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Follow your dream. Discover your passion.

"If You Don't Try, You're a Loser"


by Jeremy Rowland

When Ted Stanley’s wife passed away in March of 2011, he was faced with a dilemma.

It was the same dilemma everyone faces when change is forced upon them. Do you adapt and move on? Or do you cling to the past, holding firm to the hope that things will return to the so-called norm? For many, the latter is the case. Fear of change, or maybe it’s a fear of forgetting, prevents them from moving forward. They grow stagnant in their resolute sameness.

Others, like Ted Stanley, recognize that there are things in this life that are beyond our control. Things are going to happen whether we will them or not, and if one is going to exist in this world of “what ifs” and unknowns, one must roll with the punches and take control of what can be controlled.

That’s exactly what Ted did.

He determined that he wouldn’t allow himself to become a couch potato. He wanted to find an activity that would keep his mind sharp and ward off dreaded dementia. In his search, he discovered Darrel Tank’s 5-Pencil drawing method, and it just clicked. Drawing was not something he grew up doing, nor was it something he had ever really considered doing as a pastime. He would draw cartoons for his kids when they were younger, but he never imagined it would come to mean as much to him as it does today.

When Ted was a boy, his mother used to tell him that “a busy mind is a healthy mind,” and now at 76 years old, he has certainly proven that to be true. Ted practices drawing every day for at least five hours. Drawing has become as much a part of his daily routine as breakfast and bedtime. It’s been nearly two years since Ted started drawing and he admits he’s truly amazed at how far he’s come. 

One look at Ted’s website or posts on the 5-Pencil Method Community and you realize just how prolific an artist he has become. From graphite pencil drawings of friends and loved ones to colored pencil paintings of sea turtles and Captain Jack Sparrow, when Ted sees an intriguing subject, he draws it. 

Ted has even gone so far as to enter his work into competitions, facing off against artists of all ages from all over the world. His strategy is sound; he enters his work with the mentality that he may not win, but at least he has tried. “If you don’t try, you’re a loser” is his mantra and it’s one that has kept him creating and putting his work out there for others to see.

Putting himself out there has been a big part of his growth as an artist. Ted believes that his involvement with other artists, both online and in his local art league, has given him the support needed to keep going. He loves being able to reach out to more experienced artists for tips and critiques to help him improve. That’s not to mention the sense of community he has found among others with the same passion.

Ted’s experience with art has inspired him to attempt other “age defying” feats as well. Along with art, he’s begun studying modern Greek to ensure his mind stays sharp. He could easily have bought into the lie that he’s too old to learn a new skill, but he hasn’t. In fact, he’s living proof that it’s not only possible, it’s incredibly beneficial. 

My talk with Ted Stanley convinced me of two things. First, art truly is for everyone. Ted is a retired railroad mechanic from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has no degree in art; he doesn’t hail from a long line of fine artists. He’s just a guy who has discovered a passion for drawing things he’s passionate about.

Secondly, art is so much more than just a hobby or a career. Art is therapy; it’s personal growth, it’s empowering and enriching, and it’s available to anyone. Ted’s decision to pick up a pencil wasn’t a difficult one, but it has proven to be a life-changing one. He encourages anyone interested in art to make the same decision: pick up a pencil and just start to draw. 

So, with all of the benefits of art so easily accessible, why haven’t you explored what it can do for you? What’s keeping you from picking up a pencil or a paintbrush? Must a major life change happen before you’ll give it a try? 

You’ve just heard Ted’s story, and now we want to hear yours. Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know what art has done for you.

Jeremy Rowland is editor for Senior Artist magazine and Director of Media Development at Happy Brain, Inc. He is a connoisseur of edible foods, an avid daydreamer, and has a hard time passing up an art museum.

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