Coping With COVID-19: Art

Doodling and other forms of art are helpful for those struggling to pay attention during online classes.

Everywhere, quarantine is helping creative individuals learn more and providing an environment for reflection and development. I now have plenty of free time on my hands and have frequently found myself picking up a pencil to sketch. Throughout these last twelve months, I have gone through an artistic breakthrough, as I have the time and space to practice both new and old techniques. My figures are more fluid and color composition is cleaner. I noticed that many students who had been mediocre artists before COVID-19 hit have improved as well, showcasing their works on social media and to their friends. I decided to interview my friend, Miriam Goldstein, a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC). She, too, recalled that her art pre-quarantine was — well, she used another word — dismal. Her attention span, like many, has been awful with distance learning. As an alternative to scrolling through her phone, in which case she does not retain anything from the lesson, she finds that doodling helps her stay engaged. “And, unlike before, I no longer worry about the result. It’s all about the process, I don’t feel like there’s someone looking over my shoulder [like in school]. I am relaxed and can better concentrate on what the teacher is saying,” she said.

Many assume that drawing is a distraction, and that people won’t perceive what is going on around them. However, a study done in 2009 says otherwise. Srini Pillay, M.D. at Harvard Medical School, shared a study done by psychologist Jackie Andrade. Forty people were asked to listen to a two and a half minute voice mail message. Half were told to doodle as they listened, which meant filling in a circle with a pencil, and the other half were told not to. The volunteers were unaware that they would be tested on their memory. In the end, “when both groups were asked to recall details from the call, those that doodled were better at paying attention to the message and recalling the details. They recalled 29% more information!” I observed the same results on my own concentration. It is difficult to be engaged and listen to a teacher during online classes with none of the social aspects I normally enjoy. But when I can hold my pen and sketch doodles into my notes, I am able to actively listen to the lesson. Drawing adds some normalcy for me because I used to do it during in-person class. It is familiar; the easy motions of my hand allow my mind to grasp on to other things, such as the lesson that may have been difficult to listen to otherwise.

Drawing has been known to help with stress and it is something that you can do virtually anywhere. If you can’t draw well, that’s fine. If you enjoy it but don’t like the results, no pressure. No one’s watching. You can just sit down, listen to your lesson, and sketch. Besides making school more fun, drawing will even help you remember more.

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