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The arrival of the MOOCs

March 19, 2013

Dear Artist,

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses. Respectable institutions like Harvard, Stanford and MIT have signed on. The benefits of traditional classrooms are being sacrificed, say some educators,Are traditional classrooms going from full to empty?
Are traditional classrooms
going from full to empty?
and many in academia don't like the MOOC's profit motives. This argument sounds funny coming from tenured professors.

The big MOOC players right now are Udacity, Coursera and edX. A recent introductory course offered by Stanford University attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries. Of the 248 who got a perfect score, none were Stanford students. Makes you think, doesn't it?

The big benefit of MOOCs is that a world of eager students get to sit in with the best communicators in the most refined and cutting-edge courses.

Artists have been using disc and online learning for several decades. Art is particularly suited to the system. Bridled with entitlement, rugged individualism and a sense of free will, artists can choose for themselves the instructor with the most to give, in what discipline, and on what path. Most of us would agree with Robert Henri's dictum, "All education is self-education." Professional online art courses offer hard-won insider info that permits students to add their own direction and audacity. For a career in art, it's not the degree at the end, it's the knowledge along the way.

Over the past few months, we've looked at about thirty online art courses of various sorts. When unsure as to value, I asked for an assessment by respected colleagues. We're still looking seriously at everything that comes our way. Color Foundation for the Painter by Stephen Quiller is an eight-hour tutorial in 13 chapters that beats everything we've seen to date. At 100 bucks it's a bargain. If you happen to be looking for an in-depth understanding of colour--theory, mixing, application, as well as psychological and esthetic effects beautifully presented by one of today's top colourists, this is the course for you.

FYI, today we're introducing a new Painter's Keys page, called Bob’s Best , with my personal choices of educational downloads and CDs. Stephen Quiller's new colour course is at the top of my list.

Best regards,


PS: "Value and intensity determine the mood you desire." (Stephen Quiller)

Esoterica: With online or disc learning, you stop and proceed in your own sweet time. Unlike the pressure of a classroom or even a workshop, you move on only when you've grasped a point. This is particularly valuable when trying to master a hands-on activity like painting. No generation before has owned the miracle of an education by button. I watched the Quiller video out of the corner of my eye, off and on while painting over a four-day period. Stephen's approach is both personal and universal; the information flows in an effortless and timely way. In my case, learning and relearning often takes place by "osmosis." I slowed down (and painted better) while watching, listening and learning. FYI, we've put some of Stephen Quiller's work at the top of the current clickback.

The writing on the wall
by Anonymous

The greatest resistance to MOOCs is coming from the faculty and boards of many ivy league universities and colleges. And some big art schools don't like the idea, either. The reason is easy to see. Stanford, MIT and Harvard, institutions you mention, are pioneers because they can see the writing on the wall. Many educators have priced themselves so high so that not all young people can afford to attend. And the traditional idea of a degree is losing favor. A degree often counts for little, particularly in the area of fine art I'm afraid. As an instructor in higher education, I am most aware of these changing trends.

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Problems with live workshops
by Kathryn Ikeda, Lafayette, CA, USA

In general I welcome online and DVD instruction as I find workshops are becoming too expensive, particularly Rooster<br>original painting by Kathryn Ikeda Rooster
original painting
if one adds in the travel costs and accommodations. And not just monetarily, but also time wise. It's difficult to find a large block of time to leave when there are other obligations that just don't go away. I try to find local instructors if at all possible, but sometimes the type of technique that I wish to observe firsthand is just not available locally. I certainly don't begrudge the instructors their fees, either. I think they work too long and hard not to charge a reasonable amount for their expertise.

I was wondering if you had heard of the Daniel Edmondson Studio . He has a series of online and DVD painting lessons. I have been receiving numerous emails from his website, but have not been able to find any reviews on his teaching.

(RG note) Thanks Kathryn. And thanks to all who sent in queries and recommendations for online tuition and DVD connectivity. We're looking into every one of them and will perhaps be adding further recommendations to Bob’s Best .

There are 2 comments for Problems with live workshops by Kathryn Ikeda

From: Anonymous -- Mar 21, 2013

I would like to offer for your consideration Daniel Edmondsons Online Painting Workshop. Dan has created a comprehensive workshop, with much extra information for the student/artist. Such as informative videos, inspirational videos and in addition to the weekly project, he ends with a webinar critiqing the student's work with excellent help and kindness. Dan has a new workshop called "Artist Master Program".

From: Anonymous -- Mar 22, 2013

A really great video would be one that teaches the fundaments of art. Such as linear perspective, colour perspective, aerial perspective, drawing, drawing and more drawing.
One that teaches all the basic rules and then allows the artist to break those rules with intelligence.
The videos that I have seen are based on the presumption that the purchaser already knows the basics and that is not so in many cases.

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Tail wagging the dog
by H Margret, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Count me as one who watches those using color systems create uniform, predictable work. Nothing wrong Dark Stallion<br>acrylic painting by H Margret Dark Stallion
acrylic painting
with that, I guess, if that is what you want to do. I choose the excitement of the masters such as Kandinsky (see his surprising & brilliant use of viridian green), Matisse and Turner, to name a few. Rigid systems are used in successful manufacturing because the volumes are so high and so is capital outlay. Artists need to be leaders. The Impressionists changed color use for over a century. For artists to use a color wheel as a template is to have the tail wagging the dog. Of course, it's much easier to be a factory with factory tools, and sheer production is usually the point today for artists.

There are 2 comments for Tail wagging the dog by H Margret

From: Liz Reday -- Mar 22, 2013

"Uniform predictable work" That is what I see in most of the instructional popular painter books out there these days. Your words are true and your work has the freshness and originality that is rarely seen amidst the paintings shown in most "how-to" painting books. Most of the workshop instruction I'm seeing looks like illustrations for eighth grade history books. Factory artist/teachers showing hapless students how to paint like everyone else.

From: Anonymous -- Mar 22, 2013

Since times immemorial people have been learning by being shown how to do stuff. And just as long people have been appreciative of recommendations from friends.

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Nuts and Bolts
by Ann Waisbrot, St. Germain, WI, USA

I just purchased the DVD, Nuts and Bolts , by Quang Ho. It's excellent and inspiring. I don't Waiting for the weekend<br>original painting by Ann Waisbrot Waiting for the weekend
original painting
drop $150 easily, but feel this was an excellent investment.

I have taken workshops with some very good painters but this DVD reminded me and reinforced information I should already know, and has introduced some new ways of seeing and thinking. I viewed it with a friend who is just beginning to paint and she, too, has gained some valuable insights. Although he is a representational painter, he has an understanding and appreciation of abstract and non representational art as well. (I have cancelled subscriptions to magazines where editors think classical or some other style is the only way to go and everything else is the Emperor's New Clothes.) I also appreciate that I can load it on my studio computer and go back to it time and time again.

(RG note) Thanks Ann. Another one we're studying for Bob’s Best .

There is 1 comment for Nuts and Bolts by Ann Waisbrot

From: Mary Aslin -- Mar 23, 2013

I also have this DVD and it is well worth the money. His way of presenting different compositional approaches is really outstanding.

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What about the hearing impaired?
by Stefanie Graves, Paducah, KY, USA

I think it's great that there are more online courses for art being offered and commend you for Blue Winter<br>watercolour painting<br>10 x 6.5 inches by Stefanie Graves Blue Winter
watercolour painting
10 x 6.5 inches
showcasing the ones you think are some of the best. I would like to draw your attention, however, to the need for captioning on these videos. I am one of the 6 million deaf or hearing impaired Americans, and I rely on captioning to fully comprehend any kind of visual media, including TV, movies, or videos. While I have cochlear implants (and previously hearing aids), those do not completely correct my hearing deficit. To really follow what is going on, people such as myself need captions. So far, the beta captioning on YouTube is woefully inadequate, and unfortunately most artists who do instructional videos do not make them with captioning.

(RG note) Thanks, Stefanie. Quality online and DVD art tutorials are in their infancy. It's my opinion that the really great art videos are yet to be produced. Certainly captioning needs to be included. The visual arts are too wonderful to overlook, particularly for the hearing impaired.

There are 2 comments for What about the hearing impaired? by Stefanie Graves

From: Odette Venuti -- Mar 21, 2013

Couldn't agree more with the need for captions on tutorials and any DVD's.

From: George Stewart-Hunter, Alberta Canada. -- Mar 27, 2013

I agree entirely with Stefanie and Odette about captioning. The world seems to think that being deaf equals being dumb. So think of Beethoven! I would love to add to my stock of learning units of all sorts, but will not buy any, no way of knowing if they are captioned.

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A great book on colour
by Joy Halsted, Gloucester, MA, USA

As an adjunct to online colour courses, there is a book, Color--A natural history of the Palette , by Victoria sunset,
chincoteague<br>acrylic painting<br>12 x 16 inches by Joy Halsted sunset, chincoteague
acrylic painting
12 x 16 inches
Finlay. It's simply terrific. Her explorations/travels around the world to find the source and history of many, if not most, colors in their original state is great reading and erudition.

(RG note) Thanks, Joy. I loved the book so much I wrote a twice-weekly letter about it here. A passionate and brilliantly curious young woman, Victoria, in one of many colour-seeking adventures, rickshaws out to the village of Monghyr, near Patna in Bihar State, India, to try to find why the ancient cows died young. (Yellow) It's available on Amazon here .

There is 1 comment for A great book on colour by Joy Halsted

From: Tatjana -- Mar 22, 2013

Loved that book! I still think about the unsolved mystery of the Greek white pigment. She found the place where they have an ancient storage of it, but nobody knows it's source. Once the supply is used up, there will be no more. There are many good stories about pigments in that book.

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Self-discipline these days
by Mark D. Gottsegen, Greensboro, NC, USA

We artists have always been free to go to a museum and learn, even to go there and copy, paint, to learn. 4th of July MD<br>encaustic painting by Mark D. Gottsegen 4th of July MD
encaustic painting
The problem is really self-discipline, isn't it? Who would make him/herself go to a museum and study paintings and maybe copy a few, or at least draw?

Remember Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw ? I used to show my students that book and say it was great, if you followed all the directions. Then I'd pick one (making this up, but you get the point): Draw 5 geometric forms for 3 hours. Do 60 drawings. My students would gasp. "But," I would say, "that's the way to learn to draw." The point is that if you have the self-discipline, you can do it. Who has that, today?

There is 1 comment for Self-discipline these days by Mark D. Gottsegen

From: Liz Reday -- Mar 22, 2013

I agree with the museum study route. There are too many popular artists producing how-to books on painting of questionable merit these days. Buyer beware. Better to go outside and paint every day for 100 days, and when it rains, go to the museum. Ones own individual creativity is preferable to the second rate painting instruction i see in bookstores these days. Some of the workshops are even worse!

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Graham Scholes workshops Held in Florence, Italy.  <a href=''>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href=''>here</a>.
Graham Scholes workshops
Held in Florence, Italy.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.

World of Art Featured artist Nora Camps, Toronto, ON, Canada

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Edie G who wrote, "For students of university age, trying to choose their field, wondering whether they can do the work, struggling with new ways of thinking, MOOCs would be a very poor substitute for a teacher in class who knows them and interacts with them."

And also Pesach Ben Levi of Fayetteville, NY, USA, who supplied us with the following: <br>comic strip
comic strip

If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The arrival of the MOOCs...

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges -- Mar 19, 2013

I agree with Robert about Quiller's colour and design theories, although I haven't taken his course the books and videos I have seen years ago helped to set the direction of my work. Now my work has strong colour use and dramatic design. For anyone struggling with the use of colour, this would be money well spent.

From: ReneW -- Mar 19, 2013

I've always been a life long learner. With that said, MOOC is the latest in a long list of methods to help people learn new things without having to sit in a classroom or attend a workshop. The Internet is changing all of that and at a reasonable price.

From: Valerie Berkely -- Mar 19, 2013

I never followed Quiller so closely....until the day he juried my art and chose it for an award! What this meant to me: it's ALL about the color!! And Quiller has THAT down!

From: Edie G -- Mar 19, 2013

Quiller's tutorials sound great, and I'm going to look into them, but I think you are missing the point about MOOCs. They could work very well for continuing education, for learning more about something you already know a lot about, for getting certification that you have gone through some routine material. But for students of university age, trying to choose their field, wondering whether they can do the work, struggling with new ways of thinking, MOOCs would be a very poor substitute for a teacher in class who knows them and interacts with them.

Replacing real education by MOOCs is, to me, like replacing all paintings from now on by a collection of a few posters. All reproducing art made by very famous people, of course.

From: Anonymous -- Mar 19, 2013

The greatest resistance to the MOOCs is coming from the faculty and boards of many, not all, ivy league universities and colleges. Some big art schools don't like the idea either. It doesn't take a great deal of thinking to see why. The institutions you mention are pioneers because they can see the writing on the wall. So many educators have priced themselves too high so that not all young persons can afford to attend. Further, there is diminishing value in the traditional idea of a degree. Particularly in the area of fine art a degree counts for little I'm afraid. As an instructor in higher education I am most aware of these changing trends.

From: Frank -- Mar 19, 2013

What beautiful paintings by Quiller. I am just wondering about the calligraphically embellished brushstrokes that are so widely used by many artists, especially in landscape paintings. It has become a mannerism in my opinion that takes away from the uniqueness of the work. Nevertheless, the paintings are gorgeous and the use of color stunning.

From: Adrienne Moore -- Mar 19, 2013

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take Stephen' s class when he came to teach a summer school plein air workshop. Stephen's demo was inspiring as he explained his ingenious version of the colour wheel. I happened to be painting right beside his easel later in the day and I was able to enjoy applying vibrant colour in a way I had not fully understood before .. I would recommend buying Stephen's video on the colour theory or better still to take one of his amazing workshops.

From: Ed Mallory -- Mar 19, 2013

In any university there will be perhaps ten professors teaching first year English. One will be a very poor teacher, one will be a very good teacher, and the rest will be fair to middling. With MOOC's the student gets to evaluate the teacher before beginning with him or her. In the University situation, unless in extreme circumstances, the student has no choice. This luck of the draw can determine a lifetime's attitude to English.

From: Marion A Brown -- Mar 19, 2013

I have just read your article about MOOCs. I have done 2 courses with Coursera and thoroughly enjoyed them. These were both science subjects but I am signed up for an art course
Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques which is being offered by Pennsylvania State University. It sounds interesting in that it includes some art history and some practical art so I am looking forward to it. I hope they offer more such courses in the future.

From: Marta Quiller -- Mar 19, 2013

For Canadians who wish to purchase Stephen's DVDs, if you email us at we can walk you through the process. No need for a phone call. We just submit a request for payment to PayPal and you can use your Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or PayPal account. It works smoothly! Thank you

From: Thomas Wallner -- Mar 19, 2013

I just received your first letter and am so glad I found your site. I appreciate the effort you are giving and look forward to reading more and having such good information and links available. Sending all good wishes.

From: Gordon Dill -- Mar 19, 2013

The most important thing is to choose a teacher who knows what he or she is doing. Study the work carefully and ask questions before you sign up for a DVD or workshop.

From: Maggie -- Mar 19, 2013

I took a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry class with (Penn State/Al Filreis). I was an English major at university and this was better than any course taken there. Coursera seems to have lots of interesting classes but not art technique classes.

From: j seymour -- Mar 20, 2013

I would love to do Stephen Quiller's online course about mixing colors, but don't like to use Cadmium red or yellow, which I believe he likes. I like to choose paints with no toxicity.
Does that make a difference?
Thank you

From: Pat Wagner -- Mar 20, 2013

You asked that we write if we know of some other online art instructors. I highly recommend you check out Dennis Sheehan's monthly subscription demos. I am learning so much from them. He is a magnificent "tonalist painter!"

From: Jane Ross -- Mar 20, 2013

Well, you really hit the nail on the head this time Ė Iím fascinated by your alignment here of MOOCs and art traditions.

By the way, I took a course last year on how to teach 10,000 people at a time Ė I havenít done it, but essentially I know the techniques.

Thanks for keeping so current ... and spreading it around.

From: Jane Mitchell -- Mar 20, 2013

You rock! I enjoy your newsletters so much. I'm a "wish-I-was" who hasn't even gotten started Mom was the painter, she passed away 4 years ago, I inherited her painting stuff... I'm a horse trainer and horsemanship coach, the art space for me is in collage/bricolage...but your newsletters are so generous, supportive and encouraging they inspire me. I'll continue to enjoy them whether I never paint anything besides the chairs.

From: Mike Barr -- Mar 21, 2013

Some artists I know rely on teaching as their main income and hardly sell any art. The interesting thing is though, no artist would teach or produce teaching DVDs if they thought for one moment that they would be producing artists that could paint like they do. They know that the best a budding artist can hope for is that they can pick up some tips along the way. The best art is produced by artist that paint - a lot!

From: George Sarkis -- Mar 21, 2013

More and more, with the likes of Ted Talks and even the spoken and demoed material that is free on YouTube, we are becoming more discriminatory of those who we have time to listen to. Some are communicators and others are not. The reckoning is on its way.

From: Jacob Switzer -- Mar 21, 2013

Bob's Best is the best! I also look forward to more entries as you research and post them.

From: Jackie Knott -- Mar 21, 2013

The Internet is arguably the single most important vehicle to advance knowledge since Gutenberg's printing press. I am thrilled not only with the quality of the information that is available but so much of it is free to anyone with a desire to learn ... dear God, how powerful is that?
Civilization has made quantum leaps in education; private, public, the anguish of the self taught, the pure hunger of a curious mind ... in the end, it is about spreading knowledge.
Art is a peculiar skill and we are recipients of those who want to stimulate individual expertise - teachers.

From: Hil FAISON -- Mar 22, 2013

How about a PhD in Painting offered online by any of the universities?
Been searching for sometime now.
Great read on "The arrival of the MOOCs".

From: Bobbie Wieber -- Mar 22, 2013

I've been a watercolor painter for 20 years and these books are well worn: I highly recommend "Strengthen your Painting with Dynamic Composition" by Frank Webb, "Painting Light and Shadow in Watercolor" by Skip Lawrence and all of Steven Quiller's books. A CD that is becoming well used is by Dale Laitinen.
I always look forward to your letter. It helps me be connected to the world outside of myself.

From: Liz Reday -- Mar 22, 2013

I am appalled at all this shameless advertising of "how to" painting systems of questionable merit. I realize Bob's friend is Quiller, but using his forum to advertise - and this isn't the first time - well, the guy has to make a buck....but artists! Wake up! There's a million ways to become a better artist. You could start by drawing and painting every day. Set up a still life of your own personal objects & favorite flowers, draw your children, paint the view out the window. Go to the art store and look at the colors. Instead of buying yet another 'how-to" book, spend the money on art supplies! Check books from the library on major artists that you like. I see folks signing up for workshops like sheep, and yet they can't go out and paint by themselves, which is where the real discovery begins. Read the latest book on Cezanne. He was out there in all weathers, painting "sur le motif". Study the biographies of the great artists and do what they do. Be original!

From: Richard Incontro -- Mar 22, 2013

Thanks so much for all you give to your fellow artists; I for one am most appreciative. Recently, I discovered videos by the artist Mark Carder, on youtube. His website is
It is a wealth of information and while there are hours of free video posted online he gives one the option to purchase a downloadable and expanded version for just $20. He also has been doing these new "live" discussions on youtube which I've found to be most informative. I've not gotten around to ordering his full version but will; it is really good stuff.
Lastly, I watch your very beautiful videos over and over; for the beauty and the learning that occurs from watching an accomplished artist work. Please consider doing some new ones and particularly maybe a long version of a painting session. We artists can learn so much by watching.

From: Jeremy -- Mar 22, 2013

What Liz wrote sounds intriguing (although unfair to this awesome web site), but the fact is that being original isn't very rewarding. There is more happiness in learning than in reinventing a substandard wheel, at least for most people.

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Last modified: Oct, 22, 2014