50 Faces Project - Art and Dementia

Inspired by "Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists" author and artist Carla Sonheim, this is a group project that I am facilitated with my art group for older adults. Most in the group had dementia.


The process is as follows:


1. I worked one-to-one with each artist and asked them to draw a face in an 11"x14" sketchbook with thick black marker.


When people claimed that they did not know how to draw a face, I showed them all of the other drawings, and told them that I would prompt them. 


2. I asked each artist - who wanted to be supported - to draw a circle for the head, two eyes, a nose and mouth, ears and hair. 


3. I then traced the face onto 14"x14" unbleached cotton, and added a "folk art" pattern around the border.


4. Sometimes other artists were invited to paint the painting with fabric paints as only some wanted to draw and others wanted to paint. Artists chose their own colors unless they asked me for suggestions. I then offered them a choice between two or three colors.


5. I outlined the drawing and border pattern with black fabric paint.


This project elicited much laughter and good fun! This project is an example of what I call "spontaneity within structure." It is helpful to provide guidelines for people with dementia to create within. I have found that providing a structure or a framework to be spontaneous within lends to expressions of calm, confidence, and focused attention.