Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Have You Learned Lately: Online Creative Class Round Up

Over the past two-ish years, I have become obsessed with taking online classes to learn new design and craft skills. As you may know, I never attended any kind of design school (apart from a few basic classes in my Journalism undergrad). Through the years, I was always on the hunt for various art classes, but I could never find the time or motivation to actually go to an in-person class.

But lately I've been noticing a huge crop of new design and craft classes, led by some of my very very favorite artists, cropping up all over! I've dipped my toe in the water here and there, but I wanted to briefly share my experience with the classes I've taken in case anyone else out there has any interest. So here goes!

I Still Love Calligraphy with Melissa Esplin

This was one of the first classes I took back in 2012. At the time I paid $99 plus materials (paper, ink, pen, nibs). Currently the class is $130 and includes materials, and I believe she has been updating her videos and content since then. My favorite part about this class was getting feedback directly from Melissa and the structured practice exercises. I have to admit that I haven't kept up with my pointed-pen practice, but this class really improved my understanding and appreciation of hand lettering. See more...

Pattern Camp with Jessica Swift

This class probably had the MOST impact on me in terms of learning technical skills that I now use all the time to create repeating patterns. I have admired Jess for a long time (and also took her Declaration of You class). I met her at a craft fair once in DC and was completely, ridiculously, embarressingly star struck.

Anyways, Pattern Camp is a great overview on how to make repeating patterns in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I paid $130 for the class and it was worth EVERY PENNY (I believe prices have rightfully gone up but Jess is regularly running specials so check her blog! Worth it!). I already had a copy of Illustrator/Photoshop so I didn't have to pay additional for that.

The videos walk you through each step from concept to creation, and it was great even if you've never used the software in the past. This class offered the option to go through it "live" during a specific weekend which I highly recommend. Jess and my classmates' real time feedback through the Facebook group and webcasts was extremely helpful and generally made me feel like a rockstar. See more...

Design, Carve, Print with Jen Hewett

Jen is another artist that I've been stalking admiring for many years, so when she opened up a new online block printing class I waited less than five minutes to sign up for $99. Like Pattern Camp, this class offered and "live" option, which again, was so much fun which some great teacher/class interaction.

I had tried block printing before but Jen's class really helped me improve my efforts and understand the right materials to use, particularly on fabric. I tried my hand at printing a full yard of fabric to make a tote bag, and also combined several of my block prints with my digital skills to turn out some pretty fun digital patterns. See more...

Creative Bug Fabric Design with Heather Ross, Lizzy House & Denise Schmidt

Creative Bug is a subscription site that I signed up for in March in order to watch their fabric design class co-sponsored by Spoonflower. It's only $4.95/month which seems like a ridiculous steal for the amount of classes and content.

The Fabric Design class was really good in learning more about the artistic process that these three amazing designers use in developing their fabric collections. I really loved their personal stories and seeing how there really was no "right" way to do things. I think it was less helpful in the technical department (where Pattern Camp really excelled), but for $4.95, I enjoyed it immensely. See more...

Creative Bug Drawing & Illustration Basics with Heather Ross

Following the Fabric Design class, I also started watching the Drawing & Illustration Basics class taught by Heather Ross who seems like another person I want to be best friends with (sorry if that is creepy). This class touched on sketching and painting everyday objects and creating conversational artwork. Heather's style isn't exactly the same as mine, but I loved trying something different. Her mantra that everyone can draw was really empowering because I have often felt that I couldn't draw "things that look like things." See more...

Lynda.com Adobe Illustrator Essential Training

Finally, the last class I'll talk about was on Lynda.com. This was another subscription, about $40/month. The site, which was recently purchased by LinkedIn, is geared more towards career development vs. hobbyists, but this class was really helpful and in depth. It definitely gave me a great foundation and more confidence in working with Illustrator which I had never used before.

All in all, I hope to keep jumping in to these classes and would love more recommendations if you know of any. I love learning new skills and techniques and really hope that more artists will be sharing their passions through this type of setting in the future!


  1. I have taken a couple of in person classes at my local Volkshochschule (I never know what the US equivalent would be. I believe it's a little like community college, but you can't actually get a degree) and I really didn't enjoy the people. It bugged me a lot that everybody was so overcritical of their own work. I love that the internet makes it possible to take a class with likeminded people from all over the world. I signed up for Pattern Camp at the beginning of June and am really looking forward to it. I have recently taken Kate Bingaman-Burts Zine-Workshop on Skillshare which I loved a LOT. I also have been eyeing Lisa Congdons creativebug classes.

    1. I totally agree! I love that in all of the classes people are so positive, enthusiastic and willing to embrace the ups and downs of the learning process.

      I will check out Skillshare! I've been looking at Lisa's classes too, but haven't found the time yet to work through. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. I love this wave of online learning. It's such a fabulous way to get the right information from creatives you trust! I second lynda.com. It's definitely more for professional development than hobbyists, but it's an amazing resource for technical stuff. If you want more of a hobbyist approach to Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign, I would highly recommend Alma Loveland over on Atly: https://www.atly.com/#!/profile/16989434/Alma-Loveland!

    Thanks again for the shout out. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the class! Now the $130 includes a kit that gets shipped to your door. We're hoping to launch an updated platform and new classes this summer. I can't wait!!

    1. Thanks for the update Melissa! I didn't even know about Atly. Ahh! So many classes so little time!