Thanks to technology, artist can teach to worldwide audience

Tipp City instructor focuses on watercolor painting, doodling.

TIPP CITY – As the COVID-19 pandemic continued, Rusty Harden brought the world of art to people around the world.

A local artist, Harden pre-pandemic routinely offered classes from her Tipp City studio but eventually had to suspended in person classes – even with social distancing – as COVID-19 grew.

To keep her art alive, Harden, who was making videos of her nature hikes for her Facebook page, decided to try showing watercolor videos.

“I painted and told what I was doing. Sometimes I would have 200 to 300 people viewing,” she said.

After seeing the viewer response, Harden, who taught herself use of needed equipment and the Zoom platform, came up with doodle classes along with watercolor classes via Zoom.

Children as young as 4 and adults of all ages have participated in doodle classes that are free and watercolor classes available for a nominal free.

She has been fortunate to have had sponsorships of the doodle classes for youth from the Tipp City Area Arts Council and a private citizen. Other sponsors always are welcome.

Offerings are available on Eventbrite through Rusty Harden Studio.

The classes have drawn participants from around the world.

The difference in time between Jackie Gough’s home in the United Kingdom and Tipp City didn’t stop Gough from participating in a Harden class.

“It never occurred to me to look for online classes,” said Gough who learned of the classes via Facebook.

She participated in a doodles class. “Doing the doodles have really lifted my confidence. I even started to color them in,” Gough said of the scenes created with the doodles demonstrated for participants by Harden.

Gough, who described herself as a mom and grandmother, said she spends a lot of time in her home, even more so during the pandemic. “I have met people around the world on the class,” she said.

Although drawing is new to her, Gough said the Zoom classes have inspired her. “It is really stretching my comfort zone, in a good direction, I think,” she said.

Theresa Smith of Tipp City said she has taken watercolor classes from Harden for years. She said she has struggles with a disability, which can be isolating in normal times, let alone during the pandemic.

“With the pandemic, these classes have opened the world to us. We’ve made friends from every corner on Earth,” she said.

“She has been our haven, our place to go. … We can go into the doodle and that is all we are focused on for the hour,” Smith said of Harden.

Preparing for the classes is time-consuming, Harden said. When she saw the number of participants from the United Kingdom, she scheduled a class in UK time. Other participants are from Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and France.

When the class is underway she describes what she is doing, explaining how doodles of various shape can then be combined into a larger image.

“I say It is OK if I make a big mistake, I make it into something else,” Harden said. She encourages children to be themselves while being respectful.

The classes have been important to her during the interruption of normal activities this past year, Harden said.

“I can brag and say I have students all over the world,” Harden said. “There is some currency that is not money.”

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