One day every month we hold a watercolor workshop at Parkview Memory Care! The structure of the class is based on the criteria that the Alzheimer's Society recommends, but since many of our residents are advanced in age and dementia, I have changed the rules a bit in order to better suit them. We use high-quality watercolor paper, paint, and brushes in order for the residents to have a satisfying experience. Good materials means richer colors and easier mark-making.
I have each resident start out by choosing a warm and a cool color of their liking to start their painting with. Once they have chosen these, I do a brief demo of the the technique that we are learning that day. By emphasizing technique rather than having the residents use a photo reference, there is much less pressure for folks to make their paintings look photo-realistic. Many residents already have anxiety about doing something well. Some of them used to make intricate quilts, knit beautiful sweaters, or even paint rich landscapes, but feel like they have lost all artistic or design sensibilities because of their age or dementia. The most challenging part of my job as an instructor here is just talking folks into making the first marks on the page. We've tried all of the basic watercolor techniques, wet brush on dry paper, wet brush on wet paper, dry brush on dry paper, incorporating salt, linework, etc.
Once folks get into the flow of mark-making, they just go! It's a beautiful thing! Each resident naturally falls into their own style/preferences. Kathryn loves making caricatures of fellow residents. Ed makes his black and pink abstract turtles. Barbara creates expressive fields of color. Jean paints a garden that doubles as a self-portrait! Of course, there are many questions and concerns that pop up in a painting session. Some are very humorous, as you will see in one of the videos below. Just a note- I have not yet gotten written consent from families of the residents to post faces, so until this happens I am keeping it hands and paintings only (with the Halloween mask exceptions).