Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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a new view on growing older
Eleanor Dickinson

The Art of Aging


Posted on November 19, 2013 by Taylor Rhea


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“You don’t teach creativity, you just are.”

That’s Eleanor Dickinson’s philosophy.

Eleanor has been an artist nearly all her life.

“I would draw in the basement with chalk on the foundation when I was little and then my parents found out I could draw and they said, ‘you’re going to be an artist,’” Eleanor reveals.

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from the University of Tennessee in 1952. Dickinson became one of the department's first graduates. She moved to California and began developing her skill in traditional figure drawings.

For more than 50 years, she lived in San Francisco, where she taught life drawing and artist business classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Eleanor received her Master of Fine Arts in Film/Video in 1982.

Eleanor is devoted to the human form and prefers drawing people, rather than still lifes or landscapes.

“I just find humans endlessly fascinating. I just think the human being is a very creative form,” she adds.

She loves experimenting with various surfaces and created an entire series of large figures of crucifixions on black velvet.

Crucifixion of Winston

Crucifixion of Winston, by Eleanor Dickinson

She currently resides at Atria Willow Glen in San Jose, California, and has taught figure drawing classes to residents who are eager to learn.

She also spends time drawing people in her Atria community. By the end of her first year at Atria Willow Glen, she had an entire sketchbook full of residents and staff. Eleanor enjoys drawing older people.

She says, “Older people are fun to draw because there is a lot more depth there—lines, wrinkles, and more details.”

Her advice for other artists is simple: “If you love art, then just do a lot of it. I think every human being is creative. They come that way.”

In fact, in this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Eleanor’s grandson, Paul, plans to enter the school of art at San Jose State University. It’s safe to say that his grandmother couldn’t be more proud.

Eleanor not only inspires her family and the art community, but she inspires us at Atria every day.

(Eleanor will have pieces of her artwork on display at the Peninsula Museum of Art in Burlingame, California from January 5, 2014 through mid-March 2014. The exhibit is called Elderly Lovers. She will even draw a portrait of you if you would like.)

Eleanor Dickinson’s Blog: http://eleanordickinson.wordpress.com/


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