefore enhanced rather than stifled artistic expression."

I find this idea of particular importance to artists who have entered the field, or are contemplating entering the artistic field at the age of 50 or older.

While all of Lindauer's research is based on the life-time work of renowned artists who began in their 20's and are (or were, in the case of deceased artists) still working at age 60 through 80, I wanted to see what insights I could discover for artists who were starting at age 50.

Regardless of whether the artist was male or female, from the Renaissance, the 1800's, or 20th Century,  I noticed from the graphs of data that productivity and quality increased for at least three decades from the starting age.  So artists who began their careers at age 20, were generally regarded to be at their best by age 40 to 50.

Could it be possible that the three decade similarity actually described the time frame an artist needed to develop the full range of insights and skills in order to perform at the top of his or her ability, and not the peaking followed by the gradual decline of creativity? 

Other graphs indicate that particularly long-lived artists had two or more peaks, explained by early productivity, a stagnation or decrease in productivity, and then a second or third resurgence of creative output.  

This is exciting to me.  Think about this the idea.  If creativity manifests itself throughout our lives, and if an artist has at least two to three decades of enthusiastic, concentrated effort ahead of them before extreme old age impacts their ability to work, why shouldn't we expect a similar pattern of achievement for the artist who starts at age 50 that we expect from the artist who starts at age 20? 

Are we poised on the cusp of a unique time when the next great artistic movement comes not from the young, but from artists who do not pick up a paint brush until after the age of 51?

Intriguing thought, isn't it?

In that regard, I was pleased to see that Southwest Art Magazine followed up their first Emerging Artists Search, titled "21 under 31" with a second Emerging Artists Search titled "21 over 31", although this suggests that if the first search focused on artists aged between 20 and 31, the  second search implies an age bracket of 31 to 42. 

It's a step in the right direction to acknowledge that artists can emerge at a later age.

But I would be really excited if a major art magazine published an Emerging Artists Search titled "21 over 51."  I'd be willing to bet the art will be just as innovative, accomplished, visionary or spiritual as any in the younger brackets.  In fact, it might be better.

But that's my bias. 

I found this excerpt from a poem by Longfellow, titled Morituri Salutamus:

"For age is opportunity, no less
Than Youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."

The Indisputable Creative Advantage of Older Artists

When I owned my business, there was a rule everyone accepted: If you survived five years, you were successful.  Try to get credit, or open an account , and you could hear the tension:  how long have you  been in business?  Always followed by relief when told five, ten, or eighteen years.  Time, it seemed, was the primary predictor of success.

According to AGING, CREATIVITY, AND ART, A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development, by Martin S. Lindauer,  this rule holds true for artists, too.

I discussed Lindauer's findings in an earlier post titled The Seven Characteristics that Distinguish Older Artists over their Younger Peers, and I wanted to follow up with more encouraging conclusions.

The statistics Lindauer used were gathered by art historians looking at artists from the past who had created masterpieces.  The data included working lifespan, when masterpieces were created in relation to death, and reflected activity from the past few centuries.  A second data set included women,  and finding artists working closer to the modern age, the last 100 years or so. Earlier assumptions about creativity being a "young man's game" had been based on research flawed in Lindauer's opinion, because it revealed that artists "peaked" in their late 20's or 30's, without considering lifespan (most of the artists died in their late 40's or very early 50's).  When research expanded to include artists with longer lifespans, something interesting emerged.

"Bursts of creative activity varied for 45 well-known artists; peaks were found in nearly every decade of their lives: in youth, middle-age, and old age.  Despite differences between individual artists, creative output generally occurred relatively later in life than earlier; and creative productivity continued into old age in nearly all cases.  Youth is therefore not the only or even the predominant period in which creative productivity was maximized (pp 123)."

I like that: "Youth is therefore not the only or even predominant period in which creative productivity is maximized."

So youth is not a pre-condition to becoming a successful artist.

But the amount of time spent creating art is.

And what does this mean for the Ancient Artist?

The older you are, the longer you've been painting.

And the longer you paint, the better you get.


Imagine.  What could you do if you knew that you had at least one "peak" ahead of you, and if you exercise and eat right, there's the possibility of two?

I'm heading to the kitchen right now for some  broccoli to eat with my coffee.

Here are some interesting sites mined from my bookmarks. 

Creative Aging's Blog

edward_ winkleman

New York Art News

The Seven Characteristics that Distinguish Older Artists over their Younger Peers

I went back to college when I was 51.  I sat in chairs designed for the young, next to my fellow students who were also...well, young.  Adding insult to injury, I needed tutoring -- from the young -- to learn the new technology that these kids in their late teens and twenties grew up with and used as casually as I once used the rotary phone.

It was culture shock.  But more than that.  It was the shock of realizing I was rapidly approaching the gray realm of Old Age.  My first small encounters with...ageism.

Ageism is insidious in that it is so acceptable.  Logical.  It is also based -- at least with regard to late-life creativity -- on scientific research that reinforces traditional views about aging and the mental and physical decline models.

Even when it comes to "creativity" -- something that can't be touched, tested, or accurately measured, let alone understood --  the scientific community  still relies on research that is "objective" and "measurable" -- sort of like trying to catch a fish with your hands.  The easiest one to grab becomes the archetype for the "Creative Old Guy."

But I recently started reading a book by Martin S. Lindauer, titled AGING, CREATIVITY, AND ART, A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development.

This is a very recent book, with a copyright date of 2003, and reads like a research paper with numerous citations.

It is still worth the effort.

Because here is the good news.  According to Lindauer,  new research reveals that over time, creative people increase both the quality of their artistic output, and the quantity, over their lifetimes, with productivity peaking during their 60's, but the quality of the output remaining steady at the lifetime highs well into the 70's.

Even for artists working in their 80's, their quality ratings were higher -- get that, higher! -- than when  they were in their 20's and 30's.

How can this be?   

According to Lindauer, there are seven characteristics that distinguish "old artists and late art from young artists and youthful efforts." 

  • "Older artists have more knowledge and are less career oriented.
  • "They also have less energy - the only case where older artists were at a disadvantage to younger ones..."
  • "...which they compensated for with greater maturity, concentration, and self-acceptance."
  • "Older artists were also less critical than their younger counterparts."
  • "However, in two areas, creativity and experimentation, older artists were seen as equal to younger practitioners." (2003, pp.187-188)

Further, while discussing the age at which an artist's "Old Age Style" might emerge, Lindauer wrote, "...the 60-year-old artists, and many of the 70-year-olds who were studied, were 'too young' to have an old-age style."

Re-read that last part again: even the 70-year-olds were too young to have an old age style!

Sometimes the challenges of reinventing yourself at mid-life can seem so daunting that you want to give up.  I know that for me, discouragement became my constant companion to the point where I nearly gave up on the whole "career" idea, caught up in my fear of having "missed the creative boat."

But knowing that, at 60, I am still decades away from having an "Old Age Style" has renewed my energy, sending me back out into the creative world with rekindled optimism.

I hope to see  you all there!