What do Matisse, Cezanne, and Van Gogh have in common? These three artists were not only painters who had a great influence on modern art; they were also artists who started their painting careers later in life than many of their peers.
Some artists are lucky enough to be “born” into the artistic profession, whether they were raised by artistic parents or nurtured in a supportive environment. For many of us, however, art was an early passion that got shelved out of necessity, as we pursued careers in different fields or spent time on other responsibilities.
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But that should never stop you from beginning your artistic career now.
If you’re an artist who got a late start on the creative journey (or you’re thinking about jumping in sometime soon) here are a few advantages that you already have. . . which you may not realize yet:
1. You’re motivated to learn
If art is something you’ve actively chosen to pursue, you’re more likely to take it seriously. Think about a class full of children or teenagers during an art lesson: most of them are likely interested in the messy fun of the experience, but not overly concerned with the learning process or developing skills.
Now think now about a class full of adults who have signed up to spend their time (of which they probably have little) in art classes. Once you understand the value of time, committing to a subject means you’re much more likely to focus on learning the maximum amount from your instructors—especially if you’re paying for your instruction, your materials, and the gas to get to your classes.
Being motivated to learn new skills means you’ll soak up everything that you can from your art classes, which will give you a wealth of knowledge to draw from as you continue on your path to becoming an artist.
2. You have something important to say
Art imbued with an artist’s message makes a powerful statement. If you’ve already had a range of life experiences, then you’ve got something to express. Thoughts, feelings, and impressions shaped by the choices you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned have helped you grow into the person you are today, and the expertise gained from your lifetime pursuits will inform your work as well.
If you’ve spent years hiking through the desert, you’ll know firsthand the beauty of the desert sunset you’re bringing to life with paint. If you paint portraits and have raised children, you know the tenderness between a parent and a new baby, which will add extra depth to your paintings.
Your own personal understandings of the world, which have taken years to develop, will add a level of depth to your art that’s difficult to attain without those life experiences under your belt.
3. You’re a little more patient
We live in a world that constantly tempts people with the lure of quick recognition and easy success. In contrast, much of success in creating art comes from two character qualities: perseverance and patience.
If you’ve ever trained for a new job (or trained someone else to do yours) you’ve likely already learned that being patient is an important part of learning any new skill. Activities like starting a painting over when it was almost finished, or facing rejection after rejection when trying to show your work don’t sound too rewarding in the short term, but they’re part of almost every artist’s career at some point.
Developing artistic skill and building a career as an artist both require a great deal of patience. An artist who has already built a career in a different field likely knows the ups and downs of career advancement, and will be less dazzled by the promise of artistic fame than someone who has never experienced such highs and lows in the working world.
4. You’re less frightened by failure
Of course, no one wants to try something out and instantly fail. However, the younger you are, the more frightening failure can be. For adults who have already jumped into some of life’s big decisions, failure is a little more familiar.
Crashing and burning is an important part of the human experience, and it’s a powerful teacher. Taking artistic risks means confronting failure on a regular basis. The more familiar you get with the experience of not succeeding, the less frightening it becomes.
Looking failure in the face and knowing you’ll survive it is emboldening.
Maybe you’ve been fired, lost a home, or been through a bad divorce—any experience in which you feel you have failed at something works to your advantage as an artist.
Uh-oh, you put the wrong green in your background trees? Well, at least you didn’t burn the house down! It’s annoying, but it is just paint. You can always paint over it or start again, now that you know what went wrong. (A healthy dose of humor helps in this area too!)
5. You’re a lot less impressionable
Creating visual art is a deeply personal endeavor. If you haven’t developed a strong sense of self yet, it’s hard to know what it is you’re hoping to convey with your work. Taking art classes before you know who you are as a person can put you in the position of relying too much on your teachers to develop your style.
Bringing a fully-formed self, with opinions, ideas, and likes and dislikes gives you somewhere to start with your artwork. You can base your choices as to what you’d like to learn to do artistically on what you’ve already learned about yourself through other experiences you’ve had.
If you’re an animal lover, you might start off with wildlife painting. If you’re not interested in photo-realistic art, you might try a class that encourages you to paint loosely. Remember that you can use your preferences to steer you toward something you’ll truly enjoy creating—as long as you push your boundaries a little as you go (and keep your mind open to learning from your instructor during the process!)
Unlike pursuits that are primarily physical, art exercises the mind, which is made to grow and change as you get older and try new things. Instead of lamenting that you wasted all of your time doing something other than being an artist, take an introspective look at what you’ve gained so far through all of the decisions you’ve made throughout your life.
Your experiences have united to create the unique person you are today. Accept what they have to offer and carry them—with passion!—into your new artistic life.
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