5 People Who Didn’t Become Artists Until Later in Life

These creatives prove it’s never too late to follow your dream.

Studies show over half of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. The good news? Research also shows that changing careers later in life can lead to a dramatic increase in emotional and physical health. Here are five exceptional artists who made career changes later in life. 

Grandma Moses

1 of 6/ Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson—the given name of the artist who came to be known as Grandma Moses—enjoyed painting as a little girl, but it wasn’t until she was a widowed 76 year old that she started taking her art seriously. An art collector happened to see one of her paintings in a drugstore window and set her up with her first big art show, which led to her work being featured in 160 more exhibitions. Before her death at 101, Grandma Moses had created 1,500 pieces of art. Today she is known as one of America’s greatest pastoral painters. 


Julia Child

2 of 6/ Julia Child

Before her recipes enchanted millions, Julia Child served in the Office of Strategic Services (the equivalent of the modern CIA) during World War II. Child was an infamously horrible cook until her mid-30s. It wasn’t until she enjoyed an incredible French meal with her husband that she developed an interest in becoming a chef. Her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, wasn’t published until she was almost 50.

Toni Morrison

3 of 6/ Toni Morrison

Today she is known as one of the greatest American writers in history, but for many years Toni Morrison was better known as an English teacher and editor. She wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye, while working for a publishing house. It was not published until she was 39. Her most famous novel, Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize, was not published until twelve years later.


Kathryn Joosten

4 of 6/ Kathryn Joosten

This beloved actress spent most of her career as a psychiatric nurse before discovering a love of performing at age 42. She started performing in community theater and worked at Disney World. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and got her big break playing the president’s secretary, Mrs. Landingham, on The West Wing. It wasn’t until she was in her 60s that she won two Emmys for her role as Mrs. McClusky in Desperate Housewives.

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Leonard Cohen

5 of 6/ Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen spent his twenties pursuing literary ambitions. He worked odd jobs while writing poetry and novels. In 1966 Cohen declared he had decided to write music. He began by writing songs for other artists, including “Suzanne” for Judy Collins. His first album Songs of Leonard Cohen was not released until he was 33. His most famous song, “Hallelujah” did not come out until almost 20 years later. He continued to write and record music until his death in 2016. 


Vera Wang

6 of 6/ Vera Wang

Designer Vera Wang is an example of someone who has dabbled in numerous careers. Wang spent her childhood training to be a figure skater, but when she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team she switched gears and pursued a career in magazines. She worked for Vogue for seventeen years before becoming a designer herself at age 40. Today, at age 69, she is one of the most renowned bridal designers in the world.

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