Expressing our creativity becomes more common in midlife as we begin to exchange more stuff for deeper experiences. We finally have the time to pursue a creative project.
Creative expression can be a path of
self-discovery that provides a safe place to experiment and explore
possibilities. It can deepen a spiritual connection beyond ourselves.
It took courage and a leap of faith
for Hilary Farmer to leave a job in the city for life as an artist in a small,
rural community. It was a big risk to give up the safety net of a full-time job
and trade it for life as a full-time artist.
Hilary works primarily in water colour,
ink and oil paints. Her oil paintings have been described as modern
impressionist. Her supportive husband, Tom, often writes a poem in response to
her painted images, which you can easily explore on her
The Winding Path
It’s not unusual to take a circuitous
route before embracing creativity in midlife. Synchronicity can also weave its
magic. Hilary’s connection with Canada’s West Coast first came through visits
with relatives. She has always been drawn to its extraordinary beauty.
After her Tai Chi teacher relocated to
the Coast, Hilary came out to attend one of his workshops. That visit led to a
reconnection with an old friend who became her new husband. After a holiday
with Tom in Dominica, Hilary quit her job and moved to Vancouver, where they
lived for two years.
Hilary had spent the previous 10 years
working for a big architecture firm that required a lot of commuting between
Montreal and Ottawa where she worked on renovating the parliament buildings.
This only allowed her to paint on
weekends. Although her work was interesting, she felt it wasn’t fulfilling her
unique potential as a creative person.
While living in Vancouver, Hilary and
Tom sailed around the Gulf Islands. When they arrived on Gabriola Island, they
immediately knew this was where they wanted to live. It would allow them to be
closer to nature and a community of supportive artists.
She intuitively knew she was “home”
when she moved into her new habitat on her birthday. It had everything she
wanted, including a light-filled room to paint in.
Why She Paints
Hilary has a memory of a first
Christmas present being a sketchbook given to her at about age three. Her
parents recognized and nurtured her talent. She has had a lifelong interest in
sketching and painting.
She paints because, “it’s a way of
saying things without words. I want to create beauty and celebrate beauty and
love. I express my love of what I’m painting – be it a kitten, a bowl of apples
or an ocean view. I express the soul of what I paint and how it makes me feel.”
She does this through her use of
colour and light. She tries to capture the beauty of the natural world and her
feelings toward it.
What Has Influenced Her Work
Hilary says she is known to make
impulsive decisions. In 2001, she packed up her suitcase and harp and moved to
Taiwan for two years. She says, “Travel takes you out of your home location and
opens your eyes to see things in a new way.”
Hilary believes we need to do our best
with the time and talent we have. She made a conscious decision to not play it
safe with her art and to keep moving forward with her creative urges.
The beauty of the Island she lives on inspires
her work. She’ll often walk to the ocean to sit by the water and soak up the
view or take a walk through the Elder Cedar forest. She loves the constantly
She lives with a favorite quote from
“Let the beauty you love be what you
do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Creativity as a Spiritual Practice
Hilary sees creativity as a spiritual
practice. She remembers reading that,“it’s how we touch the Divine.
Bringing something from nothing is mystical. If you hold back what is inside
you, it will destroy you.”
She created a series of mandalas as an
internal meditative exploration of her feelings and “to seek the mysteries
within.”They have helped her process major life transitions including
moving, starting a new relationship and the death of family members.
“My art has made me grow in so many
ways. It made me open to the beauty of the world. The more you look, the more
and deeper you see. Although self-doubt is ongoing, showing my work to others
paradoxically gives me the courage to keep doing it.”
Advice for Others
If you want – but are afraid – to use
your creativity, give yourself permission to just begin. A lot of people dream
about it. Many go through life without trying it. Fear and resistance may be
signs of truly needing to delve into your creativity.
Make space for creativity in your
home. Dedicate a physical area to your work and a specific time and day for it.
No matter how small your home or how busy your life, it is important and
possible to do this for yourself.
Keep a journal of your creative ideas
so you are ready when you have time to create.
Work small at first. It will take the
pressure off you, as it’s less of a commitment of both time and materials, and
you’ll feel free to experiment.
Try a daily painting challenge – maybe
for 30 days. It will give you the satisfaction of completion and there’s
nothing like painting on a daily basis to help you improve. This can evolve
your skills quickly.
Take an art class online or in person.
Hilary took an online art class that
inspired and encouraged her to move forward with her work. It connected her
with other artists all over the world, including a supportive painter from her
Connect with established or aspiring
Take your own leap of faith to see
where your creativity leads you.
How have you used your own creativity
to reinvent your life? What creative path has been most tempting in your life? Please
share how you have used your creativity.