So you want to learn how to paint. You’re probably doing what most people do - you’re going on YouTube!
YouTube is an amazing resource and given everything it has to offer, you might be wondering whether it’s worth even taking art classes or going to art school. Or maybe after watching hours of videos and even more hours of practice, you feel like your art isn’t improving.
Today’s post is for you.
YouTube might be free, but it still costs something - your time.
And time is your most valuable asset.
Evolve is an online art school dedicated to finding the fastest, most effective ways to learn realistic oil painting. We’re breaking down three reasons why it’s so hard to learn how to paint on YouTube and what you need to break through.
1. There’s No Clear Path When Learning How to Paint on YouTube
We know how incredible YouTube is. It has tons of information, and many different voices, and perspectives. We post our own tutorials on the Evolve YouTube channel to help artists upgrade their art skills.
Much of what makes it so great is what makes it so hard for learning. There's so much information and so many voices that there's no clear path. Even our tutorials on YouTube - while they are really helpful (if we do say so ourselves) - don’t offer that clear path. Only a complete and good education can do that.
With YouTube, you carve your own path. You decide what you need to learn and when.
Is that such a bad thing? Unfortunately, it is. Here’s why:
Without a clear path, you suffer from serious information overload. Before you even type in the search bar, you'll see suggestions.
How to paint eyes, how to paint ears, use this palette for your flesh tones, or don’t use this, don't forget about perspective.
All of these ideas are competing for space in your brain. They're cluttering your mind and pulling you in different directions. When you type in a question, you get five different answers. How do you know which answer is best
YouTube is great once you have a command over the fundamentals. But if you aren’t there yet, you have to sort through all this information by yourself, which takes a lot of time.
Without a clear path, you end up watching quick-fix videos, which can make you really good at copying but doesn’t give you the skills you need to become your own original artist.
Entertaining or quick-fix videos get more views than educational videos. Most truly educational videos are not popular, so content creators respond in kind.
They are teaching you their style, but not necessarily the skills you need to create your own art.
What you get are tutorials and ‘Paint With Me’ videos that seem educational but give only a vague, process for making your own paintings, if they give you a process at all.
Professional artists have built their unique style through a command of the fundamentals and years of experience. They are teaching you their style, but not necessarily the skills you need to create your own art.
That's why when you follow a tutorial to create the painting seen in the video, even if it does come out beautifully, you still can't make your own paintings. You're not developing the skills to become your own artist.Ultimately, carving your own path to creating art is a painful and time-consuming road. You’re learning from trial and error because you're a student. You don't know what you don't know. You could be going in circles!
What You Need Instead - A Clear Path (AKA a Curriculum)
Why blaze your own hard-fought path when a good education in art provides the path for you?
Every step, every decision you make that leads you just a little off course saps your time. A big part of what you pay for in art school is a curriculum.
A curriculum is the path that arranges the information in a specific order so that you can build your skills with every step. It's already laid out for you, set by people with experience who consistently lead their students to success. You just have to patiently follow and trust in someone who has the experience and knows the path ahead.
At Evolve, we show you every painting assignment you take in the Foundation Program. You can see how a complete beginner can start by painting squares and make steady progress with each lesson.
There's no massive leap between projects. The path is clear and straight.
On YouTube, you're constantly changing course as you browse through the list of videos to watch. It's like driving without a map and only relying on the signs in front of you.
2. YouTube Can’t Give You Personalised Feedback
Let's imagine you say, “I hear what you're saying, so I'm going to choose one instructor on YouTube to trust in, one voice, one method.” Now you're driving with a map and directions, but it's not the same as GPS.
A GPS knows your location at all times. If you take a wrong turn, you can check your phone and immediately see how many minutes you’ve lost and reroute.
Let’s think about learning art in the same way. Imagine you’ve watched a 10-minute video and realized it’s a wrong turn. Without GPS, you don't know how long it will take to get back on track or even how to get back on track.
There's no feedback on YouTube. There's no GPS.
It’s up to you to self-assess your skill and decide the next step to improve. You have to keep yourself on the path.
You could be receiving the right information, but how do you know if you are applying the information in the right way? You could veer off course and never come back, develop bad habits, and waste more time. You might come to think you don’t have the talent for this work. But what you actually need is dedicated feedback through a real education.
… we all fall back on this fear ‘I don't have a talent for this. I've reached the limits of my talent.’ Let me tell you, there's no such thing as talent. There's a solid education and there's hard work.
Evolve Founder and Master Portrait Painter
What You Need Instead - Dedicated Feedback
A proper education includes an expert assessing your work to tell you exactly where you need to improve, just like a GPS.
Think about the time that saves you. When you take a wrong turn, you’re less concerned about the wrong turn because you know that the GPS will get you back on track to the quickest route possible.
That looks like having someone over your shoulder saying, ‘Hey, this is what you need to focus on right now.’ or ‘Hey, when I said this, you did this. I meant for you to do it like this.’ ‘Okay, now that you have this, this next part makes so much more sense.’ And you immediately find yourself progressing.
Evolve Founder and Master Portrait Painter Kevin Murphy has personal experience of what it’s like to be self-taught without any feedback.
This is his story:
Many, many, years ago when I was first learning how to make art, there was a book done by Boris Vallejo on fantasy art techniques. In the book, he explains his entire process, like with YouTube. He even had pictures.
I misinterpreted something.
He was taking Polaroid photographs for reference. I did the same thing. My Polaroid camera was $19, and Boris’ was probably $2,000. It was a professional Polaroid camera taking high-end photographs.
I didn't know the difference and he didn't specify, ‘This is the camera I use because anything less is going to give you terrible reference you can't paint from.’
I didn't know what I didn't know. I was taking terrible photographs. He was using professional lighting. I was taking photographs in my bedroom with a tungsten lightbulb overhead.
Bad photographs, terrible color, bad lighting, everything. Then I tried to make paintings from these references. I would do what I saw him do in the book.
I'd blow the image up, just like he said, do a transfer, and get it on the board.
The book had shown he had taped the photographs on the board where he was painting. I'd throw the photographs away and then paint from my imagination.
I just assumed that the photographs were taped up on the painting as he was working just to show us how close the paintings were to the photographs. It didn't occur to me that I needed to keep the photograph and work side by side and maintain it as a reference.
I'm not dumb, but I misinterpreted.
And that's the huge problem with things like YouTube and other programs without a teacher. They watch every step you take to make sure that your feet stay on the path. Unless you're in a program that's doing that, you are eventually going to find yourself misinterpreting and finding yourself off in the weeds, struggling to figure out why you can’t make it work.
And we all fall back on this fear ‘I don't have a talent for this. I've reached the limits of my talent.’ Let me tell you, there's no such thing as talent. There's a solid education and there's hard work.
*edited for brevity
With Evolve, you have coaches committed to your success. You get constructive feedback on every painting assignment within 24 hours of submitting your work.
This feedback is objective. It has no opinions attached. The feedback shows you exactly where you need to improve and what you're doing well so that we can reinforce good habits.
After giving feedback, the instructor will be the one to move you on to the next painting. This is huge because it means that you can't rush through the program developing bad habits and blind spots.
If we see that you're struggling with something, we reach out to you for a one-on-one meeting to keep you on the right path before moving you on to the next thing.
We also have weekly live classes where you can ask specific questions and more.
3. There are No Guarantees When Learning How to Paint on YouTube
On YouTube, you're on your own. No one is looking out for you. There's no one committed to making sure that you reach your goals. Think about that.
YouTube offers no promises. You don't know when you'll arrive at your goal. Your journey is uncertain.
It all comes down to time and money. YouTube is free, but it will take a lot of your time, with no guarantees.
If you’re receiving an education, it will likely require an investment, but the time needed is defined, and there should be an expectation of the skills you will have developed in that time.
What You Need Instead - A Program with Proven Results
In a good art school, you know when you'll arrive at your goal based on how much time and effort you put in.At Evolve, we believe in this so much that we put a calculator on our website that shows where you'll be in our program based on the average number of hours you put in each week.
Your time is as much of a resource as your money, and you know should know what you get for what you put in. There's peace of mind that comes with knowing that other people have taken this path and arrived.
Now, let’s take out the time component, let’s talk about the money.
We encourage you to view your learning journey as an investment. Weigh the cost of your resources against the value that you get in return.
If you do, you’ll find that YouTube is one of the longest paths to reaching pro art skills. It's like driving without a map. There's no clear path, there's no way to assess where you are in relation to the path, and there's no promise that you'll ever arrive.
Are you content to spend years trying to self-direct your growth with the very real possibility of never getting anywhere closer to your dreams? Or are you willing to invest so that by this time next year, you'll be making art that you love, the art that you've always dreamed of making?
As of right now, Evolve is roughly 100 times cheaper than your average America art school and gets artists to pro-level skills in 12 months part-time or three months full-time.*
Don’t waste another year of your life not making any real progress toward your dreams.
Bringing it All Together
We know lots of people have learned how to paint on YouTube.
We also know that not everyone can afford art school or quality online programs. It’s not impossible to learn how to paint on YouTube - it can just be really hard and time-consuming.
If you’re sick of wasting time going in circles, and you have the resources to do, it’s worth investing in a quality art program. Because your time and money are so valuable, you want to ensure it’s the best program that has the clearest path to the art skills you want.
Many students have come to us with terrible stories where they've been let down by art teachers in the past.
Once they've joined the program, we have watched their skills just explode. It's beautiful. People who never thought that they could become artists, becoming artists - people who never thought they could paint like those they were inspired by, are now painting.
Kevin has an awesome masterclass showing you the path to making professional work. If you haven't seen it, CLICK HERE.
If you’re ready to start your journey towards making pro-level art, join Evolve Artist HERE.
Happy painting everyone!
* How did we estimate that Evolve is roughly 100x cheaper than your average American art school? We averaged the costs of a full education (four years of tuition, room, board and other fees) across four different art schools (Pratt Institute, RISD, SVA and Ringling). This came to ~$345,000. At $2500 for a full year (how long it takes to reach pro-level art skills through our program), Evolve is 138 times cheaper. This was based on publicly available information at the time of this blog's publication.