by Diane Daly, posted by Deb Shaw
Treasurers’ student working on a beautiful watercolor of a sunflower. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.
The James Irvine Foundation generously provides grants to the Bowers Museum Treasures Program. Bowers, in turn, uses the grants to reach out to the senior community. One way to engage older adults who may be feeling isolated is through art. The Treasures program reaches out to senior centers, community centers, libraries, social service agencies and residential communities by offering lectures, films, classes and tours.
The Council on Aging of Orange County is one of those agencies that works with the Bowers Treasures program. Since 1973, their mission has been to promote independence, health and dignity of older adults through compassion, education and advocacy. I have had the most rewarding experience and opportunity to teach a botanical drawing and painting class to the seniors at the Council on Aging. They provide translators since some of the seniors speak minimal English. I went home after the first class and brushed up on my Spanish and learned a greeting in Korean. The language differences seem to disappear when we are all involved in the art process of observing and drawing a fruit or plant. For eight sessions, we had a variety of specimens, starting with an apple and pear, a single tulip, a zinnia, a variety of peppers and chilis, a rose and finishing with a sunflower. It was pure joy to see the delight on their faces as they walked in and saw what the subject would be for the day.
Students who are completely blind (but formerly sighted) were able to produce beautiful drawings. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.
At first, when I was briefed on what the class should entail, I was told that there would be a few adults who were totally blind or had some sight impairment. Now, after all these years of trying to get as much detail in a botanical painting, I was truly baffled on how a blind person would be able to draw and how would I be able to teach them anything about drawing a flower. But, I was the one to learn a few things about drawing. They were able to feel the fruit or flower with their hands, emboss the paper with firm pressure on the pencil, use circle templates for guidance, and feel where to fill in the shape with color, with the aid of an assistant. I was amazed at the results. It is not botanical art as we know it, but is art that helps bring people together and give them pleasure and satisfaction. I made simple portfolios for them to take their drawings and paintings home on the last day.
Treasures’ student drawing a radish in graphite. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.
I had another opportunity through the Treasures program to teach a class on painting Asian flowers on parasols. Since there were 90 adults coming to this program, we used markers instead of paint. With 90 parasols opened and everyone drawing flowers on them, it was quite a challenge to move around to all the tables. Once again, I was delighted at the results; beautiful, original designs on all the parasols. The parasols were used for a display in the museum that weekend for a cultural event. They were able to take home the parasols, as well as all the other art projects that they created.
Diane Daly giving feedback to Treasures’ student. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.