Maria Von Trapp/Julie Andrews was on the money when she said “Let’s start at the very beginning” to inspire the children in A Sound of Music to sing. She started with Doh Re Me – in painting, I like to start with sorting out the colours into groups.
I think most of us will have some dark memory of painting escapades that ended miserably in a messy brown smudge and no real idea of what went wrong, or of trying to paint something particular that just never worked out. That is usually because all the colours are put out onto the palette at once and are mixed together – they make brown! Creative disappointments can put people off making art for the rest of their lives.
Some of the people with whom I work – such as with SECASA or Connections Uniting Care– have had very difficult and painful lives; they have been badly hurt by others and as a consequence, their self-belief is very low. Many have been told they are hopeless failures, unable to learn, or do anything well, for that matter. This scars them very deeply. So when they come to join our group, many are afraid of failing, and nervous of other people.
But lots of our participants really want to paint … so we start at the very beginning with this exercise that is fail-safe and always looks good. Plus, it is a gentle way to get to know others in the group, have some fun together and not worry too much about the end result. It is a great place to start because from then on we can develop skills and ideas, nurture creativity and the uniqueness of each participant.
We start off with dark ink and making lots of marks on the paper using soft brushes … we are not painting pictures, only marks, lines, dots, texture. When the ink is drying we have a chat about the groups of colours : warm, cool, earthy and the violets. We experiment with the groups and try to create as many colours as we can using just one family of colours. We use the bristle brushes and work with acrylic paint.
Then we let loose on the big painting. There is always lots of chatting, lots of getting to know each other, learning about colours, paint and different brushes. At the end of the session we hang up our masterpiece and admire the work!
Some of the work above was made in TOTEM : an art group for families affected by sexual abuse run through the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault. Family members sometimes struggle to co-operate and be patient with each other but when adults and children create art together, they spend pleasurable time together, enjoy each other’s company, support eachother, learn to co-operate, and most of all, have fun. This helps strengthen family relationships.
Some were created with groups of adults who have an intellectual disability, and some as part our MAKE DO TELL project in Nepal.