50 Faces Project - Art and Dementia

Inspired by "Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists" artist Carla Sonheim, this is a project that I facilitated in my art group for older adults a few years ago. Most of the artists in the group had dementia.


This group art project elicited a lot of laughter! It is helpful to provide guidelines for people with dementia. This project is an example of what I call "spontaneity within structure." Providing artists with dementia a structure to be spontaneous within encourages creative confidence, and calm focused attention.


The process is as follows:


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


When participants claimed that they did not know how to draw a face, I told them that I would prompt them on how to draw a face. 


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 on a piece of paper. 


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 people wanted to draw and others only 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.