I walk into William's room and see that he has the watercolors I gave him last week, leaning against his fridge, packaging intact. I ask him several times if he wants to try something today with me. He says no, but I'm able to keep the conversation going by talking about famous painters and museums. He tells me he enjoys realistic painting but considers himself an abstract painter and likes De Kooning, Natkin, and Hopper. He shows me images of his own paintings on his phone.
We talk about what it's like to be an artist and how to keep working at it while having another career. "Is it worth it?" Like so many other people I've worked with in the hospital, William says he's now more committed to painting, then before. "You just don't know how much time you have, right?" He asks me about my process and I tell him that the first step is to establish a space to devote to art-making ONLY because once you're there, you have no excuse NOT to make art." William nods his head emphatically and says, "You are so right!" As we speak, I casually open the watercolor set that I had left with him and place it on the tray in front of him. "OK, OK, you got me!"
When faced with a reluctant patient, simply having a discussion about art can engage a patient and eventually lead them to having a creative experience. As an artist-in-residence, I've coined this process "art-talk"…the gateway to art-making.