How to become an artist after 40

We are going to discuss how to become an artist after 40, however this is such a broad question for such an extensive topic. We will probably just scratch the surface. Let me start by iterating, no matter your age, it’s never too late to become a creative artist of any kind! In this topic, my views are specifically geared toward the visual art. However, I think much of this information can translate to any art field.

There are three angles on how we should approach becoming an artist, which are age, skill, and lifestyle. First, I’ll start by asking, why do you want to become an artist? What does that mean to you? What are your concerns? Do you have feelings of inadequacy or are you self-conscious that the artwork won’t be good enough?

Maybe you didn’t grow up creating art, like Pablo Picasso who was artistically gifted from a very young age[1]. Maybe you think younger people may be more capable of trendy art. Younger inspiring artist may get a few more views on their social media because they can pose in such a way that really highlights their rear end more than their art. Butt… all joking aside, you have access to just as much education out there on the web as anyone. Today, you can become an artist without being formally trained.

You may not feel confident about your age to start an art career. So why is age a determining factor in deciding how to proceed as an artist? Because age is just a number after all, right? Well, yeah; but, NO. You are justified in seeking answers that probably don’t apply to an 18 year old. However, I think the biggest dilemma you need to decipher is whether you want art to support you financially or whether you just want to become artist for fun.

person wearing silver ring holding book

You’re not a teenager, so you already know that accomplishments come from hard work and dedication. I probably don’t need to tell you that you will not become a professional artist over night. Likely, it will take a few years before you get any traction, and could take many more, to consistently make a living from it. So, don’t quit your day job and abandon your current lifestyle.

Realistically, most artists need many streams of revenue from different sources of art. For an example, I sell canvas paintings, sell prints, create custom commissioned art, create murals, host paint parties, create youtube videos and write books. Currently, I still am not able to support my family from art earnings alone. However, I work towards it everyday, and have been going at it consistently for years. I tell you that, not to deter you, but to be transparent in a my journey to becoming an artist later in life. I did not do it on a regular basis until I was about 41 years old.

It’s not always sunshine and butterflies, however I do like creating them. I like to create many different things. So, there’s that. Many professional artists also seem to hone in on one craft, or one specific area of art. It’s perfectly fine to paint hundreds of landscapes if that’s what you’re good at and what you want to do. Specialize. It’s much easier to get better and quicker at one thing, than to spend a lot of time diverting your focus onto several different things.

Do as I say and not as I do. winkwink. For me personally, I think that limits my creativity. I find doing only one thing becomes too monotonous and drains me. That’s just not my style. However, niching down may be a better route for you if your goal is to make a lot of money.

woman in white long sleeve shirt writing on white paper

The thought of becoming an artist after 40 sounds daunting. It’s scary trying to make the jump of professions. Most people at this age are deeply invested into a particular career and are going to have a lot of difficulty changing from that. After years of putting my energy the US Army, going to college, and changing career paths (a couple of times), I know what it’s like to feel hesitant about taking up something new.

Sometimes it’s hard and discouraging being an artist full time (and then some), but not making a full time income. However, just as easy, an encouraging thought about creating takes over! It’s what I love and keeps me motivated. Regardless if I make a dime from art, my creative journey continues as a way to cope with stress, past and present. I benefit from the spiritual experience I feel when creating. When I don’t create, something feels missing from my life.

The path that your life takes that leads to art and to keep you in art is going to be different for everyone of course. If age and skills aren’t a factor in becoming an artist, it may boil down to to your lifestyle and a lack adequate free time to devote to art. Quite a few people around this age have gotten used to their current lifestyle and may not want to give up certain comforts that come along with a 9 to 5 career.

Running a household is always priority especially as women. You may also still have children at home or aging parents, both of whom, need support and care. It can be a hectic task to coordinate the schedules of multiple people’s lives, and find the time to practice art. Without a doubt, I understand the feeling that there just isn’t enough time.

According to some sources the average American mother has only have about 36 minutes per day to themselves[2] (which is based on a study by the American Sociological Review in 2011), while a very contradictory article states that parents may have plenty of free time[3] (based on information gathered by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Regardless of how much time you have, start small anyway. You may not have a whole hour free to yourself after finishing work, or commuting, parenting kids, tending to pets, but somewhere in there I know there’s got to be at least 10 to 15 minutes or so. That’s all you really need for developing skills. If you have 10 minutes to draw a quick sketch while waiting for the water to boil, then I say, use it. Next time you have a few more minutes, add more details and expand on it.

Taking the leap from working in a stable job to earning a living from art can be scary for anyone. It’s particularly scary to someone with a family who are financially dependent upon you. Even if you are financially stable, fear of failure may be haunting you. Fear on losing everything to become an artist after 40, or any age is engrained part of our starving artist world psyche that I think everyone feels.

woman in white long sleeve shirt sitting on chair

If you decide you want to be a full time artist, these are natural fears to have. The truth is that life is often scary and you have to find strength and courage in all aspects of life. However, it’s important to stay positive and not let those fears stop you. That passion is what is going to help you overcome fear. As long as the fear is coming from a healthy place, then I know you’ll be able to get through it, creatively.

At any age, you should practice art because of its many health benefits. But if you want to take it more seriously, take the leap now, so that you might look back in 20 years and be proud of the artist you’ve become and be able tell others that it’s never too old to try new things, even becoming an artist after 40.

[1] Flanner, Janet. “Pablo Picasso’s Idiosyncratic Genius.” The New Yorker. March 9, 1957. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1957/03/09/the-surprise-of-the-century
[2] Loder, Vanessa.”Why American Mothers Have Less Leisure Time And Find Ourselves Overwhelmed And Exhausted.” Huffpost.com, 07/29/2014. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-american-mothers-have_b_5630825
[3] Vanderkam, Laura. “Working Parents Have Plenty of Free Time.” CBS News, 07/12/2011. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/working-parents-have-plenty-of-free-time/


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