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For this week’s Rest Home art project, I tried Jen Goode’s Coloring Page Sun Catcher.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting projects that are doable in 1 hour for people with various age-related challenges, and this one seemed perfect: Residents get to make choices, it’s small enough that it’s not too exhausting, and there’s a fun surprise at the end.

To begin with, I downloaded some relatively simple mandala coloring images from a few “not for commercial use” sites and sized them to fit wide-mouthed canning jar lids (3.25″). I got the lids in the canning section of the grocery store, and they cost ~$6 for 12 lids.

Ahead of time I printed out the coloring art images on regular printer paper, and cut them into individual squares to offer choices for participants to select from. (Here’s a PDF) canning ring art

Materials I brought:

  • Coloring art print-outs
  • Colored pencils
  • A few small pencil sharpeners
  • Canning rings (3.25″ wide mouth size)
  • Salad oil in a baby food jar (I put a drop of lemon oil in to make it smell nice)
  • Portion cups or small jar lids – for oil dipping
  • Cotton balls for spreading oil (facial tissue would also work)
  • Small paper plates
  • Sticky dots (tape or glue would work)
  • Scissors
  • Baker’s twine

First I showed everyone an example of the finished sun catcher. Then friend/volunteers (and the awesome Gallatin Rest Home activities staff) helped to pass out materials and assist residents as needed. I brought some cans and we gave each resident a selection of pencils in primary and secondary colors.

Each resident selected an image and got busy coloring. Some asked for a little help to finish, others completed the job on their own.

After coloring the pictures, the participants cut out their circles and set them face down on a paper plate. We passed out a small amount of oil and cotton balls, and they rubbed the oil onto the back of the paper, making it translucent.

We adhered the circles into jar lid rings with sticky dots (glue or tape would have worked) and tied on hanging strings.

This was a quick, easy-prep project. Participants enjoyed themselves and felt very successful! Thanks to Jen, volunteers Lynne and Emi, and Rest Home staff!

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For this month’s Rest Home art workshop, I wanted to do something Valentine-inspired.

I collect old photos and love is one of my favorite subjects, so I thought it would be fun to paint on some old photos. Okay, actually not on the vintage prints, but on duplicates that I scanned and printed.

  1. I scanned the photos on the color setting at 600ppi, which is very high resolution, so that I could blow them up to 5×7″ prints.
  2. I printed 2 to an 8.5 x 11″ sheet on Epson shiny photo paper and trimmed them to 5.5 x 7.5″ (This left a .25″ white edge, in case we want to border them).
  3. We used tempera paint, right out of the bottle, providing only red and white, so artists could mix to get pink.
  4. We painted the sky area in red, and added a few embellishments, like the man’s necktie and a bow in the lady’s hair.
  5. I brought some small heart and letter stickers as embellishments
  6. I provided paper mats, to make the art look more finished.

Participation was good, although just painting the background was plenty of challenge. I started by explaining that the first step was to paint the sky, and leave the people unpainted. I helped some participants by providing an outline to fill in. For most in this group, painting their own embellishments (hats, shoes, ties, etc.) was a bit too challenging, so they enjoyed placing heart stickers to add some Valentine flair.

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I had so much fun that I made a few to send to my friends!

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This was my second 1-hour painting activity at a senior care facility.

Last time we used medium-sized brushes and acrylic paint to color pre-prepped tulip drawings on canvases, so this time I wanted to try something more free, with bigger brushes. I wanted to encourage the painters to really go wild with their brush strokes so I modified a project I’d found that uses adhesive vinyl letters to spell words, which you paint over, then peel off, so that the letter remains white.

Supplies: (Cost for 12-16 participants was ~$25, but I already had paint and boards)

  • 1 50-sheet pad of 11×14″ acrylic paper (doesn’t warp or wrinkle when you paint on it.)
  • 3 packs of cheap adhesive vinyl letters (I got 3″ vinyl letters at Walmart near the mailboxes. Make sure they’re die-cut in the shapes of the letters, not just printed on square sheets.)
  • A roll of painter tape.
  • A tube each of red, yellow, blue and white acrylic paint.
  • Art boards (to tape the paper sheets on. I re-used 12×18″ plasti-core sheets, but cardboard or any conveniently sized stiff material would work)

Faced with a short class time, here’s the prep I did:

  • Cut the 11×14″ paper sheets in half to 5.5″ x 14″ sheets
  • Tape the four edges of the paper down to art boards, overlapping the tape about 1/4″ onto the paper along each edge.
  • Create an example
  • Sort through the letters before class and put letters for words (we did LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH) on wax paper to temporarily hold them.
    (I got more mileage out of my letter sets by using an Exacto knife to make extra As into Vs, which we needed more of.)

With help from rest home activities staff, I gathered

  • portable table easels ($8 ea. online)*
  • smocks
  • water cups (We used urine sample cups! ha ha)
  • paper towels
  • paper plates as palettes
  • 1/2″ to 1″ size acrylic brushes.**
  • A blow dryer to speed drying time

*You could do without easels, but I think they help to prevent people from dragging their arm across the wet painting. **Acrylic brushes have stiffer bristles than watercolor brushes, making it easier to control acrylic paint, which is thicker than watercolor. It can be frustrating to paint with brushes that are too floppy, too ragged, too big, or too small for a particular project.)

How it went:

  • Helpers handed out easels, brushes, water cups, paper towels and art boards.
  • We asked painters to select a word, and they placed the letters according to their taste.
  • I showed my example and explained that we would 1) use big brush strokes of different colors. 2) fill in the whole area with paint. 3) paint right over the black letters 4) later we’d peel the letters off.
  • We passed out palettes and painters picked 2 primaries of their choice and white.
    (i.e. either red and yellow, red and blue, or blue and yellow, plus white)
  • I demonstrated how loosely you can paint, and how it was fine if wet colors mixed.

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It took the group the full hour to get their whole 5.5 x 14″ sheet painted. I encouraged painters to mix any colors they liked and to keep going until they covered all the white within the blue tape. I also reminded them to dip their brush in water to make the paint spread easier. (“Yes! You’re doing it right!” “Yup! Paint right over the letters.” “Would you like to add another color?” etc.)

After the first person’s painting was complete, I dried it a bit with the blow dryer and returned the painting so the painter could pull off the vinyl letters. For some painters, I started the corners of the adhesive. Everyone was surprised and delighted with the effect.

All of the painters really enjoyed removing the adhesive letters and masking tape to reveal their finished work. Nobody complained that theirs turned out badly! It was a lot of fun. You could modify this project to ask people to think of inspiring words ahead of time and use their own words. You could also do a short phrase on a canvas, as shown in blog posts that inspired me to try this activity. Sponge painting, spatter painting, spray painting, cotton ball painting, etc. would work just as well.

Their finished works can be displayed individually or in groups.

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