A Trace

What is left behind?

flower paint aged care

A Trace
Red Flower of Life
Sally Swain’s Paper Towel Art

Hey folks, be warned:

This post has a high *NVUF rating.

I’ve invented something. It’s called the Art Therapy in Residential Aged Care Evaluation, or ATRACE. Pronounced ‘a trace’. I am doing the complex, detailed, organised, dynamic, reflective work of implementing this investigative tool.

I hope one day that other art therapists will be able to make use of it, in the service of ever strengthening the work we do.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I play with painted traces in a small experiential way. I guess you could think of this process as art-based inquiry.

paint monoprint aged care

A Trace
a bit Rorschach
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

You might have come across

one of my previous paper towel arty adventures.


For Humble Magic, Just Add Water
Second Hand Rose

for starters.

The current exploration of traces has emerged as the next phase in … umm … how to describe it? The Re-enchantment of the Paper Towel.

In this phase, I paint on the top strip of folded-over towel. I use watercolour or texta-and-water or the Other Person’s Leftover Acrylic Paint.

dementia painting

A Trace
Three Top Layers
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

Later, I unfold the towel and watch the magic appear. What travels through the layers? It’s always a surprise. And very Rorschach.

art dementia care

A Trace
Eye of the Leaf
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

What is left behind?

What lies underneath the presented surface?

What marks do we make in the world?

It’s all very existential and mysterious. Especially in the field where your clients die and the marks they made with their living hands might acquire even more preciousness, poignancy and power. Especially for the family and friends who outlive them.

dementia response art

A Trace
Grass Stripes
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

So. I paint on the top strip of folded-over paper towel. Paint soaks through in patches of ever-decreasing colour and size as you move through the layers. Traces remain of what has been intentionally created on the surface.

dementia art care

A Trace
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

What is left behind?

A Trace.

A Trace
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

Oh yeah. *NVUF. What is it?

It’s: Not Very Upbeat or Funky.

Thank you for reading this far down the screen to find out.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

PS Did I say my wonderful art therapist colleague is helping me with ATRACE? No. I didn’t. I will say that now. Thank you, Clemency.


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