Saturday, February 25, 2017
Creativity and Aging
One of my readers asked about being an artist and getting older. Thought I'd respond here, with how I see things anyway. Other artists will likely see things differently.
I came to the conclusion a few short years ago that I am more of a general creative person, although I do call myself an artist, than I am an Artist with a capital A. This distinction probably has a lot to do with how I manage creating and aging.
Despite the fact that I've been making art for over 40 years, I never devoted myself so wholly to one medium as to make a career out of that, to grow and develop in that one medium, to make that one thing my life's work. I was always more interested in trying new things, new media, new techniques, new tools, and changing up what I was focused on every so often. I think that's because I've always been attracted to a wide range of creative endeavors.
But I never have felt a deep compulsion to make art, like a "make art or die" kind of thing. I do it because I enjoy being creative, I love making things, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I've made something that I really like.
Until just a few years ago, I played the art marketing game as well as I could ~ art shows in the 1990s and early 2000s, Etsy and sales blog for a number of years, a variety of other online venues for brief spans of time. And then I eventually stopped doing any of that, and making art just for myself. I just stopped caring whether or not people bought what I created.
And that removed a lot of pressure for me to constantly be striving and competing. And of course, this all coincided with my aging, particularly in this decade of my 60s. I think this big change in my attitude toward creating really began when my body started to speak out ~ it became too painful to sit at a loom, to bend over to warp the loom, to swing my arms way to the side manipulating a shuttle; my wrists gave out from spinning far too much and too fine silk threads; I could no longer stand at the sink and rinse out dyed fabrics, nor could I easily lift 5-gallon buckets of water or big tubs of dye liquor on and off the stove or in and out of the sink; sitting at the sewing machine for hours on end stitching art quilts, or even sitting for hours hand stitching relatively large projects became too painful for my back and my hands. So I gave these things up, for all intents and purposes.
I used to look at other people's work and feel envious that it wasn't my own work, or I'd think I should be or could be doing work more like theirs. It was an internal competitive thing for me. Now I can truly enjoy others' work and applaud them for how beautiful it is, without feeling I need to do that too. I can be inspired now by others to do whatever I manage to do, and let my work stand as it is.
I also no longer feel as though I have to do everything there is to do. I gave up on that a long time ago. If there's something I do want to try, I'll do it now instead of waiting for that mythical time in the future. And if something doesn't work out to my satisfaction ~ some tool or material or medium ~ I'll drop it and move on. Or I'll come back to it later with a different perspective.
All I can say for relatively certain now, is that whatever I do create from here on out will likely fall within the range of my endeavors over the past few years: collage and art journaling; book arts; mixed media; painting; and small hand stitching projects. I'll do one or several things for a time, then switch up a couple areas.
Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are. And let the rest go.