Learning To Draw Remotely

Joanne Pierce wants to cultivate people’s creativity

The artist in front of sketches of a fox. (Photos courtesy of Joanne Y. Pierce)

Online art lessons? Why not. The internet, after all, is just another means of dispensing knowledge and skills.

With the pandemic lockdown, people have turned to countless diversions to help pass the time in enforced isolation.

Joanne Y. Pierce of Bayville wants to do her part during this unprecedented time. The art teacher at Holy Child Academy in Old Westbury is holding free 30-minute art classes for both children and adults every Wednesday at 7 p.m. through the end of August.

The new video series, “Pierce the HeArt Lessons,” is available on Instagram and YouTube. See more info at www.jypfineart.com/piercetheheartlessons.

Classes include drawings of horses and horse settings, and episodes will follow a traditional art classroom setting. Pierce plans to have on-site solo lessons at various scenic locations around Long Island, highlighting her favorite horse farms, vineyards, beaches and other scenic places.

“Triple Crown Winner Montage” is a colored pencil on a 20×30 illustration board, and portrays Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and American Pharoah. It is exhibited at the prestigious Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Saratoga.

Pierce has a decades-long career in teaching and creating fine art for both children and adults. She and her son, Tom, created Pierce the HeArt Lessons in the summer of 2019, aided by a Kickstarter campaign for the pilot episode. The 30-day campaign raised $23,531 from 40 backers, topping the goal of $22,500.

“In a world where public arts funding and arts education budgets at schools and arts town councils are being cut, Pierce wants to play an integral part in filling the creative and therapeutic void that so many human beings are experiencing in the modern world,” stated a press release. “With the rise in the convenience of on demand and on-the-go content digestion, it is clear that the future will favor a series that is crafted specifically for easy and efficient mobile consumption.”

A Life In Art

Pierce grew up in Port Washington and told Anton Media Group, “I always loved to draw, especially horses. I had very talented people on both sides of my family. I remember as a child drawing with my grandfather.”

She added, “My earliest memory [goes back to when] I was six years old. I did a drawing of a horse and brought it to school and got a lot of encouragement. And from then on I had the most wonderful art teachers in the Port Washington schools.”

Pierce attended SUNY New Paltz from 1975 to 1979 and earned a degree in art education.

“It was a great experience because they had the greatest art school there,” Pierce said of the college.

Unfortunately, teaching positions were hard to find at the time.

She followed a lot of her friend who landed jobs on Wall Street, and for three years worked as a compliance officer at Bear Stearns. The firm earned infamy later when it failed during the financial crisis of 2008.

Pierce recalled a friend telling her, “Joanne, this is Wall Street, not Sesame Street.”

She added, “At some point, I said to myself, ‘I have to leave here and do my passion.’ People told me, ‘You’re so brave, Joanne. And I said, ‘Well, I’m either brave or very foolish (laughs).’ Then I went on to resume my art career, my passion.”

She had started a family and began substitute teaching, working for long stretches in the Mount Sinai district and at a private school in Miller Place.

“Hunter Pace—Old Westbury Gardens, NY” is a 16×20 illustration using colored pencils on illustration board.

“It such a joy, an absolute joy,” she said of those experiences. “A dear friend of mine worked at Holy Child Academy for many years and she kept encouraging me, ‘Joanne, you have to work here. It’s such a nice place with wonderful people.’ Fortunately, [I was hired] two years ago.”

In addition to being employed as an assistant teacher, Pierce also worked the private school’s summer camp last year.

The pandemic closed the school in March and the summer program was trimmed back, so Pierce and her son began concentrating on Pierce the HeArt Lessons.

“The idea behind it is that so much is online now,” she observed. “My son encouraged me to teach online. I was thinking of opening a brick-and-mortar art school, now that my kids are grown and on their own.”

But after talking things over with her son, Pierce realized that the internet was the best way forward.

“There is so much content, and you could reach more people, people on the go, people at home,” she explained. “My son got me interested in doing that and helping me to understand social media, because I’m not really of that generation (laughs).”

Asked how the lessons are going, Pierce replied, “It’s been fantastic. We reach people all over the world. And it’s been wonderful.”

“In person you get immediate feedback, you can see what people are doing. How is it teaching art online?” she was asked.

“Pemaquid Point Lighthouse” is described by Pierce as “a beautiful and historic  lighthouse that sits with purpose at the tip of the Pemaquid Neck, Maine.” This colored pencil on paper is merely 5×7 inches.

“It took me a while to adjust to that,” she admitted. “It is very different. We get a lot of very nice feedback afterwards and it seems to be effective.”

Tom added, “A lot of people seem to be coming back and watching [videos] again. The Instagram live is like a lecture hall. We’re just speaking to the camera and people are watching and drawing along.”

He added, “We do have some more intimate one-on-one or with a few lessons launching soon where there’ll be feedback throughout it all.”

Tom noted that the online experience has “allowed us to have private lessons with people in California. My life mission has been to get my mom out there to the masses. She is a very special person and a very special teacher.”

Tom concluded, “Our goal was to fill the void in cuts in public arts funding even before the pandemic, and we want to give these lessons for free.”

Joanne said what she is offering is beginner art lessons and if people missed some of the earlier lessons it was easy to get on Instagram and follow along as every lesson has been archived.

“They’re also available on YouTube,” Tom added.

“I try to incorporate tips for more advanced people in the lessons and I keep it simple, with not expensive supplies. Just a piece of paper and a pen or pencil,” Joanne stated. “My goal is to get people back to being creative. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry how it looks. Just get started.”

More advanced lessons are forthcoming, and will be available via a platform yet to be determined.

Inspired By Nature

Pierce said she used to come to Bayville, on the shores of the Long Island Sound, when she was a teenager, and enjoyed the arcade and restaurants.

“What is cool is that we have pictures of my grandparents and my great-great-grandparents out here in 1909. They would come out from Astoria in the summer and have a cottage out here,” she said.

“Fox Portait,” according to a description, “originally started off as a sketch study for Joanne and her students. After falling in love with the subject, Joanne turned it into a formal sketch.”

Pierce also spent her childhood on the ocean beaches from Jones Beach to Montauk, and her mother was partial to Robert Moses State Park. They also visited Tobay Beach, where her uncle and his friends liked to surf.

“It’s a nice time of life, with my children grown,” she said of the present. “I’m right across from Charles Ransom Beach and every night I wish I had 50 more years to live because of the beautiful sunsets. I wish I could just go out there and paint every night.”

“I was always inspired by the beauty of Long Island,” she concluded. “Growing up, I loved the farms and the potato fields. And I love the beaches, so I do a lot of landscape painting as well. But my favorite subject is horses.”

About The Artist

Pierce has exhibited her pieces in galleries across the northeast. These include the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, the Fitzgerald Gallery in Westhampton Beach, Guild Hall in East Hampton, Farmington Valley Arts in Avon, CT, and Woods Hole Art Gallery in Cape Cod.

Pierce illustrated this book by her sister. It is set in Port Washington.

She illustrated Mint’s Christmas Message, a story written by her sister Mary Yaiullo Spitz. According to Pierce’s website, “A beautiful sermon by Mary’s father-in-law has been exquisitely crafted into a critically acclaimed children’s book, visualized through Joanne’s beautiful illustrations.”

“One of the greatest pleasures in Joanne’s life is to donate her time and talent for the promotion of horsemanship, equine rescue, and therapeutic riding programs,” her biographical sketch noted.

Among the programs supported by Pierce are the Ireland Funds, EQUUS Foundation, the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation , the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center, the Middleburg Classic , Rising Starr Horse Rescue, the Real Rider Cup, New Vocations, Retired Race Horse Project and the Fair Hill Thoroughbred Show.

For more information,  email mail@jypfineart.com.

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Frank Rizzo
Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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