She was 45 years old when, she says, she had a "love affair." That is, when Mildred Ardys Harrington began to paint seriously.
Harrington was just starting the second chapter of her life. Now 93, the Buffalo artist was honored last Sunday afternoon in Unity Church of Practical Christianity, 1243 Delaware Ave., with a reception and exhibit of her work. It will be on display for a month; sales proceeds benefit the church.
After working as an executive secretary while raising two children as a single parent, Harrington in middle age began to realize that she had artistic talent.
"It was a new life. I fell in love with paint," she recalled. "I had so much time on my hands when my children left home. It was a love affair, and it's still going. I can't stop."
She sought out the best teachers she could find and took many classes and workshops with artists locally and in Sedona, Ariz., and Provincetown on Cape Cod.
Harrington works with acrylics, oils, ink and watercolors, and has won many awards -- 14 since she turned 80. She describes herself as an impressionistic painter taking inspiration from nature. With the waterfront as her neighborhood, it's easy for her to find her subjects.
"Colors, textures and composition fascinate me," she said. "We have a small group that goes out in the fields every Monday -- we're called the Monday Painters."
Harrington says she has kept up her energy to go "out in the fields" by being a meditator. "I've been meditating since I was 62," she said. "That's kept me free from stress. It's reduced my biological age by 20 years." She's a follower of New Age physician Dr. Deepak Chopra.
"I come from long line of young people -- my father lived till he was 90, and my mother lived till she was 85," Harrington said with good humor. "I'm also very conscious of the right foods and taking the right supplements."
Harrington says her mission is to create "affordable, original artwork."
Besides painting or drawing every day, Harrington is active with the Amherst Society of Artists and the Williamsville Art Society. A member of Art Focus, Partners in Art in Tonawanda and the Carnegie Cultural Center in North Tonawanda, she is a past president of the former Association of Art Organizations of Western New York and served as the director of its gallery for three years.
She's also an activist when it comes to preserving the waterfront for the public.
"We do need to preserve this precious land for non-urban purposes," she said. "They took out 200 trees, and it made my hair stand on end. Though it is used for a good purpose now. We have festivals down here all summer long."
For anyone who feels that middle age is too late to start over, she stresses that "the world is full of possibilities."
"Look for them -- you'll find them," said Harrington, the great-grandmother of five.
And for young art students she advises: "Keep drawing. Never give up. You can always go back to it -- this is what's so beautiful about art. Don't be discouraged. Too many think you have to make money at it. Be out in nature, watch the sunset, listen to the rustle of leaves in the trees, and you'll get inspiration to produce the art within yourself."
Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.