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Commonly Asked Questions About Art Therapy for Seniors

Updated on September 6, 2019
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Just two of my many precious painters:  Helen and Armando.
Just two of my many precious painters: Helen and Armando. | Source

Questions From My Readers

From my many questions and inquires concerning Art Therapy for Senior Citizens, I have gathered a number to answer in more detail here. There has been a lot of interest in my classes I taught for the elderly, advice on starting a similar program in another town and what was needed. This actually makes so very happy. That’s one reason why I wrote the several articles about art therapy in the first place. Seniors everywhere could be benefiting from art and painting if only there were programs like this in every town. So without further ado, here are some questions and answers.

Another of my many painters: Lupe.
Another of my many painters: Lupe. | Source

Pastels vs. Watercolor

Do you think oil pastels might work better than watercolor?

If the government understood better the therapeutic value of art, there would be less money spent on Medicaid. There should be more subsidies for such enterprises. Anyway, do you think oil pastels might work better? They’re likely cheaper and maybe less hassle for you and the students. It’s just a thought.

Answer:

I'm not sure they really are a better buy simply because you have to have a little more hand and eye coordination with oil or regular (chalk) pastels. Also, there is a toxicity problem. I think I will go into more detail on that in another HubPage article. I sure appreciate the question because it does raise more possibilities. Thanks.

Extended Answer: The oil and regular (chalk) pastels are toxic to the skin. It is recommended to work pastels with latex gloves these days. The chemicals and materials in the pastels are pure and handling them means you can absorb them through the skin. The regular chalk pastels also can be breathed in and cause lung damage/cancer, so many artists have now been using facemasks. I hate the facemasks personally, so I make it a practice not to blow the dust from my pictures so as not to make the particles air-borne. With these restrictions, I really don’t think pastels are appropriate for seniors. Oil paints are also somewhat toxic and many artists use the gloves with that medium also. You read about so many famous artists dying young or going a little crazy. It is likely that many or most were suffering from lead poisoning and other toxins found in the paint and mediums. We have stopped using lead in the white paints but other toxins are still in the paint and have to be avoided or at least treated with care.

Every painting medium is made of just pigment and a binder. Watercolor is pigment plus gum arabic. Oil paint is pigment with oil, usually linseed oil. Acrylic is pigment with acrylic medium (a polymer). The whole question of toxicity is all about which pigments are being used. The binder is needed because something has to adhere the paint to the paper or canvas. If you tried painting with pure pigment, when it dried it would simply fall from the surface and blow away. Pastel is like that. That is why the surface used for pastels has to be rough to “hold” the pigment.

The whole reason I use watercolor in my classes is that it is cost effective as well as bright and vibrant, plus it dries quickly and the seniors have a finished or almost finished painting to take home at the end of one session. With oils, pastels, and sometimes acrylic, you build up the colors and layers which takes more time. Watercolors are fast, relatively easy and far less toxic to handle.


Linda still loves to paint, on her own now.
Linda still loves to paint, on her own now. | Source

Charge Fees

What an interesting experience... Do you mind tell me how much do you charge for the classes?

Answer:

I wouldn't charge less than $25 per person for classes today and I wouldn't have less than 6 students per class. That seems like I'm money-grubbing but the prep time is extensive and a class lasts 2 to 3 hours so really I'm not walking away with all that much.

When you consider my education and experience, I should be getting no less than $100 per hour but artists are not valued the same way that lawyers and doctors are. Plus artists pick the career not because they will be paid well, but because they have a deep burning passion to create and money doesn’t really come into the picture. Although I must admit, it is nice paying the bills and having a roof over one’s head. No one chooses an art career for the paycheck. If they think it is a lucrative career path, I hate to be the one to break it, but it is not. A few (precious few) make it big, but the price paid for success in art is backbreaking, sleepless nights of continuous work to get there. And the public is fickle. What is hugely popular one year, maybe lining the birdcage the next year. Still, I love what I do even if I never get paid for it. I can complain about not having the nicest car or home, but I love what I do all day. That’s the price I pay for art.

One of my classes.
One of my classes. | Source

Would you pursue a career just for the love of it?

See results
Me teaching one of my classes.
Me teaching one of my classes. | Source

Final Thoughts

I guess that is all for now. I have more questions later. Please feel free to ask questions about my process or my program. I’m happy to share, especially where it will continue to help the elderly.

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 months ago from Fresno CA

      I've been so gratified by the response I have received from people all over the English speaking world who want to start similar programs in their communities. It's amazing how much interest there is for this kind of program and how few communities actually have anything like it in place. Perhaps it should be looking into more thoroughly by the powers that be.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Hi Dora,

      My seniors really seemed to appreciate me with smiling faces and dedication to coming but you also appreciating me is really nice. Thank you for the comments.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      15 months ago from The Caribbean

      What a wonderful contribution to the lives of the senior citizens; and now even to others who can learn from your experience. Our society has not done a good job rewarding teachers, but your satisfaction in doing what you like counts for something. You deserve much appreciation.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you Sally. I see this is UK lottery. Ours in the US doesn't work quite that way (funding arts that is) but this sounds very useful for people in the UK. Thanks for the link.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      15 months ago from Norfolk

      This link might be helpful if you want to investigate Lottery Funding https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/funding/under10k

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      My dear Bede, you make so much sense. I despair that they will ever get the true benefit and necessity of art in medicine but that won't stop me from doing what I can. It is like they say about the schools, when you take the arts and leave only reading and writing, there will be nothing to read and write about. Thanks for the kind words and comments.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Yes, Larry. To keep one's mind and hands active. It does a lot for the eye-to-hand coordination also. It's like a happy exercise for the mind and imagination as well as the eyes and hands. So much good! Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Bede le Venerable profile image

      Bede 

      15 months ago from Minnesota

      Denise, thanks for this follow-up article. When I mentioned oil pastels, I perhaps had in mind my own experience in a couple classes, where they seemed like grown-up crayons. But it’s good to know about their toxicity…

      The video is excellent and sums up my own conviction. I have nothing against Medicaid- per se; rather, as the video points out, art reduces stress and helps old people’s health in numerous ways, which obviously reduces medical bills, etc. If the govt. understood this better, people like yourself would have an easier time making a living from this work. This is my prayer for you…

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Oh Peggy, I so agree with you. It's such a shame when so many of my elderly look at me and say, "I haven't painted since kindergarten." And they could have benefited so much from painting more often. It has a way of lifting the soul that few other things do. I think music comes close for me too... Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      15 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very good activity to keep one's mind active.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Sally,

      Now there is a source, or possible resource, I never thought of. It is worth investigation. Thanks for the idea. A friend of mine got a state grant through the National Endowment of the Arts but the paper work for that is ... WOW. Still if you don't mind paperwork, it's also worth investigation. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      15 months ago from Houston, Texas

      It is wonderful that you are sharing your talents and teaching of art methods to the elderly. Quite frankly everyone of any age can benefit from art lessons for so many reasons.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      15 months ago from Norfolk

      Loved this Q & A session and love the idea of teaching art to seniors. It might work with my craft too. I do wonder if it might be possible to get some kind of lottery grant or funding from the state if something like this benefits the community? If for instance the art were being taught in a community hall the lottery fund might well be the obvious choice. It requires some investigation.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      15 months ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you Mary. Yes they were such a happy fun group of people, it was a pleasure to see them every day and paint with them. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      15 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for sharing these questions. Your answers are very informative. Your students really look happy.

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