Art can be a great way to express ourselves and our emotions but we are often hindered from free expression for a number of reasons. For example, I love abstract images but have found that producing abstract art is not as easy as it sometimes looks. Our brains have a natural tendency to look for, find and create order in the world around us, making it difficult, if not impossible to be truly free and random in creative endeavours. Being free with paints and creative materials can also be hindered by having been told to be clean, tidy, mess free and the necessity to conform to requirements of the way art is taught in some education establishments.
This activity allows for total freedom of creative experience and expression by enabling people to explore and create with paints, painting implements and paper in whatever way they wish.
What you need
- Poster paints or finger paints (check that they are non-toxic)
- Something to pour the paints onto that is big enough for the biggest of your chosen implements (e.g. paper plates)
- Paper (any colour) – preferably thick enough to withstand multiple layers of paint
- A selection of painting implements e.g. brushes, sponges, textured cloths and other materials, mesh, stencils
- Suitable clothing or aprons for a potentially messy activity
- Water and cloths for cleaning up
- Optional – blank greetings cards with apertures pre-cut or cards that you can cut an aperture from.
Guidance and instructions
- Think about where the person will be best positioned to explore and play with the paints and painting implement. This might be sitting or standing at a table, or you may want to lay the items out on the floor.
- Gather together the items so that they are suitably placed and within easy reach.
- Pour out the paints onto plates (keep the colours separate if you want to avoid making murky colours).
- Support the person to explore and choose the paints and painting implements and to experiment with painting on the paper, in whatever way they would like. They may like to use their hands instead of the implements.
- Tune-in to the person to see what kind of emotional and mood state they are in. Is this a relaxing activity for them, exciting, stimulating, fun or are they more pensive? Allow them to determine what type of experience this is and follow their lead, supporting them practically but also with whatever emotions come up for them.
- You can allow the paint to dry on the paper and then come back to paint some more on top to create a textured, raised effect.
- The activity can end here or you can go on to use the works of art that have been produced to make greetings cards.
- To do this, simply place a card with aperture cut out over the painting and move it around to select a section of it that looks good in the frame. Then cut this piece out of the painting and stick it in the card. The person can help with this as much as they want to and are able to, or you can do this bit for them. If you can, use good quality card and keep it clean, you can produce a very professional item that the person can send to loved ones or sell, perhaps at a fete or craft event. Keep a copy of it for the person by taking a photograph before it is given or sold. Enable the person to join in the experience of sharing their finished piece with others as much as possible.
What to observe, assess and record
- What impact does painting have on the person’s emotional state?
- Do they enjoy painting and which aspects of it do they particularly enjoy?
- Do they find it a relaxing or stimulating activity?
- Is painting a sensory activity for the person? Are they aware of the finished result or is it primarily the process of doing the painting that engages them?
© Julie Calveley, PhD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities, NAC Director
Email: [email protected]
Created October 2020