Drawpile keeps UCF artists connected during COVID-19 pandemic

UCF students use Drawpile, a free digital drawing program, to illustrate and interact together on Sunday, Oct. 4. The UCF Art Club’s Drawpile canvas is open for all UCF students to participate in.

Amid widespread social distancing restrictions, artists at UCF are using Drawpile to stay connected and alleviate the often lonesome art process.

“Making art and then sharing the art are part of the same process," said Justin Reeves, junior computer science major and UCF Art Club president. "So much of the joy of creating something is getting to talk about it afterwards.”

Drawpile is a free online drawing program that allows users to draw and interact simultaneously on a single digital canvas. Every Sunday starting at 7 p.m., UCF Art Club officers hold a session where users can come and go freely while making conversation in the Discord voice chat.

The UCF Art Club’s Drawpile canvas is open for all UCF students to participate. After downloading Drawpile, students can join using the session’s URL and password found on the club’s Discord server.

“The beautiful thing about Drawpile is that you get that social experience while you’re making it," Reeves said. "Something that can make the often lonely art process a whole lot more fun."

The club has discontinued in-person meetings because of the pandemic. Reeves said this has impacted incoming freshmen.

“They’re not getting to meet people in person like we have in that first year, where meeting people can be so crucial to establishing long-lasting connections,” Reeves said.

Sophomore anthropology major Aisha Miller said she used Drawpile for the first time in February.

“It’s one of the many ways students can still feel they’re part of something without having to go out and attend an event,” Miller said.

Miller said she has rarely left her house in months because of the pandemic. In the past, she said being on campus made her feel like she was a part of the community.

“I’m a lot more social, but I’m not sure how social I’ll still be when we move off the digital platform,” Miller said.

Although she misses parts of daily student life, such as running into friends on campus, Miller said there are pros and cons to the entire ordeal. 

Aaron Simons, junior game design major, used the drawing program for the first time last December. He said it's accessible for students because it is free to download.

“Drawpile is free to download, which can make accessibility easier for students,” Simons said. “With the art club Drawpile sessions, we talk to each other via voice chat so the sessions are less lonely.”

Simons said he mainly relies on the club's Discord to connect with other members. 

“It’s really fun because you can bounce ideas off your peers in real time and jog the creative muscles,” Simons said. “It’s like drawing on a giant digital mural that can get bigger if the canvas gets filled.”

Sreyas Somasundaram, a sophomore emerging media major and UCF Art Club treasurer, joined the club last fall. He said most of his finished works were completed digitally.

“A lot of us students need interaction in some form and, for creative types, Drawpile is a great opportunity,” Somasundaram said.

Somasundaram said he chose to opt out of a number of classes to reduce the risk of becoming sick with the virus. Instead, he illustrates from home this semester during his free time.

Somasundaram said he believes Drawpile is a valid software for RSOs to use to keep students safe while allowing users to enjoy each other’s company.

“Drawpiles have always been a digital communion,” Reeves said. “It’s great that the Art Club still gets to keep this one tradition no matter what this pandemic throws at us.”

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