sphere and box painting course

What subject to choose for a painting?

The best subject for a painting is the one that is just challenging enough for you so that you can complete it and be happy with the result.

We never feel good at a new skill without technique and practice. I teach painting to students of all levels and my goal is to make them succeed at each painting they do, even their first.

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Digital art creation by dsngiap

5 Photoshop Tools to Help your Oil or Acrylic Painting

Get a boost in creativity by using digital painting tools

Digital artists are creating masterpieces using strictly digital tools. Can artists using traditional media benefit from these tools? Absolutely, and I will show you how. I will look at the tools that are most helpful in the conception, design and development phase of the painting process. To make this simpler, we will use Adobe Photoshop but the tools described below are practically the same on free alternatives like Gimp or Pixlr Editor. Time to get a creative boost!

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boy learns to paint e1527342292749

The Best Online Art Lessons for Children

Online art lessons for children are effective, varied and affordable

There are many reasons why it’s worth exploring online art lessons for children. The exponentially growing number of these services create such a massive pool of talent that you are sure to find an excellent teacher almost cut to measure for your kid or teen’s needs. The variety of art mediums and styles parallels the diversity of teachers. Your choices are greater than anything available locally even in large cities. The different types of online learning services will insure that you can find a service with the right price, often much cheaper than in-class lessons. Keep reading to find out 10 services that I recommend and what you can do to help your child expand her/his skills safely and effectively.

1 - Video-based learning

2 - One on one tutoring

3 - And something new...

Online art courses for kids and teens come in two large groups videos and tutoring. Which has the best approach for your child? We will look at that and introduce a new alternative that may just be what your child needs!

Videos based learning

Often sold as online courses, these are usually presented as bundles of videos grouped by subject. Many sites such as Udemy will include additional material like articles, exercises and even a certificate of completion. You can also find similar videos on YouTube for free but the you will have to sort through varying quality videos and endure the adds. The convenience of the video package ease of access make this an interesting choice for self motivated teens.

The main drawback of this type of learning is that it requires a lot of effort for kids to stay focused and go through all the lessons. This often means that parents will have to be more involved to keep the child or teen on track with the series of video. It is also a passive form of learning and for kids who like to experiment and try things for themselves, this may be not work out so well.

Essentially, these online resources replace the mail-in DVD courses that were popular a generation ago. Most providers will chunk the courses in smaller video segment so you can get a sense of progression.

I would advise to try one short course before signing up for large bundles or a subscription based model like Arttutor. You will see quickly if you child has the self motivation necessary to take on longer courses.

Here are 5 notable players in video based art learning:

  •  Skill share: Over 3000 art courses for kids, about 3400 for teens 
  • ArtTutor Based in England, has a few hundred art classes or courses that can be accessed through a monthly or yearly subscription.
  • Jerryartarama offers a few dozen free videos art lessons that are a little fuzzy but hey, they’re free!

  • JAM: Jam obviously went for quality over quantity. You will find just a couple of bundles for drawing and one bundle for animation. They reallly encourage kids to experiment. This probably is the most hands on approach or the videos based learning.

Online art tutoring for children

One on One tutoring

Let’s face it (pun intended). Having a tutor or teacher face to face, or one on one over webcam, is still the best way for most kids to connect and get engaged. It is by far the most effective way to help a student with his/her particular difficulties and to find custom solutions to remove roadblocks in the learning process.

According to recent surveys, online tutoring has already become more common than face to face tutoring and the trend in not slowing down. The reduction in travel expenses and the schedule flexibility allow tutors to offer quality services at a better price. Also, since the online world has few borders, you can find tutors in countries where the cost of living and currency exchange rate allow qualified, English speaking art instructors to charge even lower prices. 

Even if he cost of a one on one service is often higher than video courses, the personal attention and direction of a real person make lessons much more motivating and effective. This teacher-student relationship, especially in visual arts, has been the cornerstone of art education for centuries, and for good reasons. Art is a discipline that requires the teacher to make judgment calls on every interaction with the student. A good art teacher will correct errors gently, encourage efforts and demonstrate techniques and methods that are very specific. At the same time, the teacher has to allow experimentation and bring some level of discipline with kids and teens. This will certainly be one of the last job that will be taken over by robots!!

Here are 4 resources that I think are worth looking into:
  • Superprof Based in France has a truly global reach with about 3 miillions teachers. Superprof doesn’t have a general “Art” category but at the time of this writing, they have 565 registered teachers who teach drawing for children and 390 who teach painting for childrenThis platform is really an intermediary between students (or parents) and teachers. They allow you to search and choose the tutor. After that, it’s all between the tutor and you, including payments and refunds if necessary. 
  • Preply has an international pool of teachers. They currently feature 32 art tutors who provide service through Skype. Cost ranges between 5$ and 38$ and hour with an average of about 25$.
  • UniversityTutor has close to 9000 art tutors in the United States alone! Like Superprof, UniversityTutor allow you to search and choose the tutor. They don’t get involved past that point. This huge number of art tutors however means that you are likely find one close to home if you want to have a combination of online and face-to-face sessions with the same tutor.

  • Buddyschool: is another tutoring platform that has caters to all age groups including children. A quick search in their Art category will return dozens of tutors across North America and the rest of the world. 

One on One art lessons by email

...And something new?

When I started ARTZOK, I wanted to offer an alternative that came closer to to the usual teacher-student interactions. The frequent and quick interventions that a teacher does in art classes are very effective at helping students find their path while getting the knowledge that they need at the moment they need it.

Following this model, we created ARTZOK to offer affordable one-on-one lessons via email that art students can use whenever they need a little help with their work. 

Students simply upload an image of their work in progress and the teacher responds within 24 hours, often much faster, with a positive critique and tips for improvement. The process is repeated whenever the student feels the need for support.

The vast majority of our services are offered to kids and teens and some are specifically tailored for them.

Parents can feel secure knowing that all interactions between tutors and minors are monitored and recorded. We are so sure of our approach that we offer free trials on practically all lessons.

So, what is the best online art lessons platform for children?

It is the one that your kid or teen is most likely to enjoy and that will keep them motivated and engaged. For some it will be brushing up on some techniques in a video course, for other it will be tutoring via webcam and for others it will be something more flexible like ARTZOK. There are plenty of artists who are self-taught but the trial and error process is slow and frankly quite lonely. Having a teacher that can support, encourage, correct and show the way will not only speed up the learning curve but make the process more exciting and gratifying.

What do you think?

girl painting with dog

Learning Art Online vs Art Classes

Time for a paradigm shift!

Our work, shopping, social interactions are increasingly taking place online and this is our new normal. With learning, we are facing some persistent stereotypes that are keeping many from benefiting from effective learning tools.

Online learning is often considered second rate to classroom education. Similarly, online degrees can be viewed with suspicion and this can discourage many people from pursuing them. In art, with a tradition of learning by doing, the move to online learning can be even harder to accept. Here is why it is time to shift this paradigm.

Student for life

Art student online workspace

Spending x number of years in an art school then finding a job to apply our skills for the remaining of our career is not something that is viable anymore.

With and accelerating rate of change in technologies, our tools are changing faster and we need to learn to use them to keep up with our trade or craft. Yes, pencils and brushes will not go away and there will always be a need to master traditional medias like drawing and painting.  However, medias like digital art and photography are taking center stage by making use of powerful digital tools. Even traditional media artists benefit from learning to use tools like Photoshop and photography filters in smart phones. If you want to keep creating, especially if it is for making a living, you better be ready to study and learn for the rest of your life.

Advantages of learning art online

online art course

1 - Learn at your own pace.

OK, you will have to learn continuously… Being able to set the time and pace of your courses or interactions with your online teacher makes it much easier than having to go to a weekly course, somewhere!

2 - Learn anything

You are not limited to a course that you can find in a limited radius around your home. You can find awesome teachers for virtually any art media that you can imagine.

3 - Learn fast

The flexibility of learning at your own pace and at home ultimately means that you can have many more study sessions of varying lengths. You will lose less time and master your art sooner how? By seeking help and focusing on what you really need instead than having to listen to theories or critiques that are not necessarily relevant to you.

4 - Learn better

Having access to some of the best art teachers in the world makes a huge difference in the quality of instruction an art student receives. Many platforms will post reviews and ratings for the teachers which helps your selection. You often also see artworks created by the teacher to make sure it is a good fit for you.

So, are there advantages of taking in-class art courses?​

traditional art class

I am an art teacher who has been teaching many years in his studio class and offering in-class art courses by other art teachers. You should expect a long list of positive points for traditional art classes but frankly, I can see only a few. Here they are!

1 - It creates an obligation

By signing up to a weekly art class, you are more likely to attend the class than an alternative online learning period without commitment. This can change however after someone finds the right teacher online and start getting the benefits of receiving the right type of help when needed.

2 - Classrooms have a social aspect

Learning art in a group can be stimulating for people who enjoy the company of other students/artists. Seeing the progress of other student’s works can even light up a positive competitive side in some. Realizing this need, some online art classes include a social component on their platform to let students exchange images and comments.

3 - A teacher can intervene on your piece

With the student’s permission, I often show how to fix small problems on their drawing or painting. Learning by seeing a teacher’s demonstration, especially very specific problems, is very valuable and this is perhaps the greatest advantage of an art class. It is especially true when working from life.

However (yes, there is an however here too…), there are new online tools such as whiteboards that allow teachers and students to interact remotely on a shared image. A teacher can “touch up” a student’s work or demonstrate a technique. This is a feature that we will be adding to ARTZOK which we will call the virtual studio.

And the winner is...

tablet for online are course


Seriously, the advantages for learning art online are stacking up progressively higher. With countless YouTube videos, blogs, online lessons, on-demand support like ARTZOK and new interactive tools, the choices are as varied as are the needs for continued learning. A mobile device is often all that you need to sign up and use an online learning platform. You can receive the information, help and support to learn a new media or to perfect an existing skill.

When looking at costs, learning art online is almost always at an advantage. With industries recognizing the need for continued training for artist, graphic designers and others, the value of online courses is being more and more recognized and compensated by employers.

ARTZOK a unique model

I started ARTZOK to initially give my students a platform to receive help whenever they needed troubleshooting on an art project. I had noticed that during my summer and Holiday breaks, many students simply stoped practising their art because of a fear of making too many errors without me to guide them. With ARTZOK, they can simply upload a picture of their work at any stage of its creation and rapidly receive tips by email on ways to improve it and move it forward. This way students can work from home why receiving the advice they would get during an art class.

ARTZOK is now available for any art student and our teachers provide support in a continually growing list of medias.

senior learning to paint

Mature Art Student

Mature Art Students - Yes you can!

I have taught drawing and painting to many retirees in their 60s, 70s and 80s and, without exception, it was a very positive experience for them. There are some challenges for mature art students that I will address here but I’ll tell how to take advantage of your time make sure that you get rewarded for your efforts.

It is never too late to learn!

My mature students often start by saying that they have no talents and are not sure if they can learn at their age. Often, this fear stems from not having been in a learning environment for a long time. It may take a little longer to learn new skills or theory but the capacity to improve remains relatively unchanged as we get older (see graph below).

This study from The European Review of Aging and Physical Activity show that after 6 practice sessions (top graph), there was improvement in physical motor skills across all age groups. 

Motor skills by age 

Although, the speed of skill acquisitions drops slightly as we get older, it can be more than compensated by having more time to practice and fewer distractions. In my experience, mature students generally advance as fast as younger students. More importantly, finding joy in the learning process is far more rewarding than attaining any goal. 

I often hear older adults “I have no talent” or “I can’t even draw a straight line”, the question of talent is a subject on its own but suffice it to say that talent has more to do with skills acquired over time than with any natural abilities.

It's all about intensity

Yayoi Kusama the polka dot princess

If age is not the first determinant in skill acquisition, what is?  Intensity!

Taking a once a week course is a start and may be enough for hobbyists who want to enjoy an afternoon out and benefit from the experience of a teacher. However, if someone wants to feel a sense or progression in any art, more practice at home is essential. Think about musicians, sport professionals, great artists, what to they all have in common? Daily practice.

Practice everyday?

For physiological reasons, we need concentration and repetition in our practice to consolidate new skills. It has to do with the myelination of our neurons. These fat layers surround and protect our neurons but they have to be put in layers in a process that happens over time. That is why there are no overnight geniuses! Skills are earned over time, the journey can and should be enjoyable!

This is where mature art students have their biggest advantage. After retirement, with independent children away from home, there is a lot more flexibility with time. So arranging short art sessions daily can be more easily achieved.

Everyday really?

It may be harder if you are and oil painter, having to get your materials ready by itself can take the same time as a short sketching session. But, you can still look at your work, see what has to be fixed, do some research, look and analyse the works of master painters, etc. For other mediums, like photography it is very easy to make it a daily habit. Try 20 or 30 minutes, mornings are often the best time because there are less chances of being distracted. For many older adults, this is where the mind is most rested.

I see more change in the development of students who work from home 3 times or more every week and the most with students who practice daily. Try to target something in that range and you will see results. 

The benefits of daily practice

  1. Like brushing your teeth, a daily activity is much easier to keep that an irregular one
  2. You keep the connection with your work open. You may even find yourself loking at the wold around you differently and dreaming about your pieces, this is your brain doing wiring work!
  3. You will develop trust in yourself and loose the fear of the white page or canvas.
  4. You will remember more easily what you learn. 
  5. Your new skills will become more intuitive.

Mature art student tips

older artist learning to paint

Chose a flexible program

We can’t count on being in top shape everyday, especially as we get older and winter conditions can be more challenging for people with reduced mobility. Some teachers will allow you to skip classes or you can find a teacher online who will help you in the comfort of your home. 

When I built ARTZOK, I had all of my students in mind but also mature students or students with reduced mobility everywhere who could benefit from a professional support from their home. We’ve made it very simple and affordable to get regular help from top art teachers.

Try new technologies

From online help to YouTube demonstrations, there are many ways to find information and get help. Most new technologies are built to be used without instructions, your just have to try it and follow your intuition. Your smart phone or tablet are packed full of technologies that you can use. Most mobile devices have surprisingly good cameras that you can use with filters and image editing apps. There is a lot you can do even before you pick up a pencil or brush.

Consider online lessons

A weekly art class at a local community centre or art school can be a good way to find a supportive and stimulating environment but consider online support. Online lessons and tutoring can be very effective at helping you move along. Often, all you need is your mobile device to connect with a qualified teacher. For some, it is the only way to get support.

84 years old draws his first portrait

A student that I will always remember received a gift certificate from his children for a drawing course with me. He was 84 yeas old at the time and had never drawn anything but always wished he had a chance. He thought it was too late but since he did not want to disappoint his children he decided to try. He wanted to draw the portrait of his grand-daughter as his first drawing…

Normally I help my students progress from simple forms (spheres, cubes…) to more complex structures. Portraits come after mastering simpler projects but I only had 10 3-hours sessions with this student and he wanted to do a portrait. Did he do it? YES, and it was pretty good!

Even with a difficult subject like a portrait, if we simplify the general form and move in a structured step by step process, we can get to a good likeness. For this older adult beginner, it took about 30 hours. In the end, my 84 years old student couldn’t believe that he had drawn this portrait, even if I did not touch his drawing a single time. All that was required, was time, consistent effort and a teacher to point the way. He was very proud to give his portrait to his grand-daughter as a present!

It is not about your age

winston churchill painting

Don’t let being a mature art student define you. You have many advantages, from more flexibility with your time to having more perspective with life.

There is a general fear that with age, our abilities to learn decline just like our physical abilities. This is only true if we let them! If you start doing weight lifting, we will soon be able to measure your progress and the rate of progress interestingly does not vary much with age. The same applies to learning a new art medium, your rate of progress will be much more a factor of the time and regularity of your practice than anything else.

Another of my students started painting lessons with me a few years after suffering a massive stroke which left her paralyzed on one side and with speech and cognitive abilities impaired. As I looked at the series of paintings that she did in my studio, the progress between each was striking, perhaps more than any other student that I ever taught to.

It’s all about the journey, not the destination (or your age!)
Of course, you have heard this cliché before, but once you reach a certain age, it becomes more relevant. You don’t have to prove anything anymore, you don’t have to be under pressure, you don’t need to meet objectives or deadlines. It’s time to enjoy what art has brought to countless generations before, the joy of creating something new, of expressing yourself, of being in the moment, of finding beauty where you did not know it existed before.

painting by Jos van Riswick

The perils of the Carder Method

What is the Carder Method?

Originally, Mark Carder sold a DVD course entitled the “Carder Method for Painting in Oil”. While the course is still available on Amazon, Mark offers most of the principles and methods free from his YouTube channel and website drawmixpaint.com.

Mark shows how to control everything from the light, the studio wall colour, the tools and the paint to get extreme accuracy in drawing, in paint mixing and application. When followed, this method will allow even beginners to do very realistic paintings but beware, it can halt your artistic development.

Starting from nothing

"A little learning is a dangerous thing" Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)"

Image result for frog drawing

15 years ago, my daughter asked to me draw her a frog, I couldn’t. I decided to take a drawing course to learn the basics of drawing. I was hooked!

The next 10 years became a full time pursuit of knowledge about drawing, painting and portraiture. I took countless classes with master artists, read a full library or art books, watched over 500 hours of demo videos… you get the idea! 

Eventually, I became a commissioned portrait artist and a drawing and painting teacher.

 Along this journey, I encountered the Carder method which has been both a great learning tool and a major pitfall. This article aims to help you avoid these perils while getting the best of what Mark Carder or any controlled approach can teach you.

First, the good!

proportional divider

Mark Carder tells you how to faithfully transcribe on paper or canvas a still life setup or a picture using a proportional divider.

Once the drawing is nailed, he teaches you how to mix color accurately by checking your paint either with a color checker or directly on a laminated photo reference.

This can save you years of learning how to draw, how to control your paint by trials an errors and guarantee very accurate results fast. 


Now the bad!

The results you get from using the Carder Method are so good that you become very reluctant to go back to the long and arduous tasks of sketching, doing color studies, painting in layers, etc. It can quickly become your artistic golden handcuffs. Mark Carder himself tells his listeners that this method should be used for 10-20 paintings only. It is however hard to leave the safety of this method and very tempting to come back to the guarantee of a perfectly accurate drawing that never needs refining or to the ease of a perfect color mix on every brush stroke. 


So, what's the problem?

The main problem is that you become a photocopier, you replace artistic discoveries with technical an repetitive gestures. It becomes very hard to see individual differences between works by different artists using this method – they look pretty much all done by the same hand. The worst pitfall, as least for me… it killed the joy of painting that I had prior to using these techniques. 

Before I learned the Carder Method

Thank you Waterhouse 12x16

This portrait of my son was done using looser brush strokes. Instead than concentrating on exact colors, I looked for a mood and the feeling the light hitting the skin. I had to correct my drawing throughout the painting process which was frustrating at times but the result, with all of its imperfections, is closer to the reality I perceived. 

After I Learned the Carder Method

NY couple

These three figures from a commissioned portrait was easier and faster to do than the portrait of my son. This is partly because I had gained more experience but also because I hardly ever had to repaint anything since I checked my colors at pretty much every brushstrokes. The client was happy with the result but the artist was not. I felt like a robot repeating the same mechanical gestures toward a very predictable outcome.

What to do?

OK, the Carder method will give you results but can we still use it without falling into its trappings?

YES… but be careful, the temptation to return to the safety of this method will be stronger for some people.

I teach drawing and painting to people of all ages and I use some of Carder’s techniques to help my student take some measurements, become aware of color differences etc. BUT I give them as much theory as they can take so they understand how light reacts a certain way and what they can do with it. I also encourage them to do these things:


  • Draw first, then measure. This way you get a feedback and learn where you tend to diverge from reality. You eventually develop a sense of relative proportions and line directions and quality. Too much upfront measurement makes you a slave to your proportional divider or whatever tool you use for taking measures. 
  • Check your color only sporadically. Checking your color at every brushstrokes like I did for a while will guarantee perfect photo realism but will not teach you anything. Color-check your lightest light, darkest dark and perhaps a few of your mid-tones then compare your masses relative to one another, get a feeling of how values and colors relate to each other.
  • Try other approaches. Do monochrome studies, sketch with short pose live model, do wipe-outs (massing of tones), use only big brushes for a while, try laying transparent colors (glazes) over a grisaille, experiment and discover what brings you joy. 
  • Find your way. Art is not about copying nature, it is about communicating something, beauty, emotions, a message. How can you best communicate what you have to say? 

Final word

The academic art training of the past centuries was able to produce our greatest artists but those who stood out are the same who stepped away from their academic training and comfort zone to experiment and find their own voices. Similarly, the Carder method gives the tools to create convincing realistic art but only those who can move on and find their own path will get the satisfaction of creating true original art.

I have the upmost respect for Mark Carder, I watched all of his DVDs and most of his YouTube videos. I used his tools and followed closely his techniques and methods for several years. Perhaps this was my biggest error and the reason I am writing the article, it was too much of a good thing. Taken in moderation however in a much larger and diverse learning strategy, the Carder method can be a useful tool on your way to becoming the best artist you can be!

Consider having a teacher that can provide timely support online. This is a service that I offer on ARTZOK, it has proven to be very effective at helping students and even professional artists get the feedback they need to keep progressing with their art.