THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF HEALING THROUGH ART

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Here are some stories about a few patients and the art they each made.

 MOTHER AND SON

Artist: Middle aged female hospice inpatient with terminal cancer. She died a few days after this experience.

Initially she chose watercolor crayons but they didn’t please her. Then she dipped the crayon into water quickly did the following.

A second piece was done with Mulberry paper torn to make a collage. She required no guidance for this.

Her son was also present. He carefully constructed representative images of the flags of Britain, Germany, Spain, and France. He said that it represented the multicultural/multinational nature of the staff at the hospice.

The following day, she spoke of the art experience and became instantly animated—her affect visibly brightened--as she discussed the flamingo—in spite of the fact that she was tired and feeling very weak. She said that the art was

 

“wonderful” “really nice” “I felt like a star.
Surprised I did it.”

 

 THE ADMINISTRATOR

Female in mid 50’s with widespread terminal cancer.

Married. No children. High level administrator in educational program. Sad about loss of work which gave her meaning.

Very drowsy. Medicated for pain and nausea.

Initially, only willing to talk about art, she perked up at introduction to watercolor pencils (she was unfamiliar with these and might like to try using them).

She chose several colors of pencils—blue/purple/pink to draw an iris. She was weak and drowsy. She would draw a line then add water with a brush to create a watercolor line. At the end of the session she added some yellow and felt it was complete. She requested a mat for it and seemed happy with the result and proud to show it to others.

Later,she said that she had learned

 

“that there are possibilities in my life.  I realized that I can do watercolors or anything else that I’ve never tried before”  “maybe it’s not so awful that I won’t be working full-time anymore ‘cause there are new things I can do that I’ve never even tried before.”

 

PERFORMER & ARTIST

Nursing home resident. In late 50’s with extensive locally invasive cancer.

She says she used to be an artist, worked as an extra in as many as 50 movies, and took voice and acting lessons in the past. She wasn’t sure about doing any art now yet she used several media during this visit. She drew with graphite pencils, watercolor pencils, and watercolor crayons. She reported that the activity

 

took her mind off her discomfort and actually got her so involved that she worked up a sweat while she was doing it.

 

FAMILY MAN

Male in late 80’s. Hospice inpatient with extensive cancer. Retired engineer, married with 2 children and many grandchildren.

Treatment for pain, nausea, vomiting, agitation, and general suffering. Medications and his illness caused him to be very drowsy. Over more than a month he varied between being fully awake and being impossible to arouse.

His family maintained day and night vigil at his bedside understandably concerned about his suffering. At a particularly lucid point several weeks into his stay, he told them that if he didn’t wake up in the morning, it would be OK. Some days later, he awakened from an unarousable state, asked for a pen, and drew on two sheets of paper.

 

He said this represented his family surrounding him.
He seemed very peaceful. A week later he quietly and peacefully died in the presence of his family.

 

VERY PRIVATE YOUNG MOTHER

Woman in mid-thirties. Catholic.  Near death with painful open wounds due to terminal cancer.

There is much pain involved—physical, psychological, social, spiritual. She is very private—will not allow most staff to do dressings of her wounds.

Family very close and very protective and attentive.

Not currently married with two children. Teenage daughter and toddler son. Her brother was present during our visit. She took an interest in oil pastels, chose a pale blue pastel paper to work with, and then selected blue, violet, red to work with. She became enthralled with the process as was her brother.

She chose a mat and when I asked—“What do you think?” She said “I just don’t believe that it came out of ME!” She wanted it placed behind the head of her bed so that people who came to see her would see it.

Though she had been reluctant to talk about her goals, the staff reported that she became more open for discussion after her art experience.

 

"She was very proud of her art and gave it to family members as Christmas presents. She became much more open to staff visits.”

 

FACES OF JIMMIE

Jimmie Hayes was born, raised, and died in the Linda Vista area of San Diego. He earned a Track Sports Scholarship to Cal State College in Los Angeles. He majored in Sociology/minored in Engineering and competed in track events in America and Stockholm, Sweden.

Jimmie worked in Mechanical and Electrical Drafting in New York City and freelanced Display Material Art with friends and colleagues at work. He also lived in Europe for six years—mostly in France where he sometimes worked as a musician playing Bass Guitar with various groups.

During his time in Europe Jimmie found that at times images would appear in his head and that he could bring these images to life by expressing them in drawings on paper. His amazing expression of Faces of Jimmie can be found in all of his drawings.

 

The representative drawings seen here were all done when he was a patient of San Diego Hospice & Palliative Care. He was pleased to share his work which was displayed in our employee dining room.

Here are some additional pictures created by patients and families.

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