A long and entirely subjective list of creative challenges to get you through COVID-19

Trying to keep busy during quarantine? Join the club — these clubs.

Trying to keep busy during quarantine? Join the club — these clubs

The #30DayArtQuarantine is one of countless Instagram art challenges that have popped up in our new age of social distancing. (@thejealouscurator/Instagram)

It's not like you're bored. Between work, assorted life stuff and any number of pandemic-related additions to your daily routine — scheduled doorknob bleachings, the Estelle Getty workout, an unusually active calendar of WhatsApp dates — the COVID-19 lifestyle is B-U-S-Y. So if you're desperate for an outlet, it's not because you're in sloth mode. If you're stuck indoors, you're going to use this situation to your advantage, and it's time to get creative, try a new skill and connect with people in the process (from the extremely safe social distance of online interaction, of course). Here are a few totally free ideas to get you started, plus a bunch that are suitable for kiddos.

Make something!


It's one of countless Instagram art challenges "brought to you by the coronavirus," and it's an extremely popular one, generating a thousand posts in its first weekend. The brainchild of Canadian art blogger The Jealous Curator (a.k.a. Danielle Krysa), the game works a lot like Inktober. Krysa's posted a list of 30 words — creative prompts you can respond to daily. "Paint, draw, photograph, sculpt, collage...whatever you like," she writes. 



The Quarantine Art Club, founded by American illustrator Carson Ellis, is a similar concept, though you'll need to keep checking back to her Instagram for daily assignments. Past challenges include "self-portrait," "continuous line contour drawing" and "make your own prompts." (Hilarious.) Ellis is posting a few of her favourite user drawings to Instagram, and given the number of fridge-worthy sketches, the project is definitely family friendly. But it's attracting a bunch of pros, too. (Remember this story Salini Perera illustrated for CBC Arts? Here's the Toronto artist's take on the "self-portrait" challenge.)



Sarah Beth Morgan is another acclaimed American illustrator, but her lockdown art challenge (#DrawFromADistance) requires an eensy bit of self-reflection. Follow the prompts, and you could make it out the other side of this pandemic with a sweet, illustrated diary. (Sample assignments: "An unexpected benefit of lockdown. What makes you happy?" and "Coping mechanisms - what's your new self-care routine?")



Can't draw? No problem. The creators of this Instagram challenge have an extremely broad definition of "art," so if you're especially proud of that kitchen sink pasta sauce you made from tomatoes, soy sauce packets and a long-forgotten tin of lemon-pepper tuna, go ahead and contribute. Led by Airigami, a balloon-art company from New York State, "the only rule is you've got to use supplies and tools you have on hand."

Quarantine photo challenge

After day three, I suspect this idea might start to feel like playing "I Spy" with yourself — but therein lies the challenge. Artist Isis Ascobereta is doing a daily photo assignment while cooped up at home in Paris, and she's posting prompts so anyone can join. She says she'll be announcing a new topic each week, starting with the first theme, "colours." 



For a more educational angle, there's this weekly challenge/art class care of Montreal artist Courtney Clinton. She plans to Instagram a different classic drawing each week, accompanied by a mini history lesson. Your assignment? Grab a pen or pencil and copy the thing. Clinton's doing video demos on Instagram, too, and if you need extra instruction, she asks folks to tag her in their posts. More info on her website.

SLC Sports Drawing Competition

Does your artwork deserve more than a mere repost? Toronto illustrator Stephanie Cheng is hosting a contest through her Instagram, and the prize is 10 gloriously analog copies of your design, screen-printed by Cheng herself (plus a print from her shop — winner's choice). Entrants must create a portrait of their favourite sports star (make sure it's in three colours or less, because screen-printing). She's accepting submissions via DM. Full rules are in this post. Or if you just want to shut off your brain and colour in some pretty-pretty pictures, Cheng has you covered there, too. She's making printable colouring sheets available to her newsletter subscribers. 



The idea started in Spain, but Critical Mass — an arts organization in Port Hope, Ont. — is launching a similar project in their small town. By asking residents to make and display art in their windows, they're aiming to create an "outdoor art gallery," but participants are encouraged to share their work on Instagram, as well, and there's a contest component, too. (More info here.)

Quarantine International Film Festival

Maybe you've made peace with the notion of a long-term lockdown, and you want a project that can be developed over days, even weeks, and not hours. The Quarantine International Film Festival, created by Calgarians Spencer Streichart and Siobhan Cooney, is accepting short film submissions until April 1. Selections will be appearing on the festival's YouTube channel April 8. 

Make something (while distracting the kiddos with their own art challenges)!


Since more families are facing "stay-at-home-time," the magazine for "creative kids and their grownups" is Instagramming some of its best creative exercises. 


"Lunch Doodles" with Mo Willems

The prolific kids' author is currently the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, and fans can check in with him daily for a new episode of "Lunch Doodles," quick video art lessons, taped in his studio. 

#drawtogether with Wendy MacNaughton

If you're familiar with the best-selling cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, then you know MacNaughton's work. She started leading drawing classes for the housebound, and while they're fun at any age, they're really targeted at little ones. Grown-ups: hand over your devices starting at 10 a.m PST. That's when classes begin on Instagram Live. She has a new lesson every weekday.


Trisha Zemp's Stop Motion Kids Camp

It's technically just for kids, but if you're a social media manager who's #wfh, bookmark this link. (Trisha Zemp's twee, minimalist aesthetic is Instagram incarnate.) Learn the basics of stop-motion animation through her free online course. 


If you know a kid who's constantly drawing Spider-Man, this is their chance to learn from a pro. Irish comic book artist Will Sliney started a Twitter challenge for school kids stuck at home, and due to overwhelming response, he's started offering free art classes on YouTube, too. Join in the fun by following #wewilldraw. 

Printables from Elise Gravel

For years, this Montreal artist has been offering kid-friendly colouring sheets and other fun printable activities via her website, and she has a few timely additions.


Oakville Galleries 

Like most arts institutions around the country, the Oakville Galleries is closed, but they've found a way to offer kids programming online. Fresh at-home activities will be added to their Instagram and Facebook pages every Wednesday and Friday.


Over in Calgary, the Glenbow Museum's announced a schedule for "remote" visitors, and Wednesday mornings are dedicated to school-aged kids. Programming begins at 10 a.m. Alberta time, but head here for more up-to-date information, plus further details on all their plans.

Or learn something about art, instead!

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

You might be running out of toilet paper, but there's definitely no shortage of online museum tours — or lists of online museum tours. But in addition to opening its "virtual doors," the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts made a fulsome slate of programming available this week (audio guides, educational materials for kids and adults, podcasts, videos, etc.) and they'll be announcing new stuff daily on Facebook and Instagram.


Though the platform offers classes in a few disciplines, creative skills are really its focus — think animation, graphic design, drawing, photography. In light of current events, they're offering two months of access free to students and teachers. (According to their website, you'll need an .edu or .k12 email address to qualify for the offer.)


There are 2,000+ online courses smashed into this online catalogue, with offerings ranging from free to dirt cheap. Complete an intro to classical music (at Yale) or learn the basics of graphic design (at the California Institute of the Arts). Your call, really. You'll probably burn through half a day just weighing your options.

Class Central

As if you needed even more to browse, this website compiles free online course listings from all over. One helpful feature: you can search by start date. (As of writing, there are 155 listings for art and design classes launching next week.)

CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there's something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at See more of our COVID-related coverage here.


Leah Collins

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.

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