Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Advantages of Being an "Ancient Artist"

One of my new favorite art bloggers is Sue Favinger Smith and her blog "Ancient Artist: Developing an Art Career after 50."

Today I found an old post about the advantages of being an older artist based on research reported by Martin S. Lindauer, in his book AGING, CREATIVITY, AND ART, A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development.

This was an interesting post for me because I have been carrying around some common prejudices even though I hadn't articulated them.  Here are a few:
  • I'm not a "real artist" because I didn't come out of the womb with a paint brush in my hand.
  • I'll never have a "real artist's" body of work because I didn't start early enough.
  • I'll never achieve real mastery because I haven't honed my craft for decades.
Those have mixed and mingled with other doubts ... no MFA, no art world "cred", and so on and so on.

So, it was interesting to read Sue's synopsis of Lindauer's conclusions:  (full post here)

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!
Thank you, Sue ... and Martin!  I know my art career will not look similar to someone who started in their 20s but sometimes I feel like I'm in hyper-mode.  In the 5 years that I've been seriously making digital collages, I can recognize three distinguishable styles.  If I were a "real artist,"  I could call them "periods."  Since I'm an "ancient artist," I just think of them as "doing what turns me on at the time" and allowing it to be different from day to day.

The image above Alone in the World comes from my first period where I made what I call "placescapes," where images from a specific place came together to create an impression of what I was feeling while I was there.


  1. In the poetry world, one of my inspirations is Patricia Fargnoli, who did not publish her first book until after age 60.

    We can make no mistake that there is discrimination of a type in the arts but age need not be among the barriers that hold us back. There are just too many examples of fine art in all disciplines from us oldsters.

    I've thought of you, Joyce, as an artist since I first came upon your work. You are as deserving of the descriptor as any!

  2. Maureen ... you made my day! I hope yours is equally joyful.