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While the majority of the world population has been sheltering in place in the last few months, a (relatively) small percentage of us have been exploring the unique thrills of online adult art education. While art schools remain shuttered, many art educators have figured out how to utilize a combination of platforms to extend their skills to a wider audience.

I have been fascinated by how diverse the offerings are.  I also encourage anyone with even the smallest interest in this area to explore this emerging field of interactive art education.

I learned to paint in the atelier style, at a local community art school (IS183 in Stockbridge, MA). I was fortunate enough when I first lived in this area to benefit from the skills of a Berkshire-area painter who was not only talented in painting, but extremely gifted in art education: Pat Hogan. Pat no longer teaches at IS183, so when I decided to refresh my watercolor painting skills last year, I discovered an online art educator: Birgit O’Connor. Birgit is using the Teachable platform to offer a wide range of watercolor painting workshops that extends what she offers in-person.

Both are wonderful painters who encourage taking risks and having fun.  While I doubt I would be where I am from a skills point-of-view without Pat’s inITIAL guidance, Birgit’s online workshops are seriously good.  The online format also allows her to share her vast store of knowledge in a semi-permanent way: her pre-recorded videos are always available to workshop participants, as are the helpful materials lists.

Pre-recorded “over-the-shoulder” videos are not all of online art education, however.  The other components are of course: critiques and class interaction.  For Birgit’s approach, these are both offered via the omni-present Zoom. While I am not the only one suffering “Zoom fatigue” these days, I do readily acknowledge when it is helpful and functional, and an online class (with chat) is a great use of Zoom.  If you miss a workshop meeting, being able to record and access a workshop meeting after-the-fact is also useful.

An example of a slightly different way of tackling online art education is Patti Mollica. I am still in the middle of an excellent workshop she is giving on painting loosely with Acrylics, and am impressed at the way she has constructed her workshop around a mix of a) Zoom b) Vimeo, c) imagery slideshows, and d) Facebook groups (where participants post assignment work and she comments).

During Patti’s Zoom calls she discusses pre-recorded painting demonstration or shows examples of work from various modern or contemporary artists. She has remarked that in many ways the online format allows more interaction for itss participants because everyone gets a chance to see and comment on each other’s work (unlike in a compressed, in-person workshop, when you’re in your own world). I have found the Facebook Group interaction to be extremely lively and am fascinated at the range of work from the globally-based participants.

Last but not least, I would like to give a shout-out to the video-only art instruction some of which is really excellent. YouTube has an enormous library, but there are pre-recorded video instruction subscriptions (like Artists Network) with many excellent instructors in a variety of media. There are also talented individual instructors like Will Kemp who appears to have conquered the area of how to apply modern materials to the field of classical drawing and painting. Talent abounds in online art instruction.

You just have to watch some of it to reap the benefits.

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