Tag Archives: Pablo Picasso

The Doors We Open and Close

1800s log home with door covers in case of attack.

1800s log home with door covers in case of attack.

Modern Santa Fe-style door with glass art panels.

Modern Santa Fe-style door with glass art panels.

"Santa Fe Door #1"--oil painting by E.W. Strother. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

“Santa Fe Door #1”–oil painting by E.W. Strother. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)



Entrance door with gate and pergola.

Entrance door with gate and pergola.







When I visited my parents in Kansas during my dad’s last years with Alzheimer’s, I always took my mother out for a ride. Sometimes we shopped for special foods or things they needed. Other times we just started driving to see where the road took us.

We both loved houses. Not big fancy houses, but regular family houses, or old rambling houses. And we especially liked doors. As years went by and Mom started showing serious signs of dementia, I created the “Guess what’s behind the door” game. Here’s how it worked.

I’d drive along a street or around a neighborhood, and Mom was supposed to be looking for a house door that caught her attention. Sometimes I had to remind her what she was looking for; other times she’d get excited and say, “There! That one!”

I’d slow down and we’d both take a good look at the door she’d chosen. Then I’d give her a prompt and say: “When you open that door and go inside, what is the first thing you see?” (or hear? ~ or smell? ~ or feel? -~ or even taste?) Then as we drove on, we’d create a story based on how she answered the question. And always–always!–after we played this game, she was hungry and wanted an ice cream cone. (Thinking is hard work, you know.)

Through the years I’ve learned that Alzheimer’s and dementia closes many mental doors, but sometimes I can put my foot in the way before a door closes completely, and I can connect a memory or an idea with my mother. As Flora Whittemore (1890-1993) wrote: “The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” There is probably no truer statement for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s or dementia…and also for the rest of us, too.

Try the door game. Choose one of the doors on this post and imagine opening it. Create a first response for each of the senses. Your answers will lead you to a story genre–horror or romance or mystery or sci-fi or adventure, etc.–and even if you don’t want to write anything, your creative juices will be flowing! Or maybe you’ll be like my mother and just crave an ice cream cone. And that’s okay, too.

In addition to Flora Whittemore’s wise words, here are some of my other favorites about DOORS:

“Sometimes you don’t know when you’re taking the first step through a door until you’re already inside.” ~ Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

“Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.” ~ Artist Pablo Picasso

And from Dejan Stojanovic, poet and journalist from Kosovo: “He tries to find the exit from himself, but there is no door.”

Doors on a supposedly condemned building.

Doors on a supposedly condemned building.


Screened-in porch entrance door.

Screened-in porch entrance door.


Rockledge Ranch farm house.

Rockledge Ranch farm house, Colorado Springs.












Filed under Abilene Kansas, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, writing exercises


George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created...and gave up on after awhile.

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created…and quit creating after awhile.  She finally stopped wearing hats.

Dear Mom,

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” according to George Eliot (pseudonym used by Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880).  For the last two posts, we’ve been discussing sewing, embroidering, knitting, etc., and quite a few of our blog friends wrote that they wished they’d been taught to do some of those crafts.

The good news is that George Eliot was right: It’s never too late.

For instance, Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, former football player for the NY Giants and the LA Rams,  later was also a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy.  Rosey is seriously strong and rugged, and he was one of the NY Giants’ original Fearsome Foursome,  so he caught the gender-sewing issue off guard when he added needlepoint and macramé to his talents. Some of his creations became so popular that there was demand for his patterns.

And now, Mom, for my favorite “never too late” story, let’s tell our friends about your freshman year in college. At the last minute you needed a long dress for a formal dance.  When you took your gown out of the clothing bag, there was a loose thread. You pulled it, and–z-i-p!–you unraveled the entire hem.

You’d learned basic embroidery and quilting when you made your bird-pattern quilt, but you’d never learned to hem a skirt or do any practical needle work beyond sewing on buttons.

Ever resourceful, you ended up using safety pins to hold the hem in place. And when you ran out of safety pins, you finished the job with masking tape. You said that when you danced, you made an odd-sounding rustle. After that, you told Grandma you were ready and eager to learn “real” sewing.

By the time you were married and had children, you could make everything from hats (see picture) to underwear (no picture available…) You even dismantled one of your long wool winter coats and created a little coat for me. You made it with a big collar, and I was truthful when I said it made me look like “one of those people who came over on that boat.” (I think I meant the Pilgrims.) You also made a little jacket for David out of the wool, but I don’t remember him ever having to wear it.

Pablo Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

I would add this, Mom. You saw what needed to be done and asked someone to teach you the basics. After that, there was no stopping you.

Picasso also said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense,” and  you proved this point by creating hats, underwear, and Pilgrim-style coats.  But other than those few examples, you created amazing, beautiful and useful things.               Hats off to George Eliot, Rosey Grier, and Mary Shepherd!

It's Not Too Late!

It’s Not Too Late!

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations


"Riders of the Dawn" - by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

“Riders of the Dawn” – by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

"Indian Weaver"- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

“Indian Weaver”- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

Last week’s post, “Preparing For The Best,”  offered suggestions for preparing for a visit with a loved one who suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  There were many responses and additional suggestions, and I sincerely thank each of you for sharing excellent information with us.

Gallivanta of “Silkannthreades” provided this link to the “The Art Of Urging those With Dementia to Think.”  This is excellent information about the benefits of viewing art, making art and responding to art for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8739661/The-art-of-urging-those-with-dementia-to-think

Pablo Picasso said,  “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” In my experience with the failing memories of both my parents, art also temporarily washes away the confusion of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For instance, using the three wonderful paintings from the early 1900s, imagine viewing these very large, colorful paintings with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.  For “Riders of the Dawn,” the focus could be the action. Which horse do you like best? Or start with a statement: My favorite horse is this one (and point), and then ask if they agree. For early stages of dementia, you might ask, Where do you think they’re going? and let them create a story or build on a memory.

Or move on to “Indian Weaver,” and early Alzheimer’s and dementia patients might respond to the weaving and the parent and child.  The picture might trigger memories of trying to work with children around, or cute things children do.

My favorite of the three paintings is “The Peacemaker.” After breakfast at The Broadmoor Hotel’s Charles Court recently, my husband Jim and my brother David and I studied this wonderful 5’x5’ 1913 painting and debated which of the characters is REALLY the Peacemaker. Art truly does make us all think, and for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it might possibly be the nudge that triggers memories and responses.

There are no medical solutions for dementia and Alzheimer’s at this point, and there are no quick fixes or easy answers for helping those we love who suffer with confusion and memory loss.  Pablo Picasso says, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Maybe the same is true with keeping alive the attraction to art in the lives of ourselves and those we love.


With thanks to Rod of “Just Rod” for suggesting using CDs with favorite old songs, hymns or tunes; to Diana of “The Best Chapter” for suggesting that we read aloud to our loved ones; and to Nancy of “BackPorchBreak” for suggesting we look at family pictures together.

And special thanks to Clem, a psychiatric nurse of “Zachandclem,” who gently reminds us that Alzheimer’s victims’ fury has nothing to do with actual angry emotions, but with the dementia reaching the frontal lobe.

(My sincere thanks to the 5-star Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs for allowing me to photograph some of their valuable paintings and share them with you on this blog.)

"The Peacemaker" - 1913 by Ernest L Blumenschein

“The Peacemaker” – 1913
by Ernest L Blumenschein


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, teaching


Art wall next to Old Colorado City Library in Colorado Springs.

Art wall next to Old Colorado City Library in Colorado Springs.

Web creativity by grass spiders in Abilene, KS.

Web creativity by grass spiders in Abilene, KS.










Dear Mom,

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”  But I have a lifetime of experiences that confirm that this is also your philosophy.

You don’t remember, but one of the many ways you passed on the joy of creativity was when we decorated our Christmas tree as I was growing up. If we got it from the tree lot, I usually chose a sad tree with uneven branches and bare sections, much like the Charlie Brown tree that came later. I knew we could make it beautiful, and we always did. Year after year we’d string the lights and hang some special ornaments, but your philosophy was that the best art was homemade. You applauded  when we cut snowflakes out of newspaper, created our own decorations from pine cones gathered in the yard, and tied paper dolls and small toys to the branches with ribbon.  Neighborhood kids sometimes joined in because the trees at their houses were fleeced or specially decorated and delivered from the green house.

In honor of all the individual acts of creativity you applauded, I’ve created a little test on who-said-what to share with our friends who visit this blog. After all, schools will soon be letting out for vacation, and nothing says Merry Christmas like a test!

Here are the choices:   A) Carl Sandburg    B) Mary Shepherd    C) Jack London    D) Henry Ward Beecher    E) Sean Connery   F) Pablo Picasso  G) Maya Angelou  H) Winston Churchill    I) Lou Holtz    J) None of the above

Here are the quotes:

1) “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

2) “You write your first draft with your heart, and you re-write with your head.”

3) “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.”

4) “One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude.”

5) “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

6) “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

7) “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

8) “Why, honey, that’s beautiful. You’re so creative. I love it!”

9) “The stone age didn’t end because it ran out of stones.”

10) “’No comment’ is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again.”

The answers are posted in the first comment box.

If you were asked to comment on creativity, what would you say? Do you have a favorite quote from someone else? Share it with us!

Tree sculpture carved from a dead tree. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Tree sculpture carved from a dead tree. (All photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren











Dear Mom,

Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” When Molly visited you and Dad the summer she was six, the art project you set up that week required washing away the dust of the garage. For “the marble village” your grandchildren created, marbles became the people who lived in the papier mâché town built and painted on a big piece of plywood on the garage floor. (The French term made the result even grander.)

You were also the grandmother who discovered a safe-to-eat recipe for play dough. You wrapped the colorful wads in plastic, tied them with ribbon and shared them with children in the neighborhood and at Sunday school. For a long time, play-dough rings, bracelets and necklaces were local gifts-of-choice, with painted snakes and rolled paper-clip holders a close second.

Encouraging art projects was always your trademark with me, Mom. I added to the projects and passed them on to Molly, and now your great-grandchildren have joined the adventures. Recently, Grace and Gannon both made portraits of me–in the style of Picasso–and proudly presented them for framing and hanging. In our family, creativity is the result of both nature and nurture. We’ve created with sidewalk chalk, puff paints, clay, old socks and T-shirts, watercolors, sand and glass, pen and paper, and computers. It’s all good. Sometimes surprising and open to interpretation, but still good.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” (Or, in my case, figuring out how I inspired two Picasso-style portraits.)

Thanks, Mom, for encouraging our creativity.

With love from your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

(Above: Gannon’s and Grace’s Picasso pictures of Mor Mor)

(Below: Molly’s 3rd grade Indian Art sculpture with yarn)


Filed under art projects, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, neighbors, teaching