Is It Ever Too Late to Start Painting?

Not if artist Claudia Seymour has anything to say about it. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Seymour at the Salmagundi Club in New York City to create two three-hour DVDs with her, including this year's The Art of Painting Flowers in Oil.

Spring Things by Claudia Seymour, oil on linen, 2011, 18 x 24.
Spring Things by Claudia Seymour, oil on linen, 2011, 18 x 24.

Meeting Claudia initially was a daunting proposition. Before we met I did my research to discover that she paints a fantastic array of floral still lifes using both oils and pastels. I called her office, and was told to meet her in the lobby of the prestigious Salmagundi Club, where she is currently the president. It was an honor to meet her at such a lauded organization. The 141-year-old club has been a meeting place for artist-members such as Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, and Howard Pyle. If you're ever in New York it is worth a visit to see their many ongoing, and free, art exhibitions.

As Claudia entered the club I found myself getting quite nervous. What made things worse was as she welcomed me into the club, she immediately tripped over a piece of my equipment. "Now," I thought,"I'm done for." But aside from me tripping such a distinguished woman, she had the grace to give me a warm welcome with a bright smile, and we hit it off immediately from there. After we spoke for a bit on her painting instruction workshop, she told me something I was shocked to find out. Seymour's work is exhibited in numerous galleries around the country but she didn't pick up a brush until she was in her 40s!

Notes for Two Horns by Claudia Seymour, oil on linen, 2005, 24 x 22.
Notes for Two Horns by Claudia Seymour,
oil on linen, 2005, 24 x 22.

I was shocked that such a well trained artist could have been painting for only…well, I won't say as a gentleman never reveals a lady's age. But it just proves that at any age, with a little time and commitment, you can really dive deep into your craft. Claudia certainly has. 

We've just finished filming The Art of Painting Flowers in Oil, in which Claudia takes you into her painting practice and shows you how to compose a still life painting, light your still life art, and really think about everything you need in order to create a really beautiful artwork. I can't wait for her next workshop dealing with floral arrangements in pastel. But most of all, working with Claudia has made me think about whether it really is ever too late to start painting. What do you think? When did you start painting, and do you think it has made a difference concerning where you are now with your artwork? Leave a comment and let me know,




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27 thoughts on “Is It Ever Too Late to Start Painting?

  1. I have no problem revealing my age, but still I have a big problem knowing that I have a talent and I haven’t release it yet. I have a passion for the art. My talent comes from my parents, especially my mother who is a seamstress and a designer. She encouraged us to paint all the time. My problem was and still is that once I married and have 4 children I never have time for me. We moved a lot as a military family. Now I am 51 years old and feel sorry that I was not aggressive enough to find time for my art. I have no doubts that never is too late. I can get older and older but my spirit will never gets older, and the passion will not get older or die. I hope that one day I can have an instruction from an artist that dare to take me to the highest state of art. I had experience the connection between me and what I am painting, but this feeling and moment just last during the period when I am painting and this is rarely lately. I need a retreat for a year 🙂 I have not paint for long time and my children beg me to do it. No motivation. I was not encouraged by my husband during those days when I was young, so now I feel like dead in this matter. My friends tells me that I should sell my art. They do not know anything about art. My art is not anything suitable for a gallery. My interest is not to sell but release all my passion in painting. It is truly fulfilling. I still have hope in the middle of my no-motivation state. My apologies if I my comment is too long. Thank you for the opportunity. Mrs Seymour follow her passion and I bet it was not easy.

    1. I’m in a similar position – I don’t know how people manage to paint when working and raising a family…But now is my time, children have finally flown the nest!. It is never too late. I know that with some serious effort, I can improve enough to sell. Hope you find/make time to paint as well. Wishing you much success and happiness.

  2. Hi Ben,

    Reading your article on Claudia Seymour gave me hope!!! I am a new artist picking up a brush in my 40s. Your article on Claudia confirmed my own feeling that it is never too late for one to become an artist. Not to offend anyone, but I think one may become a better artist at this age since we are older and know and understand oneself and the world around us better…

    Thank you,

    Roya Blodgett

  3. The odd and unfortunate thing about this blog is that people in their forties and thinking about themselves as being old. So what are those of us in their sixties supposed to think? And seventies, and eighties. As long as you have eyes that see and arms (or feet) that can hold a brush, aren’t you young enough to paint?

  4. Personally, I think that there are benefits to both starting out as an artist at a very young age and then when you are older. I fit in the later category. Infact, I decided this Spring to transfer my Freshman college credits from 34 years ago to Sam Houston State University in Hunstville, Texas and pursue my BFA in Studio Art. I am surrounded by classmates that are just out of high school, some are nontraditional like myself, but still I am the oldest in the class at age 51. Even my professors are younger than I am. Know what, this is really been great, because I bring lots of life experience to the classroom and they bring the new energetic ideas. My skills are much better in time management and staying focused on my class projects than my classmates. Also, not interested in what guy is cute and where is the best place to party. I have always had a love for art and creativity since a child. So stayed busy working on and off in creative endeavors over the last 26 years as a stay at home mom and home school teacher. To my surprise, even on the first day of class, found out those sewing skills in making kids halloween costumes, school art projects, etc… have come in handy when trying to use materials to create art. Also in my conceptual art class, I treasure my life experiences that have taken me through financial hardship, health problems and even death of loved ones gives me a rich pool to pull from when using art to express them. Thank you for your articles. I really enjoy and learn from them.
    Laurie Grawl

  5. I did not start painting until I retired. I had never thought of painting but my wife gave me painting supplies when I retired because I had always enjoyed watching TV painters. Prompted by this I took lessons from a number of teachers and it has become my favorite past time. I’m in my 80’s and had a stroke but can still paint.

  6. I am 50 years old. I have begun traditional painting in 2008 (digital painting some years before) and since then I feel I have made a very good progress. I am self-taught and have learnt everything from books, magazines, tutorials and dvds (a good number of them I bought on this site) and of course from personal experience.
    I am unemployed and I’m sure I could not have done this progress if I had a job.So I am satisfied and I wish to push my art to highest levels as a question of self-realization, to give a sense to my life. I think it’s never late, even if I regret I have not begun it before. See my artwork on

  7. Hello,
    It is really great to hear of so many starting to paint later in life! I my self did not pick up a brush until my mid 40’s, ( I am 49 now), I had played with drawing all my life and worked in some minor digital 3 d game art, but something finally clicked when I picked up a drawing pad and pencil after so many years, maybe it was patience, I don’t know, but my drawing skills had evolved, I was drawing with a new purpose, drawing art from inside me, so I started painting, first in acrylic then in oil, and I don’t see how I ever neglected my urges to paint, I love to paint, I learn from whatever free lessons and tutorials I can find on the net and locally, I devour instruction wherever I can find it, I find inspiration everywhere and see the world with new eye’s, I drive my wife crazy with” Look at the colors in that cloud” or “Look how the light plays off that..whatever”, art and painting is a wonderful thing, I am so glad I found it! thanks for the great tutorials and storys! Keep painting everyone!

  8. She was only 40? Ha! Just a kid. LOL I didn’t pick up a watercolor brush or any brush for that matter until I was 61. Of course, I’m not as accomplished as Ms Seymour, but I haven’t done badly for an old lady. I have some of my things on your Members Gallery.

  9. It’s NEVER too late to explore your creativity. The only drawback is that it takes many years of practice, trial and error, and discovery to find your own style and become more proficient with your medium and express what you want to express. But even if you don’t reach that level of mastery, you still experience the thrill of expressing your creativity and seeing the progress you have made.

  10. Will be going back to school this fall at the ripe age of 55 for a Post-Bac in Studio Art. Can hardly wait. I have taken classes on and off my whole life, even had a craft business for a number of years, but this is going deeper than I have given myself permission before. It is NEVER to late to live your dreams, and if art is your passion, why the heck not?

  11. Hi, I started painting at aged 52 (2007) in 2009 i moved house and my painting supplies were put in storage where they stayed for the next 2 years, I have just recently retrieved them and am in the process of starting a new painting. I used to draw when i was young but was never encouraged i married had 5 children and like most housewives me, myself and I went on the back-burner. I tried to draw again but discovered that i had lost the mojo for that and couldn’t draw anymore then I bought a cheap set of acrylic paints and found that i could paint, I am slowly gaining in confidence and hopefully one day to sell some of my art work . I love painting when I paint I forget everything else and just lose myself in what I’m doing, it is relaxing and at the same time can be so frustrating but i love every minute i spend painting. I am self taught and because I live rural I am unable to go to classes I buy magazines and books which help with color and techniques. Thank you for your articles they give me encouragement to go on

  12. I started painting in my 40’s but got so busy with kids and daily stuff that I stopped. That was awhile ago and now my kids are grown up and I have more time. The problem now is that my confidence in my ability to paint is pretty low…. working on it.

  13. I started painting at 58. I was just thinking the other day how much further along I could be if I had started much earlier, but I learned a lot of other crafty things along the way and I feel they add to my art. But I do wish I had started earlier because I love what I do.

  14. I am fascinated by the phrase, “too old for…” The only time I thought I was too old to do anything was when I had a baby at 28. (Strange, I know, women are having kids much older these days) When I went back to school at 35, I was told I was too old. Now, I’ve been out for 11 years and am very experienced in my latest career. I bought my first Harley at age 48 and love riding it. When I picked up a paint brush when my last child went to college and left my nest empty (the one I had at 28!), I discovered a true love for painting (not drawing, though). My family thinks I may have a talent for it and my mother actually told me, too bad I missed the boat. I secretly smiled, knowing I am not too old to become a good painter. The common comment in this thread has been, “I didn’t receive encouragement.” People, encouragement may never come and it doesn’t matter. Just follow your bliss. I learned to paint from books and youtube and from just painting. If you want to do something; do it however you can with what ever budget. No excuses means no regrets!!

  15. I just started painting this year and I love it! And I’m over 50. Claudia Seymour is an inspiration to all of us who began painting later in life.

    I think when we’re younger we may be concerned about making money and getting ahead in the business world, but once we hit a certain age, we realize that doing what you love is what’s important. At least I’ve had a surge of creativity in my “older age.”

  16. I picked up my brush @ the age of 46. Now I am planning to professionally work on developing my skills as an artist when I move to Germany in July, four months before my 52nd birthday. Claudia’s account of her professional career encourages me to move forward regardless of my age.

  17. I picked up my brush @ the age of 46. Now I am planning to professionally work on developing my skills as an artist when I move to Germany in July, four months before my 52nd birthday. Claudia’s account of her professional career encourages me to move forward regardless of my age.

  18. I’m 42 and began studying drawing and painting when I’m 39. It is never too late to get to learn anything, if a person has a definite interest into something, this means she/he has the talent to do it too. Of course you need to work, study a lot, but when you love to do sth, then you don’t get tired of doing it. And in fact age can be an advantage, it means being experienced about learning, The quality of studying could be really higher. In the end getting ahead only needs starting.

  19. ITeach soft And oil pastel to a senior population at a couple art leagues.
    . Many are framing, exhibiting and selling their paintings. It’s a HappyTime

  20. ITeach soft And oil pastel to a senior population at a couple art leagues.
    . Many are framing, exhibiting and selling their paintings. It’s a HappyTime

  21. I did a teeny amount of painting and drawing when I was 27, but only took it up again at 69. I’m retired now and have time to indulge myself. My opinion : Start painting whenever you want, I know it is so emotionally and intellectually fulfilling, There is no such thing as “too late to start”

  22. Having started an art group for our WI last year, I have had three ladies all over 60 who had never painted or drawn a figure join our group. They are flourishing, they love what they produce, it might not be perfect but the enjoyment is very fulfilling. Art at any age is so beneficial, it uses parts of the brain that have sometimes been dormant.

  23. Classicly believed I had no “talent” in drawing or painting, however my travel photographs often receive compliments. At 71 I signed up for a couple art classes for seniors; nothing in retirement has brought me this much joy! I am so appreciative of good teachers who bring forth what was always there with techniques, encouragement and constructive criticism. I am happy to be learning something new and producing art of which I’m very proud. I am seeing the world in an entirely new way through artistic lenses!