“Humor,” she told me when I asked her what sustains her. “Humor feeds me,” Rhoda said. “And I love to hear people laugh and see them smile.” So, unsurprisingly, when I interviewed Rhoda Draws at her home here in San Miguel this week, we spent much of our time together laughing.
“I grew up in Chicago in a Jewish family where there was a lot of humor,” Rhoda told me. “Often this is the case with Jewish families. I use humor in my work, my drawings, my relationships with people. I am a consumer of humor. I love the way a standup comic can point out the ridiculous.”
And, as I always do when I interview remarkable older women for my WOW blogposts, I asked Rhoda, now 82, what motivates her to keep going, keep creating. Rhoda Draws (yes, her real name, as I’ll explain in a bit) has been a professional artist for more than 50 years.
“It’s so natural for me to create and have fun creating that it’s hard to say what makes me want to continue creating. It’s just part of my nature. I’ve always had this desire to produce things, to make things that didn’t exist before.
“I guess,” she added, “I suffer from the curse of the multitalented. I can write, I can do comedy, I can sing, I can draw. It’s only in recent years that I’ve seen that you can do a lot of those things all at once or in various combinations. So I feel like I’m still exploring my talent.”
As a professional caricature artist in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rhoda had decades of experience creating quick drawings of people at events. In 2018 she moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she’s been focusing on urban sketching and leading group excursions in which she teaches her own, fun “Sketching Fast & Loose” techniques to students of all skill levels.
“I moved here when I was 77, so I was already past traditional retirement age,” Rhoda told me. “But I didn’t feel that retirement was a concept I could put my mind around. Artists don’t retire. Creativity is what keeps me alive.”
Rhoda counts moving to San Miguel as one of the three best decisions she’s made in her life. (“This place just spoke to me,” she said.) Another really good decision was buying 100 shares of Apple stock in 2008. (“Just dumb, dumb luck!”), and the other was changing her last name to “Draws.” When I asked her why she changed her name, she explained:
“For the longest time I was using “Rhoda Draws a Crowd” as a business name because I was primarily making my living as a caricature artist at events, in addition to doing caricatures in my studio for commissions. My website was www.rhodadraws.com. So I thought why shouldn’t I call myself Rhoda Draws?
“Also, I’d been dragging around my ex-husband’s name for decades. So I actually went to court in 2009 and made Rhoda Draws official; it became my legal name. I felt that I had to reinvent myself and cut myself off from the past, so I thought one thing I can do to move on is to become Rhoda Draws, instead of having all that baggage.”
When I asked Rhoda, as I do all WOW interviewees, what she felt were some of the advantages of advanced age, she responded good-humoredly:
“Well, men tend to leave you alone, which mostly is a good thing! It’s like you’re wearing a cloak of invisibility. Out of sight, out of mind.” We both nodded and laughed.
“But seriously,” she said, “there’s something about being an older woman in Mexico that is much more satisfying than up north. If I was in the States, for example, there might be much more pressure on me to have plastic surgery. That kind of vanity is gone in my life now.
“I now live by my own standards and my own motives — without being hostile or unfriendly to other people. I just think: They’re doing their thing, I’m doing mine.”
And what would she like her legacy to be?
“I would want to be remembered for my creativity, for having overcome obstacles in the past, and for my ability to blossom at an older age. I would like to inspire your readers as an example of blossoming and continuing to grow and change and develop in old age.”
Finally, did she have anything to add?
“Yes, I do! I want to complain that Costco doesn’t teach you how to clean your hearing aids! You have to learn that on the street – like sex. See? I’m not too old to be a standup comic.”
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- To learn more about Rhoda’s work, please visit her website: www.rhodadraws.com .
- Rhoda is represented at Galeria San Francisco in the Fabrica la Aurora art and design center in SMA: www.galeriasanfrancisco.com .
- Rhoda’s new book is available from Amazon.com and at Aurora Books in SMA.