Artful Aging




Click here to read a New York Times article about my website, "Not Digital Art But Art Learned Digitally" published in March 2015


How old are you? Too old to create? Wrong!

You are not too old to create. I know this because I create and I teach many 50+ students to create. Whether it is a week end workshop, a three-hour workshop or a four weekly two-hour sessions, I find that most everyone leaves the class with a new confidence in their creative abilities having learned a new skill.

So why not you? You've held back, generally for these reasons: (1) Someone told you long ago that the drawing you did was stupid. (2) Someone told you long ago that art was silly and you need to do something worthwhile to make money. (3) You took some art classes, but found the instructor to be condescending, vague, intimidating, or annoying. (5) You've spent your life doing well, working hard, but feel that something is missing and you think an art class might be the answer.

What ever your reason (and I've heard many) don't put off creating any longer. Know that we are all "hard-wired" to create and that this brain function has helped us survive. It was a human being thousands of years ago that invented a spear for providing food for the family. Our research and inventions have brought us to the present and, by this creative knowledge and ability, we can go forward into the future.

Also, if you are older, visualizing and creating can stave off Alzheimer's disease. Yes, we can keep active, imaginative and creative into our nineties and neuroscience is just beginning to find out why and how!

There are art classes in many disciplines here on this website: Drawing, Acrylic Painting, Oil Painting, Collage, Mixed Media, Water Color, etc. Don't waste another minute! It's all here and waiting for you! Click on the buttons on the left to explore the art lessons as well as valuable art and creative resources. All for you for free!

And, I have made over 120 step by step, information rich art demonstration videos for you on YouTube. Click here to see my art and cooking YouTube videos!




Learning To Keep The Brain Young—Learn Painting, Drawing, Collage, Printmaking!

You’ve no doubt heard about brain training games—they’re all the rage on the Internet and are popular because they supposedly prevent loss of memory. Compared to older people that entertain themselves with bingo, crosswords and puzzles, those who learn new skills showed better memory retention that lasted well into the next year. Granted, brain games can improve limited aspects of short term memory, but learning activities that challenge and require new thinking, problem solving and skills, strengthen entire networks in the brain. This overall coordination of the brain proves to be more effective in warding off Alzheimer's and short term memory loss.

Want to get your brain networks a boost? Learning a new skill, like quilting, drawing, painting or pottery challenges your brain in broader, more profound ways than brain games do. Why? Because, as neuroscientists have discovered, learning requires larger parts of the brain to become activated and when the larger networks are strengthened, cognitive aging is deferred.

At age 73, I think that learning new skills and teaching them to my students keeps my brain younger and I can see the effects of learning in my older students stimulate brain activity that will be in effect even after the classes are over.

Painting requires not only learning new physical skills like mixing colors and brush work, but visual skills where a new perception is required to actually see things that can be replicated in a two-dimensional environment, like a canvas or a sketch book page. And each skill and technique learned gives confidence, encourages discovery and imagination that comes into play when new skills are learned.

Is this the same with drawing? Is this the same with making a collage? How about sculpting? Yes! Learning creatively is hemispheric. The right side of the brain is often the part that responds when Alzheimer's patients cannot communicate or are disconnected with reality. Listening to music, viewing a painting often promotes a dialogue and response that was thought to be forgotten.

Recently a 68 year old student did a series of water colors of coastal scenes. She had to learn how to wash the color smoothly across the page, blot to make clouds and blend in other colors to produce the sunrises and sunsets she loved. After several weeks of water color classes she admitted that since taking the classes she could easily locate her glasses not like before when she spent a great deal of time searching for them!

Older people, myself included, often are reluctant to tackle new and different ways of doing things. For me, it would be easy to repeat lesson after lesson using the same approaches and techniques over and over again. But, not all students are the same—not in age, gender, background or learning abilities. So I’ve had to invent new, more effective ways of teaching and adapt the projects to the abilities and interests of my students.

This more successful way of teaching has its rewards, both for me and for the students who, working hard to develop the artistic abilities they need to draw or paint, come away with work they never thought they could have accomplished!

So, put the crossword aside and pick up a paint brush! Challenging yourself with learning new skills and abilities will make you think better and remember more!

Any visualizing or perceptive technique that is accomplished rewards us with a healthier brain and the creation of a painting or drawing that shows those new skills as a great accomplishment. I find that being confronted with visualizing then replicating that vision on canvas or paper requires the student to leave the main pathway of thinking. Sometimes the small, narrow path of imagination seems precarious, but the more a student is required to use that pathway, the stronger their creative cognitive thinking becomes and the more beautiful that journey is.

And , oh yes, exercise helps, too. So if you walk a couple blocks to your art lessons, all the better!


"Cat Under The Sun"

Oil painting by Lois DeWitt

2012

Also, I have written many Ezine articles on creativity which will help you find your artistic way and offer good perspectives on visualizing and creativity. Here are some articles that you will find interesting and helpful:

Click here to read my Ezine article on aging "The Fragile Quest"

Read my most recent article on How Dreaming Can Be An Asset To Enriching Your Life"

Click here to read my Ezine article on "Art and Alheimer's"

Click here to read my Ezine article on “ Improve Your Life Through Art”


Seeking, Finding and Using Creative Skills

It's a beautiful autumn evening in North Carolina.

I just had a great acrylic painting class with two older women that were truly inspired by their painting progress. After talking about their work, how they could improve their skills and suggesting possible directions, I decided it was time to give them my "lecture" regarding seeking their own creative skills how I could help them achieve it. I have to say, this is a speech I have delivered many times over the past 40 years I have been teaching art.

My Lecture

"Most of my art students are finding a way to become creative. It is a hunger that is pretty much hard-wired in all of us and I find, as an art instructor, there are certain obstacles that I always have to climb over to get to my students and introduce them to their creative abilities.

Many times, students tell me of experiences that have discouraged them from their creative endeavors. Often, it is the remark of a family member or an instructor. I am always amazed at the damage that has been done to so many people by those that supposedly offer instructional or familial support! Wanting to be creative and imaginative is often, for many people, a fragile quest easily wrecked by comments and negative responses.

Being or wanting to be creative is even more fragile in our society and culture these days. Schools are all about math and science (not usually the research and development skills that nurture and instruct creative people.) The skills of problem solving, inventing, research, and intellectual foraging are just not taught in our antiquated educational institutions. We still make our students just repeat the information given to them by our instructors, with no openings to the realization of self-knowledge and its treasures.

I was part of that kind of schooling over 60 years ago and have, even at age 73 as an art instructor, I still am suffering the slings and arrows of it to this day. I lament the fact that our educational system has not progressed very much past the system that limited me and many others to developing their creative skills so many years ago. I guess that is why I can relate to my students of all ages for so many have found this also to be true in their own lives.

For the most part, students not engaged in personal or team research and development regarding their intellectual and personal environment cannot achieve success in the whole spectrum of what our brains and intended to do.

Art is only one part of what people can achieve in their whole development. Dance, music, theatre, writing are cultural venues that have always supported creative development. But, I think we are beginning to see that imaginative and creative development has always been alive and well in other educational fields such as math, science, and social sciences. So, with this evaluation in place in our public as well as private schools, we see that our children can really become the next Bill Gates, Picasso, Newton or Edison. These opportunities, in the free world, should not be limited to the chosen few.

If we can finally profile our education system to these endeavors we will create a culture that will not only empower our nation, but the rest of the world." (End of lecture, whew!)

Here are some great books on aging. You can easily purchase them by clicking on the Amazon logo...




Notes-- October 2012-- The Senior Center

A few weeks ago I went to a Senior Center here at Carolina Beach offering art instruction. It's a nice center, with a large space, several rooms off of it, including a kitchen and bathrooms. The flag out front needs to updated--it is a bit frayed and faded by the southern summer sun. The driveway and parking areas are in good shape.

In the large meeting room, I met with several of the Senior Center heads. We sat at one of the many round tables with swivel-castered wheeled upholstered chairs drawn up to them.

I was there to offer my art instruction services. I told them that I had been teaching art classes out of my home, that I had a Masters of Fine Art Degree and that I had been teaching art for over forty years. They seemed impressed, and after looking at my class schedule, liked the collage option, but told me that I would have to teach for free, because the other painting instructor did.

I have to admit I was put off. "Perhaps we could pass a hat?" I suggested. They looked at each other then a mutual downward gaze. I stood up from my swivel-castered chair, shook hands with them and I walked back to my car thinking, I'd love to teach there, but--can I afford to do it for free?

I had just turned 70 and this situation resonated with me. A question-- Were all of the senior center members so poor that they couldn't afford paying a nominal sum for the addition of another art class? Were they poorer than me?

The dismal possibility clouded my mind as I drove home. Who was the poorer one? Me or them? I had the feeling that because they already had instructors there, glad to come in for nothing, they certainly were not ready to change that protocol for me, even with the enticement of new art offerings like collage.

It seems to me that, unless one is quite well endowed to face these economic times, the strata of citizens that are old and many older than me, suffer an incredible downturn of possibilities and services that comes with aging. And this downturn often creates an attitude and outlook among the elder, which is something like,"Life is hard and getting harder. Not fair! I worked all my life and now I'm poorer than ever!"

I may approach the Senior Center again, hoping that I can offer my services as an art instructor. I know I can enlighten their lives! I love teaching, especially old folks, like me! Lurking in the back of my head is the oncoming decade, where I will go from 73 to 80. Is this what I have to look forward to as I age? Look for free services, get a coupon, if someone offers anything, it better not cost a cent!

I made this website entirely free for that reason, so, in retrospect, why not just offer free instruction to those at the Senior Center!

This thought went around and around in my head. Finally, I thought, "No, online is different than face-to-face. I charge for the classes I conduct in my Sunroom Studio. I feel I should charge for instructing at the Senior Center. Perhaps if I can become for solvent, I will offer free art classes. But for now, I spend much time working part time at the Home Depot, maintaining this website, teaching in my Sunroom Studio and painting and drawing.

Click here to read the rest of my Ezine article "Be Healthier, Live Longer By Being Creative"




See how I made a painting from a collage!



Older and Invisible

A lot of older people, me included, often feel disconnected from society. Profiles of elders in the media are often stereotyped, inaccurate or skewed. The wisdom, experience and involvement of the older generation is often perceived as not applicable to current times. Anyone having doubts about this blank area in our culture, just has to look at TV, movies, magazines and the Internet to realize that people 60 and older are missing. We are culturally and socially invisible.

Even AARP seems clueless. Recently, in their newsletter, an article giving apparently sound guidelines to getting older better. The article as entitled, "Thirteen luxuries we deserve after fifty," and included things like getting a message every week, downsizing to a sporty car, having a chef-cooked meal once a week, getting fabulous teeth and buying some tech device that can hold 2000 songs. ????? Who is this person talking to? Obviously anyone that has a big nest egg, retirement payments and other lovely assets.

Another article listed things that a fifty plus should avoid, including wearing certain styles, things never to wear again, never using the word "like," as in I, like, went to the store..

Already, my ire was peaked by just the titles, and the lists of advice seemed trivial and silly to me. I have to say, I went into the comments on these articles and found I was not the only one aggravated by them. Many were offended by the pop-preachy attitude and condescending tone.

Like many, I lost a chunk of my retirement funds in the stock market,and, like many had to find other revenues beyond a job and Social Security.

I built this website,a repository of my over forty years of art expertise and knowledge based on my schooling (BFA-Minneapolis College of Art and Design and MFA-Pratt Institute) and experience teaching art in community college, private schools and my studios in Massachusetts, Connecticut and now North Carolina.

The information-rich lessons I have created are more and more becoming augmented by my art videos. The lengthy texts I wrote for many of the painting and drawing classes are being slowly replaced by my YouTube videos. Times are changing and I am changing my website to keep up with those changes.

What I’ve taken away from the experience of creating and maintaining a website is that by addressing the needs of people, and asking them what they want, I have created a site that meets their needs and serves them. And what I have written in the many art lessons is all freely accessed by whoever wants it, whether they live in Japan, Africa, Indonesia or Alabama.

It seems to me that one of the most important "luxuries" we deserve as older people is being able share our skills and knowledge and to help others. That is why, several years ago, for a small business class in Western Massachusetts, I created "The Artful Life Program," a way of engaging active and inspirational participation in art instruction for 55+ communities. The Program is based on the idea that creativity and longevity are inter-related and necessary components to aging successfully and enjoyably.

The Artful Life Program is available on my website. Click on the "Artful Life Program" button on the left or click on the link at the bottom of this page. And as always, it is free for you to use in whatever way you want.

Click here to read about my free Artful Life Program

Real Feedback





9/15/13

Hi Lois, thought I would send you a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate your YouTube videos. I found you last December when I purchased a Breville smart oven. I'd never really used a toaster oven for anything other than toast and since finding you I've been cooking like crazy! My husband thinks that's wonderful.

Also I introduced my daughter to your art lessons and she is delighted, especially with the stencil one of the fishes! You encourage people of all skill levels to feel less intimidated by the thought of actually 'doing' a painting!

Anyway, just saying thank you and to let you know how much we enjoy Charlie as well. Kindest regards,

Carol

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Hello Lois. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn hoy to draw and paint in diferentes styles and techniques. I just started and I've never had taken any classes til now with your tutorial.

I really worldwide appreciate your comments about my still life exercise. I specially have problems with shading the table and painting the wood graining (as you can se in the picture) and also the table cloth. The melon sas difficult too, I feel something is missing there too . (Some things in the picture I didn't want them to apear in my painting)

I'm starting to work with the landscape. As son as I have ir done I'll send you the picture.

Best regards and thank you again.

Andrea Berkefeld (from México)

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Lois, Thank you so much for this video.You have really outdone yourself on this one. I am truly inspired to give this a try! This is really stunning! I love it. I wanted you to know that you have been a real blessing to me. After the sudden passing of my husband (of 33 yrs.) I decided to take up art, and your site was one of the first I came across. It was, and still continues to be one of my favorite sites for inspiration and relaxed learning. You're a gem. Keep it up! Thanks Much Kim Tanner

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I discovered your website today and I am so impressed by the content. Not only it is free but is far superior to other websites.

My name is Dena and I'm from Queensland in Australia. Just recently (few weeks ago I picked up a paint brush and love it!!! I'm a Mother of 4 and 46 this year, work full time real estate sales.

I've never had an art lesson and was surfing the Internet for free tutorage on acrylics. That's how I discovered your incredibly helpful site.

You are the one that should be charging not the majority of other ones I have found.

My question to you is below is a painting that I'm trying to copy, however the running bits of paint at top I'm not sure how to get that effect.

I'm only on lesson one of yours as I just discovered it only hours ago. But if you would share with me how to achieve this it would be greatly appreciated. Again, thank you for such rich information on your site. I'm so excited to get to experiment with all you share

THANK YOU :)