You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to our artist/singer Marissa Renee’s art display at our concerts and say, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” If she had a dollar for every person that said that, her future would be secure. I know the people who are saying that don’t believe this, but basic drawing is a skill that can be taught. And right now, we’re learning it.
For the past several weeks, we have been using an online Drawing Program from Creating a Masterpiece. We have a one-year subscription to the program, and we are working on getting through every lesson in that time.
Creating a Masterpiece is an online art lesson site that teaches a variety of art skills under the tutelage of experienced artist and instructor Sharon Hofer. There is a core program and an art history program, as well as a drawing program. The lessons are accessed via monthly or annual subscriptions.
The drawing program is the one we are using. Here are the specs:
- 4 levels
- 30 projects
- 48 lessons
- 3 drawing media
For better final results, to decrease frustration, and to increase satisfaction, the program recommends students use quality supplies. Being in the art world, we know good supplies can be very expensive. The drawing course, however, keeps things doable by requiring a minimum of supplies. We haven’t done all of the lessons yet, but as far as we can tell and have encountered, students of the drawing course will only need the following:
- colored pencils
- straight edge ruler
- circle to trace, because we’re cheaters
I would guess you have most of those supplies at home, and the rest can be purchased at Michaels (they always have a coupon available) or Walmart. (We give them as Christmas gifts, too.)
The program is video-based. The instructor, Ms. Hofer, introduces the project. She then guides the students step-by-step to recreate that project. In the process (and this is the important part), she teaches an art technique.
For example, in the Beginning Drawing category, the lesson entitled “Simplicity” teaches the child to locate their light source so their shading is consistent and realistic. The child comes away with a picture of trees, but more importantly with the concept of shadow and light that is crucial in art. This skill is used in many of the other lessons, such as in “Arctic Seal” (Level 1), “Drawing an Egg” (Level 1), “Antique Lantern” (Level 2), and “Prairie Buffalo” (Level 3), among others.
Here’s the funny. Not clown funny, not ha-ha- funny, but more ironic funny. Sometimes the kids did an art lesson without me. Actually, they usually did them without me. To keep abreast of things, I would ask Rebecca (11) or Eliana (7) what she learned, and she would say, “Oh, nothing. Just how to draw an owl.” Later, I’d see her drawing something else and not only talking about, but using and naming the technique she learned in the lessons where she “just learned how to draw an owl.”
There is a wide variety of projects for all ages and interests: still life (from the traditional fruit and egg to the more classy antique lantern), landscapes and buildings, night scenes, animals, colored pencil, pencil, charcoal, silhouette…you get the idea. The projects should inspire interest in most every student. If something doesn’t tickle the fancy, well, the next lesson most likely will or, as in our case with the space rocket, skip it. (You will not be drawing people or faces in this class.)
That brings me to another point. While it is not necessary to do the lessons in order, the levels do build on what is learned in the Beginning Drawing section, applying those skills in a more detailed manner. My recommendation is to do all or most of the projects in the Beginning Drawing level. We did the beginning lessons sort of in order, as in we started with 1, then 2, then 3, then skipped around. Then skipping around a little in the next levels isn’t as crucial. Still, mastering the skills in one level before leveling up is never a bad idea.
My drawing participants were 11, 7, 4, and 46. While the four-year-old would go off on whims of fancy, the other three participants thoroughly enjoyed the course. The girls (11 and 7) could do the entire project without any parental involvement apart from our incessant struggles with our computers.
This is a drawing class, not so much an “art exposure” class. Your child will not be exploring other art forms, although Creating a Masterpiece also offers that course. The entire series focuses strictly on drawing. Personally, I prefer that type of focus for a period, so this is an appealing concept to me. If you’re looking for an art class that skims the surface of several different media, you’ll want to take a peek at the Core series at Creating a Masterpiece.
Let’s talk price. I don’t like to spend money. I know some people get exhilarated by it, but I get a crippling, nauseating feeling every time I have to, say, pay for groceries or order laundry detergent online. I know I have a problem. Thank you for pointing that out. (Ha ha!) So I analyze a program or curriculum to death before making a decision–it’s my purchase paralysis.
Creating a Masterpiece has a options for you. Try the sample course first. It is a pastel course, so you’ll need pastels and paper, but it will at least give you an example of Ms. Hofer’s teaching style so you can know if this will work for you or your family. Also, you can subscribe for a month or for the entire year. Let’s say you want to take a J-term (That’s old school Midwestern talk for an intense month of studying a single subject or two in January.) or maybe your family totally burns out on school every March (guilty!). You can subscribe just for January, or just for March or for sixty days in the summer or whatever! If you’re committed to the whole year at once, you get a discounted rate.
The drawing course is a good one for saving money, since the supplies are not as expensive as courses requiring numerous different supplies. And while some of my kids are using Prismacolor pencils and legit drawing pencils and nice grade sketching paper, others are using Crayola erasable pencils and a school pencil and art paper, and one or two projects were even done with crayons on computer paper. Let’s keep that last bit between us. Of course, the better your materials, the better your results, but we have never let a lack of funds stop us from learning the techniques and loving the process.
This is a great course for those who learn visually through videos, which is a great way to learn art. It’s excellent for those who want to jump in with a project, as opposed to, say, drawing circles and foreshortened squares and doing shading and perspective exercises. You will learn those same skills, but you will learn them as you are doing a project, not in isolation.
Naturally, if you prefer an art book with the art techniques taught in isolation, this program is possibly not for you. I liken it to music. You must learn and master the scales and techniques, but you also want to be playing beautiful music as quickly as possible. Is it possible to play music without learning the scales immediately? Yes it is. Can you learn them as you learn the beautiful music? Absolutely! Can you play without learning the scales and techniques at all? Yes, but your future growth will be hindered. This course teaches those techniques while you “play the beautiful music.”
I personally do enjoy the art books where a skill is taught in isolation, but I know my limitations. I don’t know how to help my children apply those skills to their art. And I thoroughly enjoyed working on the projects in the lessons! And my kids love it, especially when I join in.
Also, I can follow our school schedule nicely for a few weeks and then plunge off a cliff…figuratively…and be mired in the quagmire of chaos for a while. With Creating a Masterpiece, I can say, “Art lesson!” and it happens without me for an hour. The lessons are more like half an hour, but our lessons involve quite a bit of pause-start-pause-start-pause-start.
Finally, because of the online nature of the course and the limited number of supplies necessary, it’s great for the RV…when we get an internet connection. Roadschoolers, take note!
If you have any questions, I’m happy to try to answer them in the comments or drop me an email. Otherwise, feel free to read all these other reviews by other review crew members. You can also get more information by follow Creating a Masterpiece on Facebook.
We are definitely sticking with this program until our subscription ends.