Tag Archives: drawing

Thank you, Julia

Thanks to a comment by Julia on my post earlier this month, I purchased the DVD “I Remember Better When I Paint” and watched it this past weekend with my soon-to-be 20-year old son. The documentary is a little over an hour and a half, yet the time flew by as we watched interviews with health care professionals and viewed footage of art therapy in action. The film highlights some specific programs and contains seven additional shorts that complement the documentary: Recreating Social Bonds, The Importance of Physical Exercise, The Hearthstone Way, Art and Care in the Later Stages, Organizing an Outing, The Memory Garden, and Organizing a Creative Workshop.

I cannot stress enough the importance of sharing this information with anyone you know who is associated in any way with someone who has Alzheimer’s. As John Zeisel’s book title so aptly states, I’m Still Here – and that is why it is of paramount importance to inform families and caretakers about the various approaches and art therapies that can help people with Alzheimer’s let their loved ones know they are, indeed, still here.

Zeisel is responsible for ARTZ is Artists for Alzheimer’s, a wonderful program that opens the world of artistic expression to people with Alzheimer’s. I first learned of ARTZ (and blogged about it) in June, 2009, while attending a Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity conference. A few days later I finished reading Zeisel’s book and wrote another blog post.

One of the video shorts of particular interest is The Memory Garden (Les Jardins de la Memoire), which describes a residence in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium, for people who have Alzheimer’s. If you do not read French, thanks to Google Translate you can read an English description about Les Jardins de la Memoire. The DVD introduces The Memory Garden with extensive footage, and interviews with two therapists, as well as with Christian Englebert, the founder.

Summer Houses

I know this house inside and out, almost as surely as if I’ve lived in it. Yet it does not exist. Well, that’s not entirely accurate.

The house exists, but only in the digital world. This house is one of a collection of fantasy buildings designed and crafted by my husband using SketchUp. I’ve been thinking about this house, and others he has created, as we spend portions of our summer vacation renting other people’s summer homes.

We tend to wind up in cozy homes within walking distance of the ocean. Last summer we stayed in an old windmill on a cliff (see pic below) in Orleans, overlooking Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod. Last week we stayed in this cottage (see pic at right) in the woods of Gay Head, on Martha’s Vineyard, where the sound of the waves from Philbin Beach lullabyed us to sleep each evening. (Though we didn’t need much of a lullabye, having used all our energy body surfing, swimming and kayaking, when we weren’t watching the FIFA World Cup games!)

A favorite of mine is this acorn house, one of Fred’s early designs inspired by the plethora of acorns in our neighborhood. I had serious fun imagining us playing tag inside and poking our heads out the different windows, yelling “Yoo hoo, I’m over here!”

And on a languid summer’s day, in need of a bit of cool,
With Seussian playmates, we plunk into a pool.

Imagination. 🙂

Sessions #5 – shades of a shadow

This was a study in values, ranging across six different shades of light and dark:

  • highlight – the brightest part of the drawing
  • midtones – the range of tones still in the light area but darker than the highlight
  • shadow edge – separates the portion that is directly in light (the highlight and midtones) from the portion that is cast in shadow; it is almost like a dividing line
  • cast shadow – the shape of the area defined by the object’s shadow; darkest portion is immediately next to the object that is casting the shadow
  • core shadow – where the cast shadow and midtones meet and touch; it is the darkest part of a shadow on an object but it is never completely black
  • reflected light – darker than the midtones while being the lightest areas of the cast shadow

I’ve done this exercise before with styrofoam balls, but this was my first time using an egg. There was something intriguing about using the egg – it had beads of perspiration on its shell by the time I finished the drawings, and it had a tendency to roll towards me, as my desk is in room with an ever-so-slightly slanted floor.

In all the drawings I did as part of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, there was always a ground placed on the page prior to drawing. This made it much easier for me to create a range of shades. However, the purpose of this exercise was to build up the value and the form using hatching and cross-hatching as well as planning around the highlights.”

actual egg 1

drawn egg 1

actual egg 2

drawn egg 2

Sessions #4 – Shadows

I like the effect of including shadows in drawings. The contrast between light and dark areas provides a sense of depth and substance. Yes, I know, my perspective still needs work! And with the first drawing, I had difficulty seeing the difference between shadows and “less bright direct light”  and need to better observe the shape of the object’s shadow.

Shadow 1 original

Shadow 1 drawing

Shadow 2 original

Shadow 2 drawing

Sessions #3 – Gesture & Structural drawings

This exercise was to create two sets of gesture drawings and one set of structural drawings. I had to arrange two different still lifes and for each set of still life objects craft  two gesture drawings, each drawing from a different view. After creating a total of four gesture drawings, I had to choose a view from each set and then make a structural drawing based on that view.

Conceptually I understand the idea of a gesture drawing – quick strokes designed to show the mass of an object. However, my “will” kept interfering with the concept, so that my gesture drawings did not wind up being crafted according to the rules of gestures. My drawings are “a bit too tight…Gesture drawings should be done very rapidly and typically with one continuous line.…build up the mass of the object by drawing not the outlines, but rather lines to build up the interior mass. There is a difference between sketch drawings (which are loose drawings) [and are what I appear to have made] and gesture drawings (which use line to represent mass).”

Structural drawings rely on lines to convey the basic shapes and forms of the object. The basic forms in drawing tend to be a cube, sphere and a cylinder. Structural drawings, using positive and negative space, are meant to show how these forms connect to create the shape of an object.

The overall goal for this exercise was to convey a “sense of form”, so my drawings work on this basic level, but there is definitely room for improvement!  I’m just sharing the ones for which I wound up crafting both gesture and structural drawings.

1A original

Gesture 1A drawing

Structural 1 drawing

2b original

Gesture 2b drawing

Structural 2 drawing

Sessions #2 – Contours & Perspective

My second online drawing assignment was to sketch three contour drawings of the same objects, each time rearranging the objects in a different scenario. Having drawn my first contour sketch at home at the end of June, and not being pleased with the results, I figured the best way to relax and enjoy the process was to wait till we were on Cape Cod for July vacation. As hoped, I found objects in our wonderful rental house that begged to be drawn.

This assignment was supposed to focus on contours, which is essentially drawing the outlines of the basic shapes of objects, and perspective, which means keeping objects proportional and in relation to one another. For the most part, I found this a relaxing exercise, but drawing an ellipse for a foreshortened round table eluded me!

I did not have the opportunity to draw the third contour while on the Cape, but am eager to try the next drawing lesson. Alas, I have not been doing a sketch a day, which was something I mentioned back in early June. Somewhat unrelated, though, is the good news that the weather has turned more summery, and swimming beckons 🙂

Contour 1 Photo of Original

CapeCodContourDrawing 1

Contour 2 Photo of Original

CapeCodContourDrawing 2

ARTZ, Authors and Alzheimer’s

This post owes its thanks to a conversation with Karen Kruger on Tuesday, at the first Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity conference. More on the conference in upcoming posts, but for now, it’s ARTZ and Authors, all related to Alzheimer’s.

Karen began by telling me about ARTZArtists for Alzheimer’s. Art as therapy has long been a useful tool for assisting people with myriad health issues, right up there in positive impact with music, dance and pet therapy. “The ARTZ Museum Partnership Program implements interactive, educational museum programs for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.” My Dad is unable to visit a museum, but perhaps I can bring “art” to him. I see him respond to my singing of songs and playing of his favorite oldies (Frank Sinatra always hits home); perhaps art – both viewing and creating (why not finger painting!) – will also tweak a memory or provoke a positive response.

Still Alice was written by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, whose grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Lisa had the benefit of being a scientist who could understand the mental deterioration that was taking place in her grandmother’s brain, but it left her wondering how a person with Alzheimer’s felt as their cognition slipped away. From this curiosity came Still Alice. Thanks to a book journal given me by my oldest son, I’ve been writing about the books I read, and here’s what I wrote about this book back in March.

Deb S. loaned me this book. written by a Harvard PhD in neuroscience and online columnist for the National Alzheimer’s Association, it is a fictionalized yet highly informed look at one woman’s descent into dementia after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The woman, Alice, is a Harvard professor with three grown children and a husband, also a Harvard researcher. They have a summer home on the Cape, in Chatham. Yes, the ending is a tear jerker – Alice is alive but has lost so much of her capability to communicate. Lisa’s insights into Alice’s mindset seem spot on and I wish-I wish-I wish that I had read a book like this when Dad was in the early stages. Perhaps I could have been more helpful to him.

I did not read verbatim, and intentionally read quickly, because this topic and story – particularly this story – were too close to home. Fred and I teach at the same school. We’ve spent many glorious, soothing summers on the Cape. We have two incredible children. I cried for Alice but nestled deep down perhaps I cried for me. I could have the gene my Dad has, and that portends a future I don’t want to contemplate, certainly not until or unless it becomes apparent that I need to contemplate it.

And that is the most honest I’ve been about Alzheimer’s! This was a sad story but also somehow encouraging, because Alice had a voice. This is Alice’s story.

Karen also recommended another book, which I have ordered, I’m Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimer’s by John Zeisel. Am very much looking forward to reading it, and of course, will share my thoughts in a later post.