Thriving as an Artist in Mid-Life


Rhonda Schaller, author of  Create Your Art Career shares wisdom for getting centered and creating a vision in mid-life.



Becoming an artist in mid-life is a great choice, because you are never too old to be who you are. As with any career course change, it requires that you take charge of your inner life and your outer life to make it a successful transition.

Being centered and aligned with your resources, lining up the right amount of support, confidence, and happiness in your process and target market is key to planning a move forward and staying the course.

In my view, career sustainability starts with self. What does starting with “self” mean? When learning to plan your career in mid-life, visualize the meaning of your career. Find its value and then take a moment to stop and breathe.

Ponder your choices and your decisions from an inner sense of you. A beginning place, no matter your age, where you can acknowledge and begin to feel the presence of what anchors you. Away from all the busyness and craziness of “I want” to “I am.” You are a creative person, a vision maker. To be successful in the creative world, you need to cultivate the right attitude. You must make time for silence to feed your resolve and guide your product development as well as gain a sense of where your marketing initiatives should be aimed.

This is no small feat of course. Being present is a practice. Living your dreams as if they were present is how you implement this practice. Understanding your wiring and adjusting your plans as circumstances dictate, and not losing sight of your vision or mission is a life-long goal in this practice.

You can extend what you value into the world through your authentic voice as your career model in mid-life. But you need to make the time for silence to reinforce your capacity to stay on track, happily. If you fall off the road into vagueness, or find that your ideas become blurry without purpose, you will end up drifting. In my experience, when you lose your vision, nothing feels right. A successful career where you believe you can become a shining light at the top of the mountain (so to speak) takes dedication and vision.

Sometimes you feel you are not capable of making a commitment on any level to your creativity and vision. Other times you might feel stuck in what could have been and forget what can be and what to do.

Success is like that. It pushes our buttons, and at times you might find that you drift into fuzzy non-action, sometimes shades of darkness and melancholy overtake you. That is natural. And when that happens, seek out the inner silence for resilience, and the outer support to reinforce it.

Ask for help to move through those times. Surround yourself with passionate and inspiring peers to help you move forward. If you tend to surround yourself with friends who support confusion and lack of action, you will not get past those times. We can undermine ourselves and let others diminish our dreams without even noticing that we are doing that, until it happens. Ensure your long-term survival as a creative in the world, especially when starting out in mid-life. Your direction and validation must start from within, but it must be reinforced from your support system.

Remember life takes time. Understand yourself: your values, interests, skills, talents. The better you understand yourself and the more honest you are about it, the better you will be able to assess the opportunities that will come your way and those you need to create for your work.

Figure out what you really want. What should your future be like? Figure out how to get there. Create a plan, set goals, network, and research, reassess your goals. Build community, build relationships. Don’t let others define you or what success means to you.

Know yourself, think for yourself and be yourself. Make conscious choices, your own choices and decide what you want, then commit to it. It is never too early or too late to be who you are.

Don’t miss Rhonda Schaller’s Create Your Art Career: Practical Tools, Visualizations, and Self-Assessment Exercises for Empowerment and Success called “the ultimate self-help book for visual artists who want to create and sustain a successful career.”



  1. I like this article, thank you. I’m a late bloomer and started my art career about fifteen years ago and now am turning 70. I have such a strong desire to create and am trying to enjoy the journey but it is always mixed with too much business and my need and desire to make time for family and friends. Part of being creative I guess. Thank you Rhonda!

    • Penny, I am so glad you liked the article. Every artist I’ve ever met (including myself) have had to deal with too much business and not enough creating! Gosh, it just is part of the journey that no one ever told us about. But what I have discovered, is that the business mind can really be an outgrowth of the creative mind, just takes a tweak in perception. So the “I am” grows and informs the work in the world, and the business is the sharing of meaning – and that kind of makes it all worthwhile, in my book. Then the method is set – and can be learned. The momentum to do it, ah… that grows over time with support and is inspired from within.

  2. This article was written specifically for me! How did you know??? I am currently in the process of getting a small greeting card business off the ground, and am confronted by all of the left brain aspects of running that sort of business that I had not anticipated. I only wanted to do the creative part! Hence, I am faced with challenges that can at times feel like barely surmountable roadblocks. And, like Penny above, I have an intense need to make time for family and friends, plus exercise, plus all that it takes to keep a household running… It is hard to stay focused on my business goals, or even find time for them some days. I found this article helpful, inspirational, and it gave me permission to feel the way I feel at times. AND it encouraged me to keep going, and allow the process unfold in my own unique way. Thank you very much!!!

    • Best of luck with your business, Amy! You might want to check out the many articles on this site about starting a greeting card line, which you can see here There are certainly many things to take into consideration.

      • Thank you, Carolyn! I absolutely will do that. Your site is such an inspiration and educational resource.

        And yes, I can’t believe how many things there are to consider. It all sounded so fun and simple when I first started. Ha! But I’m committed.

        • Hi Amy, I’m so glad you feel inspired. Inspiration is not given enough weight in the “business” world at times. We can move mountains if inspired, not to mention changing on a dime, to keep flexible, adaptable, creating beauty for others to share! Plus being a mom, a daughter, a wife, etc.. (I am all three too). In a way, we are so many things – always. Being an artist is being a rainbow, if you allow me a corny analogy – have many side projects and many revenue streams and many colors and stripes. I like what Eckart Tolle says – step 1 – breathe, step be present . And then I would add, let your creativity flow. It’s all good.

          • Thank you, Rhonda. I love your “corny” analogy. It’s so true! And breathing and being present. So simple, and yet such a challenge. I appreciate the reminder. And the permission to be. To be who I am. To create from within that framework.

  3. Boy, did I ever need this today! Although I’ve been on my art-journey for decades now, having the presence of mind to step back and reassess is something I forget.

    Very grounding words. My utmost appreciation to Rhonda for reminding me that “I am”. I will be rereading this article often.

    • Thanks Shana. You know, I have found over the years that we get so busy in doing we just forget about being. And as creatives, we are sponges. We absorb so much of the world around us and then translate our responses to it. And as exhilarating as that is, it is exhausting too. And we need appreciation for that ability, and we need it from within. Permission to be ourselves and to process our lives into our work – and have that be “enough” in a way, self validating. I am – step back, enlarge and shine. Then back to the studio, resilient, full and empowered. Why? Because “we are” in the moment, in the silence we find the spacious beauty to make , to create. And then, left brain plans, markets, audience development etc..but we come to it from a grounded spacious place. And for me, at least in my experience – we have met the world halfway. And that’s all you can ask in the long run.

  4. Great little article. It spoke to me.

    I find that I have a lot of self-determination, but no real support system. So while I can keep myself believing in my dreams, the face of adversity in those pursuits often slows me way down to a crawl, to a point of near unbelief that it’s possible. I find that I can keep myself from turning tail, but I get slowed down and don’t pursue things as I should.

    There are times when someone comes along and says something nice about my paintings that gives me a boost and hope. Just this weekend, a woman from church said she went through my blog, looking at my works, and thought they were all so wonderful and very eclectic. It picked me up and made me happy!

    You never really can depend upon anyone but yourself. But the positive input and energy from others can rekindle those fires. I don’t know how you make that a recurring part of your journey. But I can see that having a positive support group would really do an artist well.

    • Robert, I believe, for the reasons that you gave,that connection with a group of other artists would be essential for you. A friend who is an experienced artist and art center director says her motto is “Always Build Community.” It’s what keeps you going.

  5. Rhonda, great article! The support system strikes me as the thing I did which helped me most to shift gears. I had changed, becoming centered and clear, but my business structure was stuck in the past rat race. I didn’t know how to change the business. And I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead.

    Discouraged, last spring I began assembling an ‘advisory’ group of individual friends and clients who I would meet with individually over a glass of wine, lunch or coffee from time to time ~ to hear their advice and suggestions regarding my art business. They were thrilled to contribute!

    Over the past year, I have accepted the friendship and advice of the wife of the founder of a credit bureau, a retired marketing executive, a retired management teams developer, an estate properties agent, a retired financial planner, marketing director for a national retail chain, I could go on, . . The point is that these friends are not struggling artists. I still have my struggling artist friends. I simply don’t ask them for advice!

    These friendships have blossomed. They have taught me how to just ‘be’ the artist and let the world support me. I have had to give up trying to produce enough product to fill everyone else’s needs. These friends are teaching me how to focus on my needs. I didn’t even know what these were! They got me asking myself different questions ~ like ‘why not?’

    On a whim, I applied for an Artist-in-Residency in France to paint. Not only did I get the Residency, my clients got so excited about me finally becoming the artist they envisioned ~ they fully sponsored my trip. Without the support system of these precious friends, I would have stayed stuck in my ideas of what an artist is. Like Robert, I too believed that ‘you can never really depend on anyone but yourself.’ When I began selecting my ‘advisors’ ~ I began changing that belief.

    A year later, I am writing a blog about the connection between creativity, healing and painting as I travel and paint! I never could have imagined this possible without my new friends supporting me.

  6. Dorothy, what a great story. Love your experience, so real and happy making!. Support is everything, and karmically we just never know where it will lead. Inside and outside, we grow. Thank you so much for sharing. You’ve taken great risks – and I’m so happy for you. We need positive community, no way around it. You’ve done a great job in creating your momentum. Keep us posted.

  7. Great article Rhonda, Very inspiring for a 25 year artist that tends to lose focus and becomes unsure about my work so easily when I’m not getting that positive outside reinforcement from my peers about my work. No comment at all about my work is way worse than a bad comment about my work. Although I want to sell everything I create, as all artist do, I sometimes forget that I create just because I enjoy creating. Without that “positive support” of others around me to remind me of this its easy to start doubting yourself and what you. Thanks again Rhonda.

  8. You are welcome Max, thanks for writing.

    It is so hard to do what we do. The spirit requires that we express that which we discern is true, and the ego needs recognition of that discernement at the same time it disparages the need for it. What’s an artist to do? Battle the inner and outer, while we create and find support for the act of creation.

    Being human. Being an artist. Being in the zone and in the life. Sometimes just seeing beyond the pale…is enough. But then to persevere, we need one person.. just one to give us that positive support, and then life is good and we can maintain it. At least, that is how it seems to me. We are sensitive creatures, straddling light and dark at the same time, so support is essential. Support of the effort it takes to straddle the light and dark, irregardless of the product.

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