How to Cultivate Creativity in Retirement

Sep 14, 2022

A recent article in The Globe and Mail hit the nail on the head. The piece opened like this:

“It was after retiring from his career as an ophthalmologist in 2020 that Peter Waind was able to reignite his dream of becoming an artist.

He took some art courses as an undergraduate student, and did a bit of photography over the years, but the demands of his ophthalmology practice and surgery schedule always took precedence.

Once retired, Mr. Waind started taking courses to pursue a long-time passion for drawing and painting.

‘I like the expressiveness of paint when it’s a little bit out of control,’ the 68-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario was quoted as saying, ‘it’s an opportunity for the other side of your brain to drive the bus.’”

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Back to School We Go

Mr. Waind went back to school and took instruction at the Haliburton School of Art and Design in Haliburton, Ontario. He was encouraged to enrol in the college’s drawing and painting program, becoming one of three mature students in his class. Upon graduating he was “thrilled and surprised” to receive the award for the highest achievement in the course.

You don’t need to sign up for a class to pursue the arts in retirement, but it’s not a bad idea!

Express Your Inner Creativity

Increasing numbers of seniors in Canada are turning to art, as a means of expressing their inner creativity. It’s an imaginative strategy, whose special advantage is that you really don’t require an artistic background to get started. Stop by your local arts and crafts store, browse the various supplies and materials, and see what inspires you! You might surprise yourself.

The Globe and Mail article quoted Kate Dupuis, the Schlegel innovation leader at the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research in Oakville, Ontario:

“Some of our work is to redefine what being artistic or creative means to people and to really emphasize the fact that everyone has creativity and self-expression inside of them, regardless of whether you’ve lived your whole life without picking up a brush.”

The evidence is overwhelming that taking up or continuing creative activity as we age delivers massive health benefits including:

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved social engagement
  • Enhanced cognition

“We know from research that engaging in the arts… can be very calming,” Dr. Dupuis was further quoted as saying. “Some artists talk about this concept of flow, where you get into a meditative state when you’re creating, and time passes by without you really noticing.”

And you don’t have to take classes to be an artist or receive some of the benefits, she says.

“There’s a lot of different avenues from, ‘I’m going to do it at home by myself and see how it goes,’ all the way to taking courses from trained artists in your community.”

It Takes All Kinds…

You don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy making art. Another contributor to The Globe and Mail story was Carol Matson, a drawing and painting instructor at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), who commented that many of her students are retirees or about-to-be retirees with backgrounds as teachers, doctors, lawyers and empty nesters. Observed Ms. Matson:

“You get people who haven’t picked up a paint brush since they were six years old, and you get people who had gone to art school but over the years had gotten another job and given up on that part of their life and are coming back to it. I always tell people, never compare yourself to anyone else when starting the course because there are people from so many backgrounds.”

I Couldn’t Agree More

Ms. Matson made another observation that particularly resonates with me, because it speaks to the heart of my own work as a painter whose fundamental focus has always been to release my inner child.

Having resumed my artistic inclinations on a more regular basis after a 40 year career in commercial art, I now paint, draw and illustrate to my heart’s content. And the occasional added income from sales certainly is a welcome bonus!

Ms Matson concludes,

We’re all gifted with creativity as a child. As a retired person, maybe that’s your chance to go back to being childlike.

And adds that when students spend hours working on a painting or a drawing in class, “the rest of the world goes away.”

Right on!

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