Painting Atomic Age Art Stirs Memories For Seniors

During the last class in February, as I was setting up the art supplies, the administrator asked if she could talk with me for a minute.  As I laid the last of the paints on the table, I followed her into the hallway, assuming she wanted to talk in private about something concerning my mother.  However, that wasn’t the case, as she informed me that one of my art “students” had passed away earlier in the week.  I was surprised as this lady had come every week; was one of the younger residents; and didn’t use a walker or wheelchair.  I had always assumed she was healthy.   It was a very sad way to begin class that day, and I knew this beautiful woman would be missed at our table.


I continue to search for designs that work well for the art class at Thurston Woods Assisted Living Facility.   No trendy (teeny-tiny) “adult” coloring books for this group.  I look for art that has bold lines and big spaces.   I use the internet to seek out coloring pages that meet this requirement, bold lines, big spaces —  yet not juvenile.

Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, has been a treasure trove of ideas.  I find many of my pictures from artists at this website.  A short email to them, asking permission to reproduce the picture for this class usually gets a quick positive response.  Etsy was my source for the lovely heart and flower design by Dwyanna Stoltzfus (see pictures below.)

I have also discovered a website called, Open Space Arts.   The goal of this family owned business is to provide enjoyable and therapeutic coloring pages to residents in assisted living homes and retirement communities.  I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing their pictures, and will be ordering some of their packets for future classes.  Another great find was the artwork of Jenn Ski, and I have used her pieces for the last two classes at Thurston Woods.   Both Open Space Arts and Jenn Ski use atomic age design in their artwork, which I absolutely love as do my resident artists.   I have learned that painting items such as a mid-century “star” clock or jumbo decorative jack (think Ball & Jacks game) is a great memory trigger and conversation starter.

I always set up 4 tables and expect about 8 ladies for class.  I have about six  regulars — I can count on them to be at class without any “reminder” knock on their door.  Then there about six others who come now and then, depending on health, weariness, and other obligations, such as doctor appointments.  But on Friday, 14 ladies came to paint!  I panicked a bit because I had only prepared 8 canvases, but as I dug into my big black enormous suitcase, I found several extra canvases left over from previous classes.  So my regulars got a new design while the others chose a picture they had not done before from that extra pile.  It all worked out in the end, with about 3 canvases to spare.  Anyone want to help prepare canvases for future classes??  Let me know….

There is a new resident that has come to my last two classes.  She is very quiet and seems a bit bewildered, but she sits through the whole class, and attempts to paint the picture.  I’m not sure she understands what we are doing or why she is there, but she is content so I’m happy that she has joined us.  Her disorientation is evident in the picture above.  Moving into a new home can be very unsettling for the elderly.  I’m praying she adapts quickly and the confusion goes away.


















If you missed how this class got started, you can read about it here.


Thank you to ColoringWithDwyana for the lovely heart and flower design especially since she was willing to simplify her design specifically for my ladies.    Also thank you to Jenn Ski and Rockport Publishers for providing the atomic age room art as well as the delightful peacock.












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