Before I started volunteering at the Spring Hills assisted living facility, I had taught students as young as three, and as old as 23, but I’d never instructed seniors. I was a little nervous, but I hoped the passion I felt for art would be contagious. Most of my students on that first day hadn’t drawn anything since elementary school. They seemed nervous, too. I heard them chatting to each other as I was setting up. “I can’t draw.” “I don’t have any talent.” “This is going to be awful.” You can’t create in an environment of negativity. Those seniors, much like my younger students, needed encouragement and a feeling of safety in order to move forward. We began with a few warm-up exercises. I watched awkward attempts at putting pencil to paper, but after a few minutes and a little motivation, something magical happened. Creativity began to flow, and when it did, my budding artists began to loosen up and have fun. They were letting go, making art, and learning. Then I realized that I was learning, too—learning that I could adapt my teaching style to a new demographic. I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks.
I was taught to share at a very young age. I was encouraged to share with my siblings, playmates, and classmates. I was told to share my toys, snacks, and crayons–even my brand new box of super sharp Crayola 64s–including my favorites, the metallic ones: silver, copper, and gold.
Group projects, teamwork, and relationships all depend on sharing, but somewhere along the way, it seems people have forgotten that early lesson. Consumed with getting ahead, people’s willingness to share has been buried under self-preservation and heavy materialistic goals. These days, people only share if they can be assured of a significant return on their investment.
In art class, there were plenty of times we were forced to share–tacking a work-in-progress on the critique wall, explicating method and medium. But there were other times, sitting around the studio before class, when creative ideas were volleyed around like balls in a wild, free-for-all game of tennis. Those were the moments I loved. It was like we were back in kindergarten, happily celebrating the exchange of materials, techniques, and ideas.
No one was worried about copyrights, secrets, or stolen plans. Perhaps it was because we knew each artist was unique, and in turn, his work would be unique, too. Twenty artists could gather around the same still life, and twenty different works would emerge.
When we share, we gain opportunities to teach, learn, and grow. So ask me questions, pick my brain, or watch me work. And if you find anything you’d like to use, go right ahead! I will happily share my crayons with you. Even the metallic ones.