Teaching art in a care facility

I can't believe it is so long since I wrote on this post. It's probably because I haven't had time. The art classes in the care facility have grown enormously and I now have two assistants and we are into our fifth year of running the classes. We have twelve permanent artists some of whom have been with us since the start. We have come a long way and learnt a great deal. I'm often asked for advice on running art classes of this nature so I am going to try to outline some guidelines. Hopefully these points will help anyone else wanting to bring art to those in care. I'm also happy to be contacted via email to offer advice for your particular situation.

1. First make a collection of images of landscape, seascapes, flowers, gardens, buildings especially wooden cottages and Italian villas. Copies of magazines are also very helpful.
2. You will need paint. Only use acrylic paint at this stage and never use oil paints. When first starting out don't get involved with water colour as it is a specialist area and can be taken on later. Many discount shops stock very suitable tubes of acrylic paint at a low cost. Purchase tubes or bottles of the following colours: brown (raw umber and burnt umber), yellow (cadmium and lemon), green (sap and a dark green such as Hookers), orange, purple, blue (ultramarine). You will also require a large bottle of white and a sky blue such as cobalt.
3. Buy cheap strong brushes to start with. Paint brushes from a hardware shop can be suitable or again go to a discount shop to see what is available. As well as brushes, sponges and even pieces of material can be used as painting tools.
4. Plastic lids or plates are very suitable for palettes and glass jars for water.
5. At first let your clients paint on paper, pads of which can be bought cheaply at a discount warehouse.

Now to starting the clients painting
1. Determine if your clients have ever painted in the past and if so what type of painting they were doing.
2. Those who have been painting landscapes etc in oils or acrylics can be put to copying an image from your collection. Encourage them to choose something simple to start with and you might need to sketch out a basic outline. Dont worry it your'e not very good at drawing as a rough copy is good enough and you can fix it up as you go. If you have a large group have the clients paint in a background sky and hills. This will keep them happy while you attend to others requiring more help.
3. For those who have never painted I suggest you start with stencils which can be bought from any art craft shop. They are quite expensive so only buy a few to start with.

We are having great success using stencils with our artists. First they paint the background of the painting they want to create. Then place the stencil on the background making sure that it is "anchored" to stop movement. Bluetak works well. Using masking tape, block out the shapes in the stencil not to be painted with whatever colour has been chosen to start the process. Proceed painting the stencil by blocking out the shapes not to be painted with masking tape. Dont forget to leave time for the layers of paint to dry. Finally remove the stencil and encourage the artist to paint in more details of their own to give the painting an individual look. Great fun and easy for those artists having difficulty creating their own images. Dont forget to wash your stencil after use as the paint will clog up the holes.

My resident with Parkinson's is losing the ability to hold a brush or crayon. He can no longer paint within the masked areas. We can't use a brush held in his teeth as he falls asleep constantly and this presents with a danger of being pierced by the brush. I'm going to try jars of paint with holes in the lid to see if he can still shake a jar onto the canvas. Most of the residents want to create something realistic but we have been working on showing them the beauty and enjoyment in abstract form with the emphasis on colour and pattern. Our venture into Turkish Marbling was greatly enjoyed so it's the Shaken Jar approach next.

Looking for boards to paint on? Try old place mats- the ones with the cork backing. You can get some interesting effects.

I've been experimenting with having the residents create textured walls as seen on Italian buildings. We're using a modelling paste with a pallet knife. Not difficult to move around the board and create interesting textures which are then painted in "Italian" colours. A lot of fun and enjoyed.

I'm learning so much about how the mind is working with one of my artists who has Parkinson's . I have used masking out areas to paint with great success but wanted to try to have K paint without the masking. So today I tried giving short verbal instruction such as paint this part as a long straight line. Now in this part you do a small circle and fill it in with paint. Seemed to work for the painting g today which was a waterfall. Will keep following this technique to see if it helps.

With the help of a MELBOURNE Turkish marbling artist we are progressing with our attempts at marbling. Two of the resident artists are exceptionally good and are getting the hang of the delicate stokes that are required. Follow me at @AnneNewman4 for news snippets from teaching art in a care facility. For those of you who want to give this a go you must use the proper water thickener- carrageenan. Also use a shallow dish - don't need it deep. Use proper marbling paints and save on paper- cheap cartridge paper works just fine..Marbling does require muscle control, more so than painting so keep this in mind. If the person digs into the thickener the paint sinks and won't print out on the paper. Great fun and potential for those that want to have a go.

when teaching people with different types of muscular ability it is important to have a variety of brushes available for use. Flats are best for general use as they are easier to control than rounds, especially as you will be buying cheap brushes. Have a variety of short and long handles. Long handles are best for the larger brushes. Rubber insulation tubing from Bunnings is fabulous for cutting into sections to use as a grip support. We have found sponge brushes also very good, especially for people with Parkinson's. You can get several sizes and great paintings can be made with them focusing on colour rather than shape. One of my clients who has Parkinson's produces brilliant "dot paintings" using sponge brushes. Her control of the brush is limited but her ability to produce different colour combinations is outstanding.

With the success of our stall we can buy more supplies. I intend to continue experimenting with the marbling and will buy more paints to give a greater variety of colours. Have found that the food thickening used in the nursing home works well to thicken the bath of water. Will also buy some more absorbent paper as this is also one of the keys to success. After spending weeks on making objects, cards, paintings for the stall, the group said they were looking forward to getting back to painting in preparation for the annual exhibition which we will hold in early October. The tickets for our raffle of the quilling painting are selling well.

Many artists in care have trouble holding a paint brush. Cheap and effective way to make a support handle is to use rubber insulation tubing from plumbing section of hardware shop. You can cut it to any length depending on the size of the person's hand. Thanks Bunnings.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mind-matters/2013/06/left-brain-right-brai... FOR TEACHING ART IN A CARE FACILITY
Minimalist modern paintings easy for the residents. Divide craft board into sections (2 or 3). Paint background in muted colours using a sponge. Paint large flower, leaf or tree in largest section. Paste tiles, ribbon, pieces of material in complementary colours in other sections. Very effective. The rule is - KEEP IT SIMPLE

Materials: sheets of blank paper
Paint brush per person - flat brush is easier to control than a round. Suggest No 3 or 4 not too wide
Raw umber acrylic paint - best if it contains a flow medium for ease of application. Don't use oil or water colour paints.
Jar of water
Palette per person- plastic picnic plates are suitable
Pictures of trees
A selection of leaves

Talk to your art group about the shape of trees. A gum tree is like the letter 'Y'. Some trees are like fans, others like umbrellas. Link the shape to something they understand.

Each person has a large dob of raw umber on their palette which has been watered down.

Have the group paint a trunk using the wide side of the flat brush. Let them paint several trunks, allowing the paint to give the texture.

Then using the brush on the narrow side have the group paint in some branches in a 'Y' shape or like a fan. Pine trees are a bit like a finger with a pointed nail on top. Keep emphasing the shape of the tree.

Leaves can be a bit hard for the group. Let them experiment especially if they have painted before. They can form the leaves by painting little strokes but most will tire of this. The quick way to get the leaves is to spoon several dollops of paint onto the paper roughly where the leaves would be. Then each person 'pushes' the paint around and down creating a rough leaf shape.

Encouragement is very important as is having a laugh. There is a very fine line between being pleased with the result and having fun. Those that have painted before can become frustrated that they have lost some skill. Encourage them and assure them that old skills can be regenerated. Most importantly encourage them to 'have a go'. Avoid painting the trees for them but be quick to 'help a little' those that are getting frustrated.

Finally give each person a few real leaves to study. Talk about the structure, shape, colour of the leaves. Autumn leaves work well for this activity. Finish the activity with the participants either glueing some leaves onto their tree or having a go at painting some individual leaves perhaps on the ground around the tree.

It is important that you give the care residents a variety of activities. This way you can see which medium they like working with and which is the easiest for them to use. Muscle weakness and failing eyesight are your two greatest challenges. Failing eyesight can be compensated by using textured materials. Real leaves can be dried and used on painted or drawn trees as in the lesson on painting gum trees.. The activity below uses clay.
Some quick drying clay such as Das
Old tiles - small
Small pieces of coloured foam or thick coloured cardboard. Chips of mosaic tiles can be used but be careful to remove any sharp edges
Template of a lizard, butterfly, frog, simple flower. These can be found on the Internet by searching for eg "lizard outline".

Draw an outline of the lizard (any simple object can be used) onto the tile using a thick black pen.
Make short "sausages" out of the clay using small pieces you have cut from the block of clay. You will find the participants can't roll the clay into sausages for very long so short and quick is better.
Place the "sausage" pieces around the shape of the lizard on the tile.
Keep making the little "sausages" until the whole of the lizard shape is covered.
Then decorate the lizard with the tiny foam pieces, or coloured cardboard or mosaic chips. Press these into the clay. The participants can make their own designs.
Paint a layer of glue over the end design to secure the pieces.
Let the lizard dry for a couple of weeks.
Glue onto the tile.
Display as an ornament. Look great in a courtyard though remember the clay hasn't been waterproofed.

Materials - piece of thick cardboard, one piece per person
Selection of poster paints, something cheap
Wet wipes for cleaning hands

Make up some small containers of different coloured paint which needs to be very runny.
Out a large dollop of paint in the middle of each person's piece of cardboard
Have the participants tilt the cardboard in different directions so that the paint rolls about in different patterns.
Those that able to can blow the paint around the board using straws.
Add a different colour to the board and repeat the process. Three colors would suffice.
For those that can't tilt the board nor blow with straws try having them use their fingers or hands to move the paint around.
A fun activity that everyone can do.

Some people have difficulty painting within an area. For example they might be painting a tree but can't control the brush to maintain the tree shape. You will find this where the person has vision problems and those suffering from conditions which involve muscle control. I use blue masking tape to mark out the area to be painted covering up the remaining areas. I have achieved some remarkable results. Follow me at @AnneNewman4 where I tweet some images from my art care class.

Many people in care have engaged in some form of art during their lives. Many have done folk art, oil painting, craft work. It is important to start with this experience and to then build on these skills. With my group of artists I made notes about what they could do before coming into care. Most had attended craft and painting classes. With this in mind I bought some cheap adult coloring books and coloured pencils. Fun activity to get people started.

Materials - cardboard A4 in size
Poster paint
Plastic forks and knives

Drop some blobs of paint onto each board per person. Paint needs to be runny. Use about 3 different colours. Have the artists blow the paint, scrape with plastic fork or knife or roll board to make paint run. Can make some fun pictures which can be glued together on a large board to make a communal painting.

In this section of my site I give an on-going account of my experience of teaching art to low and high level people in a care facility. I hope by doing this I will be able to encourage other people to consider volunteering to work with people who love to be engaged in creative art activities even though they can no longer live independently.

Hedy Lamarr once said that "A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires." Art does that for you, it makes friends and eases the daily grid of life.

Every Monday morning a group of artists gather to paint and sculpt. Ironically each level in the facility is named after an artist namely: Drysdale, Olson, Boyd and Tucker. The people I teach certainly have the passion possessed by these artists and the skills are coming at a gallop, or more appropriately a flourish of the brush!

I began the art class over two years ago as I know from personal experience that as we all grow older and require various forms of care, the desire to create doesn't fade. Nor does the desire to learn new skills. Coming from a teaching background I was well aware that most people just need a little guidance and a dollop of encouragement and anything is possible. Everyone has their own style and with the right opportunity and guidance that style will emerge. Some of our artists paint with delicate stokes, others prefer to be more definite, some like subtle colours, others vibrant. Each week they are challenged with a new painting that allows them to explore the endless possibilities of line, shape and colour. Art is serendipitous - one never knows what might be discovered by accident! Every great artist knows that. Some of Pro Hart's masterpieces were made by shooting a ball of paint from a 'paint cannon'.

Last year our art group was sent a wonderful gift in the form of art assistant who has given an infusion of ideas and skill as she is a most gifted drawer and painter of flowers. She can even turn a paint colour sample card into a magnificent piece of floral art. The skill of the group has grown enormously under her tutelage and encouragement. Recently we received yet another gift in the person of a craft volunteer and so we are able to offer a full day of activities for those that so desire.

All three of us have been involved in our own artistic endeavours for many years. Each week we meet with other 'artists' to discuss and engage in our own works and to discuss the next challenge for the Monday care facility group.

Last year we held a most successful exhibition and through a raffle made funds to buy more materials. Since then we have generated our own funds by selling paintings and are even now getting commission work.

I would like to leave you with these words from Winston Churchill who, amongst other things, was a very competent painter. He said, 'We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket."


I've had a wonderful time

I've had a wonderful time browsing your catalogue of works. Seeing your depiction of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives in their ordinary Australian backyards and neighbourhoods has been a delight. Remaining in this vain, an old rural Victorian school such as the one in which you started your teaching career could make a fine subject as would a country Milk Bar or roadside fruit and vegetabled stall.
Would love to see your original works. Hope there'll be another exhibition on its way.

Marcia's ideas

Yes Marcia, Central Victoria is rich in stimulation for an artist. I love the red brick buildings in particular. I have in mind to do a series on people "eating" out in road side cafes etc. Milk bars are another delight as you have pointed out. The roadside fruit and vegie stalls that used to be dotted along the Caldar Highway would, as you suggest, make a great painting. Thanks for all your great ideas and interest. We obviously share a common delight in the ordinary things of life which I have found are the most important. Anne

Current Paintings

I would like to see a series of smaller paintings with Mediterranean themes. Also another series of small paintings on "ordinary People" engaged in domestic activities like the "Big Wash". I thiunk your paintings are wonderful.

An Update on my painting activities

Hi there, sorry I haven't been keeping everyone up to date with my work. Been busy with other things. My latest painting is of the wonderful drawbridge at Wilcannia in Eastern New South Wales Australia. The iron work is a real challenge.