Art Encounters Age
by and Don Fay
February 26, 2024
Don Fay's Logo

Logo with Symbol “Forever”

It’s rather common knowledge that past age 90 or even before, one is in the realm of “patch up.” This includes eating and drinking more carefully, and dealing with various infirmities that seem to clock in regularly with age. I’m in that category at 96+ but besting it in many ways, like any good Boy Scout was taught to do when I was young and frisky.

I’ve been frisky most of my life. This has included graduating from college, being a musician and entertainer, and day-jobbing as a commercial and fine artist. Musically, I’ve retired to just jamming at home with my talented keyboardist wife. Still, my artwork goes on fast-paced, much as usual.

But back to the infirmities of age and coping, I’m using a cane. So what! I get where I’m going. I’ve the usual aches and pains yet they are accommodated one way or another. Bottom line, I’m much the same as I’ve always been – no better perhaps, but not changed enough to stop my being a productive artist. I’m still even winning occasional awards. Perhaps that caps the critical basics. I’m also proud of having a lovely wife, children, grandchildren and their children that helps me get along.

Now comes thankfulness for a prize that I’ve gotten out of one of my old man type problems. Nervous bladder gets me up every hour and a half at night. I manage that by sleeping a bit later to get enough rest. But here’s the good side of it: getting up so often at night allows me to remember my dreams. Sigmund Freud would be satisfied with some of them that re-live old work patterns, tricky relationships and crisis situations. Happily, these are becoming more rare. Now most of my intermittent dreams during my restless sleep are very interesting. I’m dreaming of adventures in all manner of environments with story-like situations. Some are about playing music and doing artwork. These often inspire my next daytime projects. Best of all is meeting and greeting friends and relatives long gone in all kinds of meanderings that often never actually happened.

SHE SLEEPS SHE DREAMS - 4th place pastel - Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

SHE SLEEPS SHE DREAMS – 4th place pastel – Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

I’m choosing not to medicate this nighttime problem, even with all my other pill taking. As I become a little less mobile during the day, at least I’m having active adventures at night! Otherwise, my current sunup adventures are mostly art oriented.

Now, as in the past, my activity level certainly has influenced my artwork. As a commercial artist in earlier days, I was usually sedentary and office bound. However, I sought relief from this at every opportunity by hitting the nature trails to draw and paint plein air, meaning to paint ‘in the open’ of the outdoors.

As soon as finances and age qualifications allowed, I retired from what had eventually become my career as a civilian Visual Information Officer. I’d managed a division for the Department of Defense that produced publications, audio-visuals, films and exhibits. When I retired, I was still very active with all the added skills provided by my own experience and that gained from those I’d supervised. I was soon back to my first love – fine art.

OCEAN DRAMA - 2nd place oil/acrylics - Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

OCEAN DRAMA – 2nd place oil/acrylics – Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

For subject matter, this included forests, mountains, streams, waterfalls, boats, seacoast, and celebrating nature in general. During this period of my life, my art activities and teaching venues (including Sequoia, Yosemite, demonstrations for various organizations and a short tenure at a local college), were all based on my being a plein air artist.

Now at my rather ancient age, there are changes that strangely enough, I welcome graciously. My doctor in my recent annual wellness examination asked, “You’re still very productive as an artist, but what about exercise?” When I explained there are 16 steps in the two flights up to my studio above the garage that I negotiate at least six times each day, he was quite satisfied. I can no longer manage plein air artwork. Still, with my active dreams and by only having to close my eyes to visualize all of the previous sights where I’ve painted, I never have a shortage of ideas for subject matter.

TEACHING HIS PIG TO FLY - Best of Show and 1st place Drawings - Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

TEACHING HIS PIG TO FLY – Best in Show and 1st Place Drawings – Ventura County Fair in Professional Arts 2023

I have noticed that my recent art has become more and more quirky. It now includes odd things like people riding lions, and dragons in amusing situations. The human predicament is another subject that shows up these days. It is said that philosophy is a disease of old age. Perhaps these more thoughtful paintings I do now come as a result. In any case, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I must admit that some of the old bucolic images occasionally sneak in.

My new art submissions to exhibits and clients still seem to garnish favor. Now looking back on my starts, stops, losses and gains, I see that it all adds up to what I seem to be now. As to what my future as an aging artist might also bring, I’ll quote my dear old father, who used to quip as a farewell: “See you in the funny papers.” This is appropriate because the funny papers might have actually been where I saw the first artwork that formed my earliest inspirations and artistic directions.

I’ll leave you all to enjoy a few examples of my other love — writing senryu poems, which are Japanese poems structurally similar to haiku. It is unrhymed and based on human affairs, often satirical or ironic. Line 1: 5 syllables. Line 2: 7 syllables. Line 3: 5 syllables.

Don in his hippie coat

Don in his Hippie Coat

I found a nice pen.
So now, I write poetry.
It needed the work.

Perhaps there’s no grades
Just live it start to finish.
Don’t give up –– you pass.

Let’s clean out the trash.
We’ll rid ourselves of excess.
That could mean me, too.

BIO: Don Fay is a Navy WW II vet, graduated from California College of Arts and Crafts; completed his formal education at the Art Center College of Design and later studied with Robert E. Wood and Sergei Bongart. He now devotes himself to painting and teaching, after a successful career as an illustrator, designer and art director. He is an award-winning artist, both in commercial and fine art, and exhibits extensively. Don has many one-man shows and murals to his credit and his paintings are in important corporate and private collections in this country and abroad. His home studio has become his most important gallery with more than 1,000 framed and matted artworks.


  1. Marie Fitzsimmons

    What a delightful start to my day! I already feel a spring in my step and confidence in my heart. I love Don’s embrace of nightlife where he can visit with old friends, create beauty, and adventure about til morning.

  2. Judie Hansford

    It’s always interesting to see what you guys are up to. Glad you’re doing so well..

  3. Nadia Becker

    I really enjoyed reading your article!! It’s not often one gets insight into the mind of a 96+ year old 🙂
    My favorite visual art piece on this page is Ocean Drama.
    Sending hugs!

  4. Deborah Fitzgibbons

    Don, what a wonderful and informative article. I adore “Ocean Drama” and “Teaching his Pig to Fly.” The senryu poems are delightful and your writing eloquent. You are, indeed, frisky. Keep on keepin’ on!
    With great admiration,
    Deborah Fitzgibbons
    Friend of Fern’s

  5. Joyce Rhodes

    Wonderful article about a wonderfully talented artist. Don, may you live on for many more years, creating many more works of art…painting, poetry. Take time to enjoy your family, the beauty around you as you continue with your dreams and creating!

    Blessings abound because of you, Joyce

  6. Lance Davis

    I really enjoyed reading this, Don! Ocean Drama is great!

    Lance Davis

  7. Debbie Swassing

    Don, there is so much more that could have been said about your kindness to others and how outrageously entertaining you are. It is a joy to see you every time we get together. I’m so glad to have you in our family!!

  8. David Deyell, AIA Emeritus

    Don Fay is a great artist. We never know what he will create next but expect it to be creative and spectacular. His fellow artists have been influenced by his style and humor. A visit to Don’s studio is worthwhile and will always be remembered. I enjoyed painting with Don in Yosemite.

  9. Annette

    Such a great perspective on life! Don Fay is a rock star, through and through.

  10. Linnea von Wissmann

    Well done Don! Congratulations!

  11. Robin Gregg

    Have always enjoyed Don’s art…we enjoy several pieced in our home! Also loved jamming with both Don and Fern in various venues over the years. Two truly talented people I’ve had the pleasure to know for many years. Keep it up!

  12. Ruth C. Jackson

    I very much enjoyed your story and I admire your life. Your art is beautiful and it seems you are “aging gracefully” – that which we all hope to achieve!

  13. Ivan SHobe

    An excellent article from a very talented young in heart man. Congratulations aand keep up the beautiful art works.

  14. Coleen Thatcher

    Dear Don,
    What a delight to read your comments on life, energy, favorite things! Congratulations on a beautiful article and a beautiful life!

    Coleen Thatcher “fellow stair climber” and ‘keyboard player” as is your lovely wife, Fern

  15. Matt Nadler

    Hi Don,
    From the perspective of an 88-year-old, your attitude about life is very refreshing. It’s far too easy to either use our advancing age as either a reason to NOT do something or else use the age to brag about what we are doing. It’s like pulling the old age card.

    Sure, getting up frequently throughout the night from prostate or other urinary issues is common. Getting back to sleep usually is not a problem and I’ll then get up whenever I’ve had enough rest.

    Your article has given me the insight to look more deeply into what I am and what I’m not doing and using my age as the deciding factor. Thank you.

  16. Kristy Keith

    Beautiful… the life story, the art, the mind, the humor, the poetry. Thank you.


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