The Benefits of Awakening Your Artistic Side in Retirement

Peter Waind at his home in Waterloo, Ontario. After his retirement, Mr. Waind began taking classes to pursue his longstanding passion for drawing and painting.Alicia Wynter/The Globe and the Mail

After retiring from his career as an ophthalmologist in 2020, Peter Waind was able to rekindle his dream of becoming an artist.

As an undergraduate student, he took a few art classes and did a bit of photography over the years, but the demands of his ophthalmology practice and surgical schedule always took priority.

After his retirement, Mr. Waind began taking classes to pursue his longstanding passion for drawing and painting.

“I like the expressiveness of color when it gets a little out of control,” says the 68-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, describing it as “a chance for the other side of the brain to drive a bus.”

Last summer, one of his teachers at the Haliburton School of Art and Design in Haliburton, Ontario, urged him to enroll in the college’s drawing and painting program in the fall. Mr. Waind, one of three mature students in his class, graduated in the spring and was “thrilled and surprised” when he was recognized for the best performance on the course.

More and more seniors are rediscovering their love of art in their retirement years as a way to express themselves and pass the time. The good news for retirees is that you don’t need an artistic background to get started with drawing, painting, or any other art form, says Kate Dupuis, Schlegel innovation leader at the Sheridan Center for Elder Research in Oakville, Ontario.

“Part of our work is to redefine what it means for people to be artistic or creative, and to emphasize the fact that creativity and self-expression reside within everyone, whether you’ve lived your whole life, without picking up a paintbrush,” she says.

Research shows that participating in a creative activity like drawing or painting is also good for your health — from reducing stress to increasing social engagement to improving cognition — which becomes increasingly important as you age.

“We know from research that engaging in art…can be very calming,” says Dr. dupuis “Some artists talk about this concept of flow, where you get into a meditative state as you create and time just flies by without you really realizing it.”

And you don’t have to take classes to become an artist or get some of the benefits, she says.

“There are many different options, from ‘I’ll do it myself at home and see how it goes,’ to taking classes from trained artists in your community,” says Dr. dupuis

Some of Mr. Waind’s work.Alicia Wynter/The Globe and Mail

Carol Matson, a drawing and painting teacher at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), says many of her students are retirees or prospective retirees with backgrounds in teachers, doctors, lawyers and empty nesters.

“There are people who haven’t picked up a brush since they were six and there are people who went to art school but over the years got another job and gave up that part of their life and are coming back to it.” , she says.

“I always tell people never compare yourself to anyone else when you start the course because there are people from so many backgrounds.”

Retirement offers a great opportunity to pursue art, says Ms. Matson.

“We are all creative as children. As a pensioner, maybe this is your chance to be childlike again,” she says, adding that when students spend hours working on a painting or a drawing in class, “the rest of the world disappears.”

“It opens up a whole new world for some people who never thought they could express themselves in this way,” she says.

Mr. Waind is an example of how art can become a fulfilling passion in retirement. He now has a website for his art, and two pieces were featured at an art show in Fenelon Falls, Ontario last fall. One of his photographs was also accepted at a juried exhibition in Lindsay, Ontario.

He says an art teacher – none of his – recently offered him $150 for one of his watercolors. He wasn’t ready to sell it.

“This watercolor was the first time I did something where I was like, ‘Oh, there’s something about that,’” says Mr. Waind. “There is a little maturity. It’s neat the way it’s composed. Some brushstrokes have a certain dignity.’”

Still, he says it was a pivotal moment in his final chapter as an artist.

“It was a milestone…for me when I thought, ‘maybe I’m going to be something more than a dilettante,'” he says.

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