Blog: How the painter’s brush can help us see the person behind Alzheimer’s disease

We were decluttering the flat this morning and I came across this picture. It had been on my boys’ bedroom wall until it was replaced by a Crystal Palace FC 2013 calendar a few weeks ago!

A Summer Sail

In the late nineties I was living in the United States. Off and on, I volunteered for the Cincinnati Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.  They have a ‘Memories in the Making’ project  in which people in the early to middle stages of dementia are given the opportunity to express themselves in visual arts.  Given that most of the participants have little or no previous experience of drawing and painting, and that other means of communications have become increasingly difficult for them, the results are incredibly powerful.

This particular picture was painted by a man who signed his name as TM and is entitled ‘A Summer Sail.’  The inscription on the back says:

TM is a gentleman of many interests, one of which is camping and enjoying the outdoors.  During a (Memories in the Making) session, the artists reminisced about summer days, and with cueing, TM created this wonderful painting, ‘A Summer Sail.’  One can almost feel the sun and the summer breeze as the sailboat skims across the water.

I came to own the picture in a silent auction at one of the Cincinnati Chapter’s annual galas and I love it for many reasons. The fact it only uses one colour. The swooshing brush strokes with their energy and vigour.  Its optimism – you can almost feel the sun on your back watching this sailboat on the sea.  The fact that something so personal can have universal appeal.

Above all, I treasure it as a reminder that even though the growing clouds of the disease may clutter a person’s mind, there are moments of lucidity and clarity that allow them and us to connect so utterly as fellow human beings.

Space will be found for ‘A Summer Sail’ on our wall once again I assure you.


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