ARTIST CONNIE SEGALL lives life on her own terms. She has neither answering machine nor computer. She wears no watch. She goes to bed at 4 p.m. and gets up at 1 a.m. Then she walks her three dogs and has coffee, goes to an all-night gym to swim and comes home to rest. At about 5:30 a.m., she starts painting. She paints on-and-off all day.
Her ranch-style home is one large artist’s studio. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with her paintings. Acrylics and watercolors — she specializes in painting women and cats — are stacked and piled everywhere. Oversized paintings are leaned against every surface.
At 75, some might say her age entitles her to this eccentric lifestyle.
She doesn’t see it that way. How does she see it?
"I need a routine. And long, empty spaces," she says. "I could use the money, but I don’t paint for money. I’m very thankful to be able to do what I enjoy most."
When did you begin painting? I’ve always drawn, but I quit doing art for 10 years when my kids were little. My father, who was a dreamer, and grandfather were both painters. It was hard to start again after 10 years, so I went to Philbrook to take a watercolor class. I peeked into a life drawing class on my way and got goosebumps, so I took that instead.
How would you characterize your painting style? I’m self-taught. I don’t know what I’m doing.
You read every day. What do you read? For 20 years, I read nothing but metaphysics — mind over matter. Then that came to an end. Now, I read everything — mysteries, lately. And I listen to books on tape.
Besides reading, what else is part of your routine? Deep relaxation. Exercise. Hanging upside down. I was always going 100 mph inside. It was hard to learn to relax. Or sleep. I think I’m obsessive-compulsive. One morning my mother-in-law came back from the bathroom and I had made her bed.
You’re so prolific. How long does it take you to complete a piece? Two or three days.
What advice do you give young artists? If they really like to do it, they should keep at it.
Your work is exhibited and on sale at different places. How is your art promoted? Word of mouth, mostly. I don’t like to market. I don’t like being in public. I guess I’m shy. I went to a dream class for years, but I listened more than I spoke. I was in a bowling league for 25 years, but when political comments began being made, I quit. I didn’t much like them anyway. I do see friends, usually other artists. I like to dance, but I could never dance with a man because I want to do my own steps.
I never write about people’s age because it seems to pigeonhole us, often in a discriminatory way. Yet your age seems an integral part of your story. What do you think about it? I don’t. I never think about it.