Darryl Bautista for NowU

Find that inspiration; the results can be surprising

Darryl Bautista for NowU
Artist Patti Gibbons, who teaches mature adults to tap into their creative side, provides guidance to a student in her Rhinebeck, NY, studio.

Susan Piperato, NowU

October 28, 2014

( 3.67 / 5 )
6 Votes

Artist helps adults reignite creativity

Darryl Bautista for NowU

IT HAPPENS to us all of us at one time or another: We're suddenly struck with creative inspiration. But the business of living takes precedence, so we put our exciting ideas aside, thinking we'll get to them later.

Too often, though, the years go by and we forget all about those moments of inspiration — along with the fact that we are creative people.

One woman, however, is making it her business to help mature adults reignite — or even discover for the first time — their inner artist.

"Creativity is part of our genetic makeup, yet so many people leave it behind to have careers, raise kids, take care of aging parents," said artist Patti Gibbons, 56, who lives in the Hudson Valley area of New York. "Then we wake up one day and realize we've given up that inner child who took great joy in drawing in the dirt or sand, painting, doing whatever we loved to do in another lifetime."

Teaching Adults How to Play Again

Darryl Bautista for NowU

Gibbons gave up a high-paying career teaching art to teenagers with special needs in order to help older adults tap into their creative side.

At her Rhinebeck, N.Y., studio — P.A. Gibbons, Fine Art & Design (she's also a landscape painter and collage artist whose handmade greeting cards incorporate antique Victorian and vintage paper) — Gibbons offers classes and one-on-one tutoring in painting, mixed media and smartphone photography.

Her classes are all about learning to play again, because by approaching art as play, a student can overcome fear and gain confidence. Gibbons' priority is to teach that there's no right or wrong way to create art and that it's OK to make mistakes and start over.

"Many students haven't painted ever," she said. "(Others) come in reminiscing about how they used to make art, then got mired down in the responsibilities of careers, motherhood, eldercare, etc. After 20 to 40 years of this, they retire or slow down and find they have time to revisit their earlier passions or explore art for the first time."

Uncovering Hidden Talents

Larry Hurwitz, 71, a retired Miami Beach, Fla., cardiologist, spends summers in Rhinebeck. With no past experience in art — "other than doodling in grade school" and being an avid museumgoer — he became hooked on landscape painting as a result of Gibbons' class and is now looking for classes in Miami.

"I didn't have any sense that I had talent, but I have an eye," Hurwitz said. "It's really struck a chord I wasn't truly aware was there. I gave my first oil landscape to my wife for her birthday. She said, 'I even like it!' That was pretty cool."

Darryl Bautista for NowU

Meredith Parrott, 69, of Hurley, N.Y., trained as a sculptor but gave it up when she began teaching art in a high school. She recently retired from teaching after 34 years.

"I was constantly making art projects for my classes — you can't teach art without showing how to approach it," she said. "After I retired, I was like fried dough. At the first class, I almost lost it. But Patti has brought me back to life."

Now Parrott not only studies painting with Gibbons but also works as a sculptor again at home. "I really do feel like I'm back in the art world," she said. "You've got to be challenged — it makes you live again."

Gibbons said her greatest satisfaction is watching her students "lose their fear while gaining skills." And, she said, she is inspired to paint as she watches them blossom.

Changing Careers Has Inspired the Artist

"This career switch has been one of the most wonderful and scary decisions I have ever made in my life," Gibbons said. "I left the security of a large salary. Though I work just as many hours as I did in my previous profession, I am more joyful in my pursuit of helping others and making my own art. I've had to make some changes in order to do this, mostly on how I spend money, but I don't look back and I have no regrets."

Currently, Gibbons is enrolled at Marist College's Women's Enterprise Development Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., learning new ways to build her business.

"At this point in our lives, as we struggle to lead a fulfilled life — one that has meaning, so we can say we've lived and loved well — we need to reconnect with our creative selves," she said. "And I want to be the person who helps others do that."

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