School-age kids and aspiring artists of all ages interested in animation have a great opportunity this week to learn from one of TikTok’s popular toon creators, Audrey Hopkins (a.k.a. Audity Draws) thanks to a free online class presented by Varsity Tutors. Open to all ages and targeted at grade levels 3 to 7, the free 45-minute session Character Creation & Animation: A Live Draw-Along will be held Monday, July 19 at 4 p.m.
Learn to create and draw iconic characters full of personality — and do it with simple shapes and just the right amount of detail. Join Audrey Hopkins, known worldwide as Audity Draws, for a live draw-along as you explore the art of drawing human faces and making them come alive. You’ll leave class with an animated character of your own, plus collaborate with Audrey as she creates the ultimate character to define “summer.” Bring some sharpened pencils and plenty of paper, and be ready to draw on your curiosity and creativity.
“Any time we’ve run classes or events around art and drawing, we’ve gotten tons of interest and registration. Along with space exploration and wildlife appreciation, art and animation are in our top tier of enrichment activities,” said Brian Galvin, Varsity Tutors’ Chief Academic Officer. “Our mission as a company is to connect learners with experts, anytime and anywhere, so seeing the huge interest in art and animation we looked at how to get kids access to inspirational experts and that led us to partner with social media superstars like James Lewis and Audity Draws, and with DreamWorks and its animators for Boss Baby and Madagascar. We want kids to see that there’s a promising future in art, and to learn from prominent artists that art isn’t an innate ability but a skill that takes practice and lots of trial-and-error.
“Our big goals are to 1) inspire kids to pursue their passion for art and animation; 2) provide them with techniques, insights, and collaborative practice to hone their craft; and 3) humanize the creative process and the idea of artistic careers by letting them work with real people who have made it to the pinnacle, but who can admit to making mistakes and having to learn along the way.”
Galvin, who developed the curriculum and will be emceeing the Character Creation & Animation session, caught us up on the platform’s animation offerings during a recess break from his busy schedule!
Animag: Why is it important for Varsity Tutors to offer arts/creative career classes as well as more “academic” subjects?
Galvin: This may sound cliche, but we really believe that learning is a state of mind. Whenever kids see learning as a fun endeavor, more challenge than chore, and as a continual growth mindset of trying and learning new things, that trickles back to the subjects that they don’t love as much. So offering non-academic options really does help improve academic outcomes: it sets that precedent that learning and growth can be fun and fulfilling.
We also believe that we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to expand access to education and immersion in important subjects that are hard to do, or just not prioritized, in traditional schools. Traditional schools do their job really well, but that job is to offer programs for the few hundred learners that live in that neighborhood, so they tend to offer more general overview classes and clubs in things like art and don’t have the ability to have deep-dive art or animation programs for the handful of learners who are really passionate and want to fully immerse. As an online platform, we can find the topics that are important to a handful of learners in each city and pool those kids together so that they get to find like-minded learners and get access to experts.
And if you work anywhere near the tech industry, you’ll undoubtedly know that the types of art skills you develop in something like animation are heavily prized in the world of graphic design, plus just animation itself, so it’s really important for kids who have interests and talents in those areas to have a way to indulge them.
How do the young students and your guest instructors respond to these virtual programs for budding artists?
The Young Animators summer camp is one of our most popular camps by far, and kids seem to really love it. There’s so much camaraderie in being creative in a small group of fellow campers, and such pride in seeing skills develop day by day and getting those “a-ha” moments of discoveries, like holding a pencil a certain way for broad shapes is much more effective than the fine penmanship you’d use for detail.
The celebrity teachers might be having even more fun. I actually just wrapped a film session with graphic artist James Lewis and he mentioned multiple times how much fun it is getting to toss in humor and playfulness to make classes and recorded mini-lessons really whimsical and fun for young learners. It’s been really fun seeing how analytically the star instructors are approaching their lesson plans, too — they’ve all really enjoyed deconstructing their art into digestible building blocks that kids can master, and then layering on the flair to show them that the sky is the limit. There’s something really powerful about experts having a chance to think through some of the things they now do subconsciously but can make clear and tangible for learners; it’s a process they’ve all really embraced enthusiastically.
Have you encountered any big surprises as an emcee for these courses?
The most surprising thing for me is seeing how these experts’ techniques really work — even for someone who is a terrible artist like me! While I’m too self-conscious to show my sketches on screen, I always draw along with the draw-along classes — I mean, what a cool opportunity that my job is to be in these classes taught by absolute masters of their craft, right? — and in every class I come away thinking, “Wow, had I known that when I was eight I’d have really loved art!” I think that’s one huge piece of value we’re offering, that artistic ability isn’t something you have to be born with, that there are techniques you can learn that take practice but that if you really want to become an animator or artist it’s very possible for you.
So, are there plans to grow the animation course catalog at Varsity Tutors?
We’ve seen a ton of interest in our large-format StarCourses and our weeklong summer camps, so we’ll have year-round Young Animators Club groups during the school year to give kids more opportunities to develop their skills and interests throughout the year. And those students will get extra behind-the-scenes access to some of the StarCourses with our “live studio audience” programs. We’ve also partnered with DreamWorks to do StarCourses around some of their most popular animated series and movies, and will have other really prominent artists and animators in the StarCourse series, too. Ultimately, it’s an art series so we’re excited to (pun intended) get creative with it!
Any other insider tips our readers should know?
The StarCourse classes always say that they’re geared toward a general age range, but a poorly-kept secret is that learners of all ages really enjoy these things. So, parents don’t have to sheepishly watch over their learners’ shoulders. If you have an interest in how animation works or have always wished you were a better artist, you’re absolutely welcome in class. I don’t know that I would have thought to enroll in one if I weren’t the emcee, but I’m absolutely hooked on them (and yes, a few of my in-class drawings have ended up on the refrigerator).
L.A.-based artist and character designer Audrey Hopkins has amassed over 12 million followers on TikTok @auditydraws since she began posting her artwork and lively character creation exercises in 2019. Professionally, she has created characters for comic books, cartoons, games, music videos and more for the likes of ShadowMachine, Space Bass Production, Defy Media, various record labels and the State of California.
Character Creation & Animation with Audity Draws will be followed Thursday, July 29 by “Drawing with DreamWorks, featuring Boss Baby,” a free 45-minute draw-along with animator Paul Schoeni aimed at grades 2-6. Varsity Tutors’ Young Animators Camp runs through summer, offering two-hour sessions for several age groups from early grade school to high school with smaller class sizes, priced at $20 per hour.
Learn more about Varsity Tutors and see available courses across a wide range of subjects at varsitytutors.com.
See more of Hopkins’ work at audreyjhopkins.com and find her social hub at audity.wannadraw.com.