Online Art Instruction

         During the present COVID-19 outbreak many schools and businesses have switched to online formats in order to continue serving their clients. Squak Art Studio has followed suite so that more kids, teens and adults can enjoy art wherever they are. If you have a computer, a smart phone, and some art supplies, then you can study from home or elsewhere. Click here to see a list of supplies and materials. To reserve a place in class, click on the 'Register' tab above. Below is a guide to online classes for those who are enrolled.

Getting Set Up

         Online art classes will follow the same general structure as in-studio classes in terms of curriculum, skills and schedule. Clients will need the following to participate:

·        A fully charged smart phone and/or computer with built-in camera. Keep a charging cable nearby, as video conferencing uses a lot of power. Having software installed and open on both tools is ideal. An external USB video camera is also an easy way to share images, but not required. A tripod is handy, especially one with flexible legs.

·        A Microsoft Teams account. Click here to register and request an invitation to your classIdeally students should have the app installed on both a phone and computer. 

·        A pencil kit and at least one other color kit. Materials for several mediums are encouraged but not required. If you have limited access to resources, meaningful learning is still possible using a regular #2 pencil and copy/sketch paper.

·        A book stand, music stand, table easel, or some other means to prop up art pieces so they are perpendicular to the camera. If nothing else is available, lean your art against a wall, heavy box or a stack of books.

·        Optional: A color printer, copy paper, plastic sheet protector, and dry-erase pen. Printing a physical photo reference is better than working from a computer screen.

 

Accessing Class Files

         Once you’ve set up your Teams account and your invitation request is granted, you'll have access to reference photos and other class files. This is true even when we aren’t in session. After you’ve joined, go to the “Teams” tab > "Squak Art Studio" > "General" > “Files”. You should be able to see materials like the curriculum books, color wheel, and project tracking sheets. 

         Class files and photos are downloadable, and students are encouraged to print their references if they can. For printed photos, it’s handy to have a dry-erase pen and a plastic sheet protector. Then you can draw on your physical reference rather than attempt the same on your computer.

         Your instructor will open a meeting 10 minutes before the start of your lesson. This gives students a chance to join early and get settled before instruction begins. You can join on your own by going to ‘Teams’ > ‘Posts’. Find the ‘Meeting started’ bar on the feed and click ‘Join meeting’. You can also wait to be prompted to join by the teacher. Students can maximize their instruction time by having their supplies set up before class begins.

Sharing Your Files and Progress Photos

         Occasionally students need to show their work and photo references to the instructor for feedback. If possible, open Teams on both a computer and a smart phone and join the meeting. While this can be done with just a computer, a smart phone or USB video camera yields better image quality and mobility.

         To share your work, you’ll need to post photos on the class feed. This is easiest using a smart phone. In your mobile app go to ‘Teams’ > select your class > New post (the pen and paper icon in the lower right corner) > Photos (the landscape icon on the lower left corner) > ‘Take photo’.

         When taking your photo, prop your art upright with a book/music stand, table easel or something similar. This way you can avoid casting a shadow over the piece. Watercolor artists should make sure that the work is dry before putting it upright, or it may run. Try to find good lighting. Daylight from a window and florescent light are better than incandescent light. Try to keep the camera level and still, adjusting the focus by tapping on the screen.

         Once you have a clear photo of your work, click ‘Done’. After the image is attached to your post, you can include written questions before sending (click the paper plane icon). You can also pose your questions by voice/video chat. Your photo will be found on the ‘Posts’ feed, which is the default page of the ‘Teams’ tab.

         You can also post files from your computer by going to the class feed and clicking Attach (the paperclip icon). If you have trouble posting photos on Teams, you can also email your work to squakart@gmail.com for feedback. Students are encouraged to work in Teams as much as possible, but email is a good last resort.

 

Sharing Videos of Your Technique

         In an art class your instructor often needs to see what you’re doing to give you advice. If you have an external USB camera on a tripod, it’s as simple as pointing the camera squarely at your workspace. If you are using a smart phone as a supplementary camera, then you can go to options (the triple-dot icon) > ‘Share’ > ‘Share video’ > ‘Start presenting’. Then position the camera so that the instructor can watch your technique. Press ‘Stop presenting’ when you’re done. You can also record videos on your phone’s camera app, and then post them on the team feed as you would photos.

 

Asking for Help

         The instructor will cycle through the roster of students in a regular order to give help, much as they would in the studio. You can let them know that you have questions by “raising your hand” in the team chat. Go to ‘Teams’ > select your class > click the conference window > ‘Show conversation’ (the speech-bubble icon). This will open in the class chatroom. Type a brief message like “Can I get some help?”; even a raised hand emoji works. Your teacher will address your question at your next turn.

 

Verbal Instruction

         You can get help using voice/video chat and text messages. In most cases you will need to show your progress (see the above section about posting files and photos). With voice instruction, it’s as simple as speaking into your microphone. Make sure you aren’t muted (see the microphone icon on the toolbar below your video screen).

In larger groups it’s often easier to talk one-on-one rather than in the team conference. Go to the “Chat” tab > click New chat (the pen and paper icon in the upper left) and enter/select your instructor’s username > click video chat (the camera icon) or voice chat (the phone icon) in the upper right. This will open a private conversation between you and your teacher. There’s also a share screen icon that will allow you to show your teacher what you’re working on.

 

Visual Instruction

         Your instructor will guide you with both verbal and visual cues. For the latter, the teacher will open your image in a photo-editing program and share their screen with you. They will then use a stylus to draw over the photo and break down basic shapes, key points and other tasks in the project.

         Once your teacher is finished with the step, the edited photo will be posted on the team feed. To open it, go to ‘Teams’ and scroll through the feed. When you find the photo, you can click to enlarge it. In the upper right of the window you can zoom and download the file to your computer. Be careful not to overwrite the original photo on your hard drive. Save the new file with a distinct name showing the stage of instruction; something like “mountains-step02.jpg”.

         Your teacher will sometimes demonstrate techniques such as brush strokes using video. In this case they would position their camera over their work area and show you in the video conference how to handle the materials. If you’d like a downloadable video of the instruction, let your teacher know and they’ll post a recording on the class feed.

Tips for Parents of Young Students

         Online classes pose many new challenges, both for students and teachers. This is especially true for children, but there are some steps you can take to make things easier. In the beginning, you may have to monitor your child’s class time and help them use Teams. It may be especially hard for them to post their progress for the teacher to see.

To make this easier, you can set up a bookstand or easel next to their workspace with a phone or mounted USB camera facing it. This would be set as the main video feed. For a USB camera, go to the class conference window and click the camera-and-arrow icon in the lower right to switch video sources. For a phone, go to the ‘Teams’ tab and click the ‘Join meeting’ button in the class feed.

         Once this is set up, your child can simply prop their work on the bookstand or easel when they want help. If your computer has a two-way HD camera built in, you can also set the bookstand behind the monitor so that it faces the rear camera. If you’re camera only faces the user, then you can turn the laptop toward the bookstand. Note that some computers have better cameras than others, so this solution will not be suitable for everyone.

With the transition to online teaching we all will need to be flexible and learn new skills. Your instructor will work with you and your child, using all tools available to give quality education and support. If you have particular needs or experience setbacks, please share them with staff so that they can serve you however possible.

 

Online Behavior

         As with in-studio classes, we are all responsible for keeping order and social propriety in our online workshops. Normal policies involving appropriate language and behavior apply just the same. It’s especially important in an video conference for students to wait their turn for feedback, and to use text chat rather than voice to ask for help. That way the instructor can move from student to student faster and without being distracted.

         Socializing during in-studio classes is encouraged. As much as possible, we should treat online classes the same way. This can pose problems in larger classes, especially with mixed ages present. For adult students who want to talk while they work, it’s best to go to the ‘Chat’ tab and open a new chat with the other participants of the conversation. For children and teens, it’s more appropriate to keep the discussion public so that the instructor can moderate. Before you speak, do your best not to interrupt others. This is easier said than done in a video conference. In all cases, make sure that you acknowledge the instructor when they offer help. This will keep the class flowing smoothly.

         Some new rules also need to be applied in an online context. Students are not allowed to record video or chat content at any time during the class, nor should discussions be posted outside the class feed. Doing so would violate the privacy of others in the group. If someone in the group sends you a video to show technique, it’s intended for the use of class members only and should not be shared elsewhere. However, minors can privately share class content and exchanges with their guardians.

         The use of image-altering software to superimpose graphics on students’ video feed is not permitted (e.g. don’t stick puppy ears on your instructor or classmates). In general, if online behavior is disrespectful, hurtful or distracting, then it isn’t appropriate.

         If a student is a minor, parents and guardians are encouraged to discretely look in on their lesson now and then. This helps ensure that decorum and propriety are being maintained. Students age 7 to 17 should work in a common space or a room with an open door. They should not chat alone in a closed room, even if a guardian is at home.

 

Self-Supply Rebate

         The price for an in-studio class covers materials at an estimated $5 per student per sitting. Since online students must use their own materials, a rebate system will compensate them for this cost. For every online class attended, a student’s account will be given a $5 credit which would be deducted from a future payment. This allows students to move back to in-studio classes without having to deal with tuition adjustments.