One of the best photo shows I’ve ever seen was an exhibit of work by inner city children who photographed their community with disposable cameras. The images reflected the spontaneity and freedom of un-trained eyes and had a quality I could never hope to match as a professional with decades of experience. Similarly, I’ve often been delighted by the art that comes out of ElderSparks, whether done by an individual receiving care or someone giving it. It’s been one of the most rewarding and inspiring aspects of this work.

I recently led a workshop, entitled Picture This, at a creative caregiving conference that piggy-backed on the one I attended in June. Its description read as follows:

Producing a graphic novel that’s over the top in under an hour. This hands-on workshop features guided drawing, image-driven text, collaborative plot development, and lots of laughs. The less talent you have as an artist or writer, the greater the fun. More significantly, you’ll acquire a valuable addition to your caregiving tool kit.

The class was based on an exercise I had done earlier with a private nursing home client as a way to experience and enjoy connectedness, strengthen powers of observation, encourage self-expression regardless of ability, and explore the realm of feelings.

At the conference, I identified a number of emotional, mental, or physical states (e.g., happiness, despair, agitation, aloofness, love, etc.), and asked participants to make quick drawings of faces representing each. A plot began to take shape as we went around the circle, with each person selecting a picture and adding a line of dialogue in response to the previous one. One story ended up being about a parent/teenager conflict over smoking (click on images to enlarge):

Smoking Debate

Pages 4–6

The other dealt with interpersonal relationships on a more universal level:

RelationshipsPages 4–8

Here are several drawings that never made it into the narratives but which I particularly love for their abundant energy and expressiveness:

An Angry Person

Too Much Coffee

Crowd Scene

A Sad Person

A Frightened Person

A Sexy Person

This final image got bonus points for depicting a sexy person who wasn’t female :)