This is a top five list of free art instruction resources according to well me. While I am no art expert I am a novice and as such, I have spent a great deal of time searching for free art instruction. You like me may lack the time and money for formal instruction. But, there is plenty in the wide world that will only cost you your time.
#1 Your Local Library
A library card is a shockingly powerful and underrated tool. Even if your local branch does not have much to offer in their collection on your preferred media. Chances are that your local branch is part of a larger network with a branch that does. Interlibrary loan is great when you have a specialized interest and I use that public service often. I can search the entire network’s catalog from my home pc and put in a request right from there, then pick up the book when it arrives. If you don’t know how to get started, ask your local librarians they are there to help you. Technically the library is not free you already pay for it via your local taxes so you might as well get use from it.
WetCanvas is one of the largest and oldest artists’ communities online. Wet Canvas is my top online pick for the depth and breadth of content you can find there. It is a great place to connect with other art lovers and learn about your preferred media. It is a forum based community with a section on the site reserved for just about any medium you can imagine.
I have found the community to be populated with welcoming art geeks who just want to share their work and love of their medium. There is a large learning section with forums on things like Color Theory and Composition. Most of the subcommunity libraries for each media have a section reserved for tutorials and general information on the media. Chances are if you have specific questions about techniques or supplies you can ask your questions there and receive good feedback. I learned Oil Pastel techniques almost exclusively from the Oil Pastel Classrooms in the Oil Pastel forum there. There are forums where you can post your work for constructive criticism and feedback.
Wet Canvas also has a user-created reference library you can use these images as reference and later post your work online without fear of violating copyright.
Wet Canvas has been around since 1998 and the site has a bit of an old-fashioned feel with nested forums that younger users may not be accustomed to. You may have to dig for what you are looking for but it is worth it.
# 3 DeviantArt.com
Deviant Art is the world’s largest social media platform for artists. The best I can do to describe it is to say it is FaceBook for artists. On Deviant Art, you can have a profile page (like mine) where you post your art or you can browse the work of others. Digital artists dominate Deviant Art but there is plenty there for traditional artists as well.
There is a very useful resources section that contains everything from stock images to tutorials. There are lots of tutorials on Deviant Art. As well as several groups dedicated to tutorial collecting.
Deviant Art tends to have a bit more “mature” artwork on it. If you are sensitive to that kind of stuff turn on the mature content filter in your user settings after creating an account.
# 4 YouTube
There are thousands if not millions of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube. Artists are generating serious revenue for YouTube with some channels like Draw with Jazz drawing in Millions of followers. Some of the more successful personalities have now branched into books, paid online lessons, and merchandise. I recommend that you spend considerable time on Youtube and develop a solid idea of where your interests lay before moving on to paid video courses. There are a great many polished professional quality instructional videos to be found. All you are going to lose to watch them is a moment of time here and there on an advertisement. Below are my favorites.
YouTube Acrylic: The Art Sherpa
If you want to learn to paint in acrylics start with the Art Sherpa. She is the vlogger for you. There is no shortage of ‘how to’ videos to be found on YouTube but I have a few favorites that I find myself returning to over and over. Cinnamon Cooney aka The Art Sherpa is one of them for two reasons:
One, her fun-loving quirky personality is very watchable. She has colorful hair, she is bright, upbeat, and relates very well to her social media followers. With the help of her husband, she takes the time to answer questions and engage her audience during live video feeds. Her message is very much about the joy that art can bring us. I consider her to be the Bob Ross of our generation. FYI you can watch the old but still very awesome PBS Bob Ross videos on Youtube as well.
Second, while she mostly does the paint along with me videos that are common among art vloggers she also dedicates time to fundamentals like Color Theory in her #BigArtQuest videos. I found the video on the different types of black paint in this series to be very helpful. Her 2017 #BigArtQuest is focusing on portraits something beginners often find intimidating.
If you want to just start painting then pick a video with a painting you like and just follow along. Her video descriptions contain a list of everything you need and often they are not terribly long. This is how I did my first painting I saw the thumbnail and thought “oh that’s pretty”. Clicked the link read the list and one short art store trip later I was painting. It has been almost three years and I have not stopped.
Youtube Drawing: Mark Crill, Jazz, and Proko
Mark Crill was an early adopter of this medium and has been a Youtube vlogger since 2006. He may very well be the most popular art instruction vlogger as he currently has 2.8 million subscribers. I first stumbled across him trying to learn how to draw an eye. His delivery is not as polished as Porko but his videos often give you exactly what you are looking for. I really appreciate his Perspective Drawing Series. He also has a great How to Draw Chibi (cute) Characters series.
Internet sensation Jazz currently has over 2 Million followers on YouTube. His over 700 videos include tutorials, process videos, product reviews, and inspirational content. His delivery can be humorous and flashy. His How to Draw series is a great starting place for people interested in character design, anime, comic, and cartoon styles.
Proko’s videos are notable for their polished delivery and editing. Proko aka Stan Prokopenko does use Youtube as a vehicle to sell his paid courses. However, there is plenty of free content for the first timer to glean here. His series on figure drawing is very helpful.
Youtube Watercolor: Mind of Watercolor and The Frugal Crafter
The Mind of Watercolor vlog is the product of Steve Mitchell. His excellent Watercolor for Beginners covers topics like washes, gradients, brush care, and paper. His no-nonsense videos are easily understood and he does a great job of breaking an intimidating product down.
MOOC is an acronym for Massively Online Open Course. MOOCS have been around since the early 2000s but became popular around 2012. You can receive a certificate for a fee or audit the courses for free. MOOC providers partner with Universities to offer courses to the public at large. While the courses do lack sustained interaction with instructors the community and rich content tend to make up for that. Currently, most MOOCS on the arts tend toward digital arts or art appreciation but the catalog is always growing and evolving. On MOOC providers such as Coursera you can take classes on graphics design, photography, game design, art appreciation, music, and more. EdX hosts the HarvardX series on Master Pieces. I find art appreciation and history helps to improve my understanding of art overall and influences my exploration of art techniques.
That is all I have for now. What are your favorite free art instruction resources?
Happy Art Journey,