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Trying my own art

October 11, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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I have always loved doing many types of crafts. Years ago when I became disabled, the occupational therapists said that painting or doing crafts would help me physically as well as mentally, and they were definitely right. Though I enjoyed crafts, I always envied conventional artists.

In eighth grade, the high school art teacher asked our class to draw a tree in full autumn color. So I picked my tree and proceeded to draw it. When the art teacher came to look at our work, the artist in our class had done a beautiful lifelike one using crayons. It was gorgeous and full of color. When the art teacher saw my drawing, she said, "Oh that must be that dead tree over there!” The tree I drew was not dead. But you get the idea of my talent for drawing.

On a recent shopping trip to a dollar store, I decided to buy some art supplies. I will have to enlist assistance to do art. I told the activities director that I had a project coming up and she gave me a funny look. But I have been giving it a lot of thought. I want to do art that reflects my different artistic ability.

I bought some poster board and poster paint. But I think I will need watercolors or oil paints that will not dry up quickly. I will research to find out which one is best. I can only use one arm so whatever I paint on will have to be elevated. My arm will need to be propped and I will need to paint in an unconventional way.

I realize now that this project could get to be expensive. When I did 'paint by numbers' years ago, those kits were inexpensive only if they were on sale. I spent hours back then painting and blending the colors into each other. Painting taught me a lot about color and depth. So I need to figure out how to do a quality project now.

What started out as a lighthearted project has become more complicated. I will have to figure out the best place to do my art. I want to be as self-sufficient as possible so that I can concentrate on what I am doing. I briefly considered using Paintbrush on the computer. But previous experience has shown me that it takes a very steady hand.

I will probably start out with my poster paint. The small brush will not be adequate so I will get a couple of larger brushes to smooth the color quicker. With just a few extra things I should be able to get an idea of the possibilities. Meanwhile, my bag of art goodies is sitting here waiting for me to get started. I think trying my art would be an inspiring and diversionary fall/winter project for me.

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Thank you for the comments. I will take them all into consideration. I had never thought of acrylics. They would probably work for me. I did get some cheap markers but I have a little difficulty holding a conventional pencil. So I will have to see.

I have to tell you that my favorite thing to do as a child was to read the Encyclopedia. One of the favorite ones was all of the paintings that were displayed in the World Book. I remember looking at them and trying to figure out the differences and why some were conventional art and others were rather unconventional.

Thank you very much for the encouragement. The thought of a blank piece of paper that I am supposed to put art on does kind of scare me to death. But I'm just going to go ahead and think like a kid and go for it. We all see things in different ways anyhow.

I do appreciate your professional expertise.

Hi Ms. Mears,
I have been a board certified art therapist in long term care for the past 25 years and licensed since 2006 (when licensure became available in NY). I am impressed and applaud your desire to be creative. I think it is an excellent idea to try various mediums. As an art therapist and an artist I have found inexpensive oil pastels fun to use, however, when looking for watercolors please consider better quality ones, I have been happy with the Prang brand for my residents. Purchase 3 or 4 decent quality and various sized watercolor brushes and if possible, inexpensive watercolor paper or heavy drawing paper. I do not, however, recommend oil paints, oil paints smell and are difficult to clean. Linseed oil is self combustible, I recommend acrylics and when purchased in tubes are the next best thing to oil paints. I would also like to recommend colored pencils, the ones I recommend, Prismacolor Pencils, are more expensive than many, but I feel very strongly about them as their leads are soft and blendable. Many brands, I feel are very hard and are not conducive to creativity. Don't hold back, explore the different mediums, have fun and don't worry about being "good." One of my biggest challenges as an art therapist is to get residents over the fear of the blank page. As young children drawing is easy, it is what we do and how we express ourselves. Somewhere around 8-10 years we begin realizing that some are more skilled. Some time after this many of us decide we are no good at art and don't do it. Many art teachers, unfortunately, add to feelings of inadequacy teaching a skill, and losing sight of creativity. You can be creative whether or not you are skilled, so my advice to you is to go for it and enjoy. If you are not familiar with Henri Matisse, please google him. He is an impressionist who, as he aged had to accommodate for his disability.

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...