‘Draw lightly’: Kenny McBride’s video tutorials are imperfect works of art

Under the Safer at Home order, local artist Kenny McBride is predicting that people, especially students out of school, are going to be picking up some new habits and he wants to make sure they’re good ones, as in artistic ones.

So, over the past two weeks, Monday through Friday, McBride has produced several full-on YouTube art tutorials for anyone wanting to learn how to art, from drawing a simple cloud to recreating Van Gogh’s Starry Night. All a viewer needs is a pack of crayons and some paper.

“The mission for McBride Arts channel is the same as it is for the mural company ran by my wife and I, to inspire people in their spaces,” McBride said.

McBride and mural-making partner and wife, Anna Schoendorfer McBride, had five murals they were supposed to paint at 95th Preparatory School in Los Angeles, but all were postponed due to school closures. They’re not sure when they’ll be permitted to finish them.

Soon after, he posted the first video of this recent series, and committed to posting one tutorial every weekday. McBride calls his home-bound viewers, “stay at homies.”

As cheesy as it sounds, the Crayola-versed artist has a knack for coaxing creativity out of the least creative person through a drawing tutorial that utilizes, for example, a jelly bean shaped pug. With Bob Ross-like bursts of insight, McBride walks students through the process, assuaging even the most anxious, young and old perfectionists to let go.

“I know sometimes it’s scary to think, ‘Oh, everything I do has to be perfect,’ but that’s part of moving through the artwork,” McBride says warmly to the camera. “That’s part of the journey, is perfecting it as you go. So, don’t feel like things just have to land perfect every time. You can scritch, scratch, make the wrong line, go search for the other one. So draw lightly.”

McBride’s love of teaching is apparent throughout his tutorial videos, but it hasn’t come without practice. His first job out of high school involved giving private guitar lessons through Pepperland Records in Tustin. Currently, he works as an arts instructor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Using creativity to bolster his and his followers’ mental health has become more important with the world facing new difficulties when it comes to interacting with friends and loved ones.

“Creativity fosters affirmation from within, and in these times it is hard to find without visiting friends, teachers or coworkers,” McBride said. “This can lead to a sneaking sadness when not addressed.”

From drawing clouds with just a box of crayons to “scritch-scratching” master impressionist Claude Monet’s water lilies to near-perfection—McBride, the guitarist, likens impressionism to “jamming on the canvas”—he hopes his videos serve as a “daily creative checkup” for both students and their parents, offering a boost in self-esteem from learning something new.

The videos keep McBride busy, from sketching out his initial ideas, literally, to filming the lesson, unscripted, in his home studio, he edits them himself, adding any visual aides if necessary and composes his own soundtracks. When he uploads the final version, that’s when the sketching starts for the next idea. It’s all one continuous loop.

The tutorials are about more than simply giving those feeling cooped up at home something creative to engage with, but are also guiding the direction of McBride’s artistic practice as a whole. Years ago, before the Art Exchange building on Elm Avenue and Third Street had become the Long Beach Museum of Art’s downtown extension, McBride received an eye-opening critique during his residency there. His art lacked social importance, said a studio mate. It seemed, for the most part, self-gratifying.

“Following that comment I have been very mindful about my talent’s intention,” McBride said. “Locked inside the home and brimming with creative energy I have found developing the YouTube channel to be an endlessly enjoyable and purposeful outlet.”

Learn more about McBride Arts at mcbridearts.com and follow the tutorials on YouTube here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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