- by Stephanie Barwick
There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing the subtle restorative power of the creative process through the ‘doing’ of the art. There is no ‘content’ just the painting exploration itself.
The adults I work with live with a variety of challenges including brain trauma, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression and dementia; many are in wheel chairs, no longer able to walk or with no legs at all. They live in long term care residences without the proximity of close family or friends. They are a community unto themselves.
Through an 8-week series of wet on wet watercolour painting classes, they take a journey through the colours of the spectrum. All the exercises are designed to bring harmony, balance and nourishment to their much depleted souls. Some are for restoring their breathing rhythm; others for enhancing their cognitive abilities, their memories.
As they become more ‘adept’ with the medium and begin to ‘master’ the various exercises, the qualities of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth grow. Their will forces become stronger – some no longer needing to be guided when they walk or needing their walkers or canes. Others with dementia become more focused, less diffused. Another young lady, so withdrawn into herself at the beginning, has opened up and shares herself now quite eloquently at times! This person, during our last series of classes, had no catatonic episodes at all. Another person took up activities she’d let go of 8 years ago when her illness struck; but, then, slipped back to the depression side of her bi-polar illness and let them go again. Nonetheless, it is one of the many ‘little miracles’ that have occurred during the course of time working with my people – so much courage and perseverance.
At the beginning of each class, we participate together in a Circle viewing each other’s paintings. They are encouraged to offer their observations. This exercise assists in awakening their ‘thinking/feeling’ capacities and stimulates their imagination, which becomes very dried up with medications and the lack of quality of lifestyle. Through appreciating their paintings without criticism or judgment, they are also appreciating themselves, the creators of these works of art. This, in turn, promotes a more positive outlook and attitude towards life itself.
The 9th week we have an Art Show displaying their paintings created during the program. This gives each person a moment in the Sun to shine. And, Shine they do! Their smiles light up the room. They are all so proud of their beautiful accomplishments – of themselves.
After the Art Show, we take a break of several weeks during which time the seeds planted take root, are digested and assimilated on an inner level. Then, we begin again and they evolve further in their abilities with the painting process with wonders continuing to manifest as they become more independent with what they are learning. It is a very gradual soul growth process that directs itself innately to the unique needs of each individual. This fills me with Wonder over and over again!
“Art Inspiring Life”