Best Places to Learn Art Online / by J. Logan Carey

The internet is seemingly endless with opportunities for those who want to learn more when it comes to art. This post is for those looking for information rich resources in the lifelong journey to become better artists without forking over the huge time and money commitment to enroll in a traditional art school.

Art is not something that is or should be kept above a certain income level.

It can be learned for practically nothing by going to your local library or YouTube or just picking up a drawing tool. The resources listed here are structured more like traditional learning courses for those who learn better with this type of method.

A word of warning: don't be talked into spending huge sums of money for any learning program because some marketing material tells you that you should.

YOU have to decide when it's time to spend money on your art education. If you read the line, "you're investing in yourself" on some art school promo material, just know that it's a standard and successful marketing line used everywhere to get you to spend your hard-earned money.

My goal here is to present what I think are the best options out there that are also very affordable. Affordable to me is about the cost of eating out one or two nights a month at a sit down restaurant. Anything much more than that and it's hard for most people to swing, so I'm not including it. There are more options popping up all the time, these are the most standout resources I've seen so far.

Nothing in this post is sponsored, I just really enjoy checking out and telling people about the opportunities there are for learning art online. 

In no particular order...


Schoolism

THE DETAILS:

Schoolism is a behemoth in the online art education frontier. Not only do they offer a wide breadth of art classes, but they also host public and private workshops in several countries throughout the year. The online portion can also be complimented (but doesn't have to be) by personalized video feedback from the instructor, although there are limited slots and they are very pricey at $998 PER course.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

There's a LOT to work with here: drawing, sculpting, digital painting, watercolor, portraiture, ZBrush, storyboarding, landscapes, lighting, character design, oil painting, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Schoolism courses are taught by a large variety of industry insiders meaning you will get instruction from the professionals you are trying to be. Name the biggest companies and studios out there and at least one instructor at Schoolism will have worked there. The courses are also VERY large and in depth. They're organized as closely as I've seen to traditionally weekly structured classes. They should feel quite familiar to those who have taken even just one college course.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Subscriptions (allows access to EVERY course): $29.95 per Month or $299.40 per Year

  • Personalized video feedback critique by the course instructor: $998 per course


Society of Visual Storytelling

THE DETAILS:

SVS is seriously impressive. Headed by well known illustrators; Jake Parker, Will Terry, and Lee White, while supported by a large team of professional artists, SVS offers a huge variety of courses. It features a curriculum of 80+ (and growing) video classes taught by industry professionals.

You can subscribe monthly or yearly price and use the video classes and associated resources or you can also enroll in live classes (for a few hundred dollars per course) for an interactive experience including critiques from the instructors. Subscribers can get discounts on live classes.

A large portion of the curriculum appears to be Photoshop-centric. While that's understandable as Photoshop is currently the standard for the digital art community...it's not the only product out there. So if you were to use a different program, you would need to be able to work similarly to Photoshop and know how to get around the app on your own. It's not the biggest hurdle there is, but you should keep it in mind.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Pretty much everything related to creating digital art and becoming a professional visual storyteller; drawing, digital painting, composition, lighting, perspective, character design, creature design, environments, writing stories, making graphic novels, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

They have a lot of courses focused on not just technical skills, but other extremely valuable subjects such as: selling your art, branding, beating creative block, finding your art style, visual storytelling techniques, and making money in illustration. These are skills that many art curricula ignore and I think you could safely say they are completely left out of traditional university art educations.

Jake, Will, Lee also have an excellent podcast for illustrators called 3 Point Perspective which is great, so check it out.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, Download, and Live Interactive Classes

  • Individual Lessons: $10 to $150

  • Live Classes: a few hundred dollars per course (depends on the course)

  • Subscriptions: $24.99 per Month or $198 per Year ($16.50 per Month)


Proko

THE DETAILS:

Proko is the work of Stan Prokopenko, an accomplished and pretty hilarious fine artist and veteran of the acclaimed Watts Atelier. Stan has organized some extremely well taught courses focused specifically on foundational drawing skills.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The coursework at Proko looks deceptively small, but is made up of four large courses:

  • Anatomy

  • Figure Drawing Fundamentals

  • Portrait Drawing Fundamentals

  • Caricature

They also offer model reference videos and pose sets for sale and there's even a mobile Skelly app of the unofficial comedic mascot of Proko.com to use as a digital posable skeleton.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

While there are a lot of well done art courses available online, I would say Proko has the most...heart. The videos are approachable and usually very funny. Between Stan's sense of humor and the editing and special effects, they are just damned enjoyable.

I also am a HUGE fan of the free videos that Stan puts out on YouTube. An exhaustive list of all the free videos is available on Proko here. They are practically a full art education in themselves. While they are much shorter versions of the premium videos for sale on Proko, they still have a lot of value in them and are great looks into the larger premium videos you can purchase.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, Download, and DVD

Pricing is per course:

  • Anatomy of the Human Body (Torso | Arms | Legs): $225 or $89 per section

  • Figure Drawing Fundamentals: $89

  • Portrait Drawing Fundamentals: $59

  • Caricature (2 Parts): $153 or $89 per part


Art of Aaron Blaise

THE DETAILS:

The Art of Aaron Blaise is the product of...you guessed it, Aaron Blaise. Aaron is an accomplished artist focusing on animals and all types of wildlife and is a 21 year veteran of Disney having worked on such films as "The Rescuers Down Under”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, “The Lion King”, “Pocahontas”, “Mulan” and “Brother Bear". So a fairly impressive resume there to say the least. He now focuses on creating lessons for the Art of Aaron Blaise website as well as collaborating with other industry professionals to create learning materials for aspiring artists.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Courses mainly focus on animals, imaginary creatures, environments, and animation.

Custom brushes and texture sets with wildlife in mind for Adobe Photoshop are also available.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

If you have an inclination towards the field of animation, the Art of Aaron Blaise is an amazing resource that shouldn't be missed.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Download


The Oatley Academy

THE DETAILS:

The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling was created by Chris Oatley, a veteran of Disney as well as Universal, Hasbro, EA, Activision, and others. Oatley Academy is a bit different than many other art education sites in that it focuses it's curriculum in two major areas: writing stories and drawing stories. Access to the courses are done through either subscriptions or Master Classes. The Master Classes are offered only periodically and look to have limited enrollment so we can probably assume more interaction with the course provider. There don't look to be any Master Classes available until 2019 at the earliest.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The material at Oatley Academy is organized into the story writing portion called The Storytellers' Summit and The Magic Box focused on the art. You can't see the Storyteller's Summit curriculum so I couldn't tell you what all is available. The course page lists a lot of testimonials and nothing else.

Interestingly the lauded Magic Box course focused on digital painting is currently closed with a message that says they're working on something new and a sign up form for updates.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

The Oatley Academy's approach of also focusing on the storytelling aspect of illustration as well as the visual art is unique in all the art learning sites I've seen. For those looking to add storytelling chops to their roster of skills, this might be a great place to learn. 

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Subscriptions: $19 per Month or $209 per Year ($17.42 per Month)


Force Drawing

THE DETAILS:

Force Drawing or Drawing Force (apparently interchangeable) was started by Mike Mattesi, a 20+ year veteran of animation, video games, advertising, and art education who also taught drawing at Pixar for almost 10 years and is the author of the Force Drawing method books. The books, incidentally, compliment the courses very well, so keep that in mind.

Force Drawing has two main access tiers: Basic and Premium. Basic will get you access to all the video lessons and portfolio project exercises. Premium has all the same stuff as Basic but you'll also get video critiques of your work. At $33.33 a month for the Premium (paid annually) Membership, this is a pretty comparatively cheap way to get some professional art critiques. You can also buy one-on-one mentorships in packages of one, ten, and thirty sessions.

The premium membership also offers "Certificates of Understanding" for each subject. If you earn one in each subject, you get a lifetime membership to Force Drawing and could potentially become a Force drawing instructor.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Courses start from fundamental areas like basics, form, and shape, then graduates to anatomy, character design, and animals.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

The two levels of membership are pretty compelling as Basic is very affordable and Premium offers a relatively inexpensive way to have your art critiqued by an instructor.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Basic: $20 per Month or $200 per Year ($16.67 per Month)

  • Premium: $40 per Month or $400 per Year ($33.33 per Month)


Pencil Kings

THE DETAILS:

Courses are taught by a variety of professional illustrators and art instructors from around the world. The site looks very professionally done. There are scheduled monthly challenges with a private Facebook group to see what share with others your work. They have purportedly have a large community of students that you can interact with, though without paying, it's hard to see how much of this is actually going on.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

100+ courses. drawing, anatomy, composition, digital painting, Photoshop, storyboarding, animation, portraits, caricature, anime, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

No questions asked, money back guarantee with the first 30 days if you aren't satisfied. No one else does this.

You can do a $1 trial for 3 days to see if you like the site.

They also run an artist-focused podcast called Pencil Kings Podcast.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Individual Lessons: $15+

  • Subscriptions: $29.95 per Month or $299 per Year ($24.92 per Month)


Art Study Online

THE DETAILS:

Art Study Online is a small, but well made art learning site primarily teaching courses in Procreate for the iPad.

The courses are presented in a real-time format, are typically an hour or longer, and many come with custom Procreate brushes or full-size artwork from the course for reference.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The course offering list is relatively small, but focuses on character design, perspective, and studies on creating specific illustrations.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Courses that focus almost solely on creating artwork in Procreate on the iPad. This is a great resource for a new generation of artists interested in learning the powerful tools available on the iPad Pro in a time when the vast majority of art schools are still focusing on teaching the expensive and clunky Adobe Photoshop for their digital art curriculum. Yeah, I said it.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, DVD, or both.

Pricing is per course:

  • $9 - $14 for unlimited streaming access to that course

  • $40 for a DVD

  • $40 for streaming access and DVD.


Ctrl+Paint

THE DETAILS:

Ctrl+Paint is at it's heart a huge library of well-organized free videos. It was created by Matt Kohr, an art industry professional and master digital painter. Ctrl+Paint is largely known as "the free art learning site" for having so many free videos available. Each video is relatively short, but there's so many they are able to cover a wide breadth of vital art creation topics.

For those wanting deeper dives into the skills Matt teaches, there are 18 hour-long courses available for only $10 each, or even cheaper if you purchase them in bundles. They range from basic rendering to digital sketching to color and perspective.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Focuses primarily on digital painting, from the very beginning artist all the way to 3D design in Google SketchUp.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

It is largely FREE, you can also purchase all of the courses Ctrl+Paint has to offer for about $165. That makes it an excellent jumping off point for art students without putting down any money beforehand. And all the courses for $165? That's a very good deal for over 18 hours or professional videos.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming and Download (for purchased courses)

The main library of Ctrl+Paint is free, courses are $10 a piece or can be bought in bundles of 6 for $55.


Gumroad

THE DETAILS:

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Gumroad for a burgeoning field of art tutorials and lessons. While Gumroad is a platform for anyone wanting to upload and sell digital content, it has recently drawn a ton of professional artists who are looking to sell very reasonably priced lessons and courses. 

Anything that you purchase on Gumroad you will be able to access forever on their site or also their mobile app.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Any and all types of courses, you really have to see for yourself. The site is not really designed very well for product discovery however, it may take you some searching to find artists creating the types of lessons you want. I suggest looking for those artists and then reviewing their entire catalog of offerings.

Here are some of my personal favorite artists from the site I recommend checking out:

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Gumroad does all the work of creating a storefront for it's users, therefore the artists can focus on creating their art lessons and selling them to you for very affordable prices.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

They are all over the board. Can be anything from free to $50.


Summary

Clearly there are lots of options out there that are high quality and affordable for the aspiring professional artist. Which one is right for you depends on how what kind of curriculum you are looking for and how you want your education structured. I would recommend experimenting with as many of these sites as you can to get a feel for the material, the instructors, and how you learn best.

In regards to results of these platforms, many of these include testimonial pages that their detail how students have gone onto working with the biggest names out there; Disney, Marvel, DC, Blizzard, Pixar, you name it. Keep in mind that no art education is complete without an impressive portfolio and a key eye on networking opportunities. One can still find many of those opportunities online, but you first have to put your work out for anyone to find it. You can do it.

If you know of any resources that I missed that you think should be included, drop me a line in the comments and I'll add them here or in a future post.