I have seen a couple of recent calls for artist submissions, where age limits have been placed on the artists eligible to apply. One had placed the age limit at fifty. The other was calling for art from emerging artists under thirty. It started me thinking:


Should age be considered a defining factor when considering art?

Are we ever to old to be considered emerging?


I entered art school when I was in my late twenties, leaving teaching to do so. Life circumstances play a big part in determining what we can do, and when we can do it. It was only in my twenties, that I felt I could fully commit to art. By the time I completed my undergrad, I was in my thirties, technically an emerging artist, yet too old to submit to competitions, such as the one aforementioned. 


When are we too to old to pursue our creativity? I know artists who are in their fifties, sixties, who have only just begun their forays into art. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they are only now able.  Some would argue, if you have a need, you find a way, that creativity is not something you can place on the back burner. I would argue, the underlying need/want is often there, it just finds other outlets for release until you are able and ready.


Life experiences, knowledge, a sense of self, are all attributes developed with age. Rather than seeing these as negatives, let’s celebrate them as positives. They bring with them, authenticity, complexity and understanding. Art should be judged on merits alone. The age of the artist should never become part of the equation. 


I was lucky recently, to take part in an art class activity with a group of nine year old students. The activity, to trace around their hand on a piece of fabric, then fill the outline of their hand, with images and symbols they felt represented empowerment. The fabric pieces were to be sewn together to create a pillow.

 Without hesitation, the students set to work. Each student confidently traced around the outline of their hand with marker and began filling the spaces within. The art created, was done so without thought of how the final product should or would look.  The pieces came from their hearts and their heads, each step made, directing the steps that would follow. They worked with what they had, rather than what they thought they should have. The results were strong, and together, visually stunning.

 As an adult, I wondered if I would have tackled this project with equal confidence. My guess; I would not have done. I would have made a preliminary outline in pencil before committing to marker, taking substantial time to think and map out what I should place in the interior. I would have wanted to make it visually perfect. 

 “Perfection is in the imperfection”. I saw this quote written on a website recently. When I tried tracking down its origin, I found, not an exact match, but many variations of:

 “ The perfection of imperfection”

“ Imperfection is perfection”

“ The perfectly imperfect”

 Perfection implies something that adheres to recognized set of rules; that looks, sounds, and appears as a shining example of what society reveres, and or, is striving to achieve. Imperfection on the other hand, intimates something that is flawed. Interestingly, when the two are combined within a singular phrase, their emphasis changes significantly.  

 That we all should be able to tackle tasks as children do, to work with what we have, and to accept things as they are, confidently and creatively; without question, without hesitation. That we should be able to intuitively accept, as children have a tendency to do, that rather than perfection being a desired state, perfection is in the imperfection.

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Self Identity. So fickle and multi layered. So dependent on so many things: our personal history, our family history, our strengths, our weaknesses, who we are, and who we would like to be.

I speak from my experiences only. My art has taken me on a tremendous journey over the last twenty years, a journey that has forced me to dig deep, stripping layers one by one in search of a better understanding of self. For as long as I create art, this journey will continue.

What have I learned? I have learned, that have I had slowly built a wall around myself over the years, a wall that has shielded me somewhat from the negatives, but consequently also kept the positives at bay. Everyone, everything around, I kept at arms length. I limited my attachments, to people, to places, to things. The why, is for another discussion, as is the what that brought my walls tumbling down. Know though, that when they did, I instantly became vulnerable.

I used to consider vulnerability a weakness. I now consider it my greatest asset, my strength. Allowing myself to become vulnerable has opened both my eyes and my heart. It has allowed me to feel empathy for others, to be kind, not only to others, but also myself. It has forced me to take my mask off, and reveal myself for who I truly am. And I like that person. I have a long way to go, but I’m getting there.

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“The occurrence and development of events by chance, in a happy or beneficial way”

“ The fact of finding interesting and valuable things by chance.”

My finding of the objects that have inspired my current series of works, can only be described as serendipity. The objects in question, two 19th century hat manikins, were in a wonderful store in Calgary, called Architectural Uniquities. Uniquities, is a treasure trove for unusual items, and the manikins were no exception. Stained, torn in places, they were the right objects, for the right person. I was not that person. I had flown in for the weekend to visit friends. Returning with two hat manikins, would have been both unnecessary, and, impractical.

Fast forward two years. I was in a lull between series. I had finished the works for A Pause to Reflect, and was taking time before launching into a new series. I was also readingThe Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Self identity was certainly at the forefront of my thinking. Suddenly, the mannikins sprang to mind. A quick check of Uniquities website showed them to still be available. This time I bought them, and had them mailed out to Vancouver.

These two manikins are the inspiration for my current work, Just a Moment. Consisting of 15 drawings, the series explores the idea of masks, personas, and the need I sometimes feel, and I suspect others feel also, to don; a way hiding our true thoughts and feelings. Each image in the series, shows a head, in a varying stage of profile.

I remembered after I bought the manikins, that one of my grandmothers used to be a milliner in England, in the 19th century. The thought that she may have used items like these in creating her own work, brought the items closer to home.

So many chance events. Such unusual, yet inspirational objects. Serendipity.

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