It’s been a year since I began teaching art classes online. In a year the world has changed so much—and so have I. When the pandemic hit, many independent professionals struggled to think of ways to stay in business. I remember how distressed I was in April 2020 when I realized I would have to change to be viable. I didn’t want to change. I liked things just how they were.
The old normal was beautiful. As a freelance art teacher, I travelled to various art associations, community centers, and live-in retirement centers to teach painting, a job I loved. For me, there was nothing better than making a connection with other arty people in a classroom where we did art projects, visited, laughed. The joyful feeling in the classroom was almost always reward enough, except that teaching art also was how I paid the bills.
With the mandatory lock-downs due to Covid-19, all of my normal venues (public buildings and/or places with high-risk populations) could not risk having outsiders come in and possibly spread disease. Stuck at home, I pondered how to go forward. I wondered if this new thing called Zoom was an answer and could I learn it? Clearly, I would have to become more tech savvy than I ever imagined. That was the big fear initially. “I am not a tech person,” my inner artist whined.
My left brain said, yes. Done correctly, online art classes could be such a good answer for so many people, especially students with medical issues for whom travel to class presented a hardship. If I were able to create a good online art class, those people could participate from the comfort of home. The many students who moved to other states could reconnect remotely with their friends in class. If I provided a rich digital art experience teaching watercolor painting I realized I could offer online art classes to anyone in the whole world! Distress was replaced with optimism born of possibility. It would take a lot of work, but things could be better than before.
That bigger vision and better attitude saved me. I kept faith in my resilience and read everything I could online about distance education and ways to apply that to art education. My goal was to emulate the highly engaging and interactive situation we had experienced in person when in class. Lists were made for the equipment I would need (cameras, lighting, a better website, etc.) I signed up for art classes online with other art teachers to see what their best practices were. I learned and practiced.
I think the most heartening part of the process of transition from in-person to creating a great series of online art classes was the collaborative nature of it. I tapped my tech savvy friends for advice which they were enthusiastic to provide and generous with their time. I asked some students to take art classes online with me for free for a period of time so I could practice and they could, too. Their feedback along the way aided my improvement. What seemed scary became familiar and to my great amazement students said things to me following. “I hate to admit it, but I think I might like this format even better. I can see the demos so easily and up close.” “I miss the hugs from being in-person, but I love not having to drag myself out in the rain to go to class.” “I love the bonus of getting a recording of class to re-watch for anything I might have missed.”
A year ago, I didn’t want to change but had to. I’m glad I did and feel pride at the accomplishment which feels like a team effort. My students have been partners in my success all along. Many have thanked me for giving them an artist outlet and a bit of normalcy during what was otherwise a very dark time. I’ve had to thank them right back because they gave me a reason to move forward doing what I love. I look back and, while I hate everything about Covid-19, I have to acknowledge it forced me to up my game, learn new things, reach more people.
If you would like to take a Zoom art class to see what it is like to learn how to paint with watercolors, or if you would like to take a beginning drawing class, look at my announcements on my website for upcoming events. There will be a free “Online Art Class for Beginning Portrait Painting” in May and a Beginning Watercolor Painting Class Online for people new to the medium. See if you don’t agree these are the best watercolor painting classes online.