Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Arts & Culture
Published on April 27, 2020
With schools closed, kids all over the world "draw together" in SF illustrator's free daily lessonsPhoto: Wendy MacNaughton/Instagram

When San Francisco-based illustrator Wendy MacNaughton started hosting online daily drawing classes for kids stuck at home, she thought it was going to be a short series: a few minutes a day for five days, that's about it.

But "the response was so overwhelming," MacNaughton said, "and the need was so great, we committed to doing it basically as long as schools are closed."

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BIG NEWS! Draw Together class will continue every school day for the rest of the school year!! M-F from 10-10.30 pst on instagram live (in my stories) and then they stay in my stories for 24 hours. We’re working out how to host all the classes somewhere permanently - stay tuned!! Meanwhile, today we did the Friday dance (cause it’s Friday, that still means something, right?), and drew a cabinet of shapes and made a birthday card for a friend/family member whose bday parties got quarantined. In future classes we will have special guest teachers and maybe even a field trip to the.... back yard? Art assistant Caroline, Suso the Dog and I cant wait to draw every school day with you. ***Everything is better when we DRAW TOGETHER.*** See you in class on Monday!! Ps. For everyone saying they want more Suso The Dog in the class, yes yes, we hear you!! #drawtogether

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The idea came about, MacNaughton said, from a conversation with her parents the night before San Francisco Unified School District sent students home for the rest of the year.

"My mother, because mothers are awesome, suggested doing an art class for kids," MacNaughton said. "It was kind of a no-brainer. The idea is, we're all in this together, and if we don't have kids and other people do, it's kind of our opportunity to step in and help out in the way that we can."

The result, Draw Together, is a half hour live drawing class for kids of all ages that MacNaughton hosts every weekday at 10 a.m. Pacific on Instagram live, and later archives to YouTube.

Run out of her home studio, MacNaughton, a bestselling illustrator known for her graphic journalism, her illustration of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat,  and a host of other books and projects, says it quickly became clear to her that #DrawTogether was providing more than just a chance for kids to goof off.

"We started off thinking that it was going to be a supportive opportunity for learning and creativity," MacNaughton said. "We didn't realize what kind of an emergency relief service we'd be providing."

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Weekend #DrawTogether project: Let’s make ink! #DrawTogether took a field trip to visit the Wizard of Ink @torontoinkcompany (aka Jason Logan) and he taught us to make our own ink out of stuff in our kitchen. Here are instructions to try it yourself using beets, red onions and blueberries. 1. Kids, you MUST do this with a grown up, and always ask before using any ingredient. 2. BEETS: peel, cut and boil a red beet until you get bright pink-purple syrup. Let it cool. Dip brush in beet juice. PAINT. 3. RED ONION: cut 1/2 onion into little pieces and put in a small jar or bowl. Add about 1/3 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt. Let it sit for at least 2 hours. Dip brush in onion vinegar. PAINT. 4. FROZEN BLUEBERRIES: let one tablespoon of blueberries thaw overnight (or microwave for 45 secs on medium). Dip brush in blueberry juice. PAINT. Try changing the color of ink by adding some lemon juice, or a sprinkle of baking soda mixed with water. Other ingredients to try: black beans (soaked overnight in vinegar), turmeric, papaya, carrot juice, spinach, purple cabbage! Try boiling, crushing, and adding salt and vinegar. If you want to keep your inks to use later, strain them through a coffee filter, put in a glass jar or bottle, add a clove (to preserve the ink) and draw a label with your name on it and tape it to the jar. You are now an ink wizard apprentice!! Can’t wait to see what everyone creates with their ink - tag photos #DrawTogether and #MakeInk to share your artwork. THANK YOU for sharing your wizardry with #DrawTogether, @torontoinkcompany!! 🧙‍♂️ 🔮 🌱 🎨

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There are now kids tuning in every day from 40 countries around the world, MacNaughton said.

"They can't see their friends, they can't play and hug and hang out with their friends. Even though this doesn't replace a hug, it does give a sense of a shared activity and a creative community, and they can feel connected with other kids who are experiencing the same thing all over the world."

To help get art supplies into the hands of kids whose families can't afford them, MacNaughton also launched a GoFundMe campaign to supply Bay Area families with art kits sourced through Arch Supplies. When the fundraiser blew through its first $27,500 goal earlier this month it was extended, and will soon be used to get art kits out to families in Queens, New York and Los Angeles.

When families are facing unemployment and challenges with making rent, MacNaughton said, "art supplies totally take a back seat. It seems like a luxury, but it's not — for kids, it's a basic mental health emergency supply. For kids, art supplies are a basic need."

She said she'll continue holding the classes as long as the need exists.

"We'll keep going through the end of the school year, as long as we're needed," MacNaughton said. "The whole idea is that it's just a lot of fun. I also love it, quite honestly."