An 88 year old with no prior experience in art shares his work and his story


Mountain Mist Through Birches

I have been asked to explain why I am trying to learn something about painting with oils at my advanced age of 88 years. I do not see myself as an artist – and many would readily agree after judging my results! However I do admit that I am trying to learn to apply oil paints to various receptive surfaces in order to produce an image that, more or less, resembles another image that I have before me, such as an outdoor scene, another painting, a photograph, or that exists only in my imagination.

Why indeed would an old man with diminishing physical and mental skills even consider trying to learn to paint with oils? That question answers itself!

Painting might be less challenging if I had background, exposure, or formal training in art. I do not. I occupy my retirement time with reading, watching selective television programs, communicating, and working around the house and grounds, and by participating in charitable activities, – all endeavors that anyone in retirement might consider.

However, as my age and increasing infirmity diminish my physical and mental abilities, I find it necessary to consider options that are possible, practical, and measurable. I have to assess my planned activities in terms of what I am able to do.

I do enjoy learning in general and acquiring new skills in particular. A recently acquired skill or fact and the ability and opportunity to share that with others seems to give the greatest satisfaction to me. Painting with oils challenges me intellectually and remains, for now, within my physical ability. Further, since I do believe most skills can be acquired, why not oil painting, an entirely new field for me?

A Good Day – after Storm

A long time ago, I shared the laboratory services of a technician who was a prize winning artist (oils) and much later, employed a secretary who attended art school in her spare time. Further, I had a good friend and former colleague whose artistic abilities are impressively far above anything I hope to achieve. I recognize and appreciate that subtle or subliminal influences probably emanated from these sources.

I had never placed a medium on a surface with “artistic” intent until about five years ago. My initial solo efforts were deplorable. A sympathetic friend introduced me to a “genuine” artist who had suffered an unfortunate head injury that ended his artistic career. The artist had retained his artistic skills and sense of humor but not his ambition. And, he made house calls! I think four times! I requested that he begin by telling me which end of the brush to use. His second visit resulted in his giving me a handful of pallet knives and brushes along with invaluable tips and suggestions.

Occasionally, a result pleases me, not because I think that it has artistic value, but because I think that I have achieved my goal of creating an illusion that suggests the scene I had in mind. And painting measurably fills that ever – enlarging void of how to spend my time. If my family or friends appreciate my efforts, I am amply rewarded.

Name withheld: the author prefers to be unidentified

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