Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Online Art Classes - 21 Secrets

I signed up for a set of online classes this winter called "21 Secrets" that features 21 instructors teaching 21 classes.  The classes are all online and are open to registered members until the end of 2012. This made it rather exciting for me to try out so many classes with one registration.  I also loved that the classes were on videos and included PDF files that I could save to my computer to refer to at a later date.  And, I could re-watch the classes as long until the end of the year!  It sounded like a curious artists dream come true.
When I signed up, I was only familiar with a handful of the artists, but there were links to their websites or blogs, so I could peruse their work ahead of time. I waited with anticipation until April rolled around and the classes began.  The artists had different pages with their videos and info files.  And there was also a spot where students could post their work after watching the videos and trying out the techniques.
 I started immediately and went to an artist I knew who gave a lesson on using watercolor techniques.  So, I put together a handmade journal with watercolor paper and started my own little journal from the classes.  I repeated her lessons, so I had a reference for later on, if I want to go back and remind myself of the techniques.
 Then, I started playing around using other techniques from other artists in the series.
 And I played.
 And played.
I learned a lot.  In one short month I watched all the classes.  Overall, it was a tremendous experience and I will go back and refresh myself on some of the courses. In the 21 classes, there were 5 that were first rate - most helpful and well done.  In these five classes, the instructors taught techniques freely, were prepared and excited to pass on information.  They gave demonstrations, facts about supplies and materials and were well spoken. They passed along as much info as they could by being prepared and focused on their technique and it was a great experience.
Some of those artists were so passionate about teaching that they gave so much information, I will be able to gain something new each time I re-watch the video.

Of the remaining classes, I was largely disappointed.  Some classes just didn't appeal to me.
Some classes were so poorly done that I felt robbed of the time I spent watching them, like when the artist was demonstrating a painting technique, kept returning to empty paint jars.  She spent a couple of minutes in a 10 minute video, searching for paint while we sat at a still screen!
Still others were techniques that were so simple -- like cutting out words from a magazine and gluing them to a page, that I kept asking myself, "is this it?"
Another artist was seemed to be making up things as she went and never finished her sentences.  She was ill prepared and did a very convoluted demonstration.  When her short segment was all over, she showed her work and beamed with pride.  I was so confused by the juxtaposition of self confidence and sloppy work.
At first, I signed up for the boards where students could post their work. Some of the teachers would answer questions and comment on the work.  I didn't particularly care for this.
Some of the people who posted their work did a beautiful job.  But, the teachers who commented on the work were a bit condescending.  No one said anything negative -- just nothing particularly meaningful.
I thought that a lot of the students were very talented but the comments made sure to remind the readers that it was done by a student.
I did ask a few questions from one of the artists about a technique she briefly mentioned. She was polite, but didn't answer my question and redirected me back to the specific technique she demonstrated.  So, while the artists were available to answer questions via email or on bulletin boards, they were very careful to stick to the script.

But, overall, the 21 Secrets Classes were a great learning experiment for me.  I was fortunate to learn some fun techniques and be introduced to some great artists.

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