Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Hello, my name is Alex Brown, and I would like to tell the story of my quest to learn good drawing skills.

Here's one of my drawings from imagination after learning portrait drawing techniques from Drawing Academy video lessons:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Short History

For last 30 or so years, I was drawing on and off. As a child, I used to draw all the time. Then, persuaded by my parents that art would not pay my bills, I took a different career. Nevertheless, art has always been present in my life. With time, the desire to draw what I have in my mind, draw people around me, and make portraits of my family members only grew, as did the difference between how I wanted my drawings to look and how they actually came out. I realized that my drawing skills were very basic, and to improve, I had to study good techniques.

This is my landscape artwork, it is a copy of one English artist from the 19th century:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

I had decent drawing skills and specialised mainly in landscapes, but I wanted to learn portrait and figure drawing.

Local Art Classes

So, several years ago I finally decided to get some professional art education. As going to an art college full-time was out of the question, the obvious choice was to join local drop-in art classes, which I did. That was a complete disappointment. I wouldn't say that the art teachers were not professional artists, but somehow, they couldn't give me what I was looking for. All their advice was along the lines of "express what you feel," and "reveal your inner talent," yet they couldn't give precise answers to any of my down-to-earth questions like: "This portrait looks weird — what proportions do I need to fix? Is this perspective correct? What steps should I follow when drawing a figure?"

My idea of proper art education was based on learning from basics, like how to draw simple things and how to work on tonal values to more advanced topics, such as how to draw human figures and portraits as well as multi-figure compositions. I wanted to know everything I could about drawing materials, how to draw in perspective, how to use anatomy for drawing human bodies. None of these topics was even touched in my local art class.

Online Research

Disheartened, I searched on the Internet. An endless array of YouTube videos, books, tutorials, and online art classes came up. I was overwhelmed. I bought books and spent countless hours watching YouTube videos. It was bewildering. Some sources said conflicting things. Many videos on YouTube are just "watch me drawing fast" show-offs with no educational value. I thought that maybe self-learning was not for me.

The Old Masters

I admire artworks of the Old Masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Charles Bargue, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and others.

This is one of masterpieces by Rembrandt, whose art I like so much:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

When looking at their drawings, I cannot stop thinking that what they did is beyond human ability, and there is only one explanation for their achievement—a gift of drawing given from heaven, an innate talent that made them great. This was my belief until I read what Michelangelo said about it: "If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all." This phrase helped me to regain my confidence. I went back to searching for art courses that teach the fundamental drawing techniques the Old Masters used. My ultimate goal is to draw like Michelangelo Buonarroti. I know, it sounds crazy : )

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Drawing Academy

They say that when a student is ready, the teacher will appear. This was my case. I stumbled upon the Drawing Academy course.

Here are some drawings by Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor, who is currently my art teacher in the Life Drawing Academy Correspondence Course:

Drawing by Vladimir London
Drawing by Vladimir London

Free Subscription

For a while I was a free subscriber. At the time, I didn't think much of the Drawing Academy, and my only intention was to get free drawing video lessons. What I received as a free user surpassed all my expectations. I'm not talking about free videos - they were available the same minute I signed up - I'm talking about my experience with the Drawing Academy.

After signing up for a free demo, I started receiving regular emails with additional free videos, articles about art, art albums, pictures by Drawing Academy students before and after the course, and similar info. Honestly, I didn't expect to be informed as much and as often, but what really got my attention were regular artwork critiques and answers from Drawing Academy tutors to their students' questions. This was a goldmine. Every critique I read answered unresolved questions I had, usually about spotting mistakes in proportions of portraits and figures, mistakes in perspective, misjudgments in tonal rendering. This is just one small example of how Drawing Academy explains mistakes and critiques students' artworks:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

That was it. I'd found the course where art teachers actually teach professional art techniques, not just by pre-recorded video lessons, but on a one-to-one basis! I took a shot, not really hoping for much, and sent an email saying that I was a beginner. I asked a few questions on how to improve my drawing skills. To my surprise, in just few hours I received a long letter answering every question in depth and a link to one video, which I enjoyed tremendously - "Help! I Can't Draw" This video is quite short, but in 25 minutes I had learned more about drawing than in my entire life! I started to seriously consider enrolling in this drawing course.

Paid Membership

Being cautious, I enrolled in the Drawing Academy course on a monthly basis, which is a bit more expensive (three monthly payments of $97 per month). My reasoning was to spread the cost and to have the possibility of ending my subscription if I didn't like it. This was an unnecessary precaution and, if I had been more confident, I would have saved $34. Again, never mind. What I got from the course far exceeded my expectations and the price I paid.

If you are reading this story, I suppose you want to hear how Drawing Academy was for me.

My Drawing Academy Experience

To begin with, this drawing course gives a lifetime membership! In two years, I went though some of Drawing Academy video lessons more than three times, and every time I found something new, something that hadn't been obvious to me previously. I suppose the more I learn, the more clearly I see things about drawing techniques. For example, it took me several times to watch anatomy video lessons before I finally understood the head anatomy. Here's one of drawings from the Drawing Academy anatomy lessons:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

In the beginning, I heard the phrase "constructive drawing" so many times, but it wasn't something I related to my drawing process. I'd always heard about perspective, foreshortening, proportions, and symmetry as separate things, yet only with the Drawing Academy course did it all came together as the way of proficient drawing. Speaking of drawing in perspective, Drawing Academy explains this topic with such ease that even a child would understand, but in great depth. After watching many videos on YouTube and reading many books, I discovered so many new principles of drawing in perspective in the Academy videos! The lesson on architectural detail drawing helped me a lot:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Another thing that shocked me is that until enrolling in the Drawing Academy, I literally did not know how to hold a pencil. I remember that I held it as a writing instrument when drawing on a standing easel in my local art class, and I received not a single comment from my art teachers. I don't remember that they held pencils the correct way themselves.

Every new video lesson in the drawing course opened my eyes to the correct ways of drawing, but most importantly pointed my attention to junior mistakes to avoid. When I go to YouTube these days, I see so many "how not to draw" videos that it frightens me how naive I was to pick up bad habits from some amateur, self-taught "artists."

Drawing Academy also opened my eyes to the difference between copying and original drawing. Before the course, the only way for me to achieve some likeness in portraits was to copy from photos, using a square grid or tracing an image. Now I understand why I could not draw portraits from imagination, not to mention from memory. It was hard to face the reality that the more I copied, the less skillful I became as an original artist. I won't spend much time on this topic, but if you draw from photos or flat images, you simply suppress your ability to see and think three-dimensionally. Relearning good drawing skills after copying becomes harder the longer you rely on aid of photos.

I also had to relearn the way I rendered tonal values. There are so many misconceptions about tonal rendering and hatching on YouTube that I stopped watching such videos, where "artists" smudge graphite with blending stumps and render tones in full value from the first pencil stroke, starting from one corner.

My figure drawing skills improved. Here is one of my life drawingings. It is far from perfect, but at least I know what muscles and bones are shaping a body.

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Every time I watch Drawing Academy lessons, I have countless "aha" moments. Before this course, no one ever told me about the difference between outlines and contours, how to approach foreshortening, how to achieve depth and three-dimensional feeling in drawing, how to use golden proportions in composition, and many, many other things.

I also learned about the silver-point drawing technique in the Drawing Academy course. The concept of using pure silver or gold instead of graphite or chalks was revolutionary to me! I'm in love with silver-point drawing. Now I'm watching the videos on how to draw in silver-point again and again, and I'm taking my first steps in mastering this 500+ year-old drawing technique, thanks to the Drawing Academy.

I did this drawing in pure 999 silver:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

In addition, I'm working in pen and ink for the same reason as silver-point - to train my hand and to develop a discipline of drawing lines with ease and precision.

Above all, the numerous videos on how to draw portraits and human figures are so valuable for me. It is my inspiration to learn figurative drawing and be able to draw masterful portraits and figures from life and imagination.

Here's another of my life drawings:

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Drawing Academy makes it so easy to learn human body proportions and anatomy.

Here's a portrait I did from imagination after reading the book by Vladimir London "How to draw a portrait":

Drawing Academy Review by Alex Brown

Life Drawing Academy Correspondence Course

My Drawing Academy experience prepared me to the next step, Life Drawing Academy. At first, it might sound confusing why to take two courses, Drawing Academy and Life Drawing Academy and what is the difference between them. The Drawing Academy course gives fundamental skills of constructive drawing every fine artist must have. The Life Drawing Academy Online Course is the next, more advanced step if you want to learn drawing portraits and figures. It is based on principles of constructive drawing, which a student must already know. That is why, if you are a beginner, it is better to take the Drawing Academy course first because the skills you will learn there will be necessary for the Life Drawing Academy Online Course lessons and assignments.

Nevertheless, even if you are a complete beginner, you can take the Life Drawing Academy Correspondence Course because it comes with personal one-to-one tutoring from the academy teachers. In this course, you will get a unique curriculum designed for your level of skills and needs. That is why it doesn't matter how good or bad your skills are; the academy tutors will give you special lessons and tasks to raise your skills to the advanced level.

In this course, I am going through 100 drawing tasks that tutors prepared for me. Such tasks come with in-depth instructions, illustrations and videos. I receive not only guidelines on what to do and how, but also explanation of what is the purpose of every step and what it will give to my drawing skills. With clear goals to achieve for every task, and so helpful tutoring and support, it is very easy to study in the Correspondence Course. Every time I send my artworks to report the completed task, I get really helpful feedback from the tutors, telling me what I've done right, what mistakes I need to fix and how to fix them. To me, getting so needed feedback on my mistakes is the most important part of learning. Without tutors, I won't be able to spot all errors in drawings I do and without seeing errors, there is no hope of fixing them and improving me skills.

What I really like about the Life Drawing Academy's Correspondence Course is the one-on-one tutoring that academy teachers, Vladimir London and Natalie Richy, are giving to me. Every time I stumble with any difficult questions, wondering what is wrong with my portrait drawings, I write an email to the Drawing Academy team and send my artworks for critique. Every letter is answered promptly and with such attention that it makes me feel very special.

My Final Thoughts

I have been an art student of Vladimir London and Natalie Richy for a few years now. To summarize the story, I think that my creative life would be very different without all the help I received from Vladimir and Natalie. It was one of the best decisions I ever made to take their personal coaching. I have learned so much about figurative drawing in such a short time, which saved me tens of thousands of dollars and years of my life. Thank you!

Taking the Drawing Academy and Life Drawing Academy courses was the turning point for me. I no longer have doubts about my creative career, my art skills and what I want to do in art. I know that my art skills will improve from task to task, from year to year and having a lifetime support from such talented tutors is the best thing that happened to me. Thank you, Vladimir! Thank you, Natalie! I can't thank you enough for all your hard work.

Thank you very much for reading my story!

Kind regards,
Alex Brown

P.S. If you want to ask me any questions, please drop your comments on my Drawing Academy page »

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