Touch Drawing as a communication tool when few means of communication are left
by Madelyn Pitts
A dear friend of mine has been dealing with encephalosis; an organic disease of the brain. The doctors think that a virus attacked her cerebral tissues and is destroying it. The process is irreversible and untreatable. Being able to share Touch Drawing with PJ was a way for me to communicate how much I love her. Touch Drawing gave PJ a way to communicate to the outer world through connecting with a part of herself that is becoming inaccessible.
Here are my notes about doing Touch Drawing with P.J. Dunlap.
From P. J.: (PJ is unable to talk, but agreed that this statement was aligned with her thinking) I have been an artist all my life, showing my watercolors and ‘clay paintings’ in galleries in Washington and in my home studio for many years. Illness now makes that impossible. Touch Drawing gives me a way to engage with color and shape – to use my hands – in a way that I have not been able to do in a long time. Touch Drawing gave me the gift to discover that I could still play with color and be so engaged that I did not think about anything else.
From Madelyn: The gift for me was seeing P. J. so engaged in the creative process. P.J. sat in her wheel chair at the dinning room table. Her use of her hands is limited so I positioned a piece of plexiglass so the surface would be easily accessible for her. In the first session she picked two colors to work with (blue and purple) and I spread them on the plexiglass and positioned paper for her, removing it to dry, re-braying the paint, and replacing paper as she needed. We played lovely music of her choosing and gave P.J. as much privacy as possible, making the dining room her “studio.” She painted for about 90 minutes.
For the second session, which was four weeks later, she chose to work with red paint. I spread it to create a small rounded space towards one corner of the plexiglass and she added design to paintings from the first session. The paintings make strong statements as abstract designs but, like clouds, many forms from nature are there to be discovered by the viewer. While P.J. painted I played a set of three crystal bowls tuned to different chakras. She was more involved with each painting this time but tired more quickly. It was a shorter session. It was such a gift to get to do this with my dear friend!