Benefits of awakening your artistic side in retirement

Peter Wind at his home in Waterloo, Ont. Once retired, Mr. Waind began taking courses to pursue a long-standing passion for drawing and painting.Alicia Winter / Globe and Mail

After retiring from his career as an ophthalmologist in 2020, Peter Wind has been able to reignite his dream of becoming an artist.

He took some art courses as an undergraduate, and did some photography over the years, but the requirements of his ophthalmology practice always took precedence.

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

“I love expressing paint when it’s a little out of control,” the 68-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario said, describing it as “an opportunity for the other side of your brain to drive the bus.”

Last summer, one of his professors at Halliburton School of Art and Design in Halliburton, Ontario, urged him to enroll in the college’s Drawing and Coloring program in the fall. Mr. Wind, one of the three mature students in his class, graduated in the spring and was “happy and surprised” for the highest achievement of the course.

More and more seniors are reconsidering their love for art in their retirement years as a way to express themselves and pass the time. The good news for retirees is that you don’t need an artistic background to take on painting, drawing, or any other art forms, says Kate Dupuy, Schlegel innovation lead at the Sheridan Center for Research on Aging in Oakville, Ontario.

“Part of our job is to redefine what it means to be artistic or creative to people and really emphasize the fact that everyone has creativity and self-expression within them, regardless of whether you’ve lived your whole life without holding a brush,” she says.

Search Offers That being involved in a creative activity, such as drawing or painting, is also good for your health — everything from reducing stress to increasing social engagement and improving cognition — is increasingly important as we age.

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

She says you don’t have to take classes to be an artist or get some benefits.

“There are a lot of different ways from, ‘I’ll do it at home myself and see how it goes,'” to taking courses from trained artists in your community, says Dr. Dupuy.

Some of Mr. Wind’s work.Alicia Winter/The Globe and Mail

Carol Mattson, a drawing and painting teacher at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), says many of her students are retired or about to retire and have backgrounds as teachers, doctors, lawyers and empty residents.

“You get people who haven’t picked up a paintbrush since they were six, you get people who went to art school but over the years got another job and gave up that part of their life and came back,” she says.

“I always tell people, never compare yourself to anyone else when you start the course because there are people from so many backgrounds.”

Ms. Mattson says retirement provides a wonderful opportunity to practice the arts.

“We’re all gifted with creativity when we were kids. As a retiree, maybe this is your chance to get back into being childish,” she says, adding that when students spend hours working on a painting or drawing in class, “the rest of the world disappears.”

“It opens up a whole new world for some people who never thought they could express themselves in this way,” she says.

Mr. Waind is an example of how art can become a fulfilling passion in retirement. He now has a website for his art, and two pieces were shown in an art gallery in Fenelon Falls, Ontario, last fall. One of his photographs was also accepted into a tight show in Lindsey, Ont.

He says an art instructor—not one of him—recently offered him $150 for one of his watercolors. He was not willing to sell it.

“That watercolor was the first time I made something where I thought, ‘Oh, that has something in it,'” says Mr. Waind. ‘There’s a little bit of maturity. It is elegant the way it is made. There is some dignity in some brushstrokes.”

However, he says it was a pivotal moment in his final class as an artist.

“It was a milestone… for me, I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I’m going to be something more than a dappler,'” he says.

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