Second Acts: The Latent Artist Emerges
The Baby Boomer generation is full of inspiring stories about second acts, and we love sharing them. Our friend Bart Levy tells us what it’s like to rediscover a love and talent for art, many years after her career took her in a different direction.
Bart’s journey will resonate with many of us. She graduated from VCU in the 70s, majoring in painting and printmaking, but had trouble translating that degree into a lucrative career. In order to make a living, she found a job in graphic design and marketing and this is where she spent the majority of her working life—first in corporate America and then later starting her own internet/marketing company. In 2000, Bart’s love for art resurfaced and she felt compelled to act. She picked up some oil pastels, which she found intriguing, and signed up for a class at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) Studio School. She still does some consulting, but now, at age 61, focuses mostly on the work she loves best: painting.
100 Paintings, 100 Days
Now, 18 years later, painting is her passion and defines her life. Bart is in the midst of an interesting exercise. She is doing 100 paintings in 100 days. These are small paintings, 5×7, of various subject matter: scenes from nature, still life, flowers. The goal is to produce and create something every single day. Working on this small, focused scale also challenges her to try new things: new techniques, new colors and mixes of colors, a new way of applying paint.
Through practice, her painting has gotten better and better, and she is starting to sell her work. Her friends were her first clients, and now she reaches a wider audience via e-commerce traffic on her website and from her social media sites. You can find Bart by searching “Bart Levy Art” on Facebook, Instagram, and Linked In or by visiting http://bartlevyart.com. She is also building an e-mail following; a certain portion of which receives her “painting of the day” message. Bart notes that she loves the feedback she gets from the e-mails and social media, from those who enjoy her work—the “strokes” and positive reinforcement that one rarely gets in work life.
As fulfilling as it is to be able to do the work you love, it can be a bit lonely. Painting is a solitary and personal pursuit. To remedy any sense of isolation, Bart has gotten involved with artist’s organizations such as the Metro Richmond Artists Association, The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and The Crossroads Art Center, in addition to the workshops and classes at VMFA. Bart has also participated in the summer program offered by Nimrod Hall in Buford, VA. This artist colony sounds like a most wonderful experience, an art camp for adults—as it says on their website: “The perfect place for anyone seeking creative inspiration.”
One of the challenges of pursuing your passion is finding space in your home and working around the rest of the family’s needs. We met with Bart at her home studio. It was a sunny day and the space was awash in color. Her work, mostly in oils and oil pastels are bright and beautiful. This basement lair is full of Bart’s art and supplies, but also woodworking equipment and lumber. It is a very fortunate coincidence that Bart’s husband is a woodworker who makes all of her frames. Talk about synergy! She laughingly tells us that for the longest time her studio was in the kitchen, and her husband finally was motivated to make space for her studio in his “man cave” so they could have their living and food prep space back.
Getting Started on Your Second Act
When asked about first steps—how she got jump started to resume her journey as an artist later in life—the first thing Bart mentions is the value of classes and workshops. She also found that simply going to look at art supplies was intriguing, and made her want to start creating. Both the big-box AC Moore and Michaels stores have plenty of arts and crafts goodies. But to really get inspired she advises going to a true art supply store, since these will have supplies specifically for painting, as well as staff who can advise you. Bart loves Plaza Artists Supply, which has a store in Richmond as well as other cities.
Another great resource is YouTube, with many instructional videos and painting tutorials. We reminisced about the popular PBS show we watched in the 80s, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, where we “learned to paint a happy tree.” PBS produced over 400 of these shows, many of which can be found on YouTube and on the PBS site, as well as Pinterest.
In this digital age, so many resources are available for anyone wanting to pursue their second act passion, whatever that may be.
Lessons are great, agrees Bart, as well as online resources.
But here is the key: “Just do it. Just start.”