More than ever Zoomers are embracing the arts

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

I was quite amused when Moses Znaimer renamed the Carp magazine Zoomer. At first, I thought it was a bit pretentious but then I realized that today's retirees are a very special brand of 50+ individuals.

They are healthier, have more disposable income and have a broader range of options offered to them. And one of the options they choose in great numbers is the arts.

After three days spent with various authors and artists at the Canadian Authors' Festival which was held at the Museum of Aviation in Ottawa, I realize how talented our senior population is.

Geneviève Hone and Alberte
A card by Lise Chatelain

Most have retired from a demanding career. Their children have left the proverbial nest and now they have the freedom to explore new venues.

I started writing while I was still teaching but only started painting once I retired. Had you told me 10 years ago I would paint, I would have laughed and told you I had absolutely no talent.

True, I enjoyed photography and had a good eye for composition but picking up a brush and creating a work of art out of a blank canvas? No!

And yet, all it took was a few courses so that I could master some of the techniques and there it was ... a garden, grandchildren on the beach, a self-portrait, pussy willows on a frosty background and more. Like the art of writing, it felt like giving birth to something beautiful and unique.

My paintings now grace the covers of my books and when people ask about the illustrator, I am very proud to tell them it's me.

My friends' artistic choices are as varied as their personalities.

Lysette Brochu and Roberta Dupont have written several children's books while Donella Dunlop and Colette St. Denis have drawn on the past to write compelling stories about their family or the regional heritage.

Geneviève Hone and Alberte
Alberte with Geneviève Hone

Louise and Carmel have chosen quilting, Lise makes beautifully embroidered greeting cards, lace is Denise's favorite. Her husband paints.

Gérald showed me a beautiful wooden walking stick that can be used as a measuring stick for gardening. He loves woodworking. Pierre has a framing shop but his passion is touching up old photos.

Geneviève Hone, who now writes about children, sewed costumes for a theatrical group. And the list goes on ... Many of them are multi-talented. My longtime friend, Françoise does floral arrangements, paints, sews, knits and likes to crochet.

Thérèse Frère, a well-known Vanier (Ottawa) artist closed her studio at the age of 83. In so doing, she offered 155 of her paintings to the Richelieu Club of Ottawa so they can sell them and send the proceeds to charitable care organizations. Thérèse will go on painting at a more leisurely pace now. She insists one has to take pleasure in what one does and always, FOLLOW YOUR DREAM.

Now a few tips for a "happy late-in-life artist", from Diane Peters:

Artwork by Denise Gingras
Artwork by Denise Gingras
  1. Take classes. You'll learn your craft better and will connect with like-minded people at art programs, which are available through colleges, universities, high schools, community centers and specialty studios.

  2. Invest in your art. Get good-quality supplies and tools. This will motivate and help you produce better work.

  3. Accept criticism. Choose classes and support groups that will critique your work honestly and constructively. Criticism is the only way to get better.

Of course, joining classes and artist groups is a bonus because you meet like-minded people who are passionate about their artwork and are more than willing to share tips and secrets to success. This is what I enjoyed the most of my three days at the Canadian Authors' Festival.

Fall and winter are perfect for starting a new art project, so be bold and dare to follow your dream!

23 October 2009 — Return to cover.