This is the question that I asked myself many times as I was learning to oil paint. I started to really learn to oil paint when I was in my late 50’s. Like many of you, I felt that maybe I had missed my prime, and I was just too old to learn how to paint. My mother then reminded me of the famous Grandma Moses, who started to paint at the ripe old age of 78.
You are never too old to learn to oil paint. You can start to oil paint at any age. If Grandma Moses could learn to paint at age 78, then she sets an example for us all – that you are never too old to learn to paint. In fact, there are some advantages to learning to paint when you are older vs. when you are younger.
Some of these advantages are really just some artistic freedoms, that I see as:
Freedom of real artistic expression
One of the advantages I see is that when you start painting when you are older, you are really not hammered down by convention or express yourself in a certain way to make sure you get a good grade in your University class. When you start to paint when you are older, the only person you need to really worry about is pleasing yourself.
In this case, I see age as a real blessing, not a curse. And I see art as a tool or a way to all express ourselves and our personalities. In fact, art should express your likes, loves, and personalities.
I love dogs, and anyone who knows me knows that I have always had a dog. I can usually be found walking about my house, talking to my dogs. My art expresses this part of my life. I paint many dog paintings, and I will put dogs in clothes, with sunglasses or even with a swimming cap. My art is an expression of what I love, as your art should also be an expression of what you love or enjoy.
If you love nature, then start to paint some nature paintings. If you love flowers, start to paint some flowers you love. If you love dogs or cats, then start to paint dogs and cats. Just start with what you love and then start to paint it.
Freedom of not caring about what others really think about your art.
One of the greatest blessings in being older is that at this point in our lives, so many of us have been through so many difficult or tough things that when someone looks at your art and just politely smiles or worse yet, they tell you they do not like it or think you have no talent – well you really do not give a hoot.
I know when I was young, I really cared about these things. I wanted everyone to praise me or tell me again and again, how great I am. These days I really do not care. There is some freedom in old age to feel like – I am who I am, so take it or leave it!
There is some real freedom in being older and hopefully much wiser and realizing that it really does not matter. It does not matter if anyone thinks you have a talent or not. Nor does it matter if they like your art. What matters is that you love to paint, and you love what you are doing. Since really, at the end of the day, that is what matters most.
Freedom of not having a teacher tell you what is right or wrong.
For a while, I hired a highly qualified art teacher from the local high school to help me with painting techniques. This teacher had a master’s degree in art and was extremely good at what he was doing. I appreciated him coming in to look at my paintings and to help me. But it was then I also realized that he wanted to try to change my style and have me paint just like he was painting.
I am sure his techniques were probably much better than the basic techniques I was using. And I am really all for taking a class, getting a tutor, and learning all that you can. I think that is an essential aspect of art.
But I also think it is just as important for you to be able to discover your own style, your own techniques, and your own art. As an artist, I know my style, techniques, and art are always changing as I change. One of the great things about art is that I am always learning and discovering new things about my art – and myself.
In learning art at an older age, I have found the freedom to be able to find myself in my art without many of the inhibitions or concerns I had when I was younger. This, I realize, is a great blessing of learning to paint at an older age.
Freedom to get on YouTube like and learn painting skills.
Some of us may be older, but we are still not so old that we cannot get on YouTube just like everyone else and learn some great skills from some great artistic masters. On YouTube, you learn almost everything about painting, from how to paint a nose on a person or a sunset.
Today there is so much you can learn on YouTube that you can be in the comfort of your own home and basically take a master class that is being taught somewhere else in the world.
I basically learned to paint through YouTube. I got on YouTube and learned everything from mixing colors to cleaning my brushes or setting up a painting. There are just so many great and wonderful resources on YouTube that I encourage everyone – young and old – to get on YouTube to brush up on their painting skills.
Freedom to become another Grandma or Grandpa Moses
We can all become a Grandma or Grandpa Moses. Anna Mary Robertson Moses was a woman who began to really explore her artistic talents later in life – starting at the ripe old age of 78. One of my favorite quotes and advice that she leaves for us all is
What great advice Grandma Moses left us all with. Look for inspiration all around us, then close our eyes and use our imagination to paint what we see in our imagination. Grandma Moses is really teaching us all because we do not need to care what others think of our paintings. We need to paint with our own creativity and imagination and then use the brushes to paint on the canvas as we feel moved at that moment; that is what art is all about.
Even if you may feel you are too old to start to learn to oil paint, the truth is that it is never too late. And besides, with age comes many creative freedoms that you may not have had if you had started painting when you were younger.
So go out and get yourself a canvas, some paints, and other art supplies and then start to paint.
What supplies do I need to start to oil paint?
Here is an excellent blog called A Complete Guide to Oil Painting Supplies that Every Beginner Oil Painter Needs. You can click on the link I have provided to see the list they have of the supplies you will need and why you will need them.
You can also look to buy a starter kit like this one that is on Amazon. Though this kit may have many things you do not need, they will also give you a lot of supplies you can use.
Do I need to always prime my canvas?
Priming the canvas helps so that the oil paint colors will stand out more, and it also means that you may need to use fewer oil paints with your painting. If you do not prime the canvas, you may find that your oil paints will sink into the canvas, and this could leave your painting with some dull patches.
Can I buy the canvas already primed?
You can buy a commercial canvas that is already primed, But the canvas manufacturers will use the minimum amount of prime on the canvas. If you are concerned about there not being enough prime on your canvas, you can add additional prime to an already commercially primed canvas. It will not hurt the canvas or your painting.