Artists over 70 show their work

Screenshot: portraits of 7 artists over 70 with one piece of their work
Artists over 70 show their work … and their enthusiasm … and their energy …

This online exhibition of artists over 70 hit me like a shot of rainbow lightning. I thought, Wow. Wow. So that’s what people are up to in their 70s and 80s. And hey, just look at them!

Sure, we knew that at least some of us old people are a privileged bunch. Not because we’re smart but because of timing and luck and demography and advances in medicine. Those of us with sufficient resources —a roof over our head, basic supplies—are inventing our own sort of old age.

As a bunch, we look different in our 70s and 80s from the way our grandparents did. And I’m not talking about cosmetic surgery.

There’s another Wow! on every page of this exhibition. So, thought I, So making art, splashing paint on canvas or wrangling toasters to create something new and beautiful or crazy or at least original must be good for us old people. Being actively productive and “creative” (the word makes me uneasy but sometimes you just gotta use it) must be a healthy, happy thing to do. Must add a zing and a zest to life in old age.

Well, no surprise, really. But go visit this exhibition before the end of February and think your own thoughts, feel your own Wow. You want what they’ve got? Then pick up a pen or a pencil and get ready for that buzz. What have you got to lose?

Oh look! I’m one of them!

8 artists over 70 including Rachel McAlpine and Michael Smither
Rare image of Rachel McAlpine on the same page as Michael Smither, once her husband

To my surprise I found myself, me me me, in Room One of this exhibition—and remembered that I’d agreed to this. The Art > 70 exhibition is curated by my extraordinary friend Dale Copeland and I guess she just sees my poems as my sort of art. OK, my portrait is a selfie (you can see the clicker in my right hand) and the background drawing is mine too. I’ll show you other drawings of mine that are in the book, below. They are modest, frivolous, amateur: but they bring me joy.

But then, another Wow! On the same page is the celebrated professional artist Michael Smither, who was once my husband for about seven and a half (don’t forget the half) years. This is a little known fact in New Zealand of no significance in the grand scheme of things but there you go. Ours was his shortest marriage, for good reason: I’m a hopeless wife. He’s still painting solidly at 81.

Messages of Artists over 70 for me are all smiles

  • We don’t look like our grandparents.
  • Nowadays some of us have the time and health to go flat out in whatever creative mode we choose, and we do choose.
  • Producing artistic stuff in your 70s and 80s appears to be heaps of fun.
Page of book: "The gentle narrative of happy" with a row of tiny houses. Flowers and a star hover over them.
The gentle narrative of happy. A page from How To Be Old by Rachel McAlpine
Page from a book. Text: Not a memoir. Drawing: old woman with fog and tiny hearts around her head.
Not a memoir. (Or is is?) First page of How To Be Old, poems by Rachel McAlpine
Page of a book. Words: boot camp for the bonus years. Drawing: old woman doing a plank.
Boot camp for the bonus years. A page from How To Be Old by Rachel McAlpine
Book page. Words: Elsie's tactics. tips from a 5-year-old life coach. Drawing: little girl in a tutu points to a How To sign.
Elsie’s tactics: tips from a 5-year-old life coach. A page from How To Be Old by Rachel McAlpine

11 thoughts on “Artists over 70 show their work

  1. realruth says:

    I remember enjoying a weekend collage workshop with Dale Copeland years ago at the Christchurch Arts Centre. She talked then about a project where people sent tiny collages to others around the world, which may be where she met some of these featured artists.

  2. Some of us are just not made to be wives! And would rather be artists.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Ain’t that the truth.

  3. ashok says:

    Awesome 👏

    A friend of mine remarked on my publication of my book last month : A book at this age !!

    72 is young I would say 😅

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Agree: 72 is a sweet spot. Congratulations!

      1. ashok says:


  4. Cathy Cade says:

    There’s life in us old dogs yet!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I see it in your antics, Cathy.

  5. lynnefisher says:

    The artist’s life for me, until death shall us part. I love how there is no age limit for us and that we can live our lives outside the box of agist expectations. Honestly, it gets better with age too!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Such a blessing, isn’t it?

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