Life Lessons from an Artist of 85 Years

Keen to make a contribution to an ABC Open project focused on seniors, we had the exquisite good fortune of being introduced to Pat Rhodes.

At 85, Pat’s an artist and a support worker for a person with disability.  That’s a stellar combination for an Art Partners feature story.

Meeting Pat was thoughtfully organised by Coordinator Kelli Carlisle of disability support agency Enable Southwest.  Kelli kindly drove us – including photographer Rob Cox of oxy images – to Pat’s rural property near Harvey.

We arrived in the pouring rain, and Pat along with house guest and relative Rhea, were at the front door to greet us.

We were ushered inside a home that was thoughtfully curated with Pat’s art and craft – paintings, pots and prints featured prominently.  And there was a riot of colour provided by crocheted spreads.

Chevron-patterned wonder. Image by Rob Cox

Chevron-patterned wonder. Image by Rob Cox

We were invited to the dining table to partake in a lunchtime feast of beautifully prepared sandwiches and meat pies.  There was an atmosphere of abundance given the food, the company and the remarkable stories that Pat had to tell.

An Absorbing Story

Pat’s life story was amazing:  she spent nine years raising three children on her own; married a second time and welcomed a loving husband into her life as well as four stepsons; and, eventually attended art school full time with the support and encouragement of her family.

A Project Person

Pat described herself as a ‘project person,’ and someone who is focused on getting things done.  This was evident in the beautifully executed and abundant body of work on display.


Pat’s an accomplished potter who’d developed glazes and taught at Rockingham Technical College.  She told us that “if you can make a teapot that doesn’t dribble down the front, you’ve arrived.”

Spinning Wool

Pat’s been knitting since she was a child.  Her interest grew from there and she now spins wool from fleece.

She also dyes the wool using spices including turmeric.  The wool is all meticulously catalogued as captured below.


Pat’s art school education included, of course, the art of painting.  A number of large canvasses occupy pride of place in her home.

Major in Sculpture

In art school, Pat majored in sculpture.  Here she holds a beautiful maquette (stone ware with iron oxide wash).

Pat holding a maquette. Image by Rob Cox

Pat holding a maquette. Image by Rob Cox

Inspired by Beauty

When Pat showed us her vistas, she said “her property is as close to heaven as she’s going to get.”  In this photo, Pat’s juxtaposes a view from her home with a painting in progress.

Pat juxtaposing her vista with a painting in progress. Image by Rob Cox

Pat juxtaposing her vista with a painting in progress. Image by Rob Cox

Three Top Tips

We were curious how someone could be 85 and appear to be remarkably young in physical presence, energy and intellect.  When asked for her three top tips, Pat’s answers were almost instantaneous.  First, she said “look after your body as it has to last a long time.”  Her next tip was “be respectful of other people.” And, third “education is critical so learn as much as you can.”

Staying Socially Connected

The presence of social contact for Pat appeared to be woven throughout the fabric of her life.  She told us that “there’s nothing quite like a cup of tea, a bit of company and a jolly good laugh.”

Pat enjoying trading tales at the table. Image by Rob Cox

Pat enjoying trading tales at the table. Image by Rob Cox

She had relative Rhea as a house guest.  She welcomed Keith – a person with disability – to her home once a week.  And, she also had a mutually supportive relationship with a rural neighbor.

Pat with relative Rhea. Image by Rob Cox

Pat with relative Rhea. Image by Rob Cox

Final Bits of Wisdom

Following our afternoon in the country, Pat made telephone contact to share a few other thoughts and insights. “Plan ahead,” she urged “but at the same time be adaptable to change, and deal with whatever the day throws at you.”

Pat donning one of her knitted creations. Image by Rob Cox

Pat donning one of her knitted creations. Image by Rob Cox

Your Turn

Do you have any helpful hints that might lead others down the path to an abundant and productive life?  If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

For a personal reflection on this meeting with Pat Rhodes, visit ABC Open right here.

For more inspiring stories from Art Partners, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter right here.

At Art Partners, we love to get things just right.  If something’s out of place in the above post, let us know right here.

30 thoughts on “Life Lessons from an Artist of 85 Years

  1. Rob Cox

    This was an inspirational visit with a remarkable woman. Nicely captured Wanda! Pat turns 86 in February and you get the sense she has plenty more birthdays – and productive years – ahead. Rock on Pat!

    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks so much Rob for your collaboration on this story. The shots are truly beautiful! It was so moving to be there and hear about Pat’s life. Now we’re sharing it with the wider community. Carry on Pat!

      1. Meryl

        Thank you for telling Pat’s story. It is inspirational for all ages. Have a go and enjoy what you do is her motto. I admire you for your caring nature. You have shared your skills with many people. Well done. Meryl.

  2. helenseiver

    What an inspirational woman! The words and the photos speak loudly of how moved you both were to meet Pat and they (the images and words) have enabled us all to share your enchantment at meeting Pat.

  3. Pat Rhodes

    Dear Art Partners, I was speechless when I saw the finished story. It certainly outlines some of my achievements. When I think of it, there is lots more that we did not have time to cover. I had never thought that my lifestyle was so significant, that it might be of much interest to anyone. Thank you so very much for not only writing my story, but putting it together with the photos taken by Rob.

    Cheers from Pat

    1. Art Partners Post author

      Dearest Pat, Profiling you on this post was a wonderful opportunity to get to know you just a little bit. I am so happy that we’ve been able to share you with the wider world with these words and wonderful photos. Best wishes, Art Partners

  4. budgettraveltalk

    What an amazing lady. I think longevity has a lot to do with being interested in other people. I have a 90 year old mother and whenever I leave her in public, when I return I know for a fact that she will be talking to someone. The desire to interact with people and keep abreast of the times are important to her and I can see that same quality in Pat too.

    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks budgettraveltalk for stopping by. I think you’re absolutely right – continuing social engagement is a key part of staying healthy as the years go by. It’s great that you can see a quality that Pat and your mother have in common. Always great to hear from you.

  5. Johanna

    What a gorgeous story about a very talented person. Well done Pat for achieving so much and continuing to get out there and be involved. Loved Pat’s words of wisdom too.

  6. Kelli Carlisle

    Wow what a glorious snapshot of Pat’s artist life. It is also the farmers life I aspire to, and in Pat’s own words, “you wake up in the morning and deal with what ever is put before you”! Such a determined outlook on life and living.

    1. Art Partners Post author

      She is truly amazing Kelli. Thanks so much for introducing us to Pat, and for driving us to Harvey so we could have this super engaging afternoon and share it with the world. Kudos to you!

  7. Jenny

    Fabulous read and such a wonderful lady! We can all learn by Pat’s words of wisdom, and I’m going to try starting now. Just a breath of fresh air around living a good life. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  8. Donna Mazza

    Pat has so much energy and I’m glad to see her busy with Art Partners. She has been one of our favourite students at ECU in the arts degree and inspired lots of our students with her zest for life and creative energy.

  9. Lindy Loo

    What an inspirational ‘fountain of youth’. Follow Pat’s tips I say. She is certainly the proof in the pudding. Her diverse artistic talents are amazing.

  10. Louis Ariano

    If one is seeking advice for a rewarding and fulfilling living, Pat Rhodes’ philosophy is excellent. Thank you Pat Rhodes for your inspiring and helpful messages and your positive outlook on life.


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