I recently took the class of a good friend and teacher Bobby Chiu, who runs an online class called Schoolism.com.
As a quick intro, Schoolism runs classes that cater to a specific discipline, that are taught by a professional within the field. Schoolism currently runs three different courses - Character Design by Stephen Silver, Digital Painting by Bobby Chiu, and Caricature with Jason Seiler. I'm sure most of you guys are familiar with these artists, but if not, check them out! Throughout this post is some of Bobby's artwork (unless otherwise noted), in case you haven't seen his great stuff before!
I was able to take the time to go through Bobby's class on digital painting, and have nothing but good things to say about the course and its content. It caters to anyone who wants to brush up on their digital painting skills - from a novice to someone who thinks that they know photoshop inside and out - it definitely has something for everyone.
The class is structured through 9 lessons, slowly bringing you through grayscale and color approaches. This is accomplished through detailed fullscreen videos, each of which is over an hour long. You of course can pause, rewind, and rewatch each video to your hearts content during the duration of the course. The videos are deployed via a flash video embed into their site, with fullscreen mode allowing you to clearly read all of the palettes and follow the instructor's process with ease.
For those who are curious, the course lesson plans are up on the schoolism.com website, but I will post Bobby's class schedule here for convenience:
Lesson 1- Visualizing Through Darkness - Focuses on familiarization with Photoshop and greyscale painting.
Lesson 2- Colorizing from Black & White - Focuses on coloring and image that is first rendered in grayscale.
Lesson 3- Textures Part 1 - Focuses on using traditional textures as a means of creating digital paintings.
Lesson 4- Textures Part 2 - Focuses on using photographic textures to accentuate images.
Lesson 5- The Smudge Technique. - Focuses on using the smudge tool to create a painterly illustration.
Lesson 6- Custom Brushes - Focuses on the creation of custom brushes to suit individual needs.
Lesson 7- Vectors - Focuses on how to create images using vector paths.
Lesson 8- Color Sketching - Focuses on how to sketch straight into colors.
Lesson 9- Color Finishing - Focuses on taking a color rough to a final image.
Where the instruction gets brought to the next level, however, is upon the receipt of individual feedback. Bobby (and this applies to all of the teachers on Schoolism.com) will give you a one-on-one critique of the work that results from your lessons (note: this only applies to the full version of the course - a self-taught version is also available without these critiques at a lower cost). What is also invaluable is being able to view the other critiques from the work that others have submitted within your class. This overall fostering of feedback and learning will no doubt expedite your learning curve - and help you meet other artists in the process.
Another great feature is automatically activated that helps the unmotivated or the scatterbrained - deadlines. The assignments attached to each lesson have a specific due date and are marked and critiqued by the instructor. The deadline reminders come in the form of emails, allowing the user to easily see when they are expected to hand in their work and is an effective motivational tool. This allows you to see where you are, and allows you to stay on top of the work assigned by the course. With specific deadlines, it allows you to finish the course within a finite amount of time while still not demanding enough to take away from any other work that you might be doing as well as the course.
What's also so great about these courses is the lack of prerequisites and the focus on teaching of specific skills. You can go to this online school with any level of skill and be confident in what you want to learn, and learn if from the best in the business. This is, of course, where the model of an online school shines the most.
I have a few more things to add - Marcelo Vignali (work featured above), a wonderful artist who I got to meet while I was down in California is being added to the roster of the already-wonderful teachers at schoolism. Marcelo has quite the resume, having worked on quite a few Disney features in the visdev/layout department, and more recently, working in the same department at Sony Pictures Animation. Marcelo's course, "Drawing Fundamentals," focuses on building strong draftsmanship.
Also on the roster is the infallible Kris Pearn, head of story on Sony Pictures Animation's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs". Kris is a former teacher at Sheridan and I've heard nothing but praise for his abilities as a teacher and an artist. He will be running a course on storyboarding through schoolism.
With the addition of these courses, I think the dilemma will be more along the lines of which schoolism.com course to take first!
For those who still want to check it out after this exhausting read - check out Schoolism.com.