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Learning to Draw from a Middle School Art Teacher's YouTube Tutorials

In these days of Zoom and gloom, online art classes are in high demand. Long before they became a necessity, Jescia Hopper, a middle school art teacher from Fargo, North Dakota has been creating printmaking and drawing video tutorials that went viral on YouTube.

Hopper’s YouTube channel gained traction in 2015 when she uploaded a series of tutorials on drawing facial features. With step-by-step instructions delivered in a friendly, calming voice, Hopper teaches her viewers how to professionally draw eyes, a nose, and a mouth, in addition to a tutorial on facial proportions.

In a short period of time, the subscriber count on her YouTube channel climbed to more than 100,000. Her most popular tutorial, “How to Draw a Nose,” has received more than 3.3 million views. The second most popular is her video on drawing eyes, with more than 2.5 million views.

“It was really surprising to me how popular the videos got,” Hopper told Hyperallergic in a phone conversation. “I literally just made them for my 8th-graders to see if they worked well.”

Hopper, who also teaches art as an adjunct professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, has recently started streaming live “Quarantine Editions” of her tutorials. In a recent tutorial, she made paintings of household items (starting with the hot commodity of the day — toilet paper) using materials like instant coffee, ketchup, mustard, and mud as substitutes to paint. And she did that while playfully interacting with her viewers through a live chat.

“I feel I’ve been preparing for this for so long,” Hopper said, adding that colleagues have been asking her for tips on how to produce their own online art classes. “It’s helpful that I can share my knowledge of doing this with all the other teachers who are now in the same boat.”

When asked what major tip she can give to art teachers who are struggling to adapt to delivering their courses online, she said: “The best is to find the technology that works for you and learn it instead of trying different platforms. It’s going to be easier for you and easier for your students.”

Teaching art remotely is requiring educators to come up with creative technical solutions to delivering their video classes from home. “I’ve been seeing a lot of teachers building their own smartphone holders for overhead viewing out of PVC pipe, which is what I’ve been doing,” she continued. “It’s nice to see people being resourceful.”

As schools and universities prepare for an extended closure until fall, Hopper is reluctantly adapting to a new reality in which she can only interact with her students online.

“I miss my students terribly,” she said. “By doing these live streams, I can still connect with them while sharing these classes further with other people who might be struggling from being alone all the time.”

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