Examining Free Education Websites

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Chuck Pyle instructs his 2013 Clothed Figure Drawing class. (Screen grab from SU Expo '13 Clothed Figure Drawing with Chuck Pyle YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxNQTkZgEkc)

For the August/September 2015 issue of Professional Artist, I’ll be examining just what makes the online education website Lynda.com such a powerful service and an enjoyable way to learn. However, to get the most out of a website such as Lynda.com, you need to subscribe and pay a fee to use the service.

The web, though, is filled with lots of free online tutorials, from written webpages to videos on YouTube. For instance, consider the YouTube videos by artist and teacher Chuck Pyle, a wonderful instructor from California. Below is one from his 2013 Clothed Figure Drawing class. As an art teacher myself, I am always looking for those who do it better than I do… and Pyle is simply among the best, being able to impart great information, with humor, in an easy going, yet professional manner. He’s so fluid in his delivery you almost don’t realize how much you’re learning. Such videos can inspire and inform how we ourselves might choose to teach. They’re also just fun to re-learn what we may already know.

But YouTube isn’t the only venue. On the Art of Education website, you can download dozens of free lesson plans, which are quite nicely designed and offer up great information too! For example, there’s a PDF download for a lesson called “Palatable Portraits,” in which you can help high-school students “create realistic, nontraditional portraits that feature someone eating or drinking.”

On the Art of Education website (theartofed.com/lessons), you can download dozens of free lesson plans.
On the Art of Education website (theartofed.com/lessons), you can download dozens of free lesson plans.

Again, what’s important here is not so much the lesson itself, but the form of the lesson — it’s design, content, etc. It’s clearly divided into sections, showing you what materials the students will need for the projects and the steps needed to complete the assignment. It also provides you with motivating thoughts, suggesting that you ask your students “to think about the following questions: When do you look spectacular eating or drinking? At a coffee shop sipping a latte? At a fancy restaurant? When do you look terrible eating or drinking? Perhaps slumped on the couch, the Cheetos residue staining your face and fingers?”

It almost makes me want to do a series of sloppy self-portraits, in which I’m devouring different snacks that I know are bad for me! So, check out these PDFs and maybe they’ll help you in your lesson plans or workshops.

If you happen to know of some great free online tutorials or learning centers, let us know about them. Email [email protected] or Tweet us at @ProArtistMag.

Terry Sullivan is the former editor of Professional Artist magazine and the former technical editor at American Artist magazine. He currently is an editor at Consumer Reports, where he covers digital cameras, camcorders, smart phones, printers and digital imaging. He is also an artist and musician. Follow him on Twitter: @TerryCR.