“Those paintings look so different,” my sister said when I showed her a recent photo from a Cookies & Canvas session. That made me laugh because although Cookies & Canvas is indeed a “step by step, follow the leader” type of paint class, everyone’s finished picture is unique. I tend to follow the rules and not stray from the instructions so my painting looks just like the instructor’s in the end. However, Aubrey, my 13 year-old granddaughter is a free spirit, confident in her artistic abilities, and brave enough to do her own thing. And that little bunny, looking OVER her shoulder, delighted everyone in the class.
Over spring break, I took this sweet granddaughter of mine on a short trip to Indianapolis, and we spent 3 days seeking out the things she loves to do. In addition to this class, we also found Half-Baked Pottery, and spent a couple hours painting some pottery pieces. On our second day, we enjoyed shopping at the small boutiques in a neighboring community before heading to the mall. This girl knows her mind, was selective in her choices, and only chose a few items to purchase. I was amused when she immediately gravitated to a pair of purple tennis shoes at Old Navy. She picked them up, and carried them around the store. At one point, she put them back on the rack, and at the same time said, “Oh, but I LOVE them.” I laughed, scooped them up and put them in our shopping basket.
We located a fabric store to pick out patterns and material for a couple of sewing projects to do together this summer. We treated ourselves to manicures and face masks, chicken nuggets and pizza. Just a few simple pleasures filling a fun-packed 3 days, but adding a lifetime memories for this gramma and one of her favorite people.
When our trip was over, I dropped Aubrey off at home, and stopped by a local art store to purchase canvases for the art class I facilitate at my mother’s assisted living residence. Over the course of several months, I have introduced different mediums to this class such as acrylic paints, colored pencils, and watercolor paints (in the form of paint pots and markers). Everyone’s favorite, by far, is the watercolor markers. For the past several classes, I have encouraged them to use the acrylic paints or the watercolor paint pots, however, no one will relinquish the markers.
As I put my Hobby Lobby purchase into the trunk of my car, carefully moving my Cookies & Canvas bunny picture out of the way, an idea formed in my head. Why not offer a step by step acrylic paint class to my retirement class?
I prepped for the class over the next few days by tracing the bunnies onto the canvases and outlining them with black marker. I have learned the black marker step is vital as many of my elderly “students” need the bold outline due to failing eyesight. When Friday rolled around, I placed the canvases on the table with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. When I gave everyone a paper plate filled with dollops of colorful acrylic paint, to say there was some moaning and grumbling is an understatement. “Where are the markers?” was asked, and echoed, several times. Uh-oh….
I began the class by explaining the “step-by-step” method, and asked them to scoop up some blue acrylic and paint their sky. “Okay, now take a drop of black paint and mix it with your white paint. With that light gray, begin to fill in the outline of your bunnies.” As I walked around the room and looked at the results of these first 2 steps, I saw green grass, pink ears, and black eyes already painted on several canvases. I shook my head, and chuckled, as I continued with steps 3 and 4.
As the class continued, only one “student” (a former teacher) stayed with me and followed the step-by-step method. I realized soon enough that they, like my granddaughter, are free spirits, and enjoy doing their own thing. In fact my own mother “Yes Ma’am’d” me a several times throughout the course of the class. HeeHee. All I could do was muddle through to the end…
And you know what? They all ended up with unique, yet adorable, bunnies on their canvases.
On my way home that day, I thought about my week, and how blessed I am to create art with these two generations, my mother and my granddaughter. Aubrey’s skills are good and her art may one day be amazing, but mom and me? Not a chance. But that’s not what this is about… it’s about memories… time together… laughter… and lessons.
And there are SO many life lessons every single week in this simple class I teach to elderly women… lessons about comparisons… uniqueness… individuality… creativity… fragility… role reversals.
The list could go on and on.
And that little girl? My sweet granddaughter is teaching me! Lessons about strength… independence… uniqueness… creativity… security… kindness… gentleness…
Funny how that happens, right? I thought I was doing these things for them, but in the end, not only are the blessings mine, but the lessons are for me as well.