10 Steps for Teaching Watercolor to Memory Care Residents

Recently I started teaching watercolor classes for Memory Care residents. My students are all in different stages of Alzheimer’s and have different ability levels and attention spans, so I was not sure how well they would be able to work in Watercolor or if they would end up with a good finished piece. But with some significant pre-planning the watercolor classes have been very successful.

Please note: Memory Care classes require more time and pre-planning than classes for more Independent and able Seniors. I complete the first five steps of the following list before beginning the art class with my students.Click here custom family portrait

10 Steps for teaching a Successful Watercolor Class for Memory Care Residents:

  1. Enlarge a photo or choose a large picture from a photo book that does not have a lot of fine detail. I enlarged a photo of a field of daffodils that I had taken in Washington State and mounted it on black card stock so my students could easily see the photo.
  2. Paint a sample watercolor painting for students to refer to- nothing too fancy- to show them what their finished picture can look like. I used a combination of watercolor, color pencils and ink for my painting.
  3. Sketch out the basic scene lightly in pencil on each student’s sheet.
  4. Color-code the different areas of the painting. This is a very important step! These additional instructions are very helpful and make it easier for students to follow directions as they paint each section.
  5. Use foam board or thin plywood scrap as a backer for the watercolor paper, and tape everyone’s paper to the board before class.
  6. Set up each individual’s watercolor paints, brushes, water and palette for them and show students the sample painting so they can see what the final product is supposed to look like. It is very important to make sure they do not jump ahead before they are shown what the each step should look like- or they most likely will end up with blue grass and green skies.
  7. Show students how to pick up color from the paint palette and how to mix paint colors on the palette to create custom colors. We painted each section separately, painting the sky first at the top, moved to lower areas next so that each section would have time to dry a little so the colors would not all run together and get too muddy.
  8. Give simple step by step instructions and demonstrate each step so that students can see what you are asking them to do. Our project was a “wet on wet” painting, so I showed them how to do a wash with clear water using a large flat brush and made sure they did not soak the paper with too much excess water. As I gave them new instructions, I demonstrated each step as we went along and answered questions.
  9. Assist students if they need help, but allow them to choose their own color schemes- if they do not want to follow the prompts- and have each person complete each section on their own if possible. As I always tell my students- there is no right or wrong way to create art and their painting should reflect them- not me!
  10. After all the sections of the painting are finished by your students, you can define a few details with ink or pencil. I drew in a few details with ink and it made a huge difference in the final painting- and all my ladies were very pleased with their final results. Always make sure to have them sign their names on their paintings so that they can show their families what they have accomplished.

I was very pleased with the results of our watercolor class as were my students. The ladies in my class were actively engaged for over an hour and really enjoyed creating their own masterpieces. I teach art, music and gardening classes to Memory Care residents, and feel this was one of the best activities we have completed together to date.

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