This great article is used with permission from Surrey, BC, painter Robert Genn. Check out his informative and inspiring website www.thepainterskeys.com and consider becoming a subscriber.
If your horizons are going coo-coo, if things don't form up as
well as they used to, or you're having trouble finding your
colours, it may mean the advance of painterly senility. Not
fully reserved for the elderly, this can also come about at any
age by doing too much, too little, not looking, not caring, or
not being in touch with your muse.
While beginning artists may do poor work because of undeveloped
skills, mature artists may do poor work because they are losing
facilities. Somewhere in between there's a period of
proficiency and relative fulfillment. Most artists agree that
this middle period should be dragged out as long as possible.
At the same time, most of us have observed aged artists who are
sharp and proficient right up to the last ambulance. Genes play
a part, but it's mostly about attitude and lifestyle.
Success in hanging onto your artistic chops may be hard to
measure, but a related faculty, the maintenance of memory, is
well-documented. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have
some suggestions for you:
Keep learning. Keep challenging and exercising the brain in
order to stimulate communication between the brain cells. It's
important to keep learning new skills.
Don't smoke. Smoking harms the brain as well as the lungs and
heart. Smokers perform worse than non-smokers in studies of
memory and thinking skills.
Be social. Close ties with others can improve mental
performance. Social relationships provide support during
Exercise. What's good for the heart is good for the brain.
Getting your juices flowing gets your creative juices flowing
Eat your vegetables. Even better than fruit, researchers find
that veggies are vital to brain function. It's the vitamin E in
the greens, and the oil in the dressing.
Manage stress. Stress distracts from learning, memory,
thinking, and creativity. With stress, brain chemistry changes
and your hippocampus can become damaged. There's nothing worse
than a damaged hippocampus, I always say.
PS: "I do not wish to become senile before I've finished what
I've undertaken." (Paul Gauguin)
Esoterica: Many creators have given thought to art and aging.
Some have concluded that art itself extends life. "With age,
art and life become one." (Georges Braque) "Great work can come
at any stage." (Will Barnet) "None are so old as those who have
outlived enthusiasm." (Henry David Thoreau) "I cannot die until
I have made the most of my talent." (Kathe Kollwitz) "With
creative work, you don't have age or time." (Louise Nevelson)
"How much music can I make with the time I have left?" (Itzhak
"For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
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