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Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

This was a community center with after-school drop-in programs in north-west Chicago.  The party was for the  social workers and teachers who ran the various programs. Facing unfathomable social complexities, they have to think deeply.  They deserve a break.  I always enjoy making deep thinkers laugh. Some family members were also there to help celebrate.

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Access1a

Access1bIt’s the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities on Chicago Ave, near Clark Street.  I was invited to draw caricatures of the staff party there last Friday.  I drew not only of staff, many of whom are in wheelchairs, but also of interns and, I believe, volunteers.

When you scroll through this blog, you can’t tell that I’ve drawn many people in wheelchairs before.

But I have never drawn wheelchairs.  I chat with disabled people as with any other party goers who want to be drawn.  They are interesting and inspiring, always.

Access1

Access2I often find people with disabilities full of energy and eager to talk and laugh.  That’s why I have never drawn them sitting –as I actually see them—but instead I have them running or standing in an assertive, often sassy pose, as if they were saying “look at me, this is the real me inside, forget this mechanical chair.” These drawings have always been received with spontaneous delight and gratitude. Not everybody smiles for the picture, because people with disabilities are sometimes self-conscious about their smiles—as are others, too.

At this Access Chicago party last Friday, however, I had a new experience.

Carrie1One of the women in wheelchairs was exceptionally glamorous.  Her hair Carrie2was carefully styled, her make-up was flirtatious and her earrings said “Carnival.”  Naturally, I drew her in a flirtatious, standing pose.  When she saw it, she had a big smile, at first, but then she rejected the drawing because it did not depict her accurately.  “I’m not standing,” she said, “I’m sitting down.”  After some hesitation, she did accept it.  But later, towards the end of the party, she brought it back, saying, she did not want it.

Lesson learned:  In the future when I’m drawing people with disabilities, I will ask for specific instructions from the party organizers about how people are to be depicted in the drawings.

I drew nine-teen people in an-hour-and-a-half.  Thank you, Cris.

Access6And thank you, Pat, for your riotous laugh!!———————————-

Access5

http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mopd/provdrs/accesschicago.html

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13VictoryMelrosePk1bAt a retirement home it can take a while for the party to get into full swing.  At the Christmas party last Friday  at the Victory Center in Melrose Park things got lively very quickly, though.  At first the DJ played Christmas carols and folks softly sang along.  But he also came with a Karaoke machine and that got plugged in very soon.  Some staff members obviously had musical and theatrical backgrounds because the singing was 13VictoryMelrosePk1quite good.  So, it was the Karaoke singing and me, the caricaturist, by the Christmas tree—a wonderful  atmosphere.  When I draw at retirement and extended care homes, I feel justified in considering my work therapeutic. Can’t measure it, don’t have any statistics, but I can see the happy effect.

Among the people I drew was  the retired TV clown, called T-Bone, who gave me a five dollar banknote with his picture and name on it: Don Theobald.  I drew kids and grandkids and a couple who met at this retirement home and became lovers there.  All in all, an inspiring evening, I would say.  Thank you,        Jeanette and Barbara!

For T-Bone the clown, http://www.pathwaysl.com/blog/t-bone-clown%E2%80%99s-magic-retirement

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All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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13HalfwayA

At the end of August I was at a Health Outreach on Sheridan near Lawrence.  This is an organization that transitions people from being institutionalized under care and supervision into independent living in their own 13Halfway7apartments.  For the sake of discretion I only documented my drawings, not the individuals who posed for them and I put on the name only if specifically requested.  It was a small “graduating class” and I drew as many staff people as graduates.  Can you tell them apart?  No. ( Reminds me of a scene in which  Jack Nicholson takes his buddies sailing.)

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Thank you, Cynthia. Going for color was well worth it.  I drew fifteen people in full color in two hours. I’m sure every one of these drawings inspires confidence and optimism in these people’s lives. —————————–

13HalfwayB

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13MichelleW7b

When the lady wears  sturdy glasses, has a sensible out-of-the-shower haircut and a matronly figure draped in voluminous fabric and when the party atmosphere is comfortable and 13MichelleW7jovial,  then, well then I sometimes  ask , “would you like me to draw you thin and sexy?”  Mind you, I say this very casually, under my breath and in a distracted manner, while looking down at my markers.  The answer is inevitably an enthusiastic  “Oh-yeah-please-do!”  I’ve never gotten a “no” to that question.

In this case, at Estelle’s party (see previous post),  I got a double “Oh-yeah-please-do!”  What a riot this job is!

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13BuddTemple5b

The Midwest Buddhist Temple on Menominee in Chicago held an all-day Mind/Body seminar two Saturdays ago. There were yoga 13BuddTemple5sessions and instructions by a dancer on how to properly sit and stand in our everyday lives.  We need to take care of our bodies.  I had been asked to participate because I’m in the laughter business. I’m one of those who believe that if you want to be healthy, in addition to eating well, sleeping soundly and, yes, sitting up straight, you also need to embrace laughter as part of your life.  Laughter is therapeutic.  It dilates the arteries and thus sends a rush of oxygen to your brain and to all cells of your body.  I was hired to do a talk-‘n’-draw. (Hm, I think I just coined a new word.) On the Art of Caricature, there’s enough to talk about to easily fill an hour, but the schedule of the day ended up only allowing a few minutes. As it turned out, since zennies are a reflective, introspective bunch, questions came up while I was drawing.  I like that.  But I didn’t stop to expand on the topics that were raised; I only promised to go into them later.  Among the topics that the people I was drawing mentioned were sarcasm, awkwardness, isolating features, and how to learn this art.

This was a group of people with a robust sense of humor—oh, yes, make no mistake about Buddhists.  There was much hilarity and curiosity.  When I finally did talk, I chose to expand on one of the words that had come up:  “sarcasm.”

I told the story of how I found my start in the business of drawing caricatures.  It was the summer of 1989, August. I went to the Gold Coast Art Fair and found myself spending a lot of time hovering around a caricature artist named John Murawsky.  He was good. I studied his technique and kept track of the $20 bills he shoved into his pockets.   Being a lover of faces, a life-long limner, and hard up for cash at the time, I decided to practice drawing caricatures.  “I can do this,” I said to myself and went home to draw faces from high school yearbooks and from newspapers.  Politicians are not my favorite company but they kept making headlines with disturbing decisions in high office. I drew them anyway, for the simple reason that there was a steady supply of pictures of them to work from.  And also because their faces were famous and therefore I had to get the likeness.  I drew every day.  The same face, over and over.  Piles of paper accumulated.  The waste paper basked had to be emptied all the time.  Then I discovered something:  I couldn’t be angry with these people while drawing them.  I could start out not liking a certain politician (not naming names here), but by the time the drawing was done, all that anger was evaporated.  The drawing process requires such concentration—and empathy!—that any other emotion would get in the way and therefore has to go.

The Art of Caricature is widely misunderstood.  When I draw, people stand around me and I often hear them comment to each other that a caricaturist takes one feature, like your nose, and exaggerates it.  This is not true.  If I focus on your nose, for example, and make it either humongous or itsy-tiny, the drawing will look grotesque but will not look like you.  To get a likeness—and I do have to get a likeness—I have to consider all the features and how they relate to one another.  Not only that, but I have to understand how the culture I live in interprets the symbolism associated with the various features.  For example, a big nose on a woman is not desirable, but on a man it can be super macho and therefore , shall we say, a big plus.  Actually, this is a bit of a tangent that I may get into another time.

So, no sarcasm.  None of it, at least not in my work.  This is not to say that I overlook your big nose or your teeth (to take a couple of popular examples).  I really do go for these specifics, but not out of sarcasm. It’s the opposite.  I exaggerate your nose and your teeth as a CELEBRATION of your individuality.

Drawing as fast as I do is only possibly because of the empathy with which I see you.  Drawing is energizing for me. If I had to deal with the interference of sarcasm, that would slow me down and I would get exhausted.  That wouldn’t be any fun. And it does have to be fun—for me.  You laugh when you see the drawing and that’s therapeutic for you, but all the while the process of drawing has been good for me, too. Intense concentration and empathy are probably good for everyone. I recommend drawing for everyone, even for people who grumble, “and I can’t even draw a stick figure.”  (Even for politicians.  Especially for politicians.)

When you draw, the concentration of seeing scrubs out your brain.  Ahhhh!

This was an invigorating event. Thank you, Susan.

Dear Katherine, thanks so very much for a great session.  It was really enjoyed by everyone.  People who had their caricatures done and who were there on Sunday were just raving.

Thanks again.  It was amazing watching the process.  I liked what you said about needing to be completely open and accepting of what you were seeing to be able to do it.

See you soon. Thanks again, Susan.——————————–

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All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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The venue for this Friday afternoon party was the company’s parking lot and not even all of it.  There was no company milestone to celebrate, no theme, no big deal.  It was just the annual summer picnic.

Some food, some music, some games and some caricatures by youknowwho.  It was a sunny afternoon in September set aside for everybody’s relaxation. It’s important to relax, it’s therapy, it’s worth the money.  Smart company.  Thank you, Todd!

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://artamaze.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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