Teach yourself painting... it sounds wonderful, doesn't it? The idea inspires images of dreamy days in a cottage by the sea with a little dog called Chalky, spending daylight hours dabbing thoughtfully at your work by the whirling surf, knapsack stuffed full of paint brushes, sandwiches and a flask of hot tea, and night time tucked up early in bed reading Daphne du Maurier.
Or perhaps you dream of being secreted away in a dusty garret, hurling rainbow colors at a huge canvas in an artistic frenzy, discovering your inner creator and making a beautiful Pollocky mess.
The reality is often more daunting than the fantasy. Many are held back by worries that they "can't draw". Maybe they have bad memories of a bad teacher at school or think they simply don't have the time for something so frivolous, but they really wished they could.
This is where the "Teach Yourself" phenomenon comes in. No classes, no teacher breathing down your neck, no peer competition. You can work at your own pace and take the time to really develop your skills in a way that suits you.
Perhaps you are looking for the ideal gift for a friend or loved one. Perhaps you are a beginner and want a new hobby, or used to paint and need the confidence to get back into it, or need inspiration. Or maybe you are an advanced painter and want to improve your technique, or sell your work. The range and variety of products are out there to suit every purpose and pocket, so all you need is to pick the right one for you.
Types of Products: what do you get for your money?
These days there are many options available in terms of product format. There are books, audio downloads, e-books, DVDs, correspondence courses along with internet resources, e-mail support and online student communities. Some products are very simple and some incorporate multimedia, and this is reflected in the price.
Most of the products in this category work on the step-by-step guide principle, but vary in terms depth and breadth. The price of the product you buy will reflect the degree of depth the course provides, the quantity of materials provided, and how many one-to-one tutorials are included, if appropriate.
The printed books are cheaper and would be the best place to start for a light introduction into "teaching yourself". The lighter guides are a fun introduction into painting and are presented in the form of step-by-step beginners' painting projects. Other books offer more comprehensive courses, teaching you about the tools, basic techniques and guiding you through a series of painting projects. Some cover just one style of painting such as oils or watercolors, but others a mix of both.
Different painting media bring different challenges, so think about this before you choose your course. You may already have an idea of what kind of painting you would like to do, but if not, watercolors or acrylics are generally the easiest. You might want to brush up on your drawing skills first, but this is not always a prerequisite.
Although e-books ought to be cheaper (because there is no printing cost for the publisher) often they actually cost more. Self-publishing is easy now because of the internet, so there is a huge market out there. The advantages as consumers are that there are much more to choose from, they often contain more pages and you can download the product instantly, but the disadvantage is knowing which are genuine products of good quality. Don't forget to add your printing costs into the equation, as they can be more than a hundred pages long.
Comprehensive, multimedia "complete" courses are there for the consumer who really wants something to get their teeth into. This type of course comes complete with a series of DVDs providing tutor-led instruction, accompanying text books, learning tools, plus a degree of online tutorial support. Correspondence courses tend to cost more because of the expert time required to support your learning experience.
The DVD course keeps the cost down whilst providing a comprehensive package of course materials, often including e-mail contact with the tutor for quick questions and FAQs. Many packages, particularly the downloadable online products offer freebies and extras such as accompanying e-books on different subjects, or color wheels, extra DVDs and handbooks. Some courses require you to buy something extra to be able to do the course, such as essential tools used in the specific teaching method, so watch out for these added costs.
The method of payment is an important thing to consider and bears greatly on what you get for your money. We have all been caught out by mobile phone contracts that seem to be cheaper but in the long run cost more. Payment methods for Teach Yourself Painting Products tend to fall into the following categories:
Other options include shorter courses by the same course provider, "discovery courses" and introductory offers. Products sold online can often be purchased cheaper with seasonal discounts, e.g. Christmas or Mother's Day etc.
Also check out before buying whether there is a money back guarantee. Many of the more expensive courses, and even some of the e-books, offer a risk-free money back guarantee if you change your mind. Check what the postage arrangements are - text books can be really heavy!
Teaching Method and Style
A key factor when it comes to cost is how much tutorial is included. This varies considerably, from e-mail contact, through discussion forum or critique of structured assignments. The most expensive product is the correspondence course. It is the only product to offer in-depth feedback for structured assignments. Usually this is delivered in the format of a text book and assignments to send in to your tutor for critique. There are sometimes cheaper introductory versions containing materials and assignments, without the the critiques on your work.
The teaching effectiveness depends on a few factors. Firstly - do you like the teacher's style? It is important that you like the art work that the tutor does, so check them out online and see examples of their paintings. Who is the tutor? What are their credentials? Can they pack in the information whilst keeping learning fun and the process enjoyable so that you will want to complete the course and maybe even do more?
Another factor for teaching effectiveness is the teaching method. Some products teach a broad base of learning, bringing a more classical approach by teaching you a bit of everything. Others focus on a special method using a technique designed to skip the hard slog and produce instant results. Both processes have merit and depend a bit on what you are looking for. The disadvantage of the method teaching is that all the students end up producing paintings that look like they were made by the same person! There can be stunning results, but for the more serious painter a broader learning base will be needed with more time to develop your own style. Courses that encourage further reading, visiting museums and ways of finding inspiration are highly recommended.
What makes a 5 star rating from No1Reviews.com?
The products in this category are extremely varied in terms of format and content so this was taken into account when awarding star ratings. We used the following set of criteria to compare and contrast the products in this category:
The Bottom Line
As with any "Teach Yourself" category, one size will not fit all, as learning styles, skills and budgets vary from person to person. We hope that our buying guide and product reviews provide some useful insights that will help you decide which products may suit you best.