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The art of creating art

For Bessie Dickins visualising a new piece of art is the key to her creative process.

Bessie, who lives at ACH Group’s Milpara Residential Care Home and is exhibiting three pieces of art in the 2022 SALA Festival, is legally blind.

“I can see the art in my head, but I can’t see it on the canvas,” she said.

“As I have limited vision, it is hard work and I try to control my frustration.

“Silvia Reitenbach, the art teacher at Milpara, helps me select colours and gives direction on where to paint. She is helping me, but she doesn’t do the art for me. I appreciate this and it is very important to me – as it is my art.”

Bessie’s interest in art began in 1975 when she was inspired by the work of her friend who was talented at China painting.

“I said to her, ‘I can’t even draw stick men’, but she encouraged me to attend her China painting class at TAFE and I was hooked from the first night.”

Bessie continued to paint China until the late 1980s when she started caring for her late husband. It wasn’t until she moved into Milpara that she re-engaged.

The ACH Group arts community will show over 100 pieces in three exhibitions as part of the 2022 SALA Festival held throughout August.

Bessie has submitted three pastel on canvas works titled: ‘On the Third Day’, Russell Falls’, and ‘At Noon’.

On the Third Day

Pastel painting by Bessie Dickens 'Third Day'

On the Third Day is inspired by Easter Sunday.

“I was up early on Easter Sunday and as I went back to bed, I went to see if the sun was up. The sun was just coming up and the sky was beautiful, it was full of colour and serenity. The big gum tree that I look out on from my room was completely still – there wasn’t a breath of air, and I was overcome. I am a Christian and I said to myself ‘he has risen’.”

Russel Falls

Pastel painting by Bessie Dickens 'Russel Falls

Bessie’s second piece, Russell Falls, is inspired by the China plate she painted and created into a clock for her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Russell Falls is one of Tasmania’s most treasured locations and is where Bessie’s parents once visited.

At Noon

Pastel painting by Bessie Dickens 'At Noon'

Her third piece is At Noon.

“At Noon is completely different to On the Third Day. Easter Sunday is light and fresh and is a new life, whereas Good Friday is a sad, dark, quiet day, which is reflected in the painting.”

Bessie said the thought process is what she most enjoys about art.“It makes me think. When I start something new, I must think what I want to do, I need to think about why I want to do it, how will I do it, what is the meaning behind the work, and so on.

“Friday afternoon is art class. I will put any other day away for people, but I will not change art for anything unless it is a very important medical appointment.”

ACH Group CEO Frank Weits said the benefits of engaging in art are endless and that is why the South Australian aged care provider has a significant art program in the community and within its residential care homes.

“Art stimulates imagination, enhances problem solving skills, creates a sense of accomplishment, can reduce stress and when done in a group setting is also a social experience,” he said.

“This is the 12th year the ACH Group arts community will exhibit in SALA, and we are proud that the works of customers and residents is on show in a well-known and public festival.”

ACH Group’s theme for this year’s SALA is ‘invisible threads – a celebration of connection’ taking inspiration from a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties”.

“The theme encouraged artists to reflect on and draw inspiration from meaningful connections in their own lives, which may be in response to relationships and experiences with family, friends, or the wider community,” Mr Weits said.

To learn more about ACH Group’s involvement in SALA visit

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