Teaching Yourself the Arts

I’ve been writing articles for this blog since 2016. My focus from the start was art and creativity because I had just finished an art course and I was transitioning away from freelance web design (which I had taught myself for fun over a period of several years after leaving University with an Archaeology degree in 2003).

I put a lot of energy into the art course which ran from 2014 to 2015 and despite getting Glandular Fever toward the end of it and falling asleep quite a lot in class, I managed to pass with a distinction grade.

There was no digital art on the course but that gave me a good opportunity to revisit traditional mediums and try lots of different things. This did a lot to rejuvenate my creativity at the time.

My previous self study in the arts helped me, my tutor told me I was working at a very high standard probably more around university level and said I should do an MA. Due to my financial situation at the time, my previous student loan debt from doing an Archaeology degree and my health problems this wasn’t something I wanted to take on.

I had doubts as to whether it was worth incurring more financial hardship for yet another uncertain career path or whether I could just teach myself through books and the internet. Most of my progress on the course was due to my own research and effort. I used the library at the college every day and I had access to the internet there and at home.

My personal tutor was good, but most of the art teachers spent their day away from the classroom. One day I even observed them browsing their personal Facebook profiles and goofing about instead of helping students learn.

Drawing and general draftsmanship skills don’t seem to be as valued in British art education unless it is still present in more specialized courses. Online learning is a different story in that regard because you get access to working artists all around the world who are teaching things our school system abandoned or discouraged.

With these things in mind I decided I could learn things for myself after the course using books, the internet and dogged persistence. All I needed to figure out was what curriculum or plan to take.

At first I concentrated on learning more about Illustration in general trying to fill in gaps in my knowledge. I read a lot about the theory and context and treated it as an academic exercise as well as practicing practical techniques by setting myself mini art projects. Most of these projects still live in my sketchbooks and give me ideas for things I can work on.

I learned how to do vector art because I had seen another student using it in class and became curious about it. It was also useful for the laser cutting machine in the engineering section of the college which we were allowed to make use of, so I thought it would be good to learn.

Something that had been swimming around in my head due to the parting words of my personal tutor had been the need to learn 3D. She did sculptures in metal work which I wasn’t as keen about to do myself, but I could read between the lines of what she was suggesting.

Learning 3D would help me see things in other ways and help increase creativity. As well as developing another skill it would help improve my understanding of forms and lighting which might help increase my 2D skills. It was mainly because of this I made a commitment to learn 3D and I decided upon the digital form of it due to practicality sake.

Digital art does not require a lot of space for storage of materials or a big studio to work in. You need the hardware for doing it of course, but most entry level gaming spec PCs are more than adequate for that, and if you want a graphics tablet there are many affordable options. I mean honestly some people just use a portable tablet these days, although personally I think a computer gives you more power to play with. Some people have both.

As for software, I’ve written quite a lot about that in previous articles so I won’t go into it here. There are so many options available for any budget for both 2D and 3D digital art.

As well as this there are many really good resources available for you to learn at your own leisure and pace online.

Here are some useful online resources:


A free learning resource dedicated to the basics of digital painting maintained by Matt Kohr.

Draw a Box

A website with a set of free art exercises focusing on the fundamentals.

Phils Design Corner

Phils Design Corner on YouTube has some great tutorial videos on character design, digital painting and concept art.

CG Cookie

CG Cookie is a subscription based learning resource focusing mainly on learning how to make game assets using Blender 3D.


Udemy is a massive hub of online learning and has many different courses for all aspects of digital art as well as other subjects. In the past I have managed to get access to some really great courses with their frequent sales.

Gabbit Media

Grant Abbit teaches the basics of Blender and Graphic Design. There are lots of free video tutorials as well as his more in depth paid courses.

SVS Learn

You don’t need to go to University to learn Illustration. Anyone from beginner level to advanced can get access to some excellent courses on all aspects of what you need to know to be a working Illustrator (with a focus on working for the Children’s Illustration market, comics and aspects of concept design) here.

Creature Art Teacher

Creature Art Teacher is run by creature designer and animator Aaron Blaise who worked at Disney on films like “Beauty and the Beast”. He teaches 2D hand drawn animation and digital painting.


I’ve never used Skillshare myself, but there are lots of creativity, digital art, graphic design and Illustration topics to learn here.


ArtStation is a gallery site and hub for artists mainly interested or working in the game and film industry. It has a learning section and until next year is currently offering many courses for free.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. They have subjects in most academic subjects from mathematics, history, science, literature and the arts. You can also learn programming and some life skills. Pixar contributed a few courses on storytelling, animation and computing as well.


A free library of educational textbooks.


Online courses for Creative subjects by working professionals.


Courses in graphic design subjects, webdesign and some digital Illustration techniques.

Projects Gutenberg

A library of free e-books.

The Internet Archive

You can find some books on art and drawing topics here.


Free courses on lots of subjects including the arts and humanities (academic focus).

Further Reading

Top 10 Best Online Art Courses That Are Worth Paying For

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