Go, Thiebaud, go

Wayne Thiebaud, 92, at work

Wayne Thiebaud, 92, at work

For those of us whose daily life is becoming a training camp for geezerhood, this Time magazine photograph of Wayne Thiebaud, still tirelessly turning out beautiful work, is a gift. Every day, I hone my skills for entry into the ranks of over-the-hill curmudgeons: random crankiness, disgust with the news, a constant refrain of “what’s that actor’s name?” whenever the flat-screen is on, occasional distrust of all cultural developments more recent than the ancien regime, aches in my feet that don’t go away, a new-found fascination with watching plants grow, since it often happens faster than my mind can process information, and a variety of other hard-won skills that will become faithful companions in the years ahead. One thing that does actually get better, as everything else about me begins to fade, is the ability to paint and the delight that comes from doing it. James Hall, at Oxford Gallery, once told me, “Painting is an old person’s art.” What better proof than Thiebaud, unpretentiously applying paint to his human-sized canvas, using a classic tripod easel, self-taught, still learning. The cutline for the photograph: “He still paints every day, holidays too.” Check. “All along, he says, you just keep hacking away at it.” Check. “I didn’t go to art school.” Check. “When I decided to try and be a painter, I thought I’d better go to work whether I feel it or not, and that’s what I’ve pretty much done.” That’s the big one. There is at least one country for old men, and it’s called painting. Geezerhood, here I come, if this is what awaits.

 

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