Art, Retirement and the Inner World–
We’ve all heard about and probably experienced first hand how retirment signals a major life change. Full retirement is as psychologically challenging as leaving home was in the early years. When I retired I could think of nothing but starting a new career, something to give life meaning and purpose. The best advice for retirees is to remain active, join clubs, volunteer, take classes, exercise, be connected. In many ways this is an attempt to preserve our dignity, to give meaning to life after work. However these activities may distract us from the opportunity to experience freedom and to explore our inner world. Involvement in the arts is one way that folks can bridge the need for structure and purpose with the heretofor neglected inner self.
Let’s note that art is often constrained by one’s health and income. Many are not as fortunate to have a secure income and good health in retirement. In fact many cannot retire until health problems demand. How may older artists do you know who are continually struggling with pain, medical appoitments, surgeries, recovery, etc. Furthermore many seniors are living on a very restricted income and are challenged to pay living expenses. It’s not hard to see how this inteferes with ones devotion to art.
Yet there are numerous examples of great artists who were challenged by health or income and continued to produce in spite of hardship. I explain this by saying these masters became committed or obsessed early on with the inner world, the creative world, the world of their own creation. In fact the masters share this one trait, a singe minded dedication to their art which overrides personal discomfort and other priorities.
Herein is my point. Though most of us don’t presume to be famous or exceptional, we can take inspiration from whose who show you don’t have to be having a good day to express your inner creativity. Munch, Matisse, Van Gogh, many others come to mind. Retirement is a great time to explore this inner world. Aging will eventually rob us of our external world and abilities, so I say it’s time to get self-centered, “slip the surly bonds earth”, and play with paint!
10 Steps to Unlock the Inner World with Art
When discussing the inner world, you can only talk around it. It’s like the negative space in our lives. Have you noticed how your persona changes when you shift from a subject to the background? The subject ties us to reality but the background is infinite. The inner world doesn’t have a calendar or list of rules. But how to escape these rules? There are a number of good books on the subject but I will offer here my own gardening tips for freeing your creativity.
1. Paint during your prime time, not after all your chores are done!
2. Recognize imitation. Immitation is not bad; it can be very instructive and fun. The desire to copy something beautiful is a form of reverence. However it is rooted in the obsessive perfectionistic mind and will stifle the inner world.
3. Recognize your inner critic and practice saying “thank you for that hurtful thought”. How many times have you admired someone’s work to have them only criticise it?
4. Practice saying “yes”, and “good” as you work.
5. Listening to music can help unlock a creative impulse.
6. Make time to play with paint with no subject.
7. You must “waste” materials. Expect to throw away experimental work.
8. Practice mindful moments of expanded awareness outside your habitual pursuits. Some might experience this in prayer. I find this hard to do by command or plan but it helps to break the habit by going someplace new and sitting alone until something pops up. Bring along a sketch pad. Plein air sessions are also good opportunities.
9. While I’m on the subject, have the sketch pad on hand wherever you go. There are often unexpected waiting periods when anything can happen.
10. Now, if you’re really crazy about art, you can do contour drawings, even expand them into finished works! I won’t go into the instructions but you can read “Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain” and get the full deal. In short, contour drawing is drawing without looking at your hand. It results in a very abstract image, and will neutralize your perfectionism (or drive you carzy).
Be prepared to get no compliments for your inner world work. You may wish to keep this work private. However you may be surprised to find some great paitings as a result and certainly some fulfilling experiences.