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Artistry knows no age

(ANN/THE STAR) – Four years ago, at the age of 75, academician Abdul Hamid Mohamed discovered a newfound interest in painting to while away the boredom brought on by the movement control order (MCO) imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Little did the adjunct professor from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur know that this pursuit would not only inject purpose into his retirement but also evolve into a lucrative source of income.

Art became a therapeutic outlet for Abdul Hamid which began with the simple acting of painting his front gate.

“Then I moved on to paint my home. Then I decided to paint on canvas,” says the self-taught artist during an interview in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur recently.

What started as a hobby during the pandemic soon gained the attention of his friends. Some of his buddies even offered to purchase his artwork.

Photos of 75 year-old Abdul Hamid Mohamed, a senior citizen self taught artist who picked up art during the pandemic. PHOTO: THE STAR/IZZRAFIQ ALIAS

“That came as a surprise. Many of my friends encouraged me to hold an exhibition. I didn’t even know how to hang a painting, let alone organise an exhibition,” quips the soft-spoken man, who was born in Temerloh, Pahang, and raised in Kota Baru.

Once the MCO was lifted, the father of three decided to further hone his artistic skills. He sought guidance from professional artists, visited studios, and immersed himself in the creative atmosphere of art exhibitions.

“I began to learn painting techniques, and got lots of tips from my friends who are art enthusiasts. I also joined many groups on social media and became friends with artists from different parts of the world. After about two years of practice, I braved myself to organise my first art exhibition at an art gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, together with seven professional artists.

Photos of 75 year-old Abdul Hamid Mohamed, a senior citizen self taught artist who picked up art during the pandemic. — PHOTO: THE STAR/IZZRAFIQ ALIAS

“I exhibited 15 pieces of artworks of various sizes. To my disbelief, I sold 13 pieces. I truly felt encouraged and motivated, and now painting is my newfound career to fill my retirement days, and I paint with passion,” explains Abdul Hamid, who has close to 60 paintings under his belt. His paintings are priced between MYR3,000 and MYR6,000.

His preferred styles include abstract, semi-abstract, and impressionism, with occasional forays into landscapes to break the monotony.

“Acrylic on canvas is my preferred medium though sometimes I do dwell in oil, water colour and mixed media. I find solace, happiness and calmness, as well as the freedom of expression, in my works, which are motivated by nature and the environment. My work is an expression of my inner thoughts of what I see and what moves me. I use strong colours as the common denominator of my expressions. Experimenting with objects, materials, and adapting them is a way of bringing out art without boundaries and inhibitions.”

To improve his skills, he turns to books, online tutorials, and observes the techniques of established artists.

“I have no fixed hours spent on painting. To paint, I must first of all feel relaxed, and for me there are three important elements: Time, mood and idea. I will not be able to paint in the absence of any one of these.”

Hamid’s newfound “career” shows that one can acquire new skills and transform a hobby into a fulfilling and lucrative endeavour at any age.

“Senior citizens should not just spend time on the rocking chair, feeding pigeons in the parks or becoming couch potatoes. There are many things that seniors can do, from gardening, baking, fishing and farming to making small handicrafts. No idea what to do? The Internet will provide tonnes of ideas,” he shares.

Live and let learn

Abdul Hamid started his career as a mass communications lecturer at Shah Alam’s Institute Teknologi Mara, now UiTM, in 1975. After eight years, he joined terrestrial TV station TV3 in PJ as the head of its marketing department.

In 2001, Abdul Hamid rejoined the academic field and has been serving as a lecturer at UTM’s Azman Hashim International Business School since. He currently still teaches Strategic Marketing to Master of Business Administration (MBA) undergraduates.

Abdul Hamid (centre) finds fulfillment in sharing experiences with his students. PHOTO: ABDUL HAMID MOHAMED

The septuagenarian eagerly anticipates his weekend MBA lectures, finding fulfillment in sharing experiences with mature students.

“Since I have vast experience in the corporate, international business and entrepreneurial sectors, sharing and imparting knowledge is truly enriching and fulfilling. One should not keep knowledge to himself, but share it with the younger generation.

“Most of my MBA students are matured individuals who are professionals from various industries. As such, conducting classes, and engaging in case studies and discussions with them becomes challenging and interesting. I learn from my students as much as they learn from me.

“The media, advertising, and marketing landscape has transformed tremendously over the years, constantly evolving with the advent of technology, and so has education. Lecturing has helped me keep abreast of education and industry development,” says Abdul Hamid, who holds a Master of Arts (Communication) from Michigan State University in Michigan, the United States.

Photos of 75 year-old Abdul Hamid Mohamed, a senior citizen self taught artist who picked up art during the pandemic. PHOTO: THE STAR/IZZRAFIQ ALIAS

He’s also adeptly embraced the era of online learning, something that was a necessity because of the pandemic when everything – from work, to shopping, to recreation – went online.

“When the pandemic struck, everyone was caught off-guard. Overnight, universities, colleges and schools had to prepare classes online. I too had to learn fast to adapt to the new norm then. Now, some of my MBA classes are conducted in hybrid mode. Keeping abreast of technology is one thing, being able to learn and apply it is another thing altogether. It is tough for seniors like me, but I make it a point to learn, especially from younger lecturers and technical staff.

“To stay mentally sharp, I read. I read almost anything, from online articles to the morning daily.”

Not retiring from life

Abdul Hamid offers valuable advice to fellow seniors hesitant about taking up new hobbies or activities.

“At my age, I have lost many friends over the years. Every two years, my school alumni batch of 1966 from Sultan Ismail College in KB makes it a point to have a reunion, and I am one the organising committee members.

“And every time we meet, the numbers who can attend get less and less. Most seniors have a bit of money after retirement. Use the money and see the world. Form a small travel group, comprising people with a common interest. I love travelling, and have made many friends through my travels,” says Abdul Hamid, who together with his wife, pensioner Sharipah Yacob, 71, has travelled across Europe on many cruises.

Photos of 75 year-old Abdul Hamid Mohamed, a senior citizen self taught artist who picked up art during the pandemic. PHOTO: THE STAR/IZZRAFIQ ALIAS

He emphasises the importance of staying active, socialising, finding meaningful activities, and exploring hobbies that bring joy and fulfillment.

“Even though I am a retiree, I haven’t retired from life. Senior citizens should keep themselves busy, and moderately active. Even meeting up with old schoolmates, or office mates over a cup of coffee or lunch is something to cherish,” explains Abdul Hamid, who plays golf twice a week.

For those nearing retirement, Abdul Hamid advocates meticulous planning for the future at least two years before hanging up one’s boots.

“Whether you’re holding high positions in public or private sectors, be prepared to lose friends, respect, and glamour when you retire. Take up new challenges, find new friends, lead an easy comfortable life, and, most importantly, take care of your health.”