Be smart. Make art. Stay six feet apart.

I went grocery shopping this weekend. That’s when I saw them.

I see them around the same time every year—but, every year, they still catch me off guard. The boldly coloured, cellophane-wrapped omens of a new semester. School supplies.

OK, that was a little dramatic. Basically, it’s time to start preparing for the Fall 2020 semester. I know that might be hard to believe—you know, since it never really felt like summer to begin with—but, somehow, August crept up on us.

Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber have moved the majority of classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so many students (myself included) will be learning at home this fall. With that in mind, it’s important to create a study space that’s encouraging, energizing and ensures good mental health.

In other words, it’s important to brighten up your space with some at-home art projects.

Art is therapeutic. It helps relieve stress and makes you feel accomplished. Plus, when you’re finished, you’ll have a tangible creation to show off, admire, and enjoy. All of these projects have been tested by yours truly—I can confirm they make self-isolation a little easier.

Here are my picks for the best at-home art projects:

Fabric paint the town

Jazz up your old jean jacket with some joyful, jolly…fabric paint. I couldn’t think of another word that starts with “j”.

Business in the front, party in the back! Bonus points if you can guess what I based this design on.

Here’s what you need:

  • A piece of clothing
  • Fabric paint
  • Paintbrushes

Paint a design on your clothing using the fabric paint. Let dry, then set in place with an iron. It sounds simple, but it’s so fun. I painted stars on the cuffs of my old denim, a house on the back of my favourite shorts, and even did up some canvas shoes!

I never want to wear bland clothes again.

Un-tie-dye

You know that plain old hoodie from a summer camp you barely remember attending? You’ve worn it a few times—but only on laundry day.

It’s about to become your new favourite study sweater.

Who doesn’t love a good before and after?

Here’s what you need:

  • A solid-colour T-shirt or hoodie
  • Elastic bands
  • Gloves
  • Household bleach
  • Water
  • A squeeze bottle

Lay the T-shirt or hoodie out flat. Pinch the fabric at the centre of the garment and twist it into a tight spiral. Wrap two to four elastic bands around the garment to secure it. Wearing your gloves, mix one-part household bleach and one part water in the squeeze bottle. Apply the bleach solution to your garment, using as much or as little as you want, and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the elastic bands and put the garment, by itself, through a regular cycle in a washing machine. Let dry, and voilà!

You now have an un-tie-dyed hoodie. See you never, boring sweaters!

*DJ Khaled voice* another one.

Paint some pots, pick some plants

Need a study buddy? How about a study bud-dy? You know, like a plant bud?

Puns aren’t my strong suit, but painting flower pots is.

Here’s what you need:

  • A clay pot
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • A clear, liquid glue (such as Mod Podge)
  • A small plant (I love succulents)
  • Potting soil

Use the acrylic paint to decorate the clay pot. Once the paint is dry, seal your design with a layer of clear glue. Let the glue dry, then plant your new bud in the finished pot.

You won’t be-leaf how much some greenery can brighten up your room!

Get on your case

Move over, CASETiFY. There’s a new phone case authority on the scene.

Here’s what you need:

  • A clear phone case that fits your phone
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • A clear, liquid glue (such as Mod Podge)

Paint a design on the phone case using the acrylic paint. Let dry, then seal with a layer of the clear glue. Once the glue is dry, pop the case onto your phone and enjoy your personalized, handmade creation!

Setting due date reminders just got so much cooler.

Create a college collage

If you miss campus as much as me, bring that energy home by making a simple photo wall.

Here’s what you need:

  • String or yarn
  • Tape
  • Printed photos of you and your friends on campus
  • Clothespins
  • A putty adhesive (such as Sticky Tack)

Tape as much string or yarn as you desire across a blank wall. Apply a small amount of putty adhesive to the back of individual clothespins. Pinch each photo with a clothespin and stick them to the wall in front of the strings. (The string likely won’t be strong enough to hold the photos and clothespins on its own, so sticking them to the wall using putty adhesive created the illusion of hanging photos).

It’s your own personal Louvre in your living room. Who wouldn’t want to learn in the Louvre?

My sister used wooden beams as a border for her collage, but this is optional!

Doing art projects is one of my favourite forms of self-care. If these projects help it become one of yours, too, that’s great! But, whether you’re pro-paintbrush or anti-acrylic, please remember to take care of yourself—whatever that looks like for you—as we move into this mostly virtual fall semester.

Living through a pandemic is scary—it’s fine if you’re not thriving right now. You might feel like you need more rest than usual. That’s fine, too. You might feel like you haven’t worked enough to warrant taking time for yourself. That’s fine, too. You don’t need to earn your self-care.

Take a break. Paint some stuff. Get your space ready to study remotely. Have a snack.

And, most importantly, don’t be so hard on yourself.