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Online art classes to help unleash your inner Bob Ross

We’re two months into the COVID-19 crisis, and the country seems just about ready to boil over. Quarantine fatigue is real, but there are tons of productive distractions out there to help stave off the boredom. Sure, you could learn to make sourdough or kombucha. Maybe plant a garden. But another soothing and neurally-beneficial pastime to revisit while you’re sheltering-in-place is making art.

There are solid health benefits associated with creativity. A 2016 Drexel University study found that participants had significantly lower levels of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress) after 45 minutes of making art. Other research backs up those findings: a 2019 study by Brooklyn College found that just 10 minutes of drawing improved people’s moods.

You don’t have to be particularly talented to reap the benefits, either. Elementary school art class-style experimentation — think modeling clay, colored pencils, watercolors, sidewalk chalk — is just as good for your psyche as mediums that require a bit more technique, like oil painting or screen printing. No matter your skill level, there are all manner of art classes you can stream for free online. Here’s a smattering of our favorite online art lessons, grouped by medium.

Drawing

You don’t need much more than a piece of paper and a pencil to get in touch with your artsy side. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Wendy MacNaughton, the New York Times best-selling illustrator of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, has been hosting a 30-minute live drawing class for kids (of all ages) every school day at 10am PST on Instagram Live. Past workshops are also hosted on her YouTube channel.

The Design Museum in London has also been uploading really interesting tutorials since quarantine began, like this sketchbook drawing workshop for all skill levels with artist Morag Myerscough, charmingly filmed on her roof. If cartoons are more your speed, Disney artists can teach you how to draw Mickey Mouse. Illustrator Jarrett Lerner also has a slew of comic-based creative prompts and printable drawing activities on his website.

Painting

If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a landscape painter, there’s no better teacher than Bob Ross. Every single episode of The Joy of Painting, his long-running art instructional show, lives on YouTube these days, meaning you could spend the next few years, probably, mimicking Bob’s fluffy clouds and happy trees. Watching The Joy of Painting today is compelling just for Ross’s gentle words of encouragement: “You can do it.” For a more contemporary tutor, artist and teacher Sarah Simon has dozens of gorgeous, soothing floral watercolor lessons on Instagram.

Textiles

Mood Fabrics, the legendary textile purveyor with stores in New York and LA, has a bevy of tutorials on its Instagram page for the crafty and fashion-inclined. One of their most popular and accessible lessons is a tie dye tutorial, perfect for getting crafty outdoors as the weather warms up (if you’re lucky enough to have a yard).

If you’re looking to learn how to sew your own mask, there are tons of tutorials online — too many to name. Just give it a Google. But London’s Design Museum also recently hosted a virtual workshop with the Emergency Designer Network, a collective of artists who’ve transformed their practices in order to produce urgently-needed PPE for British medical workers. Check it out to learn how to contribute from home.

Clay

When was the last time you felt the cool squish of clay between your fingers? Probably elementary school, right? You don’t need to get fancy with a pottery wheel, Demi Moore in Ghost-style or anything. It’s pretty easy to craft a usable vessel by elevating the pinch pot. On Instagram, Brooklyn-based ceramics artist Marlaina Lutz can teach you how to pinch a mug.

Miscellaneous knowledge

Many folks find appreciating art just as fulfilling as making it. Gazing at a thing of beauty can be a welcome respite from the chaos of the real world. But it’s far more interesting to behold a masterpiece when you know a little background about it. To that end, the Museum of Modern Art is offering several free art courses through Coursera, such as “Seeing Through Photographs,” “Fashion as Design” and “What is contemporary art?” Quarantine is an ideal time to level-up your art IQ and take advantage of the free online resources at everyone’s disposal.