Think you’re too ‘mature’ to paint? Art disagrees

Palisade artist Dianna Fritzler works in her studio in Palisade.

Jack Griggs, a retired U.S. Army veteran, throws a small casserole dish on a potters wheel during a pottery class at The Art Center.

Doris Janowski: Took the class “Drawing For People Who Think They Can’t” at age 55.

Travis Jardon: A visit to an Arizona art gallery prompted him to try painting.

Liz Lynch: Spent nearly 40 years teaching, counseling, owning small businesses and working for nonprofits.

Ron Beckman: Retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel is now a regular at the Art Center.

David Cook: After years working in pharmaceuticals, he turned to art in his 60s.

Maggie Cook: “I can’t draw a straight line.”



There are a number of places across the Grand Valley and beyond that offer regular year-round art courses in various media. Here are some of those studios:

• The Blue Pig Gallery, Palisade, 464-4819.

• Bill Heddles Recreation Center, Delta, 874-0923.

• The Art Center, Grand Junction, 243-7337.

• Watercolor Dogs Art Studio, Fruita, 270-2235.

• The Art Colony, Grand Junction, 270-0303.

• The Artists’ Haven, Grand Junction, 424-5125.

The words “can’t do art” are ridiculous, according to Doris Janowski.

Sure, she knows there are people who refuse to pick up a paintbrush because they are convinced they are not artistic. She knows there are those who don’t think art is a legitimate profession or hobby. And she knows that some people who think they are too old to become artists.

Janowski, 66, thinks all those reasons to avoid art are dead wrong.

After all, she didn’t being painting until she was 55 and took a night class at the Arvada Arts Center called “Drawing for People Who Think They Can’t.”

Now, she displays her fluid acrylic paintings at area galleries.

“Everybody comes at art from a different point of view,” she said.

The realization there are no rules in art is a blessing for some professional and amateur artists in western Colorado, who didn’t pick up a paintbrush or block of clay until they were in their 40s, or older. The joy these men and women have found painting or throwing clay is something they sometimes struggle to verbalize, but they are happy that after decades in the corporate world or the military they have found art.

“Even when I first started dabbling in art, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere,” said Hotchkiss artist Travis Jardon.

Jardon, 62, who shows at several western Colorado galleries, spent 23 years as a U.S. Marine, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. During his final military move from Hawaii to Atlanta in 1988, Jardon stopped at a Sedona, Ariz., gallery and saw art.

“It opened my eyes,” Jardon said.

Intrigued, Jardon started painting with watercolors and visited art galleries when he got to the East Coast area. He dove into art after retiring to his native western Colorado and in the late 1990s. He was then nearly 50. He now sells his work professionally.

“I’m finally starting to learn enough about art that I’m starting to understand a little more about what it is and why people do it,” Jardon said.

The life experiences gained from decades of raising families, traveling the world or changing careers give Jardon and other later-in-life artists some inspiration and maturity. In hindsight, admitted local artist Liz Lynch, she wouldn’t be the same quality of artist had she become a professional artist in her 20s.

And Lynch, 68, could have gone that route. She’s only two hours from earning a master’s degree in art from joint classes at the University of Iowa and the University of Notre Dame.

As a young woman, she had the education and interest in being an artist, but her father steered her away from it because “it wasn’t a real job.” So Lynch spent nearly 40 years teaching, counseling, owning small businesses and working for nonprofits in the Midwest and Colorado. Then she took a hard fall in her late 50s and fractured her right hand and wrist, threatening her chances of ever being an artist.

She took up sculpting for the next two years to rehabilitate her wrist. It rekindled her passion for art, particularly painting, to the point that “on the morning of my 60th birthday, I woke up and said, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ “

Lynch picked up paintbrushes and discovered acrylic paint.

“I’m healthier. I’m happier,” she said.

Lynch now sculpts, paints and displays her work at area galleries as well as in her home.

Although Lynch decided to pursue professional art, not all those who find art later in life choose to show or sell their work.

Ron Beckman, 78, and Jack Griggs, 77, are both retired lieutenant colonels with the U.S. Army. The Grand Valley men also are regulars in the ceramics studio at The Art Center. Together, they have spent nearly 20 years making bowls, home decorations and other ceramic items on a potter’s wheel or with their hands.

“It’s just become a lot of fun,” Beckman said.

Both simply give away their projects. In fact, every Christmas, Griggs stages a pottery lottery at his home where nearly 40 people — children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren — gather. Griggs puts everything he’s made on a table, has his family draw numbers to determine an order and has them pick an item.

He also made a couple dozen bowls for the recent Empty Bowls fundraiser for Grand Valley Catholic Outreach’s Soup Kitchen.

“If you work with clay, it’s more of a sensory thing,” said Griggs, who admitted the engineer in him likes to produce functional items with straight lines and geometric shapes. At his last ceramics class, he made a casserole dish.

Of the 61 participants in The Art Center’s current classes, more than half are 50 or older, according to Cheryl McNab, the center’s executive director.

The Art Center is one of several places across Grand Valley that hold regular art classes for artists of all abilities, McNab said.

People curious about art shouldn’t be intimidated by classes, said Dianna Fritzler, a professional artist.

Fritzler, 49, helps run the Twisted Brick Studios in Palisade. She isn’t embarrassed to say she took her first painting class at The Art Center in 2003 when she was in her early 40s. And she didn’t bring any supplies to her first oil painting class.

“My goal was to get good enough to paint something for my girls’ bathroom,” Fritzler said.

Now, she shows her work in the Grand Valley, Denver and even out-of-state.

Fritzler spent nearly two decades in advertising and marketing before retiring in 2004 to focus solely on her art.

After her first years using oil paint, Fritzler is experimenting with hot and cold wax for a different textures.

She is changing things up because she can. One of the great things about art is that there are no rules about what is popular, what is acceptable and who can or can’t do it, said fellow local artists David and Maggie Cook, both 72.

“Everybody says they can’t,” Maggie Cook said. “I can’t draw a straight line.”

Maggie and David Cook, who have been married 51 years, began calling themselves artists when they were in their 60s, after David Cook spent nearly 40 years working in pharmaceutical marketing and development in England and the United States.

They now sell their art online. Both sold representational art pieces to St. Mary’s Hospital for display in its new tower.

It was quite a ways to come for Maggie Cook, who stared at a box of pastels for three weeks after her husband gave them to her as a birthday present because she was intimidated about the process of learning to paint in her 60s.

But once she picked them up, she struggled to put them down. She’s an example that art has no rules, and it’s ageless.

“What do you have to lose?” Fritzler asked.


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