5 Advantages to Learning Later in Life

5-advWhen I tell people that I’m learning to draw I get the impression that they feel that I might have missed my chance to do so now that I’m older.  Even though 29 isn’t exactly old there is a misconception that you have to learn something like art or music early in life to succeed.

One of the artists I find most inspiration is Lisa Congdon who didn’t begin seriously making art until well into her 30s.  Now, ten years later, she is a successful illustrator, author, fine artist, and teacher.  A friend of my in-laws also became a fine artist after her children had grown up and left the house in her 50s, selling her prints and paintings at local galleries.

I think there are a lot of benefits to learning later in life.

1. A New Appreciation for Time: Knowing myself, I think if I had gone to art school at 18 I would have squandered the opportunity.  As a kid you don’t have much appreciation for time, things can always be done later.  I was the queen of procrastination.  Now with so much on my plate time is an absolute premium and I treat it as such.  Any moment that I can devote to art I do so.

2. Not Afraid to Fail: I was pretty good at school and praised a lot for my work and I think I developed into a young adult who was positively paranoid about failure.  I avoided anything that I felt I might fail at, which meant a lot of missed opportunities.  Since having children my mindset has completely changed.  I need to teach my kids that they aren’t always going to be awesome at everything they try, but some things are worth working for.  Now I’ve learned to practice what I preach.  I am more comfortable with making lots of bad drawings because I tell myself one day they might become good, or even great drawings.

3. More Critical of My Own Work: I’ll be the first to say that I was an arrogant teenager.  I felt that everything I did was brilliant.  Now I would cringe to see what I did back then. Growing older I’ve recognised how good the top people in the field really are and how much I suck.  The ability to see the faults in your own work help a lot in moving towards improving.  If you can’t see what’s wrong it’ll be harder to fix.

4. Understanding What it Means to Practice: I started playing music when I was 10 years old have been told the old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” countless times.  What people don’t tell you is practice is more than just repetition.  It is all about analysing what you are doing.  Are you making a good sound?  Is that the right angle?  Is that the right sort of line?  To get to where you want to go you have to know what steps are needed to go there, just doing isn’t enough.

5. Patience: I think most kids lack patience and I was no exception.  I always wanted to know the quickest and easiest way to do something.  If I was told it’d take years to get good at I’d lose interest.  I still struggle with patience and sometimes have to force myself to slow down and continue to work on a piece that I want done right now.  But I understand now that progress doesn’t come in a day, or in a week, but over months and years.

Have you started learning art or a new skill later in life?  I’d love to hear your personal story.


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