Social distancing, but make it artsy

How to bring art into your life during the coronavirus pandemic

Alternative ways to enjoy art while self-isolating.

Last Friday, Queen’s halted classes and transitioned to online courses to minimize the spread of Coronavirus. With students returning home and social distancing recommendations in effect, campus arts events are in peril.

Concerts, plays, and galleries are typically packed with people eager to get their fill of arts and culture, but these now pose too much of a risk of participants spreading the virus.

What’s an art lover to do?

Art isn’t limited to public gatherings. We can experience—and create—an abundance of art from the comfort of our own homes.

As a fine art student working in oil painting, I’ve had to figure out how to paint from home in a smaller space than usual and with less resources at my disposal. This experience is forcing us artists to think outside the box and see art in a new way. 

Galleries across the country are offering virtual tours of digitized collections and videos of artist talks available for free online to keep the arts alive and well.

Many artists are livestreaming their art—music and visual arts—on Instagram, Patreon, and even TikTok, where you can tune in to watch as their creations unfold.

In the upcoming weeks as you spend more time at home, whether you’re having digital work meetings or online classes, taking some time to dabble in the arts might be a valuable tool for de-stressing.

Maybe you have a watercolour paint set tucked away in a drawer, or some coloured pencils you haven’t used since ninth-grade art class. You don’t have to go out and buy anything to be creative. I’m a fan of sketching with a mechanical pencil that I bought at the dollar store. Anything works.

There are also quite a few free drawing apps that you can use on your phone or computer that can help spark your creativity. HeavyPaint is one popular choice for doodling on your phone. Another option is to install the Adobe suite of products, which the company just started offering for free for the next two months.

Dozens of drawing challenges are cropping up over social media as people try to battle away boredom. These will get you started on your foray into art. Check out the Quarantine Art Club, which has been posting drawing prompts every day for two weeks since March 16. 

Bob Ross’ painting series is also still on Netflix. Get your roommates, friends, or family together to have a paint night and follow along to legendary Ross’ step-by-step painting lessons to make your own serene landscapes.

If you’re already an avid artist, it might be time to experiment with a new and unfamiliar medium. Grab some magazines and make a collage of your feelings or find some old crayons and doodle; maybe even try embroidery or drawing with your eyes closed.

This could also be the opportunity to work on a skill you’ve been struggling with. Take this time at home to study perspective or figure out how to finally draw something that you usually avoid.

The practice is good for you, and having straightforward goals can help you maintain a sense of order in your life. 

This isn’t necessarily the time to work toward being the next famous artist. We live in a culture focused on ‘hustling’ and ‘grinding,’ which commodifies all of our hobbies and activities, but that isn’t sustainable.

We’ve been forced to hit pause on our productivity, and that’s okay.

I say this any time people ask me how to get better at art: you won’t unless you keep at it.

You’re not going to get better in two weeks—you’re just going to get started. This is the perfect time to do exactly that.  

Artistic talents, in my opinion, are not innate abilities. They’re skills like any other that you can develop with practice. With so much going on in the world, I find it immensely comforting to simply make something. So much is out of our control, but we can control what we make with our hands.

Whether you’re exploring art history in gallery archives, supporting contemporary artists, or drawing for yourself, take this time to find solace in art.

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