Saturday, February 25, 2017

Creativity and Aging

I only got three collages done this week, because I was focusing on mail art/snailmail.  I have about 15 new penpals now, from places far and wide, in addition to the dozen or so peeps I've been corresponding with for a few years.  My plan is to stay current so I don't have a huge backlog of mail to respond to at any one time.

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.


Carol Cohn said...

Brava!! Honest and well-articulated. Personal satisfaction with a project is what keeps us going, and is so gratifying for our mental health. :) Keep on doing what you do so well, Connie.

tgarrett said...

Thank you for sharing your art and this post! I loved reading that and as always I look forward to your posts. Love to you.

susan hemann said...

I'm in the same position as you are, but am still coming to grips with my inability to do the art I used to do. Thank you for sharing.

Anna H said...

Connie, I swear you are in my head, putting to words all the things I am unable to. I am on the same journey and I love reading how you have so eloquently described it. Of that I am envious.... carry on!

Jan's Art and Musings said...

Connie, thank you for this post. While I always enjoy your blog, your art and your words, this post speaks to me. I am an "art flitterer" ... I love trying new things, experimenting with new techniques, starting new projects. Most of these I never finish because something else captures my eye and interest. I'm OK with this because for me, art is about the process of creating something, anything, not necessarily about the end product, although I do enjoy it when I finish a project :-). TFS your stories.

KAM said...

From my years of meeting up with you at textile happenings in Humboldt County to getting some of your art from friends as gifts and a most wonderful piece of textile art that came from you and hangs on the wall to view each morning as I awake, to these days of distance communication, there is always a beautifully told/written story of your journey, your process. Thank you for the clearness of the process and changes you have articulated today. My journey has has some similar steps, yet mostly I have stayed with the writing and stitching as I narrowed my palette of exploration in my late 50's..The how and why of our shifting gears is an interesting story to write, and I appreciate your honest and clear presentation of yours.
For me, the late 60's were a time of shifting to retirement, and the 70's continue to find new doors and windows of opportunity to express and create finding a place at the table.

jenclair said...

:) It is the making that is satisfying, comforting. Pinning hopes on a product that others may or may not like can be self-defeating, but experimenting and enjoying the involvement with the process is important, regardless of age. Rock on, Connie!

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Thoughtful explanation of where you are with this art making and aging business. I feel I have arrived at the right place for me as well...good feeling for sure!

KrisR said...

Thank you for writing this. I believe I will print it out as they are words I needed to hear and remember.

Marybeth said...

OMGosh...Jan just provided me/us with the correct term"art flitterer." Yep, I am a pro in that department. This condition is expensive because I am also a "hunter/gatherer" and that is costly and contributes to the chaos in the studio, around my chair and any other place the new project is set up.

KrisR said...

I keep coming back and re-reading this. I keep marking it as 'unread' in my feeder as I don't want to lose the message.

Thank you.