Drawing Life, the Hastings-based charity, brings art to people living with dementia and other age-related conditions. Now they are releasing a lockdown-proof sketchbook so that their artists can continue drawing.  

For the last five years we have held regular art classes in care homes and in the community, providing a place for social interaction and individual expression.  During this time we have exhibited selected works in local galleries, most recently at Hastings Contemporary.  

Through our work we have found that drawing reveals something fascinating about the lives and memories of our participants, and among many benefits, our classes offer carers new subjects to talk about with those who may have lost the art of conversation.  

Something real and personal, a book to make marks in and hold in their hands

“The sessions are more than just an activity for those with dementia, they also provide unique and significant support for the carers – which makes us better carers,” said Dan China, husband and carer.

The Covid-19 outbreak has put all that work on hold, closing galleries and preventing public gatherings.  In response we have created a unique sketchbook as an alternative to face-to-face drawing sessions that everyone can enjoy.  We thought about going high-tech, with our models appearing on screen via Skype or Zoom, but rather than relying on unstable broadband signals and other annoying technical problems that always seem to crop up, we decided to go no-tech.  We wanted everyone to have an actual sketchbook; something real and personal, a book to make marks in and hold in their hands.

Each sketchbook features 25 photos of our models, Mike Mitchell and Elaine Joslin, opposite a blank page for people to make an original drawing. It also contains 40 beautiful and original line drawings for colouring-in, created by our brilliant team of local artists, Oska Lappin, Patrick Altes, Matthew Radford and Robert Sample.

It’s up to each person how they use this sketchbook, but we suggest each participant should have a book of their own, and draws one model pose per session, for 20 to 30 minutes, using pencil, charcoal, colour or a combination of all.  If doing this as part of a group session, carers can show the drawings round the room and have a chat about them. Next, people can spend up to 30 minutes colouring one of the line drawings. Perhaps there is a story connected to the drawing, a special location, or a memory to discuss while doing this. 

We hope everyone enjoys creating their own images inspired by our models sitting in some of our previous classes.  We want users to relax, make some marks, take their pencil for a walk around the pages, and most important of all: have some fun! 

We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for their support, and sketchbooks are free of charge until our coffers run dry. Books will be available early June and can be pre-ordered through our website:  www.drawinglife.org

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