Art instruction: online versus real, myths versus reality

Art instruction can be found in abundance everywhere: there are numerous online classes, numerous websites that will give an idea of that and also countless real life events.

100% of students who attend my art classes have been watching YouTube art instruction videos, demos and suggestions. One would think they have learned a lot. In fact, it isn’t the case.

Most people after spending a lot of time with online art instruction videos haven’t learned anything. That sounds strange, but it is a fact. Most people who have been watching YouTube tutorials and demos do not know how to use the brush with acrylic, how to blend paint and how to make the correct color they want. Most people who were learning drawing and watercolor painting using online video tutorials are afraid of water; they do not know how to apply watercolor paint, how much water to use, how to time the painting process and how to avoid muddy colors.  Most people, who were learning how to draw online, cannot draw anything on their own or using real things and their set-up compositions. They can only trace a photo or use an outline printout for their drawing.

Why would that be? Why haven’t they become skilled after spending numerous hours at the screen?

The reason might be the one-sidedness. If one has a lot of artistic experience and knowledge of paint application techniques and understanding of paint properties, they will benefit from such online art instruction videos. These, who have zero experience, most likely will not. I believe these art instruction videos are good for inspiration and issue solving if you have plenty of painting and drawing experience. If you do not have such experience, you will rather get confused and disappointed. In real and live class, I can see how somebody understood the demo or painting tip. You’d be surprised seeing what levels of moisture are applied when I am saying: make your paper wet. That ranges from flooded paper with puddles of water to slightly seeing shine on it. Graded wash is understood in very different ways: from thick layer of paint to no paint at all. Not to mention a wet paint application on wet paper and a dry paint application on wet or dry paper. Timing is a very important part of painting with either watercolor, or acrylic. By not observing timing and making good use of it, the potential artist will definitely get frustrated. There are things which are easy to do when the timing is right and impossible to do at all if the timing is wrong.

When you are sitting on one side of screen, nobody can check or see how exactly you are applying advice or tip. In a real life class, I can see right away whether the paint is too wet, too dry, there is too little of it or there is way too much of it. I can see right away who understood the technique and who is struggling with it. I am able to notice the weaknesses and the strengths right away, as well.

Brushing techniques are probably the most important part of acrylic painting. Most people have absolutely no idea about these techniques. It is understood that it does not matter how you put the acrylic paint on canvas. Well, that makes the painting experience either pleasant, or results in frustration when one cannot achieve what they want to.

Art instruction can be found in abundance everywhere: there are numerous online classes, numerous websites that will give an idea of that and also countless real life events. 100% of students who attend my art classes have been watching YouTube art instruction videos, demos and suggestions. One would think they have learned a lot. In fact, it isn’t the case. Most people after spending a lot of time with online art instruction videos haven’t learned anything. That sounds strange, but it is a fact. Most people who have been watching YouTube tutorials and demos do not know how to use the brush with acrylic, how to blend paint and how to make the correct color they want. Most people who were learning drawing and watercolor painting using online video tutorials are afraid of water; they do not know how to apply watercolor paint, how much water to use, how to time the painting process and how to avoid muddy colors. Most people, who were learning how to draw online, cannot draw anything on their own or using real things and their set-up compositions. They can only trace a photo or use an outline printout for their drawing. Why would that be? Why haven’t they become skilled after spending numerous hours at the screen? The reason might be the one-sidedness. If one has a lot of artistic experience and knowledge of paint application techniques and understanding of paint properties, they will benefit from such online art instruction videos. These, who have zero experience, most likely will not. I believe these art instruction videos are good for inspiration and issue solving if you have plenty of painting and drawing experience. If you do not have such experience, you will rather get confused and disappointed. In real and live class, I can see how somebody understood the demo or painting tip. You’d be surprised seeing what levels of moisture are applied when I am saying: make your paper wet. That ranges from flooded paper with puddles of water to slightly seeing shine on it. Graded wash is understood in very different ways: from thick layer of paint to no paint at all. Not to mention a wet paint application on wet paper and a dry paint application on wet or dry paper. Timing is a very important part of painting with either watercolor, or acrylic. By not observing timing and making good use of it, the potential artist will definitely get frustrated. There are things which are easy to do when the timing is right and impossible to do at all if the timing is wrong. When you are sitting on one side of screen, nobody can check or see how exactly you are applying advice or tip. In a real life class, I can see right away whether the paint is too wet, too dry, there is too little of it or there is way too much of it. I can see right away who understood the technique and who is struggling with it. I am able to notice the weaknesses and the strengths right away, as well. Brushing techniques are probably the most important part of acrylic painting. Most people have absolutely no idea about these techniques. It is understood that it does not matter how you put the acrylic paint on canvas. Well, that makes the painting experience either pleasant, or results in frustration when one cannot achieve what they want to. Most people do not know how wet and how dry watercolor paint should be, and I have seen how some would try applying it without any water at all. Sounds crazy? Yes, it is weird because we call it watercolor since it can be used only with water. Pigment in watercolor paint is activated using water, otherwise it won’t work. Without doing this properly, there is no watercolor painting, but we create a streaky smear. There is a principle which is always true when it comes to art supplies: the better quality art supplies are, the easier it is to apply them; and vice versa: the worse quality art supplies are, the more skills one will need to use them properly and to achieve good results. While many art instruction demos and videos are called “How to paint ….” they should be called, in fact, “How I paint ….” because there are lots of ways to interpret one and the same subject and one and the same theme. Many of demos also instead of “How to paint …” fall in the category “How not to paint …”. That’s just how wrong the demo or art instruction advice can be. With the wide-spread accessibility of internet and opportunity to share and post anything, we cannot be always sure if the advice we are given is correct or if it will ever work for us in particular. We have to approach everything selectively. That refers not only to art instruction, but also to any advice for any situation in life. We have seen by now how art instruction is given by people who do not have the slightest teaching or art experience, as well. Art instruction has become an area where everybody is an expert. Would anybody teach and give music lessons? Piano or guitar lessons, for instance? No, they would not. Would anybody without any knowledge and skill teach foreign language, math or chemistry? No, they would not because that means misleading the student and pretending that one has what they do not. When it comes to drawing and painting, it is assumed that having no experience is not an issue. Just teach it and everything will be fine, which is profoundly wrong. I would say if you want to see fast results and create a decent and interesting art, you definitely have to start with real and live art instruction. Let the art instructor see how and what you are doing because that is the only way to find out why some things absolutely do not work and what you should be doing to make this experience rewarding and uplifting. Realistically, the things one needs to learn are the main principles of drawing and painting, not the style and techniques of artist X, Y or Z. The truth is that once you have learned the basics and have established the foundation you will be able to create anything, draw and paint anything in your personal style and to develop a personal approach to any subject. That won’t limit you to just being able to paint one particular scene and subject. It will feel like: I can draw and paint any scene, any still life and floral composition. I can draw and paint anything. That’s why starting with techniques, values, color theory and composition is important. Practically, that means finding out what your brush, paint and pencil can do once you know how to use them. Therefore, I would suggest, we start with basics and go from simple subjects to very complex ones. Along with becoming skilled in art, drawing and painting are the absolutely best things to devote our free time and leisure hours to. This means also exploring ourselves, becoming smarter, better with decision making and invisibly growing new brain cells, as well, extending the lifetime of the existing brain cells. That means a better memory and an improved cognitive function.

Most people do not know how wet and how dry watercolor paint should be, and I have seen how some would try applying it without any water at all. Sounds crazy? Yes, it is weird because we call it watercolor since it can be used only with water. Pigment in watercolor paint is activated using water, otherwise it won’t work. Without doing this properly, there is no watercolor painting, but we create a streaky smear.

There is a principle which is always true when it comes to art supplies: the better quality art supplies are, the easier it is to apply them; and vice versa: the worse quality art supplies are, the more skills one will need to use them properly and to achieve good results.

While many art instruction demos and videos are called “How to paint ….” they should be called, in fact, “How I paint ….” because there are lots of ways to interpret one and the same subject and one and the same theme. Many of demos also instead of “How to paint …” fall in the category “How not to paint …”. That’s just how wrong the demo or art instruction advice can be. With the wide-spread accessibility of internet and opportunity to share and post anything, we cannot be always sure if the advice we are given is correct or if it will ever work for us in particular. We have to approach everything selectively. That refers not only to art instruction, but also to any advice for any situation in life.

We have seen by now how art instruction is given by people who do not have the slightest teaching or art experience, as well. Art instruction has become an area where everybody is an expert. Would anybody teach and give music lessons? Piano or guitar lessons, for instance? No, they would not. Would anybody without any knowledge and skill teach foreign language, math or chemistry? No, they would not because that means misleading the student and pretending that one has what they do not. When it comes to drawing and painting, it is assumed that having no experience is not an issue. Just teach it and everything will be fine, which is profoundly wrong.

I would say if you want to see fast results and create a decent and interesting art, you definitely have to start with real and live art instruction. Let the art instructor see how and what you are doing because that is the only way to find out why some things absolutely do not work and what you should be doing to make this experience rewarding and uplifting.

Realistically, the things one needs to learn are the main principles of drawing and painting, not the style and techniques of artist X, Y or Z. The truth is that once you have learned the basics and have established the foundation you will be able to create anything, draw and paint anything in your personal style and to develop a personal approach to any subject. That won’t limit you to just being able to paint one particular scene and subject. It will feel like: I can draw and paint any scene, any still life and floral composition. I can draw and paint anything. That’s why starting with techniques, values, color theory and composition is important. Practically, that means finding out what your brush, paint and pencil can do once you know how to use them.

Art instruction can be found in abundance everywhere: there are numerous online classes, numerous websites that will give an idea of that and also countless real life events. 100% of students who attend my art classes have been watching YouTube art instruction videos, demos and suggestions. One would think they have learned a lot. In fact, it isn’t the case. Most people after spending a lot of time with online art instruction videos haven’t learned anything. That sounds strange, but it is a fact. Most people who have been watching YouTube tutorials and demos do not know how to use the brush with acrylic, how to blend paint and how to make the correct color they want. Most people who were learning drawing and watercolor painting using online video tutorials are afraid of water; they do not know how to apply watercolor paint, how much water to use, how to time the painting process and how to avoid muddy colors. Most people, who were learning how to draw online, cannot draw anything on their own or using real things and their set-up compositions. They can only trace a photo or use an outline printout for their drawing. Why would that be? Why haven’t they become skilled after spending numerous hours at the screen? The reason might be the one-sidedness. If one has a lot of artistic experience and knowledge of paint application techniques and understanding of paint properties, they will benefit from such online art instruction videos. These, who have zero experience, most likely will not. I believe these art instruction videos are good for inspiration and issue solving if you have plenty of painting and drawing experience. If you do not have such experience, you will rather get confused and disappointed. In real and live class, I can see how somebody understood the demo or painting tip. You’d be surprised seeing what levels of moisture are applied when I am saying: make your paper wet. That ranges from flooded paper with puddles of water to slightly seeing shine on it. Graded wash is understood in very different ways: from thick layer of paint to no paint at all. Not to mention a wet paint application on wet paper and a dry paint application on wet or dry paper. Timing is a very important part of painting with either watercolor, or acrylic. By not observing timing and making good use of it, the potential artist will definitely get frustrated. There are things which are easy to do when the timing is right and impossible to do at all if the timing is wrong. When you are sitting on one side of screen, nobody can check or see how exactly you are applying advice or tip. In a real life class, I can see right away whether the paint is too wet, too dry, there is too little of it or there is way too much of it. I can see right away who understood the technique and who is struggling with it. I am able to notice the weaknesses and the strengths right away, as well. Brushing techniques are probably the most important part of acrylic painting. Most people have absolutely no idea about these techniques. It is understood that it does not matter how you put the acrylic paint on canvas. Well, that makes the painting experience either pleasant, or results in frustration when one cannot achieve what they want to. Most people do not know how wet and how dry watercolor paint should be, and I have seen how some would try applying it without any water at all. Sounds crazy? Yes, it is weird because we call it watercolor since it can be used only with water. Pigment in watercolor paint is activated using water, otherwise it won’t work. Without doing this properly, there is no watercolor painting, but we create a streaky smear. There is a principle which is always true when it comes to art supplies: the better quality art supplies are, the easier it is to apply them; and vice versa: the worse quality art supplies are, the more skills one will need to use them properly and to achieve good results. While many art instruction demos and videos are called “How to paint ….” they should be called, in fact, “How I paint ….” because there are lots of ways to interpret one and the same subject and one and the same theme. Many of demos also instead of “How to paint …” fall in the category “How not to paint …”. That’s just how wrong the demo or art instruction advice can be. With the wide-spread accessibility of internet and opportunity to share and post anything, we cannot be always sure if the advice we are given is correct or if it will ever work for us in particular. We have to approach everything selectively. That refers not only to art instruction, but also to any advice for any situation in life. We have seen by now how art instruction is given by people who do not have the slightest teaching or art experience, as well. Art instruction has become an area where everybody is an expert. Would anybody teach and give music lessons? Piano or guitar lessons, for instance? No, they would not. Would anybody without any knowledge and skill teach foreign language, math or chemistry? No, they would not because that means misleading the student and pretending that one has what they do not. When it comes to drawing and painting, it is assumed that having no experience is not an issue. Just teach it and everything will be fine, which is profoundly wrong. I would say if you want to see fast results and create a decent and interesting art, you definitely have to start with real and live art instruction. Let the art instructor see how and what you are doing because that is the only way to find out why some things absolutely do not work and what you should be doing to make this experience rewarding and uplifting. Realistically, the things one needs to learn are the main principles of drawing and painting, not the style and techniques of artist X, Y or Z. The truth is that once you have learned the basics and have established the foundation you will be able to create anything, draw and paint anything in your personal style and to develop a personal approach to any subject. That won’t limit you to just being able to paint one particular scene and subject. It will feel like: I can draw and paint any scene, any still life and floral composition. I can draw and paint anything. That’s why starting with techniques, values, color theory and composition is important. Practically, that means finding out what your brush, paint and pencil can do once you know how to use them. Therefore, I would suggest, we start with basics and go from simple subjects to very complex ones. Along with becoming skilled in art, drawing and painting are the absolutely best things to devote our free time and leisure hours to. This means also exploring ourselves, becoming smarter, better with decision making and invisibly growing new brain cells, as well, extending the lifetime of the existing brain cells. That means a better memory and an improved cognitive function.

Our December art project: beginners and students with experience, everybody got fantastic results. It was a very successful art instruction, and I finished a few versions of my demo paintings. This is one of them. 

Therefore, I would suggest, we start with basics and go from simple subjects to very complex ones. Along with becoming skilled in art, drawing and painting are the absolutely best things to devote our free time and leisure hours to. This means also exploring ourselves, becoming smarter, better with decision-making and invisibly growing new brain cells, as well, extending the lifetime of the existing brain cells. That means a better memory and an improved cognitive function.

Suggestions on how to choose art classes: https://inesepogagallery.com/2017/10/09/choose-art-classes/

Registration for art classes: https://inesepogagallery.com/classes-workshops-schedule/

And some of our previous experiences: https://inesepogagallery.com/2013/09/20/art-classes-a-worthwhile-activity/

28 Replies to “Art instruction: online versus real, myths versus reality”

    1. Thanks, Carmen! Well, I am certainly am seeing much more progress compared to what one was able to do before these classes!

    1. Thanks Zac! I am basing my opinion on what my students have told me. All of them were watching numerous YouTube videos and participating in some other online classes. That included even my youngest students who were very active online tutorial watchers. The difference is that I will tell somebody within 15 minutes why something does not work because I can see them right there, and everybody can ask questions, too, but they can spend online 15 months and not become aware of that. That isn’t even always what one does, that can be brush, paper or paint, as well, and definitely that is too diluted or too thick paint which is frequently mixed with some unsuitable other paint.

    1. Thanks Shawn! I agree. It is learning and practice, exploring, making mistakes and trying to get the results we want to. I also would like to add that nobody has ever learned anything by watching how others do it. It becomes so different when we try the same brush stroke or the same type of line on our own. This type of mastering things definitely does not apply to art because art should originate from the signal which our vision and other senses create; and this signal is then transformed into perceivable visual story and image using our hand. Art is a very unique phenomenon among all other things known to us. People can draw before they are able to speak and they will be able to express themselves through drawing when they are unable to speak anymore. I have mentioned this before, and that is actually the most intriguing aspect of creativity and artistic expression.

  1. Totally agree Inese. I must admit to watching YouTube videos, but often I feel that whatever I was trying to learn is impossible and my attempts are totally inadequate compared to the demonstrator. They have edited out the ‘real life’ bits so everything is perfect. Also at art classes you learn a lot from watching the other pupils being helped by the tutor.

    1. Thanks Chris! This might be it: in real life, it never happens as in an edited demo which is polished to perfection. I believe, too, that it is helpful seeing that nobody comes to a class as an established artist. You are certainly an established artist, so, it’s great to hear your thoughts.
      I have looked also at a lot of YouTube videos, sometimes I simply wanted to see what people have been up to or sometimes I need to organize my ideas and stick to something one.
      I came to this conclusion because of this: if anybody was able to learn a lot from watching online tutorials, they should appear at classes as if they know a lot and so on. It is usually straight the opposite: it rather feels that watching all online tutorials left no trace in my students’ memory or perception. That is interesting because unlike it is believed that behind-the-screen video compares to a live tutor, it definitely does not happen in art teaching which is a unique field as I mentioned before. Thanks, Chris, for confirming my findings!

  2. You’re right about watching online videos. While I did learn some basic things … what brush to use, how to apply it, how to blend colours etc. can’t really be learned by just watching.
    I finally signed up for a few lessons .. I think I told you… but unfortunately I only got to go one day of the course because that’s when I got pneumonia quite bad.
    I’ll try again when I can though, because the interaction and the chance to ask questions of the instructor is really helpful….
    Diane

    1. Thanks, Diane! I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get a chance to enjoy your classes and got pneumonia.
      Well, you are having pretty much the base for developing your skills even on your own.
      Art isn’t a mystery. Our creations can become fascinating, but only when we add to our technical abilities our feelings, vision and passion.
      It is true that in live classes the instructor can see immediately what one did not get right.
      It is usually the basics people do not know. It is sometimes something very simple, but that can become a big obstacle.
      I believe the way art is taught is totally off: we get some 10 absolute beginners and most places will start with a complex painting which everybody hopes to bring to a masterwork level with the first brushstrokes. That cannot happen. Quite realistically, we have to master the brushstroke first before we can paint as we wish or what we want to.
      People who have found their way to art will never give it up. It is the most unique way of making our life better and bringing ourselves to a wonderful state of mind.
      I wish you a fast recovery!

  3. Wonderful post dear Inese.. and I know I have still so much to learn at painting and am still an armature when I compare my art with yours.
    Art is my way of unwinding, its healing, and absorbing. and takes me to another peaceful zone which soothes my soul.. And looking at your own art brings me that kind of peace also my friend
    WIshing you well for 2018 my friend both in your Art and your own healing..
    <3 Love and Hugs xx

    1. Thanks, Sue! I think nobody ever can learn everything about art and creativity. We are always on the way to a better art and we are always learning. That is why it is so good.
      I just simply would love people who start out on this path to stop wasting their time and start learning from good advice.
      Internet is full of junk, and art instruction is no exception.
      Art is as accomplished as we want it to be.
      There is always something we can improve or we believe so.
      We learn by doing drawing, sketching, journaling, painting, just like everything else. The more we do, the more we learn. That probably is an area where we learn very clearly from our mistakes.

        1. Those who do not stop learning, get rewarded at some point. Art experience isn’t static, it is something which changes as we get older, as we get smarter, as we have more experience, but most importantly: as we develop ability to see better.

        2. That’s all we can do. Taking into account the nature of your art, you are on a very good path: it makes so much sense to implement rather emotions and feelings in art than exact life-likeness. If creating a life-like subject was all art is about, it would be enough just to take a picture. Art that is not only technically done well, but has emotions and feelings attached to it, is the most valuable factor of creativity. It’s too bad, the mainstream teaching and learning try to limit people within the area of technical ability only while that is just a half of the entire thing.

        3. Thanks, Sue! After being and dealing with art and art instruction for so many years, it would be strange I hadn’t developed my personal theory of art and creativity. I’ve seen literally thousands of people starting out in painting, so, that allows summarizing observations and making some conclusions which I am pretty much representing on this blog. The bad side is that very few people actually read it, hence, they most likely think it is the same nothing-new art blog. I could say the same about the other blog: I never repeat what the general idea suggests, I am always sticking to very unique observations, comparisons and conclusions, but nobody wants to read a lot. Oh, well, that shouldn’t stop one from publishing good material anyway!

    1. Thanks Lorry! I am better and I have put off all health matters: I have no access to a doctor, I haven’t had a family doctor for 5 years, so, I cannot get even a simple blood test done. So, I just put it all off. I cannot do anything when I cannot.
      I am typing some large medical jobs at the moment. They don’t pay too much, 7 cents per word, it is usually between 10K and 80K words. Well, I have to translate or write it very fast, some 10 pages a day. One day is fine, but longer time hurts my back, shoulders and wrists, but it is some money. I receive it after 2-3 months. Currently it is German. It is good to speak and know many languages, that’s for sure.
      How are you, Lorry? I was so busy with my troubles that I let you out of site. When I have a moment I will go over to your site.

      1. I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, Inese. Sending beautiful white healing energy…and love and light☀️
        I, too, have not been blogging as much as in the past…I miss the connections with beautiful souls…like YOU!!
        Take good care of yourself…stay well…be happy 💜💜

        1. Thanks, Lorry! All I need is to get finally a family doctor. There are very few in our area. Therefore, one cannot get referrals to any specialist or test.
          I know it’s not good, but cannot do anything about it. Some 3 or 4 times signed up and after 2-3 months they kindly let you know that the dr. doesn’t accept new patients. It takes forever. I’m not surprised we have so many people with chronic and incurable conditions in Canada because it takes years to see a doctor. Well, it’s 5 years for me. I believe the States will take quite a few steps, and the medical care is anyway better in the States. The best it is in Germany, Switzerland, and even in Latvia it is at much higher level than in Canada. Knowing what the issue is, but not being able to resolve it makes one feel not good. Nobody can say to their injury, let’s just wait a few years and if I am still around we might get some treatment.
          I am simply tied up with typing. Thankfully because there was absolutely no work for quite a while, and I mean there were long periods when I could not do anything. Customers do not wait, they move on.
          I wish I had that much means to live without these extreme worries where to get this and where to get that. That destroys any incentive and it is all the time an invisible pressure over the head.
          Well, I have to put everything else off when I am working. I have no time to eat even, not to mention anything else. It is slave work, very many hours for a little pay and that is the unfortunate reality.
          Thanks for stopping by, Lorry!

        2. I am sorry that you have theses struggles, Inese! It is a terrible state of affairs to have to wait that long!!
          Sending good energy in the hopes that you get the help you need 💜

        3. Thanks, Lorry! Our health acre is simply unacceptable. It is supposed to be free, but how good that does if you do not any care?
          I’m meeting a doctor at the end of March. Now they have meet and greet the doctor here! I hope I get her as a family doctor. Long waiting, insecurity again. Maybe I will be lucky to finally get some tests done which I really need.
          Other than that, money, money would solve everything else.

        4. I appreciate that, Lorry! Lots of work, there should be something good coming out of it! I still didn’t have time to check your posts. Maybe tomorrow.

Your comment is greatly appreciated