WINNIPEG -- Painting and other visual arts have all seen a surge in interest throughout the pandemic as aspiring artists explore new hobbies, and more than a year later, the demand for supplies and classes continues.

Janeen Junson, owner of Artist’s Emporium, said keeping art supplies in stock is a challenge. Blank canvases have been especially hard to come by — Junson said their distributor is two months behind in production.

“We keep ordering them and reordering them hoping to get at least 20 per cent of our order,” Junson said.

Aside from basics like canvases and acrylic paint, Junson said items like polymer clay and paint-by-number sets have been popular.

“You don’t necessarily have to have a lot of past art experience, but everyone can do it,” Junson said. “Those have been the hardest to get.”

Junson said she feels the interest in those items is driven by families participating in art together.

“It’s really good for bonding,” she said. “And I think it’s brought families together to sit around the kitchen table and paint or do something that’s not watching [television].”

However, art creation isn’t only happening around the kitchen table or in front of a computer screen.

On Monday, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) launched in-person classes for the first time in over a year. Courses include drawing, acrylic painting, pottery, and digital art. But the WAG’s Cara Mason said there’s still significant interest in online learning, especially from people participating for the first time.

“The majority of the students are brand new to art, or at least to the medium that we’re showing them,” Mason, WAG’s learning and programs coordinator, said.

Mason said most new students say they’ve always been interested in art, but until now, have never found the time.

“We’re [all] looking for something safe to do that still keeps our brains going.”

Mason said she’s even watched one student transition from online classes earlier in the spring to in-person instruction.

“The first day she showed up, I was like, ‘why are you so familiar?’” Mason recalled. “And it was because I’ve seen her face on Zoom for several weeks.”

Mason said watching the progression of students is one of the most satisfying parts of her job.

“It doesn’t need to be beautiful or perfect. It needs to make me feel good. And I think we can all use some things that make us feel good right now.”