A Year of Growth

Pomegranate. In Pastel. 2016

Any major life change provides an opportunity to grow and learn.  Retirement is no different. When I started this journey, I decided I wanted to explore something I have never done before. I chose learning how to draw and paint.  Being good at it was irrelevant. The important thing was to try something new and perhaps find a passion that would carry me through the next chapter in my life. The cover photo is a pastel I did 2 weeks ago in drawing class. I never would have thought I could produce anything of the quality of that little pastel – especially not dashing it off in 3 hours during class.

It hasn’t been easy.  In fact, it has required a lot of hard work, study, practice, and determination. I study with my mentor, Robert K Semans  6 hours per week – 3 hours for drawing fundamentals using pastels and charcoal, and 3 hours devoted to painting with oils. I try to draw or paint for a solid 3 hours per day, and any spare time I have left, I study from a series of instructional books.

I’ve discovered a lot about myself as an artist in the past year. I absolutely detest still life as a subject, but for learning technique, it’s unmatched.  I grit my teeth and do it every week in class. I’m learning composition, perspective, shading, flow, color, value, and how and when to exercise artistic license. It’s so much to learn and remember. At times, I feel like I’m back in college again.

I’m producing some pretty good stuff now. Yes, I do screw up on pieces, but for the most part each drawing or painting is better than the one before it.  I try not to make the same mistake twice. Making them once is enough.

I don’t keep everything I do. If it’s really good, and someone wants it, yes – I’ll keep it and then give it away.  Otherwise, it goes into the bin in the studio after class. My classmates tease me to no end about it, but I honestly don’t see why I should keep stuff that isn’t very good just for sentimental value.  I confess – sometimes I wait until I get home to throw it out just to prevent the discussion.  Here’s a pastel sketch of a red onion that I did on Monday that went straight into the bin when I got home. My classmates liked it, but really, it’s not my best work. The onion subject did inspire that day’s lunch – lox and onion on a bagel, with capers. Amazing what inspiration can do…

Onion, in pastel. 2016

If you followed the link above, you’ve seen what an impressive artist Bob is. He’s also an excellent teacher.  I’m learning new techniques each week, in addition to practicing old ones. A few weeks ago, we started working on abstract art as a way to study color and relationships of shapes and values. I’m not a fan of most modern art, but I am very interested in Impressionism. I also discovered how much fun it is to play with painting knives. Here’s my first attempt at both. Part of the assignment was we had to work completely from imagination – no pictures or models to lean on. It’s delightfully primitive, and I had a whole lot of fun doing it.  Bob promised us we will devote all January to working in this manner.

Autumn Forest. In oils. 2016


What do I like most to draw and paint?  Landscapes are my favorite, along with unique buildings and street scenes. I love color and texture, and am looking forward to working more with knives. My favorite media are oils and pastels. I mostly work from photographs, but absolutely adore plein air painting when I can do it. My easel is in the spot in my house that has the best natural light, and I now consider it my workspace. My Maine Coons like to keep me company while I work, as do my nephew-dogs, when they come to visit. Angel, in particular, has discovered the pocket of my apron is the perfect place for a snuggle.


I’ve also discovered people want my stuff, which was a huge surprise.  I have spent the last several months working on birthday and Christmas presents for friends and family.  Most have yet to be given as gifts, so I won’t post those until after the new year. The picture below was a pastel I did as a birthday celebration for a girlfriend who recently completed cancer treatment.

After a New Orleans Thunderstorm. Pastel in collection of Mr. and Mrs. Terence W. Reilly. 2016

What’s next for me?  Well, I am happy to say I am now working on the first painting that I will eventually sell. Quite a milestone for someone who has only been doing this for a little over a year. I am not expecting to make a living off my art – I just want to have fun with it. And boy, am I having a wonderful time.

I’m learning, growing, and enjoying this thing called retirement more and more each day. Gotta go now – the light is perfect, and my easel is waiting.