Make the Most of Your Free Time by Making

watercolor sketch

Yesterday I went to a painting class.

It was an en plein air painting class held at Forstall Art Center in Birmingham and taught by local artist Amy Peterson. En plein air is an artsy way to say “outside,” so it was safe and easy to distance from the other students since Forstall held it in their big, back parking lot. 

  • Instructor Amy Peterson demonstrates making a thumbnail sketch to determine color value and composition.
  • Oil sketch of reclining girl
  • viewfinder for composition
  • plein air painting
  • watercolor sketch
  • lady oil painting

Art is something I’ve always enjoyed, and I recently wrote about unleashing my inner Georgia O’Keefe. Over the years, I’ve taken all sorts of classes to learn different methods or techniques. Whether it’s drawing, painting, or pottery, art classes are always just plain fun. And this class was a great excuse to get outside on a pretty fall day in the middle of a global pandemic.

Periodically when I take these classes, I post pictures of my art projects on my Facebook page, and recently one of my cousins commented that she wished there were art classes near where she lives. My reply? There probably are! You just have to look for them. 

That’s why the eighth lesson I’ve learned this year is that if you have an inner artist, it’s never too late to explore all the things you ever wanted to do and learn how to do them.  (Read lessons 1-7 here.)

This pandemic has given us the gift of free time. Remember back in your “normal life” when you’d talk about all the things you’d do “if you just had the time?” Well now you have the time. Do them! 

Now you might have to get a little creative to find the perfect class for you, but here are some suggestions on where to find them. 


  • Local Museums — Many museums not only offer children’s classes, but adult classes as well. For example, last year I took an embroidery class at the Birmingham Museum of Art. You’ll likely find all sorts of different classes from calligraphy to clay and everything in between. And now, many national and international museums that you may have only dreamed of ever being able to visit are offering gallery tours and classes. 
  • Art Galleries — Don’t forget to check out local galleries too! I would have never gotten into oil painting but for a class I stumbled across at Red Dot Gallery in Homewood, Ala.
  • Art Supply Stores — Yesterday’s class was held at Forstall Art Center, but I’ve also taken classes at Alabama Art Supply. Sometimes the classes are one-time, sometimes they might be over a few days or weeks, and sometimes stores will offer a standing class where you can attend as you are able. 
  • YouTube — And if you can’t go to an art class in person, the art class can come to you through the miracle of the internet (that is, if you have an internet connection which isn’t always the case in rural Alabama and other places). Look for classes from local arts organizations like UAB’s Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham or from artists you admire or search by technique and see what pops up. Want to paint beard hair? Need to know how to embroider a French knot? Hankering to whip up a batch of homemade clay? I guarantee you it’s on YouTube. 
  • Instagram — Many artists post process videos to social media, particularly Instagram. I’m obsessed with watching these artist videos!! It’s so soothing, even when it’s sped up! Right now I’m totally into watching this artist named Clinton Hobart paint fruits and veggies. I’m can’t remember how exactly I found him, but I think it was just by searching #oilpainting. 

As you look for the perfect class, remember that your local institutions might not be able to offer all the classes at all the times they normally would. So be patient and flexible, be creative in your search, and be willing to try new things in different ways. And if you are, your inner Georgia will thank you!

(This year for #BlogLikeCrazy, I’m talking about 30 lessons I’ve learned in 2020. Read the other entries here).

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