Just read this wonderful article in the New York Times profiling people in their 80s and 90s who are prominent in their fields, still working and many of them are really in a beautiful place as artists, scientists, thinkers and so on.
The experience of aging seems to be quite specific for each individual. These people demonstrate how important it is to keep working (in your proper vocation), keep engaged with the world, keep learning and growing. I see it in my students too, most of whom are older than I am, but with a youthful appetite and engagement as they take courses, work in their studios and follow their particular artistic journeys.
Health issues arise of course, but when you have a strong enough reason to get back on your feet, you can overcome a lot. One of my godmothers, despite innumerable health issues, keeps a hectic schedule of activism fighting the problems and causes of poverty in her community. She told me once that her life is full of meaning and that that is what keeps her going when her health tries to interfere.
We all need to find and create meaning in our lives – sufficient to keep us fully engaged and always growing. Artists' work is to create meaning in things or activities to share with others. Maybe that is one of the reasons so many turn to the arts from midlife onwards. After a busy period of life spent fulfilling roles, there is a need to find something for yourself, where you can discover and develop capacities you may not have known you had. To become truly yourself.
“From the time that I was 6 years old I had the mania of drawing the form of objects. As I came to be 50 I had published an infinity of designs; but all that I have produced before the age of 70 is not worth being counted. It is at the age of 73 that I have somewhat begun to understand the structure of true nature, of animals and grasses, and trees and birds, and fishes and insects; consequently at 80 years of age I shall have made still more progress; at 90 I hope to have penetrated into the mystery of things; at 100 years of age I should have reached decidedly a marvelous degree, and when I shall be 110, all that I do, every point and every line, shall be instinct with life — and I ask all those who shall live as long as I do to see if I have not kept my word.”
"Great Wave off Kanagawa2" by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) - Restored version of File:Great Wave off Kanagawa.jpg (rotated and cropped, dirt, stains, and smudges removed. Creases corrected. Histogram adjusted and color balanced.). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg
As a visual artist I like nothing more than getting up to my elbows in paint or little plastic toys, or wading in at the deep end in pursuit of an idea. When I am not teaching others in a similar vein, you can find me researching, writing and noodling around in my studio, seeing where my latest lines of inquiry lead me.
All images and content on this website © Kim-Lee Kho 2005–2018 except as indicated. All rights reserved. No reproduction without express, written permission.