Yesterday, Tammy Callens of Jackson Hole, Wyoming wrote, “I’m suddenly 47 years old. It began to panic me that I’m too old to have a real career. With husband, children and other obligations, I wondered about all the young talent out there. Now I have recently enjoyed a sudden rise in sales due to steady work-habits and trying to make a bigger noise. Fine Art Connoisseur chose me as one to watch, and the local paper featured my story. I’m thinking, maybe it’s never too late. Maybe we all have different times to rise up. It’s humbling to suddenly have attention. What are your thoughts?”
Thanks, Tammy. The first thing I did when I read your note was to go take a look at your work. There was the answer. It’s good work. Maybe it was previously hidden under a bushel, or maybe it took you a while to get good. Goodness knows, many folks take 47 years to get as good as you. Many take longer than that to get accepted. Look at Grandma Moses. She was in her seventies before she quit embroidery and picked up a brush.
It’s never too late to get good, and it’s never too late to get accepted. They go hand in hand.
Every day I get emails and requests from promoters offering marketing counsel for artists. Some say things like, “It’s not the art, it’s all in the promotion.” These folks, who often come from business backgrounds and don’t know much about art or how the gallery system works, offer to guide artists to success in galleries and online. As noble as their motivations may be, these promoters are mostly off base.
Folks like Tammy succeed because they are trying new things and expanding their repertoire. In her case that includes counter-light, edge-lighting, atmospheric effects, sophisticated colour, challenging techniques, odd-ball compositions, unusual juxtapositions, aerial perspective, shimmer, symmetry, sentiment, sunlight-eating-out-detail and attention to surface quality.
Folks like Tammy are also succeeding by subtly and tastefully letting people know their work is regularly being made and available.
PS: “I don’t advise anyone to take up painting as a business proposition, unless they really have talent. But I will say that I have did remarkable for one of my years.” (Grandma Moses 1860-1961)
Esoterica: As the baby boomers come on stream and are demanding decent heath care, planning to live past the century mark, I see nothing but a sea of painters ahead. Given reasonable health, copious shots of curiosity, humility, character, studiousness, ego and workmanlike habits, folks will be putting it together. Fear not the young kid; your main competition may just be the seasoned, passionate and competent geriatric next door.
Tammy Callens art
The present moment
by Carol Mayne, Leucadia, CA, USA
When I was in my 30’s, I thought I should have been a really successful artist by then. Really? When I was in my 40’s I thought I should have been a better artist by then. Really? When I was in my 50’s I thought I should have worked harder in my 20’s to get more skills. Really? Now that I’m 60, I am grateful for everyday I can do whatever I can, realizing I really wasn’t shooting for ‘museum status’ as an artistic quest, but rather a balanced life, full of many experiences. My sanity was saved through these decades by this quotation, placed over my easel, that snapped me back to the present moment, again and again:
“There is no such hour on the time-piece of Fate as, ‘Too Late.’ ”
Steady work habits
by Casey Craig, Wimberley, TX, USA
Kudos to Tammy for making her family a priority and yet still pursuing her art. I too, have to manage my artistic pursuits around two children, a husband and now a puppy (why didn’t I remember how much work is involved in raising a pup?). Through the years of raising my boys, I have managed to keep working on my art, but it is often very challenging and being organized is essential. It is a common story for many artists that once the children reach school age, we see a surge of artistic energy to make up for all the time spent raising families. You have to ask yourself, if you would have preferred to farm your kids out or not had a family so that you could accomplish more in your art career. You can’t be the hands on wife and mother (or husband and father) and log endless hours in front of the easel. For me, the answer is easy, my family is worth the time I’ve given them. I’m pretty sure most people in this situation feel the same. No, it’s never too late and congratulations to Tammy on her success and more importantly her devotion to “steady work habits.”
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How do I get started?
by Kathleen Bennett, Wilmington, MA, USA
I am a 43 year old, single mother of two teens with a full time career and have recently re-discovered my love for oil painting. I agree that it is never too late! Although I hardly have much time, over the past year or two I have been able to reach a point where I feel ready to put my art work outside the four walls of my home. Does anybody have any suggestions as to how I may start? I joined an art association this summer and have volunteered. I also joined a plein air group to improve my skills and to make new friends and network.
How does a “new” artist jump into the art world? My plans for the winter are to keep painting and to enter as many shows as possible next year. Shall I focus on smaller sized pieces with low prices? Should I approach galleries yet if I only have about 6 solid consistent styles of work? How many pieces should I have under my belt before I step out into the art marketing world? Do you have suggestions for marketing my work at this early stage?
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Old works returning to gallery
by M. E Whitehill
Grandma Moses’s late start at 70 was always both an inspiration to paint and an excuse to postpone the attempt. I finally began at 60 what I had been dreaming of my whole life. Nothing but lack of confidence held me back. In the beginning I practically gave the work away and did not keep photographs or records. At last, thirty years later, I opened my own gallery and many owners of the early paintings have visited. I was amazed to discover that those early attempts were much better than I thought. I have also met several women who felt they were too old to begin and have been inspired to try.
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland
I just had to write and tell you how much I have enjoyed viewing the paintings of Tammy Callens. She is one of
the best artists I have seen and she most certainly stands out from the crowd. The body of work is very skilled and there are landscapes and figurative works of an impressive standard. Age doesn’t come into it, she is still very young at 47 years old and has worked very hard to reach the standard of work we are seeing here today. I was so impressed with her paintings that I had to email her and tell her immediately how wonderful her work is. She is also very beautiful but I think even if she was much older and plain in looks she would still sell very well. It is the work that speaks for itself. What an inspiration she is, I must get in my studio and work even harder!
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Just keep climbing
by Dena Crain, Kenya
I was 50 before I could acknowledge that I was an artist, even though other people had been telling me that for a very long time. Now, at 60, I am an online and international quilt design teacher with little time for making art, but with very bright prospects for continued success, including certification as a qualified quilt judge. The important point is that it is NEVER too late to enjoy success in your occupation or avocation. Life is like a mountain we climb a little every day, with its peak shrouded in cloud so we cannot see how close we are to reaching the top. Just keep climbing! You’ve come a long way already, but there’s always a little higher you can go. And be sure to enjoy the view along the way!
European vs. American art differences
by Melinda Collins, Redwood City, CA, USA
I’ve noticed a distinct difference in what is lauded in the U.S. as being the finest art and what is exciting in other places. American art (of the illustrative representational styles as opposed to conceptual art) tends to be recognized as “higher” art when it is more refined painterly realism, of landscapes and even rather sentimentalized figure work and florals. The best galleries in France and England tend to show more stylized, fresh imagery that relies less on its rendered realism and more on expressive, personalized form and color. In other words, less conservative and more exploratory.
I know this is something of a generalization, because both continents produce many types of art, but on the whole I do find Europeans produce and respond to a more stylized type of representation than Americans. This has certainly been true for me in terms of my sales. I am just wondering why this seems to be the case and whether anyone else has noticed this. On the whole, Americans seem more conservative in both social and political values, and perhaps this contributes to the differences in art.
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Sense of urgency
by Jan Blencowe, Clinton, CT, USA
I’m also 47 and like Tammy I’ve had other seasons of my life filled with work, children, family but in the last decade or so have been working hard at my art with some nice successes. I also occasionally wonder if it’s too late to really have a bona fide career in art. But since I’m a died in the wool believer in the rewards of hard work that thought never gets very far with me.
People like Tammy and Britain’s Got Talent runner up, singer Susan Boyle (also 47), just prove that it’s never too late if you’ve got some talent, and are willing to give it your all, follow your dream and persevere. I think that at this stage of life I’m more focused and inclined to work very hard because of a sense of urgency generated by the awareness of my age. You wrote, “Fear not the young kid; your main competition may just be the seasoned, passionate and competent geriatric next door.” Well, in 20 years I hope I am that seasoned, competent geriatric next door giving younger artists a run for their money!
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A blessed fire
by Laurie Sain, Lander, WY, USA
I’m 56 years old. In 2008, after a 30-year career as a successful consultant and writer (and an equally long caree as a playwright and poet — yes, produced and published), my words ran out and I found myself bored with my business and adrift with creative energy and no outlet. On top of the boredom, the economic collapse dissolved my consulting business in a matter of months, leaving me with a lot of time and little income to contribute to the household. There I was: “old,” broke, out of work, and in a state where most careers entailed oil rigs or wildlife. I didn’t have much to move forward on – I thought. I wanted to paint — it had always been second on the “list” – but the energy to clean out the back room of the office and set up a studio — the courage for it — the sheer audacity of it — escaped me.
Finally, the world took things in hand one Friday night and burned down the building that contained my office, my lifetime’s writing, most of my father’s and friends’ art, my childhood trains and my collection of first-edition children’s books, including “Bambi.” In short, everything. (I managed to salvage one painting, a lifetime of journals, a few copies of my plays and poetry books, and my IRS records, thanks to a courageous friend.)
What a blessing that fire turned out to be! It took a year of shock and insurance payments, and two years of exploring options, including giving horseback riding lessons, starting a new online business, managing rentals — oh, and actually painting. Of all my explorations, painting “seriously” brought me the most success: acceptance at a juried show (“Heart of the West,” here in Wyoming), two commissions, and soon a print sale. I am now ensconced in a bona fide art studio upstairs in our house, with a real easel, flat file, brushes, paint, paper, all the stuff I need to paint, none of which I could have afforded without the insurance money. I don’t have a serious body of work yet — that’s this winter’s project — but it seems the universe needs to see me paint more — which I’m happy to do.
Too old? What does that mean? Too fearful – now that’s something that can get in the way. But what’s to be afraid of, really? A bad painting? It’s just a step to a better one. Here’s what I’ve learned: don’t wait for the fire. Go for it now. Save the universe the trouble of making you do it some other way. Oh, and do make sure your fire insurance covers your assets — because if I learned anything in the last few years, it’s that most of us are sorely underinsured.
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3D digital painting
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Michael Weaver of Elizabethtown, PA, USA, who wrote, “You do give folks hope — I have been inactive as an artist for decades — got sick of the whole public art teacher burn-out thing — but desperately want to get back the flame and the hope. You gave it to me so many times, I think I’ll be working again and having fun, too! You are so fine in your treatment of people and your grace and tact are first-rate, too!”
And also Carlana Lane of Pasgoucala, MS, USA, who wrote, “Tammy should read On Becoming an Artist by Ellen Langer… a good read for inspiring creativity.”
And also Eileen McErlain of Winston Salem, NC, USA, who wrote, “‘Geriatric’ is not a noun (re: “the geriatric next door”). I just would like you to be aware that some people find this usage offensive, as it is in other settings. At what stage are you suggesting someone becomes “a geriatric” etc.? I just thought I’d point it out.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Never too late…