“Those first few weeks were about getting my older students used to new technology,” he says. “For some, my classes were the only outside contact they got all week. It became a special time where they could connect and switch off from the stress of Covid-19 for a couple of hours.”
Whitehouse charged a flat rate of £5 a class and by April had seven weekly classes available, covering watercolour, acrylics, drawing, and calligraphy. Initially the clientele were mostly current students but then he started to up his social media presence.
He began by offering the occasional free paint-along sessions on the Artery Facebook page. To date those six sessions have now had more than 12,000 views, with his class on painting a bluebell wood in watercolour proving particularly popular. This resulted in new students signing up to his online classes from all across the UK as well as the US, South Africa, Australia and Canada.
“I have gone from around 50 students pre-lockdown to several hundred now,” he says. “Some classes have 40-plus people in them. The students have created their own community by sharing their work and words of encouragement.”
Whitehouse has also brought his shop online for the first time via a ShopAppy.com account. You can buy both art supplies and classes here. He is now sending parcels across the UK and sales are especially strong for products such as the watercolour brushes that students need for classes.
“I personally deliver all local orders either on foot or in my car and often have a socially distanced chat,” says Whitehouse. “My customers love buying from a small local shop. Support from brands like Visa has been invaluable in raising awareness on shopping local and falling in love with our town centres again.”