Snowmen, Firesides, and Bookmarks — Assisted Living Art

A Snowman picture just seemed appropriate for the first art class in January at my mom’s assisted living facility.  The roads were snow-covered and the trees glistened with ice.  Brrr.  I think we should have had some hot chocolate as well.  As Loraine took her seat, she told me her daughter had taken down most of the pictures in her room last week.  She said, “I asked her, why did you do that?”  Her reply?  “Well, Mom, they are seasonal, I took down the autumn pictures.”   Loraine must have shown some discontent over that because then she smiled and said, “she put them all back up.”   I love that Loraine and her daughter post her artwork on the wall in her room.  And I also like the look of the changing seasons displayed there.  That’s very fun.

 

My mom, Alice and my granddaughter, Aubrey.

My granddaughter, Aubrey, was still on Christmas break during this time so she was able to join us for this class.  What a great helper!  She filled the pint jars up with water and laid out all the paints.  As the residents began to paint, she hovered around me.  “Bre, would you like to paint a snowman too?”  She jumped up and down, clapped her hands, and said,  “yes!”  I feel blessed as I watch my mother and my granddaughter paint together.  Three generations of “wanna be” artists.   Four actually as my mother’s Aunt Ruth was also a painter.  Mom has one of Aunt Ruth’s pictures hanging in her room.

 

This is the class I mentioned in my last post where only 5 residents were able to join us.  As I reported, illness and exhaustion that incurred over the holidays still lingered for many of the residents.  And I’m sad to say, two of the participants won’t be joining us again.  One has been moved permanently to the nursing home wing, and the other passed away in December.  They both came regularly, and I was surprised to hear this news.  These are the first I’ve lost.   And it is indeed very sad.  And humbling somehow.   I will miss them in class.  But I think I’ll track down that “new” nursing home resident and have a chat with her this week.  She may not be able to paint, and she may not even know me — she wasn’t very chatty even in class — but I’m going to find her.  I’m hoping to find just a twinkle of recognition in her eyes.  If not, that’s ok, we’ll still have a nice little visit, and I know, in any case, she’ll brighten my day.

I’ll share a few of their snowman pictures below.  This was just an easy drawing I sketched onto their canvas boards.  I hesitated to present such a simple picture to them, but it worked out well for that first class in January as my “artists” were still a bit spent from their December activities.  They appreciated the simplicity of the little guy, and most were exhausted and ready to be done by the time 2 hours rolled away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next class, I prepared a fireside picture for them.  There were a few moans as I set the picture in front of them for as simple as the last picture was, this one was a bit more detailed.  “Oh my, I don’t think I can do it.”  This made me smile for I know I can usually count on Phyllis to be initially overwhelmed by the white board  “Oh, Phyllis, sure you can.  You’re just frightened by that blank canvas.  Here, I can help you out.”  And with that, I took a paintbrush and put a few strokes of red onto her fireplace.  “See?  Now, it’s no longer a blank canvas, just finish what I started, and then keep going.”  And she did.  Here is her picture along with her classmates.  Mom said, “This was a fun one to do.

 

 

 

 

And I know this post has gotten long, but if you’ll allow me, I have one more set of pictures to share, and then we’ll wrap up January.  I try to mix it up every few weeks so the residents don’t get bored with painting a canvas.  So this week, I printed bookmarks onto card stock.  After they painted them, I laminated them and cut them into the individual bookmarks.

Before class started, I found a woman I had never seen peddling her wheelchair down the hall.  She had stopped and was “catching her breath” as I came upon her.  “Hi, can I help get somewhere?  Where are you going?”  She sighed and said, “Yes!  I want to go to that art class down there.”  Well how do you like that?  So I pushed her into the room and wheeled her up next to my mom.  Come to find out, this woman has only been a resident for 10 days, however, she and mom knew each other in high school.  Phyllis (yes another sweet Phyllis) had moved out of the area right after high school.  She is now a widow who never had children.  She came back to this area to be with old school friends.  60 years later.  Phyllis shared some of her story with me.  Life is funny.  We do not know the twists and turns our lives will take.  Thankfully, there is always a curtain that veils our tomorrows.  Welcome back, Phyllis, I hope you find joy and happiness here.

And guess who showed up to class?  Yep, Jeannette — the one who has been longing to paint a big picture on a canvas board.   Jeannette has come to three classes, and has not yet painted on a canvas board.  Maybe next time…..   stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon does not read, and did not have need of bookmarks. She wanted to keep her picture intake to hang on her wall.

 

Bookmark designs were provided by SandraDigitalDesigns and KLstudio15.  Thank you for making my work easier!

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Assisted Living Residents Paint My Life With Joy

As I was setting up for our first art class since the holidays, Phyllis came into the room, saying, “Connie, I want you to see something.”  As she got closer, she opened up her walker seat, and pulled out the coloring book I had given her for Christmas.  “Look!  I’ve been working on this pictures.  I just love it.  They aren’t very good, but I just love it.”   This is the woman who told me back in September that she couldn’t join our class because her eyesight was too poor.

A few minutes later, I saw Loraine coming down the hall, and as she got within earshot, I heard her say, “Connie, have you seen the stuff all over Facebook about us?”   Not sure I was understanding who she meant by “us,” I asked her, “Loraine, what do you mean?”  “The stuff about us — and this class!  It’s all over Facebook.”   I laughed, and admitted, “Loraine, I put ‘all that stuff’ out there.”  Loraine went on to say her daughter, who lives in another town, had come across this blog and shared it with her.  “You called me witty,” she chuckled.

As two o’clock came and went, only 5 ladies joined the class.  This surprised me as 3 weeks ago, before Christmas, 14 ladies painted holiday sun catchers in our last session.  “Where is everybody?”  Once I got the ladies started on the painting, I went to the office and inquired about the residents.  Five ladies were in the nursing home wing, recuperating from sickness; one lady was in the hospital; and the rest were exhausted and remained in their rooms.  Wow.  I’m sure there is a good moral to that story, but hard to sort it out during the holidays.  These woman want and need to see extended family, but the variety and abundance of new germs introduced during that season takes a toll on their bodies.

Here are a few pictures from the second sun catcher class.  Earlier in the year, we had done Autumn sun catchers with mixed reviews from the residents.  After that class, I returned all the Christmas sun catchers that I had planned to use for this class because the ladies seemed less than pleased.  However, the next week, they came in exclaiming how they loved the sun catchers in their windows.

Ok then.

I reordered all the Christmas supplies.

There is a learning curve here for all of us.

 

 

 

I wrote about Jeannette in a previous post, (you can read about it here,) and her dislike of painting sun catchers.  She had not joined us since that class, but guess what?  Yep, this is the day she decided to give it another try.  Oops.   I promised her that the next time she came, we would not be painting sun catchers.

 

Here are a few of the pictures of the Christmas picture they painted during our last session in December.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that right there is why I do this class.  To see and hear their excitement is inspirational, and encourages me so much.  These women bless my life.

I have three more sessions of pictures — and stories —  to share with you from our January classes, but I’ll wait until my next post.   I hope you enjoy looking at these beautiful faces.  I look forward to seeing them every week — they have become one of the highlights of my life.

 

Thank you to Fourth Ave Pen And Ink for the lovely NOEL design.  You can find more designs on Etsy

Assisted Living Artists Accept Whimsical Turkey Challenge

 

There were only a few moans of apprehension when my class of assisted living artists saw my example of a whimsical turkey.  “You want us to paint that”?  But once I set the canvas down in front of them, each person took a large paint brush and began to paint the background.  That’s how I’ve taught them to tackle that “blank canvas” anxiety.  Once the background is painted, it’s easier to paint the details.

 

 

Thirty minutes into class, I had to add one more table to the three already pushed togother — 13 ladies wanted to paint.  That is the biggest class yet, and 2 of my regulars couldn’t even be here.  I am excited to have a full room.  One or two men join us occasionally, but not on a regular basis.  I have some ideas for projects that might be more appealing to them.  We shall see…

 

When I told the ladies I would be gone for two weeks, Phyllis, my dramatic one, said, “Oh no, what are we going to do without you.”   I love that Phyllis didn’t give up after our first class — she is a delight.  And she no longer groans about her picture, but accepts my praise with a simple, “thank you.”  She asks me to sign her name and date the bottom of every picture she finishes.  That sounds like ‘pride in her work’ to me.

 

These women are proud of their pictures, simple as they are.  I have attempted to talk about shading and shadows, but only Roberta feels confident enough to make those additions to the outline.  That’s ok – they are happy with the finished picture and therefore I am too.

 

 

I myself have an 87 year old mother and a 95 year old mother-in-law, and often our conversations get stale as they have nothing new to talk about.  I love that this art work gives these ladies something different to talk about — something new and fresh and exciting.  I’m thinking maybe their family members appreciate the “new talk” as well.

 

 

Daisy walked by our class today, and timidly looked at the table.  She came to the first class, but she didn’t care for the activity.  “I didn’t know this is what was going on.  Someone just said, sit down, so I did.  But I don’t like to paint.”   She never came back.  And often she walks by the room, but never wants to join us.  But today, she lingered just a bit longer.  “Daisy, do you want to paint today?”  “Well, I might try one.”    She painted a turkey, using a large brush and the paint palette.  I tried to offer the watercolor markers or smaller paint brushes, but she was content to just keep adding color with the large brush.  That’s ok.  No rules here.  When I asked Daisy if I could take her picture (I always ask), she declined.  However, she did allow me to capture her artwork.  But she didn’t want to take her turkey back to her room.  “I don’t want that old thing.”  I kept it myself.  I think it’s beautiful.  Just like Daisy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for this gorgeous turkey design goes to Jess Hone.

You can find this picture and other fabulous ones at: Honedoodles.

Elderly Seniors Embrace Art Classes

This is Phyllis. Phyllis has trouble seeing so I have started outlining her pictures in black marker to define the lines. After seeing her lovely picture, the other residents asked me to outline their pictures as well.

“I turned down a birthday party invitation because I didn’t want to miss art class.”  That’s what Phyllis said as she took her seat at the table.  “Oh, Phyllis, I’m sorry you’re missing a party!  I hope it wasn’t a family member.”  “No, just a good friend.”  Oh my….

I am happy that the residents at my mom’s assisted living facility are enjoying this art class, however, I am disappointed that they are canceling other plans; they don’t have enough to fill their time as it is.  But I don’t think everyone changes their schedule for me —  Phyllis might be the exception.  She tells me every week, “I just LOVE to do this.”  And that makes me smile because the first week I came to do this art with the residents, Phyllis was the one who kept saying, “Oh, I just can’t do this.  I just can’t.”  But she can, and she does every single week, and she is always the first one to arrive at the table.  I just love that her.

 

Lorraine, Sharon, and Mary. This pumpkin and sunflower picture was a favorite, and they turned out lovely.

A few weeks ago, Lorraine asked me to come to her room after class.  Beaming, she pointed to the wall, “My daughter hung all my art work.”   She was thrilled that her daughter liked her art, and thought it “wall-worthy.”  My mom tells me (every week) that she knew Lorraine when she was a teenager.  “When I was 14 years-old, she use to walk down the sidewalk with her boyfriend, holding hands.”  I love to get nuggets of information like this.  Memories from the past.  These women weren’t born old.  They were young and in love and had babies and had careers.

 

I try to ask questions, hoping they will reminisce and indulge me with their stories.  As they painted the pie in the autumn centerpiece last week, I asked, “Who loves to bake pies?”  When Halloween was just around the corner, and they were painting pumpkins, I asked, “Did your children dress up and go trick-or-treating?”  Sometimes I get a few answers.  Sometimes I don’t.  That’s okay.  If they are quiet, I tell them a story about me, my children, or my grandchildren.  And more than once my story has helped someone recall their story.  And so it goes.

 

This is Hazel. She was also new to class and LOVED the sun catchers. She came back to paint our fall centerpiece picture. What a sweet sweet lady.

I have prepared 5 pictures for them to paint over the last several weeks.  Two weeks ago, I thought we’d do something different, so I brought sun catchers for them to paint.  I found some nice fall leaf patterns that would look pretty in the windows in their rooms.   One lady was new to class (she had walked by the previous week and noticed the beautiful pumpkin and sunflower picture we were working on.)  When she sat down, I could tell she was a bit disappointed in the sun catchers.  After we had painted for about 15 minutes, the chatter at the table had mixed “reviews” of this more tedious art work.  But most liked the change.  This new artist boldly said, “I think it’s boring.”  That made me laugh out loud.  You know, when you get to be 90 years-old, there is no need to pretend or beat around the bush.  And that’s okay.  She didn’t come back last week.  But I’m going to seek her out on Friday because we’re painting an awesome turkey for Thanksgiving.  I think she just might like it.

Sneak preview of our Thanksgiving turkey picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few pictures of our fall paintings.  I am so thankful I can be a part of this.  The residents are very proud of their pictures.  I am too.

But more beautiful than the art work are the artists.

 

I think Roberta has some past experience in art. She missed a few weeks so she opted to paint two pictures last week. She wears this hat every day because the fluorescent lights hurt her eyes.

 

This is sweet Mary. She is pretty quiet, but she giggles at my jokes. She has just finished her picture and is enjoying a cookie before she goes back to her room.

 

This is Sherry, but many CNAs still call her Mrs. Davis. She earned their respect many years ago… Sherry was disappointed last week because she feel asleep after lunch, and no one woke her up for art class. I wont let that happen again.

 

 

This is Oran. He is very quiet. But he paints whatever I set in front of him. He eats my cookies and stays in class until everyone is done with their picture. There was a time when someone like Oran intimidated me. But not anymore. I really really like this guy.

 

This is Alice — my mom. I started these classes for her. But I know now, God intended them for me. Mom has her own art supplies in her room and paints two or three additional pictures between classes.

 

This is Sharon. Sharon comes every week. She always has this beautiful smile on her face.

 

This is Thelma. She has been to every single class. Often during class, she sets her paint brush down and just rests for 10 minutes. Then she picks up her brush and begins again. And even though it may be 80 degrees in our room, she will always wear a sweater.

 

This is Irene. She is relatively new to class — I think she has been to the last three. I walked her back to her room when we did the sun catchers. She pointed to her picture on the window sill, and told me how proud her children were of her painting. I love that.

 

 

This is Lorraine. She is sharp and witty and very fun. When I grow up, I want to dress like Lorraine — always beautiful inside and out.

 

Just a silly painted pumpkin, but look at Mary’s face. I am so blessed when I look at this picture.

 

Their hands. No words needed….

Just A Simple Magnifying Glass

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction Phyllis had when I set the magnifier in front of her.  “Oh my!  Look at that! Can you believe it?  Wow.  I can see the detail!  Oh my!  Wow.  I just can’t believe it.”  Her response went on, “I bet can I read the newspaper now!  Look at that!  And the menu; I’ll be able to read the menu now”.  

Seriously?  It’s just a magnifying glass with a simple stand..

Before long she had all the other art “students” looking through the glass. They were not as impressed as Phyllis was, but then, they are not legally blind.

However, they were all very tickled at her reaction, and feeling her joy.

Phyllis has come to every session of this art class in my Mom’s assisted living facility, but she has struggled because of her eyesight.  She wanted to participate, and did, but it wasn’t easy.   When I left after class two weeks ago, I wondered if there was some way to make the class more enjoyable for her.  I decided to buy a small, inexpensive magnifier with a stand to help her see the detail of the picture.  I also outlined her sketch with black permanent marker to make the picture “pop” for her.  What a difference it made.  “I love this.  Thank you!  This is so much fun, isn’t it? Don’t you guys just love to do this?”

 

To prepare for their class, I had sketched scarecrows onto canvas panels for the residents to paint.  I also came across some watercolor markers for them to try. And even though I only had a few primary colors, they were a big hit, and everyone used them to “paint” their autumn picture.  I actually painted with them this time, and I used a set of watercolors.  And by the time class was over, I had paint brushes and watercolors in their hands as well to do some of the background.  

When we were almost done, Phyllis asked if she could buy the magnifier from me.  I love that.  I was very touched that such a little thing made a big difference in her world.  “No, Phyllis, you cannot buy it.  It is my gift to you.  I am thrilled that you are so happy.”

When class was finished, another resident retrieved a newspaper from her walker and asked Phyllis is she could read the print.  Phyllis said, “Oh!  Let me see.  Where is the obituary page — I only want to see who died.”  We all had a good chuckle over that.

As Phyllis turned to leave, she had one last thing to say to me, “Can I give you a hug?  I love you.”  Aww, how sweet is that?

Her apartment is only steps away from where we painted, and as I was cleaning up the mess, I could hear her on the phone,  “…she brought me a magnifying glass.  I can read the paper.”

Wow.  I am still kinda stunned.  It was only a simple, inexpensive magnifying glass.  Makes me wonder how many other residents would benefit from such a simple thing.

Needless to say, Phyllis made my day.  What a blessing she was to me!

I have been going twice a month to do art with these wonderful people. During class they asked if I could come very week. “Every week?  Well, yes.  Yes, I can.  I would love to.  I’ll see you next Friday.”

I’ve ordered a few more canvases.  I’ve found a few more colors in the watercolor markers.  And I’ll be sketching a few more seasonal pictures over the next couple of days.  Just a few simple things…

I can’t wait til next Friday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Or Paint? Assisted Living Art Class Update

In my last blog post, I promised to keep you updated on the art class at my Mom’s assisted living facility.  We have had two classes since that last post.  Not many words today, I’m going to let the pictures from our time together speak for themselves…

Here are the pictures from our second class together.  I have acrylic paints and watercolors available, but everyone chose to color.

 

 

 

 

 

Roberta turned page over and began to draw her own picture.

 

 

 

 

We met again today, our 3rd class together.  I decided to try something new and gave all the class members the same picture to paint.  I have been working on a birdhouse painting of my own so I drew a smaller version of that picture onto canvases, and had them ready to paint.  At the beginning of class, there were a few moans and groans from participants about everyone painting the same picture.  “Are we going to compare them?”  I spent most of class reassuring everyone that his/her painting was beautiful and unique.  No comparisons — this is not a competition.

 

 

 

 

 

Didn’t they do a fantastic job?  I love how they are the same, and yet so different.    And as you can see from the photos, some still wanted to use colored pencils or crayons, and that’s okay.  I want them to feel comfortable, enjoy the time, and not feel stressed.  Like I said last time — no rules here.

A few weeks ago, I was a bit worried and intimidated to do an art “class”.  I am not qualified to teach an art class.  But you know what? These precious people don’t want to learn how to be artists.  They want something to do to pass the time.  They want to be creative.  They want someone to take an interest in them.  They want to be encouraged.  They want to be blessed.

And you and I can help with those things.

Who in your community needs some encouragement?  What lonely person in your life just needs something to do?

Find those people; step out of your comfort zone, and go bless them!!  Seriously… go!

You’re going to be really glad you did.

 

 

 

How Art Lessons For the Elderly Teach Life Lessons to Me

“I want to come back, Connie.  Whatever it takes, I want to come home.”

It has been almost 2 years since I put “pen to paper” about my journey with my elderly mother.  If any of you are still listening, I will give a quick update and then begin again to chronicle this season of our life — my mother and me.

I received a call from Mom last October (2016), and she sounded distressed.  She had been living, as you recall, in an assisted-living facility close to my sister’s home — about a 2 hour drive from me.   As I picked up the chirping phone, those words from my mother surprised me.  She had been doing well, and had adjusted to assisted living.  She was involved in many of the activities, and seemed to be content.  So this plea to come home caught me by surprise.

I will not go into all the details of what transpired over the course of the few months prior to mom’s discontent.  I had not, myself, been aware of them until the phone rang that very day.   However, by the time Mom called, her mind was made up.  So the next day, I called the assisted-living facility in her hometown, and was able, within a few short weeks, to secure an apartment.  She is now living back in my area, and I am again her “go-to” daughter.

I kind of like it that way.

In the quick process of making plans for Mom, my siblings and I actually talked about one of the independent-living apartments of this local senior complex for her.  Could she live on her own again?  Would she be able to do so in this early stage of dementia?  But when given the choice, Mom chose assisted-living.  “I don’t want to cook.  I want everything in the same building.  I don’t want to walk across the courtyard for my meals.”  These were her decisions.  Her choices.  She has settled in, and this time, I think her contentment is genuine.

Even with this newfound peace, one of the things Mom misses is the art class as this new facility has no art program.  On several occasions, the Administrator and I have talked about the possibility of an art class.  One time she asked, “Would you like to teach it?” (Oh my, be careful what you ask for).  My quick response was, “Oh no, I’m not an artist.  I’m just learning myself.”  But several weeks went by, and I kept thinking about an art class for this group of seniors.  Do they really want to learn how to be an artist?  Or do they just need to use their hands and minds?  Something that brings them together as a community.  A time to talk.  Something to create.  Something to be proud of.  I spoke of this to my sister who lives far away.  She feels the burden of not being close enough to care for Mom.  Her response?  “Do it.  I’ll send you the money for supplies”.

So today was our first official “art class”.  The nurses went down hallways and knocked on doors, reminding residents of this new addition to their schedule.   Six residents eventually joined me in the dining room where 6 tables had been pushed together and draped in plastic.  I had one set of tables filled with all my offerings:  acrylic and watercolor paints, canvas boards, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, and numerous other artsy stuff.  I knew within a few moments that the cluttered table was too overwhelming so I concentrated on name tags and seating.

One by one I got each artist involved in a project.  Bob was willing to do anything:  “Connie, just tell me what to do”.  He completed one project, and was ready for another.  And again, in a rather booming voice, “Connie, just tell me what to do”.  Thelma and Daisy chose to color.  Nita didn’t seem to understand at all what was going on, but I gently placed a coloring page in front of her with a small box of crayons.  By the end of the hour, she had two pink flamingos with orange beaks and a blue sky.  Bless her heart, she knew what to do, and the picture was so sweet.  Roberta must have been a artist in her younger days for she said, “I like acrylic paints, do

you have those?”  When I started to squeeze the paint onto her palette, “Not too much; they are expensive, and we don’t want to waste it”.  Then she created a beautiful picture of flowers and greenery, mixing paint to the color of her choosing.  Phyllis wanted to participate, but kept saying, “I can’t see.  I only can see out of one eye.  It’s all too small.  I wish I could.”  So I drew a large, simple flower on the canvas, and placed it down.  “Can you see the outline?”  And she spent the entire time coloring that bloom.  My own mother chose to do a paint-by-number picture using colored pencils rather than the paint.  That’s ok.  No rules here.

This was a learning experience for all of us.  I already know how to make the next class easier for them (and me).  Some supplies will be returned to the store — who knew paint-by-number pictures had such microscopic detail!  I had also bought the new “adult” coloring books, thinking they would enjoy the beautiful pictures, however, I soon realized that those as well are too small and detailed for this class.  The larger the detail, the bigger the print, the better.

I’m hoping as the class gets comfortable being creative, we can move onto more challenging artwork.   But even if we don’t get beyond the crayons, I think I’m going to enjoy this group of ladies — and Bob.

 

Can you see the beauty?  Not in their handiwork, but in them?

I thought this art class was for my mother, for the residents, but as our time came to an end, I found myself whispering to Phyllis, patting Thelma on the back, and embracing this small group of people. I know Bob was a hog farmer “back in the day”.  I know Roberta’s sister recently passed away.  I know Daisy knew my mother when she was just a little girl.   I will know them by name when I see them in the hall next week.  This class was for me as much as it was for them.

So many lessons!

I’m not talking about art.

Nor the residents.

I already see that I am the student.

As the class develops, I will post updates here.

I hope you come back and see the beauty as it unfolds.

 

Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?  

— Job 12:12 New International Version Bible