In human children, drawing is as spontaneous as walking. Whether with pencil and paper or sticks in the sand, children draw. The youngest children are satisfied with the movement of the drawing implement (scribbling). By age five or six, many children make drawings that are imaginative, detailed and creative. However, at about age 8 or 9, children’s drawings become stiff or patterned or children stop drawing altogether. By this age, children become less accepting of their ability to attempt to reproduce what they observe. They turn on critical voices that remind them “This looks wrong” or “I can’t draw”. It becomes accepted from then on that only a few are blessed with artistic talent. Most of us put away our paints and pencils.
Winston Churchill, who started to paint at age 40, said that learning to paint late in life required only audacity. In “Painting as a Pastime” Churchill wrote the best descriptions of painting.
“Painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part of life’s journey”
“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and color, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day”
“Just to paint is great fun. The colors are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so-before you die. As one slowly begins to escape from the difficulties of choosing the right colors and laying them on in the right place and in the right way, wider considerations come into view.”
“Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one’s mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside, and it is only after many hesitations that luncheon knocks gruffly at the door.”
Learning to paint later in life requires one to silence the voices of negativity, and a willingness to try. Skill (in any endeavor) does not come naturally. Skill comes from a lot of practice -hours and ideally, years of practice. Most successful contemporary painters suggest that one needs one hundred “painting starts” before one’s first painting. Churchill described his own work as an older painter when he wrote “We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joyride in a paint -box.” If ever you have wished to paint, don't miss your chance just because you are older. Find a compassionate gentle teacher and start your own "joyride".