I have the honor and privilege of teaching a class called “Creative Expressions” to residents at a local retirement home. I say honor and privilege because every time I teach, I always learn and receive so much more than I give. This week I witnessed how incredibly beautiful and important each person’s unique expression is.
When I arrived. I was greeted by six ladies sitting and ready to paint. After handing out their watercolor sets and paper, I drew a large circle in the middle of their papers. I encouraged them to begin making shapes with color on their papers inside the circle. About half of them began painting without any further instructions. Another half said, “What do you want us to paint?” I told them to paint anything they liked because it was their painting. For some, this was a risky thing. If they didn’t have anything to copy or look at, how would they know they were doing it correctly? “When I’ve painted before, I’ve always copied something,” said one of the ladies. I told her she was going to paint something original, something unique from her imagination. She wasn’t sure she could do this but gave it a try. She was glad she did. Each new color and shape, gave way to the next shape. Once she started, she entered that creative zone where it was easy to focus and relax.
One woman just came to observe. I encouraged her to paint and give it a try. She told me she had never painted before. I told her that it was never to late to start. After watching the other women enjoy themselves, she changed her mind and decided to paint. She began by filling the bottom part of her circle with red marks until it filled about a third of the circle. She had to steady her hand with her other hand since she didn’t have much strength. Then she started adding shapes that looked like fruit on top of the red half moon. She completed her painting with a bow at the top of her basket of fruit. I took a picture of it and showed it to her in my iphone. She giggled with joy when she saw it. I told her how beautiful it was and that she was most definitely an artist. She smiled. As I was assisting other women, I heard her say to the woman next to her that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting till she was 80. “She just painted from her heart”, she said. I smiled and told them that all of them had been like Grandma Moses and painted what was in their hearts today. Each one said they had enjoyed painting and wanted to paint again next time. Their art was evidence that they could create something beautiful, something unique and something that gave them great pleasure. It inspired them to continue to create and even be like Grandma Moses who painted amazing paintings despite the fact she had no formal training. When we are asked to create something without copying something else, we tend to create something that originates from inside our hearts. A copy is never as good as the original.
“I’ve never painted before.”
Deborah Nell is a full-time artist and paints primarily on Yupo paper with acrylic ink, acrylic paint and gouache. You can see her artwork on her etsty store at http://www.etsy.com/shop/expressivepaintings
One of the women expressing herself through painting.
I had heard about how the imagination is the last part of the brain to die. Today I saw with my own eyes the miracle of that truth. I held a Creative Expression Class for three elderly women in a retirement home this morning. They could hardly talk or hear and were wheelchair bound. Two of them kept falling asleep in their chairs. I placed a paper in front of them and asked them to choose the watercolors they wanted to use in their paintings. That’s when they woke up and pointed to the various colored watercolor tubes. I squeezed them out onto their paper plates. I drew a large circle on their papers and told them they could paint whatever they wanted inside the circle. Once they chose the color they wanted to start with, I prepared a paint-filled paintbrush for them.
I was not prepared for what followed. Once I placed the paintbrush in their hand, they came to life. They scooted closer to their paper and began applying the paint to the paper. For about 25 minutes they were focused and alert… they were painting. They decided where to put the paint, what colors to use and they created a painting.
Something clicked for them as they felt that paintbrush in their hands. That creative part of their brain turned on and they utilized their imagination.
Being creative is natural to all of us because we are made in God’s image and He is The Creator. It’s in our DNA to be creative. But this morning I saw that reality unfold before me.
When each woman finished their painting, they sighed and signed their work. Their paintings will be laminated by the staff so they can look at their creations.
I look forward to the next class with them. They may not even remember painting today but when I place that paintbrush in their hand again, the paint will flow once more and their creativity will come alive again. That watercolor brush is truly amazing!
To see some of my paintings go to www.etsy.com/shop/expressivepaintings or
“Through The Years”
Today I taught my first class called “Creative Expression” to four senior residents at a local retirement community. Although the class got off to a late start with confusion about the time and if the class was cancelled, four women came to take my class.
I’ve worked before with foster children in expressing their feelings but never with the elderly. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Each woman brought their preconceived idea about what they could draw and what “art” was. When I asked them to draw what the four main emotions: mad, bad, sad and glad looked like to them “Susan” said, “I don’t think I want to do that.” She started pushing back her chair from the table. I told her that it didn’t have to be anything in particular. It could just be a color. She nodded and said, she could do that. As the four women began drawing their images for the four emotions. They began talking about loss and dying and their experience or lack of experience with art. I was intrigued and asked more questions as they slowly and thoughtfully answered. After they finished their drawings, they shared what they had drawn. One woman drew a coffin for “sad” and shared that her sister is very sick and she may be nearing death. Another women talked about her confusion about whether she should stay at the retirement community or leave for “bad”. She said she felt anxiety about this decision. As these women talked I felt like a kid uncovering layers of tissue paper from a present. Each layer revealed a little more of what was inside.
These women were treasures that had amazing stories and a depth of feeling within them. I was just scratching the surface. At the end of the class, they sat there and looked at me. They didn’t want to leave. I didn’t either.
They had shared more than their drawings; they had shared a part of their hearts.
All I did was listen to them. They in turn opened up their hearts.
What a simple gift we can give to one another… the gift of an open ear. In turn we are given the gift of an open heart.
Something to think about as we celebrate Valentines’ Day this Friday.
To see more of my paintings visit my etsy store and website
“Break Every Chain” 12 x 16 acrylic on canvas
Last night I painted an acrylic painting on canvas which resonated with many people on facebook. It’s called “Break Every Chain” and you can see it here on this blog.
In this painting I broke the rules of some of my patterns of painting. I normally don’t paint on canvas because I prefer painting on Yupo paper. I don’t normally begin a painting knowing that I will have to stop in 30 minutes. I did so with this painting. Eighty Five Percent of the painting was finished in 30 minutes. This painting surprised me because it has a feel and energy that is literally bursting off the canvas.
I believe that in all of us there is so much more of us than we allow others to see. We are held captive by fear, and judgements that have been made over us and that we have made ourselves. We fear failure, rejection and ridicule. How many times have we told ourselves, “I’ll never do that again!” When we try something new and we feel inadequate we may not want to try it again. It’s safer to feel competent in our world where we know the rules and can function almost without thinking about it. But the price we pay for safety stifles our creativity and freedom.
So what are some of the chains you carry with you? Chains are anything that hold you bound to something or someone. That something can be the way others see you. It may be your past. It may be an addiction or unhealthy relationship. It may be just plain fear.
The first step in breaking free of the chains is to admit that the chains are there. Sometimes that’s the hardest step. Once that step is taken, see if someone has spoken judgement over you as “stupid”, “fat”, “ugly”, “incompetent”. Have you agreed with their judgement? If so, you need to forgive yourself for agreeing with a lie. You also need to forgive the person who hurt you by saying such things or treating you badly. You only hurt yourself if you don’t forgive. That other person is not suffering because you don’t forgive them.
Ultimately true forgiveness comes from the One who took every judgement upon Himself so we would not have to carry that judgement any longer. His gift of forgiveness is free and leads to true freedom. If you have not met Him yet or have forgotten about Him. His name is Jesus and He is in the business of breaking off your chains. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain… to break every chain.”
Throughout the years that I’ve been painting I’ve often contemplated how we ourselves are like a painting. Our lives sometimes don’t make any sense… just like a painting when an artist is first starting. The dark shadows in a painting as well as the dark times in our lives give the light and the joyful times a place to burst forth with clarity and beauty. It is always comforting to remember that God is not finished with painting us… we are a work in progress. As I was praying about what to post today on my blog, the Lord reminded me of a piece I wrote a several years ago. So here it is….
“You Are A Masterpiece”
IMAGINE…that you are a canvas. You are blank. Nothing has touched you until now. You are lying on a table in the Master Painter’s art studio. He comes over to you and picks you up and you feel His touch. He places you securely on his easel. He has been thinking about what He is going to paint on you for a long time. His thoughts and feelings about you have been stirring in His heart since the beginning of time. He is now ready to begin His masterpiece. He opens his paint box and takes out his brushes. Now He begins to mix His paints. you smell the turpentine and the linseed oil. With a charcoal stick He sketches the drawing for His painting with precision and skill. He steps back to take a look at His work. He smiles and says, “It is good”.
Next He picks up a paint brush and saturates it with paint. He paints the first stroke. You feel His touch through the brush. More brush strokes – each one strategically placed. Back and forth, up and down. You feel the cool paint brushed upon you. Pigments of color, bright yellow, blues and burnt umber begin to fill your surface. The Master Painter begins to sing as He paints. He sings over you. All He sees is you… His emerging creation. you look into the Master Painter’s eyes. He is focused. His gaze is locked onto you. From deep within Him you emerge. You cannot see yet what you look like, but you see the pleasure in His eyes. After days of painting you, He is finally finished. He signs His name on you. He steps back and sighs deeply. You, His masterpiece are finished. He smiles and says, “This is good. This is very good.”
You are God’s masterpiece. You reflect a part of the beauty of God, for you have been made in His image (Genesis 1:26). There is no other person exactly like you on the face of the earth. You are one of a kind, an original. God loves you deeply.