Whether you are a young or older artist, whether you make art as a passion project or are actively engaged in the business of art, the only limits are what your body can do and what your mind will let you do.

– Barney Davey
There is no expiration date on creativity or the work of older artists.

Some occupations, such as pro sports, have age limits. In his early 40s, Tom Brady was a dinosaur in the NFL. And while Brady defies age and norms, we all know his remaining time playing as an elite athlete was short.

Many corporations have mandatory retirement ages. They shove people out the door at 65, regardless of whether they have more to contribute.

Artists don’t have a shelf life. They are seemingly immune to ageist perceptions and traditional notions of retirement.

Celebrating older artists

No matter when you start or what your age is, artists can contribute their art to the conversation. We celebrate artists and their lifetime achievements. I was honored to write the press release for the late Joella Jean Mahoney on the 50-year museum retrospective of her magnificent paintings of the Colorado plateau. Imagine her half-century of contributing her unique style and glorious interpretation of the endless palette landscape she stalked and recorded for five decades.

Why we should support older artists

Artists getting older is nothing new. Going back to the Renaissance in Europe, older artists were esteemed and patronized and invited into the homes of kings and popes and their museums, often to collaborate on artwork, occasionally winning commissions and rewards. There are no such support systems for older artists today.

Encouraging mature artists to continue exercising their creativity by making art helps fill a growing demand. As our aging population grows, it is imperative to develop ways to keep older adults productive and involved creatively.

It’s not simply a do-gooder solution. Studies show significant health improvement and stability for older people who engage in creative endeavors. By instituting programs that keep older artists creative and occupied, we can all avoid bearing the financial burden of avoidable healthcare costs.

A changing art market

One of the first questions when considering older artists is, “How far behind are they?” In recent years, we’ve seen an about-face on such an attitude; world-renowned artists have been ushered into commercial careers and embraced as esteemed practitioners. One of London’s top art dealers, Duncan Forbes, created the “Generations” program at the Saatchi Gallery, which included British artist Deborah Ladner. “The program allows collectors and curators to become familiar with new talents,” he said.

More often, the spotlight shines on the new and, usually, on artists who have had long careers but have found a new audience and embrace. American artist Maria Lassnig was active in the 1970s and 80s and now finds her work in important museums and private collections.

Recognition is a problem for older artists.

Being an older artist is challenging for many reasons, including an inevitable lack of recognition. A familiar knock against older artists is that they are no longer relevant to society. That perception has caused many older artists to stay comfortably behind the scenes. Recognition, to be accurate, is not a problem exclusive to mature artists.

Today, when you consider the challenges of creating art in a climate of rising costs of living, becoming a full-time artist is a challenge, even if you are committed to the discipline of creating art and in love with the freedom of making it your livelihood. But those conditions, as daunting as they are, should never stop anyone of any age from pursuing art.

The artist’s life

All artists crave creation. For artists over the age of 40, the creativity floodgates are often wide open. When they are creating, they experience a drive and euphoria that are almost mind-blowing. An artist nearing her 60s was asked about her life and how she felt compared to how she felt when she was 40.

The main difference she observed was that now she has years of experience to draw upon, whether it’s an ideal time to begin a new project or enjoy the good ones she has created. The future, of course, is a total mystery, no matter your age. It’s never been easy for an older artist to make a living, and it never will be. The key is to love what you do. And to remain as excited about creating art now as at any age. That is the essence of my Artist’s Life Manifesto.

Musical acts defying age

Many aging musicians continue to rock the stage despite nearing or having hit 80. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and many more fill stadiums and concert halls around the globe today.

Leonard Cohen’s resurgence in his 70s resulted in a series of worldwide concerts that produced stunning live recordings of his performances that were equal to or better than his work from previous decades. His two-CD “Live in London” album is a personal favorite—a tour de force.

Watch this stirring rendition of his timeless classic song, Hallelujah, to see what I mean. (It’s closing in on 200 million views.) And then, closely listening to his song lyrics, written in years past, shows he was an extraordinary visionary. It’s eerie how the prescient words in many of his songs feel as if they were freshly written for today’s bewildering political climate.

What Is the Phil Collins Effect?

Some pop stars have seen dips in popularity and relevancy. Phil Collins’s career is notable because of the term “Phil Collins Effect,” coined because of his recent resurgence in the music scene. Here is a quote from an article about it.

The Phil Collins Effect suggests that famous artists experience a period of critical and commercial success and peer recognition, which we label “consecration.”

Following this condition, there may be a period of commercial and critical decline and rejection by fresh groups of peers looking to distinguish themselves from previous era’s commercial success stories like Collins, which we call “deconsecration.” Revival, or “reconsecration,” involves reappraisal and rediscovery by critics and often a new generation of fans and artistic peers.

Challenges Older Artists Face

Artists of a certain age face many challenges for many reasons, including an inevitable lack of recognition. A familiar knock against older artists is that they are no longer relevant to society. That perception has caused many older artists to stay comfortably behind the scenes. Here again, one must look at the motivation and goals of the artists. If striving for relevancy is not on the artist’s mind, it does not matter. As the saying goes, “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Some of the issues faced by older artists are unique to them. One of the biggest problems is loneliness and a lack of a social network and connection with other people. Sometimes, aging alone can take a toll on relationships, and this problem is not an exclusively older artist experience.

Failing health

Health is always a concern, especially if the artist has had health issues for a long time. The difficulties of art creation, which require physical effort and intense calculations, are likely to increase as a person ages. Be it self-inflicted or an inherited condition, health issues affect older artists more than their younger peers.

Medical advances extend the quality of life and the vulnerability of artists. The days of curing disease with the drop of a pen are behind us. Most ill or disabled artists rely on the generosity of fans or patrons. Bless them because that’s not easy at all.

Perhaps artistic rebirth means bringing back a piece that has faded away. A desire remains to make a final brushstroke, the last revision, or return to previous work. It is a universal experience that aging is a challenge for everyone.


By supporting artists later in life, we are assisting an underserved audience. Imagine adding awareness, respect, and camaraderie to the lives of older artists. If that sounds interesting, I invite you to join me and hundreds of other artists to share and celebrate with each other!

As the Boomer publisher of the Art Marketing News blog, I believe in the well-being of older artists and their long-term economic security. That goes for artists across the scale of your choice of measurement.


Aging, Mature Artists, Older Artists

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  • Todd Hollfelder says:

    Just a note that is relevant to this topic. Years ago I landed a job as creative director in an ambulatory retirement community. These older people who can walk don't work my nerves to find a resident (or no ) person. We started drawing and painting… I didn't expect much… just people having fun. One day we needed some art equipment and went to one of those upscale stores. As I was moseying around, I hate that store, looking for things I want! I noticed paper flyers posters in the windows, on the walls, You name it, there were signs. I, out of curiosity went into a large area that must have been a machine shop. As I peeked at the art or others, I was thoroughly awestruck. While I was looking at the works, I asked some questions from many different people… that's when I figured it all.

    The artists were from "The Jewish home for the Aged" in San Francisco, California.. Many,, if not all.. had never doodled in the margins, waiting for something. The median age of these folks is 70+, and they shared their works. They figured they wouldn't see them for long, The participants learned about the basic techniques. This was a fantastic exhibition, everything was free. The low end was 65+ if you're a caregiver or are able to drive.

  • It seems to me that to be appreciated and successful in the business of art ,an artist has to have support from the community including his/her peers, patrons who buy the artworks and galleries and museums that exhibit and promote these artworks. Sometimes is very difficult to get all this benefits even if your works are outstanding and considered very good in the opinion of others if you do not have connections….specially in USA where abstract art is KING and you can have recognition even if you paint a black canvas that nobody did it before.. To have a shot at the fame hall you have to do something …NOBODY DID IT BEFORE….but many times that shot fails because your lack of support and connections and that is when you get frustrated if your expectations are fame or money ( when alive.)..Otherwise keep in working (like Vincent VG…did and maybe you will be discovered after dead and either you will be famous or somebody will dump your works in a garbage truck or hide them in an attic or basement until a latter time.

  • Hallelujah! In eleven days I hit 90!
    Having fun working on the “maybe” follow up to Rhymer and the Magic Window- see: RhymerWindow.blogspot.com.
    Ready to have samples decks printed for my original card game Dizign-A-Saur to see if it has commercial possibilities.
    I spent the day with two delightful ladies at Selby Gardens to see the exhibits of Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Goes Monet!
    It’s a great life – aiming for 100.

    • Thanks for your reply. Congrats on getting to trip #90 around the sun! You are my oldest friend and a good one too. In a few days, I can say, my nonagenarian friend, Dick Harrison, is still actively working on his books, creating inventive card games for kids, and more. I’m so proud of him for the example he sets for being the best version of himself. You are a tirelessly creative soul and a genuinely good human. I’m in awe and proud to be your friend! Happy 90th Birthday, a few days early!

  • Lazaro Iglesias says:

    I’ve been researching about this topic, and I feel that the older artist and senior artist are not getting much recognition nor the financial help they may need. I’ve noticed a lot that we mainly focus on the new up and coming artist and the younger generation of artist, but we are in the know, this moment and we seem to not focus on the older generation of amazing artist we have. These are the makers and shakers of so much talent, information and wonderful techniques! We seem to not give that older generation of artist a spot light in the art world. We don’t help them financially nor we create affordable housing for these amazing talented artist. It’s good to focus on the new generation of art but we also need to focus on this moment we are living as well. Im just scratching the surface on this matter. Im 57 and I hope I can help as much as I can with this awareness. Im doing more and more research as well. It so important to spot light this wonderful generation of artist that have never had a chance in the art world. So much talent, so much to learn from them! It would be wonderful to see art expositions for 55 and over artist, more communities coming together to give these artist a voice, a moment and an opportunity to keep their souls alive through art! Wonderful read! Thank you. Lazaro Iglesias.

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