After being stuck at home binge watching episodes of Bob Ross and Jerry Yarnell painting shows for the past month during the COVID-19 pandemic on Create PBS TV.com , this Saturday morning my 86-year-old mom grabbed her available art materials and she created a beautiful new world with her fingertips .
Mom’s face lit up. She was unstoppable. Her body and mind imbued with the energy of her passion to create lifted her spirits to give her the sweet taste of freedom beyond her confinement.
I knew from watching her that creating art is more than busy work to fill your days while we’re living in limbo. The act of creation can be the greatest escape possible to a world that you create, mold, or weave together with paint, clay, dance or even words that take you beyond these four walls.
Five years ago, when my mom was despondent at 81, we enrolled her in her first adult art class. Who knew that one art class could drive away her depression and a new chapter in her life was about to unfold.
Regrets Become Rediscovery
She found joy and exuded confidence in her ability to create, eager to learn more. It seems like she has been drawing her whole life, but really this venture just started.
In his book, The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life ,” geriatric psychiatrist Gene Cohen, PhD , says that “the creative spirit has the power to change lives at any age.” Beyer’s class has awakened that spirit in all of her students.
Experts agree that tapping into your passions has the capacity to actually reverse the aging process, whether you are one of Beyer’s youngest students age 46 or one of her oldest students 90-years-old.
As artists paint, draw, or create, they are imbued with a passion that transcends space and time, transporting them to another place, one filled with possibilities. Just ask Naomi Gartman who has discovered that painting is a wonderful way to escape from all the problems of the world.
Painting to Escape Worries and Fears
“Whenever I want to relax or absorb myself, I start an art project,” she explained. “It is a way to destress and block out all the ugly parts of life.”
Two Kleinlife students Diedre Stein-Cole and Robin Zager started painting two years ago. Stein-Cole began painting flowers and landscapes and now is tackling painting people. When this determined mom couldn’t find greeting cards with the right message, she began hand painting wedding and birthday cards with her own personalized message. Along the way, she discovered that she enjoys the process of creating art almost as much as the finished product.
Zager eagerly looks forward to each project. “I liked it right away,” said 64- year-old Zager, who signed up with a group of friends. “Even if I started a painting but never finished, I still enjoyed the process.”
Beyer individualizes learning so that each student can work on a different project. “We are inspired to do our best and explore various techniques,” said Gartman. “You want to keep trying, keeping pushing the envelope, so each time you try a little harder becoming more ambitious.”
When Beyer started 12-15 years ago, she always set up still lifes because she didn’t want her students to simply copy a picture, until she realized that people have different interests and they just need something to begin from, especially for emerging artists.
Now Beyer opens a huge box and allows students to select the subject matter for their next picture. Then she leaves them alone for a little while to begin to reproduce it in their own way.
“Once I see them starting to work, I will show the person individually how to apply various techniques to make their work better,” Beyer said, explaining her process. “Each time you want to expand their horizons a little bit. It’s wonderful to have a 90% retention rate. I feel like I know people over and above what’s going on in class.”
My mom has become very fond of her teacher.
“I love Joan. She is a great teacher, very patient. When Joan pushes me to do new things, she always says: ‘Now I’m going to drive you crazy.’”
In Beyer’s painting class, she allows my mom to draw with pastels. For my mom, it is more than about applying color to paper. Beyer’s class has opened up a universe of possibilities that Mom has yet to discover.
“Being at this art show feels like a dream. I never thought that my work was good enough to be framed and put in a show, ” says Mom.
Mom’s story isn’t about becoming an artist. It’s not about waiting years to discover what you love and need to thrive. It’s about finding ways every day to nourish and honor who you are.
If my mom’s story inspires you to create, then please like, share, and add your story of finding a small corner of joy, while we living in new normal times. We want to celebrate with you!
Then hop over to my About page, Lynda Dell’s mission. I will be working with behavioral therapists, yoga/mindfulness instructors, PreK-12 teachers, or other professionals who help families develop resilience and what they need to thrive.
I firmly believe that if we work together and help each other, we will get through this crisis and emerge stronger and more resilient.