Something that comes as a surprise to many people is that I have a huge interest in visual art, art history, and art appreciation, even though I have low vision and use a blindness cane. One of my favorite tools for low vision and nonvisual art education and learning more about art is the Amazon Echo/Amazon Alexa virtual assistant, as it has several skills that can help users create their own art and appreciate the art of others. Here is how Amazon Alexa can help you with art, updated with new skills.
Alexa, name a random color
Amazon Alexa has a built-in random color generator that will give users shade names for a random color, such as lime green, canary yellow, or cobalt blue. This is helpful for figuring out color schemes for art projects, but I also use it to pick out outfits or figure out what to wear.
- How To Write Alt Text For Color Palettes
- How I Use The Stylebook App With Low Vision
- Organizing A Walk-In Closet With Vision Loss
Learning about art history with Art of the Day
Art of the Day is a free art history app that displays a new art piece every day and provides a rich visual description for each item, as well as additional historical context. On the Echo Show, the art will display on the screen, though I recommend searching the name of the artwork in a web browser to find a high resolution image, which is easier to zoom in on to see additional details.
- Amazon.com: Art of the Day : Alexa Skills
- Ten Ways Vision Impairment Influenced Classic Artists
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Smart Speakers
Art museum skills with Amazon Alexa
There are a few different art museum skills on Amazon Alexa, and I’ve enjoyed the Audio Museum of Art and Art Museum from the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Each app provides visual descriptions of various art pieces, with options for displaying art on an Amazon Echo Show or to look for high resolution images on a separate device. Users can also play audio tracks from museum websites by connecting a computer, tablet, or smartphone to the Amazon Echo and using it as a wireless speaker.
- Amazon.com: Audio Museum Of Art : Alexa Skills
- Amazon.com: Art Museum : Alexa Skills
- Amazon.com: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum : Alexa Skills
- Visiting The Museum of Modern Art With Vision Impairment
- Accessible Virtual Field Trip- Rijksmuseum
Using the Echo Show to display art
Users can turn their Echo Show device into a digital photo frame to display photos, art, and other graphics on their device, which is helpful for people who benefit from having increased lighting to look at images. Users can add photos from Amazon Photos, Facebook photos, or directly from their device by connecting the applications or uploading photos from the gallery into the Amazon Alexa app.
To display photos, users will need to go to Settings and choose Clock and Photo Display, and then choose the source of photos they want to use. I’ve linked a post from The Verge below that provides additional information on using the Echo Show to display photos.
- How to turn your Echo Show into a digital photo frame – The Verge
- Tips For Creating Art For Visually Impaired Friends
- Tips For Be My Eyes Volunteers From A User With Low Vision
Searching for art tutorials
There are a few different options for searching for art tutorials, including directly asking Alexa for instructions and the free Art Lessons skill. When users ask Alexa directly for instructions on how to do something, i.e draw a penguin, Alexa will search the web for results and read out information from websites like WikiHow or web articles that can answer the user’s query. With the Art Lessons skill, users can ask Alexa to open Art Lessons and receive information from categories such as art history, art techniques, and art elements and principles.
Playing creative background music/ambient noise
There are a ton of options for playing ambient noise and background music while working on art projects. One of my favorite options is Tabletop Audio, an awesome free service that creates background tracks, ambiences, and music for tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs). Tabletop Audio offers a free skill with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to play tracks on a loop or timer and browse tracks by category. I’ve linked a post on how Amazon Alexa can help you sleep and options for ambient noise below.
- Tabletop Audio – Ambiences and Music for Tabletop Role Playing Games
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Sleep
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: MP3 Players
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Read
Finding drawing prompts
Looking for drawing prompts with Amazon Alexa? There are several options for finding drawing prompts such as Sketch Daily, Artful Ideas, and Drawspiration, though users can also just ask “Alexa, what should I draw?” without enabling additional skills.
Drawing pad for Echo Show
Drawing Pad is an exclusive skill for the Echo Show touchscreen devices that allows users to doodle with their finger and create simple drawings on their device. There are several customization options for paintbrush sizes and colors, along with the option to save art to mobile devices or computers with the Download tool. Using Drawing Pad reminds me of finger painting, with the helpful bonus of eraser/undo buttons- something I wish I had when working with real paint!
- Amazon.com: Drawing Pad : Alexa Skills
- Painting Pottery With Low Vision
- Decorating Easter Eggs With Low Vision
More ways Amazon Alexa can help you with art
- Images that are sent to the Alexa app are typically low resolution/thumbnail size and cannot be enlarged, so that is why I recommend viewing images in a separate web browser
- Art podcasts can also be played on the Amazon Echo using Spotify or similar audio applications. To activate this, say “Alexa, play name of Podcast on Spotify.”
- Want to create your own flashcards for an upcoming art history exam? Consider using the Flashcards skill with Alexa Skill Blueprints- Creating Custom Flashcards With Amazon Alexa