We All Need Art

"Art, as creativity, is something humans must do by their very nature."

Recently I taught a painting class for seniors. These twelve women were ages 68 to 99 years old and each one lives with at least one chronic illness or age-related condition such as visual impairment, pain and depression. Most had never painted before (or at least since they were children), and now they were going to paint their first oil painting on canvas...

 Alice, age 98 and Ethel, age 99

Alice, age 98 and Ethel, age 99

I created twelve templates of flowers in black and white prints on canvas. There were two designs to choose from; daisies or roses. They were fairly complex designs for beginners but I knew that a blank canvas would be too daunting for most. The idea was to have a design to start with so they could be free to just mix colours and enjoy the experience of putting paint on canvas.

The women were excited, though a little anxious, to begin. Each were given an 8” x 10” canvas with their chosen design, two colours to begin with, and a little medium to mix. With a few initial instructions they jumped right in and began to paint...

After eight classes the women are finished and ready to sign their work. I am amazed at what they have not only created, but also what they have experienced through this process. Here are a few highlights:

Sheila’s hands were so shaky she almost gave up before putting any paint on canvas. With a little encouragement and direction she created a beautiful painting, surprising herself more than anyone, and experienced more confidence and belief in herself through the process.

Ethel, who is 99 years old, needed a magnifying glass to put the paint on canvas. Ethel had always wanted to try painting, and so with much determination and humour, she showed everyone that you are never too old to try something new.

Angela wowed everyone with her hidden creative talent. Alice stuck with it to create a lovely painting with light, shadow and movement… Beverly (who doesn’t normally join in activities) arrived early for each class and disappeared into her creative zone… Bea enthusiastically finished two paintings… Troy said she forgot all her troubles as she moved the paint on canvas... And Maud just happily painted away…