By Jean Choe
I can’t paint. I am not an artist.
This is the response I get very often when I teach senior art workshops. Many students are intimidated by the thought of creating something. They are also afraid of not being able to produce something good enough. I totally understand how they feel. I myself sometimes feel afraid when I am faced with a blank piece of paper.
I try to remind them that everybody can be an artist. I suggest them to focus on the creative process itself – making lines with a pencil, adding colors, watching watercolors blend into each other, making marks with a brush, etc. It is ok to not produce something perfect.
I believe there is beauty in everything we create. So I try to point out what they are doing great and provide encouragements. At first they didn’t believe in my compliments. They thought I was just saying it. Nonetheless, I kept doing my job – to find out what they are good at. It is a surprising experience to see that at some point they start to believe in my words AND themselves!
Sylvia, a student who comes to my art workshop at Lester Senior Housing in Whippany, used to say that she cannot paint. After a few months, she stopped saying she couldn’t, and instead was proudly showing around her paintings to colleagues. Millie, another student at the workshop, also was hesitant to paint in the beginning. Now she is confident with her brush strokes. Every time we paint, she looks forward to showing it off to her grandchildren.
It is a big joy to see my students learn to enjoy the process of creating. And it is a great reminder to myself too!