Conducere through a little bit of painting
The Tuesday evening group, the group of adults with cerebral palsy who go to work so come in the evening, needed a bit of uniting.
I have been away for my holiday with Dad, the other members of the group have missed different sessions due to holidays and other appointments so we have not all been together for a long time.
Yesterday the group was complete for the first time in ages. I can not say that it was not as cohesive as it usually is, because it was. We were all really happy to see each other and the work was as always interspersed with just the right amount of conversation and some lovely classical music.
Perhaps it was that we were pleased to see each other that it was necessary to do some uniting and bringing together.
In the time when we had all been missing sessions for some reason or another we had missed someone’s birthday. The mum of one of the clients who is a great friend to all the group had celebrated her birthday last week. It was decided that we would paint a picture for her. One canvas between us all.
So after some “one, two, three, four, five we got the paints out and the overalls on and had a lovely time with some brightcolours.
Yesterday evening I experienced one of the serenest moments in a conductive group. Not only was it such a peaceful forty-five minutes, the clients also painted so differently to when they work alone. They were able to control the brushes better, they chose their colours with more thought, they were extremely careful where they placed images and how they painted beside or on top of someone else’s colours. They were alert, they concentrated all the time.
If you ever search for a way to unite a group try a spot of collective painting.
I have used this type of activity many times over the past thirty-five years, for many different reasons. It is always a successful and positive unifying experience. Rules need to be set before hand and kept to. The group can all work on one canvas or on one large paper or on individual pieces that must be considered as part of a whole that will later be assembled.
In the end some paintings are more successful than others as images, but it is a different creativity that is important here, it is other developments that are often more important for the group than the created images.
There are the changes in relationship, worked on by asking or not asking permission to paint on a neighbours colour. There are developments in abilities in communication, a meeting on the canvas often helps to initiate a meeting with words. There is a chance while painting together to show and control emotions and to develop acceptable social skills and behaviour. Then ther are the changes that occur to the general atmosphere of a group.
As we painted together last night we had just a few rules. We had one canvas, and one paintbrush. in use at one time. We took it in turns to paint. We could decide where we painted and either we decided to pass the paintbrush on or another member could say they thought that it was time to do so. Last night we went in a clockwise order but we could have done it by deciding ourselves who we gave the brush too. This rule could be used if there are members who find decision making difficult.
Last night we were all very patient, we learnt to wait our turn. We learnt to watch and anticipate reactions of others to our painting actions. We learnt to consider and respect others, to concentrate on them when they are painting as much as we concentrate when we have the brush ourselves. We learnt to enhance the work of others and not to destroy it. We learnt how to sense if someone was impatient while waiting and to perhaps pass the brush over earlier than we really wanted to, but at the same time feeling happy with our own work.
Last night it was important for us to produce a pleasing work of art as we had decided that it was to be a present a lot of care was taken because we all really like the person with the birthday.
I have put in some photos above of other group projects.
Bee: this was done to encourage a new client to communicate with me and to learn how to use different methods to make marks. The clients care was present which meant I had someone through whom I could demonstrate what was “allowed” on the canvas. I would paint spots on a piece of yellow that the carer had painted to show that it was Ok to do this. If the client completely painted over a piece of my work the carer did the same on a piece the client had done to help the process of learning what this felt like. The dynamics of the session can be seen in the painting and after this session, it was the third of almost one hundred, the client began to come to the sessions alone, unaccompanied by the carer.
Summer landscape: this was produced for the centre by a group of children who had been in parent and child groups, kindergarten and pre-school groups and now came together less regularly because of starting school. We produced this picture one summer. We all sat around a huge table for an hour every day and worked on individual sections of it, but together. Deciding together who would paint clouds. who would do the sun, who would make birds and who would paint flowers. It hangs in the hall and ten years on some of the children still see it and recognise their work and that of their neighbours.
Bunting, (wooden flags) : also made one summer by the same group of children, they all decided that names on one side was really important so no one would forget them.
A house: this was a joint project that was decided on in my absence when I got stranded in England after Easter because of the volcano. I had told these older children in the after school group that we would do a painting project the next time that we met. The paint and canvases had all been bought. When I realised I would not make it for the first week I emailed them suggesting that they decide on the theme of the project before I got there so we could save some of the precious little time we had left. Three weeks turned into just six afternoons.
The teenage children had the whole thing totally under control and well organised when I arrived back in Germany. They had decided that they would all paint separate rooms of a house and they would join them all together at the end under one roof! The bringing together in this project began with their email link to me in England and ended with a joint action of measuring and hammering and climbing the ladder to hang the pictures in the last minutes of the final day of the project.
There have also been united painting projects when we have made three dimensional landscapes covering whole tables, with the one main rule being that each person’s section must link up to their neighbour's with a bridge, a tunnel, a road or even with a river. Some clients are brave enough to move around the table to work on other sections, sometimes asking permission but just as often not. Such projects work well as getting to know the group creations.