Reconnect with Your Inner Artist

The museums and galleries are closed, but art knows no boundaries, especially in this digital age

| 23 Mar 2020 | 12:32

"The spirit of delight comes in small ways." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Every day is new, and every day brings challenges and rewards. Because of COVID-19 we've all embarked on an unprecedented journey, but there's no reason for it not to include art and beauty. Museums may be shut temporarily, but creativity is open and unending. In the weeks to come, we'll be bringing you lots of ways to fill your days with art from home.

For tens of thousands of years, people created their own art. From petroglyphs carved in rock, to grandma's embroidery, art has suffused every culture and every age. This age should be no different. We're all artists from birth – just give a toddler some crayons, and you'll have proof. Most of us just haven't been practicing. Staying in place may give time to explore our own creative spirits, and our beloved museums and institutions are offering help.

The Met, MoMA, The Frick Collection, The Morgan Library, the Whitney, and museums around the world have countless resources for viewing, studying and experiencing their collections online. Their websites will guide you to them.

Quality Time with Hilma

Many offer lesson plans for educators. Why not take up the offer, for yourself or your now home-schooled kids? Last year's extraordinary Hilma af Klint exhibition at The Guggenheim introduced an astonishing, underappreciated artist with a wide range of interests and a unique voice. The museum's website has a downloadable pdf file with lots to learn about her and her work, as well as creative prompts. Af Klint practiced automatic drawing and writing. One of the plan's suggestions is to take an old book or magazine and black out all except every tenth word. Continue this until there are twenty words left, and use them to create a poem.

A World of Coloring Books

Color Our Collections, an online compendium presented by the New York Academy of Medicine, shares the work of hundreds of museums and libraries who've turned some of their treasures into coloring books. All invite you to play with art and see what you come up with. They’ve got everything from botanical studies to medieval manuscript illustrations to Kewpie dolls. I found a Durer woodcut from the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile and am curious to see if color will add or detract.

The Vatican Museum's two coloring books offer sketches by Bernini, Japanese woodblock prints, an engraving of the Trevi Fountain, and more. Who's to say your version won't be better than Bernini's? Whatever you produce, the result will be a new creation, and you're encouraged to take a picture and share it with the hashtag #colorourcollections. Then, take your artwork beyond the page as a starting point to find out more about traditional Japanese dress, Roman fountains, and Renaissance art. You'll emerge wiser and with a new artwork, and you can boast that you collaborated with Bernini.

Drawing and Collage

A website called Drawspace provides online drawing lessons – some free. If you can make squiggly little circles (and you can), which they call "squirkles" they'll guide you through drawing your own forest of spruce trees. It's a new path to explore, and one that may take you to unexpected places.

The Parrish Art Museum in the Hamptons suggests home print making, or my favorite, learning to make a collage. Great artists like Romare Bearden, Robert Rauschenberg and Hannah Höch took bits of found material from magazines, newspapers, advertising, and packaging and recombined them into powerful, often provocative works of art. A downloadable pdf leads you through gathering snippets of paper, organizing them into a color wheel, finding a work in their collection (or anywhere) that speaks to you, and reproducing it as a collage.

Go Ahead and Dance

After sitting at your easel, desk, or kitchen table for hours as artists do, it's good to take a break to stretch and move. The American Ballet Theatre's got your back. Literally. People can tune to ABT's Instagram site for daily lessons in ballet movement given by dancers and teachers from the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Says ABT's Delia Brengel, "The classes are free and open to everyone. While geared towards children ages 2-8 and their parents or caregivers, we encourage all who are interested to tune in and enjoy."

While our horizons might be somewhat limited for a while, it's a perfect time to expand your spirit and mind. Surprise and discover yourself by nurturing your inner artist. Then just enjoy it or post and share it with the world.