Rhoda Draws Laughs

“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.

Rhoda Draws in front of her home, “Casa de Dibujo” (House of Drawing) this week

 “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.

A self-portrait that now hangs in her bedroom

“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.

One of Rhoda’s quick sketches of the iconic Parroquia church, from the Rosewood Hotel in SMA

“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.

Rhoda speaking with me at her dining table

“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.”

Rhoda holding a copy of her just-published book, a delightful collection of dichos (sayings) in both English and Spanish, illustrated with Rhoda’s cartoons
A page from Rhoda’s new book SAYINGS IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH. FYI, a handsome man may be eye candy to English speakers, but he’s an eye taco here in Mexico. Who knew?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  • 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.



26 thoughts on “Rhoda Draws Laughs”

  1. How remarkable that you are able to interview such colourful characters within the place that you live in. Meeting and talking to such different women, would be rejuvenating for your soul, and thankfully, we get to benefit as well.
    More people should follow Rhoda’s lead. Look for the humor in situations. We all need laughter and it not only changes our outlook but it physically changes our body chemistry and leaves us feeling positive- even when there is no logical reason to be.
    I found it interesting that Rhoda says that there is a lot of humor within Jewish families. Seinfeld was very successful poking fun at the things we did every day in society. When we stopped to think about how ridiculous those things were, we laughed, and we were really laughing at ourselves. How wonderful to not take ourselves so seriously!
    Thank you Bonnie.
    Rhoda is refreshingly attractive, talented and someone I’d love to meet. I guess her cartoon book will have to suffice instead.

    1. Dear Loula — I’m sure Rhoda will be immensely happy to read what you have to say here! Yes, I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many remarkable older women where I live now. San Miguel is noted for them, I think. My best to you, Bonnie

  2. I am so grateful that Rhoda is in my life. I look up to her for her persistence to do what she loves to do, he way she wants to do it! She is my idea of the best of the best!
    Thank you Rhoda
    You are one of a kind!


  3. I met Rhoda in the student Union cafeteria of Northwestern University when we were each pursuing a career path that we chose out of practicality and to please others. Eventually, our creative impulses busted out and we ended up doing exactly what we love and were meant to do.
    And I wish the same to any who are caught in a rut. Live like there’s no tomorrow!

  4. Dear Bon,
    What strikes me in this interview is the vitality and youthful spirit of your talented friend. Ms. Draws is certainly a wise older woman and a charming one. It is this idea of reinventing yourself, being able to embrace change, that keeps us active and engaged at any age. I loved the idea that artists never retire. The ability to create remains within us, as long as we don’t forget to hold on to our passions.
    Thank you for this inspiring and beautiful interview.

    1. You’re so welcome, Paul dear. Yes, Rhoda is certainly an inspiration, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to interview her and get to know her better. Mucho love to you, BB xx

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