What to do about growing old? In this article in the New York Times, the author Gerald Marzorati suggests that one way to offset the feeling of growing old is to “Find something—something new, something difficult—to immerse yourself in and improve at.” The author cites growing evidence that learning and practicing a complicated skill can improve brain functions, especially memory. Mr. Marzorati chooses tennis as his “skill to be learned, practiced, and improved.”
I would like to offer an alternative—learning to draw—for those of us who are not inclined to learn and practice an arduous and physical skill such as tennis…not that learning to draw isn’t arduous! It is. Because no exceptional physical strength or stamina is required, drawing can be continuously learned and practiced into great age, something that is not true of playing tennis.
Drawing fits Mr. Marzorati’s recommendation for those who are aging to find a skill that can be endlessly learned and improved upon, no matter the age. I can attest to that in my own work, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain®. Since 1979, I have published four editions of my book, each time trying to improve upon and express my new learning about drawing and my continuing search for the best methods to teach those basic skills. I truly believe that I can never completely get to the bottom of it. It is an endless search. And, I should say, there is great pleasure, joy, and satisfaction in continuing to learn.
The great Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) put it this way:
“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73, I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. Consequently, when I am eighty, I’ll have made more progress. At 90, I will enter in the secret of things. At 100, I shall have reached something marvelous, but when I am 110, everything—every dot, every dash—will be alive. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.’”
~ Betty Edwards, May 6, 2016