Monday, October 8, 2012

Botany with Seniors (3)



Botany and art have become a favorite couple at The Bridge. Much activity is being done with leaves, stems and such. I will have to find some flower buds to add to the mix. Oh that's right. I remember now. Every few weeks a local florist donates his slightly fading, slightly aging flowers. Well, I know what I will be thinking about today. How to use those bundles of roses and such - wait...rose petal mosaics just popped in my mind. Well, that will be for later. Now, I want to write about a second botanical/art activity done last week. 

Inviting an individual senior or a small group of seniors to assist in preparing materials has served two very important needs. First, I am getting all of my material making done within a smaller time frame. Secondly, and this is much more important, the seniors are engaged in the preparations and this, itself, is an activity for them.  Yes, there are times I just want to do it all myself and sometimes I do. However, more and more I am bringing my prep work to a table occupied by one or more of the seniors and asking for their assistance. I always receive it. They also throw in advice on and ideas for the projects, which is an added bonus.

Last week, a senior, who was just a little bit restless, agreed to assist me. She can be very invested in order and precision. So when I asked her to tape (a piece rolled and put on the back) a few leaves onto a piece of paper, she spent much time deciding where each piece should go. After making several, though, she relaxed and just taped them here and there. I sat across from her and completed a few myself. It was wonderful to work together in such a way. We smiled a lot and told each other stories while we worked.


After we had prepared enough leaf covered sheets of paper for every anticipated participant, I demonstrated to my "assistant" what my intended activity was. I took a wet paintbrush, collected some watercolor paint on its tip and then washed it across the taped leaves. I described the brush stroke act as being like white washing a picket fence or like hanging wallpaper. "More water than paint" was my other description. After I had "washed" over two of the leaves, I removed them so that the white, leaf-shaped, space beneath was visible. Next, I used a pencil to draw outlines of the leaf shapes and to add veins, as well as other details.


My "assistant" took over from there. She made a model/example for me to use later when I had planned to present the activity to the group.



As I prepared the table for this activity, I remembered that I wanted to use some type of prop or change the tablecloths to visually signify to the senior participants that we were not going to sit down to a meal, but instead to an activity. I remembered that I had used red, paper place mats for all of the science activities and so I retrieved more of these and placed one on the table for each participant.

I also remembered how "A" from the Alzheimer's association had placed two paintbrushes in each water jar/cup. This was so that there was always one paintbrush in the jar - denoting it as a non-drinking cup/container. I did this and, too, I placed a leaf covered sheet at each setting. Colored pencils were also made available for detail/illustration work.

After a brief introduction to the activity, including referencing the example, the seniors started working on their individual pieces immediately.


I noted from the start that I should have used watercolor paper instead of copy paper. The paint-water caused some rippling in the paper and other variations. The seniors, however, were not deterred from their creative work. 


After "washing" her leaves with watercolor paint, this senior removed her leaves and then sketched an interior skeleton within each revealed leaf shape.


Another participant used more paint and less water. Also, she did not wash paint over her leaves. Instead, she simply painted around the outer edge of each leaf.


When she pulled her leaves off her paper, the created outlines reminded me of work done with photographic paper as the images created were so detailed


The first participant I noted, who drew the interior skeletons of each of her leaf shapes, decided to make a second work. She was very focused and, as the pictures below reveal, quite serious about her art.

When she did her second piece, she decided not to use paints. Instead, she used colored pencils to first draw the outlines of her leaves.


After she drew their outlines, she carefully used a pencil to peel back the leaves so as to remove the tape beneath them without causing tears in the paper. Removing the tape was challenging to many of the participants and required staff assistance. 


She put a lot of effort into her sketches. They were quite amazing.


Another participant washed red paint over all of the leaves.


When she had completed that act, she removed each leaf and filled in the the white, leaf shaped spaces with colored pencils.


She worked for over thirty minutes on her piece and expressed great satisfaction with it when she was finished.  




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