One breath, one brushstroke, one paper towel at a time

Awash Sally Swain © original art

Sally Swain © original art

Aged care. Hand-washing paraphernalia and paper towel dispensers are everywhere. 

Use the paper towel in art, I say.

I attend the inaugural Creative Ageing Conference. Afterwards, I am awash with ideas and tears.

There’s the macro:

Windows fling open to the wide open sky of amazing creative ageing projects around the globe.

And there’s

the micro:

I think about what it’s like working as an art therapist in one aged care facility in the inner west of Sydney. The day-to-day steps and the heartstring-tuggingness of it.

I picture one person wearing a bib, slumped. I see that person with their present moment experience as well as their entire life history; their yearning, regret, love and joy.

I offer that person an invitation. There’s a refusal that turns into acceptance. There’s a slow guiding of a body out of a chair, of hands onto a walking frame. There’s a shuffling along a carpet, a lowering into another chair. There’s a reintroduction to art materials, a paintbrush placed in a hand. There’s a guiding of that hand towards paint, water, paper. There’s a hovering of the hand over the paper for ten seconds, or is it a year. Then hallelujah! Contact is made between a hand, a heart, a lifeforce, a brush, a piece of paper. Colour appears on a page. A smile appears on a face.

The world unfolds one breath, one brushstroke, one paper towel at a time.

Here’s the development process of my little Awash painting. It incorporates – can you guess? – paper towels.

Awash-in-creation 1

Awash-in-creation 1

Awash-in-creation 2

Awash-in-creation 2

Awash-in-creation 3

Awash-in-creation 3

Awash Sally Swain © original art

Sally Swain © original art

The 7th Annual International Arts and Health Conference is at Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW next week, 17th to 19th November. It promises to expand your mind and heart to a world of possibility.

PS I presented ‘Leaf by Leaf – A Group Artwork in High Level Aged Care’ at two arts and health conferences last year, then recently at the Arts Therapies Conference in Adelaide.

PPS You can see my previous response to the Creative Ageing conference here: Two Witches Speeding Slowly Across the Harbour in a Claw-Footed Bath

PPPS Have you ever used paper towels in an artwork?


6 thoughts on “One breath, one brushstroke, one paper towel at a time

  1. Hi Sally, just yesterday I was looking at the paper towel I was using to dry my brushes and thought how lovely it looked with all the gorgeous colours. Different from yours but interesting connection and timing. Margot

    Liked by 1 person

    • yes – interesting connection and timing, Margot. Synchronicity, I reckon. And I neglected to mention in my post that I help aged care residents dry their brushes on the paper towels. I’ve begun collecting these fragments of colour dabs and wonder about putting together a kind of group artwork from them.


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