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Drawing and painting - learning online or on site?

Zeichnen und Malen

Drawing and painting - learning online or on site?

The question of the best way to learn to paint and draw is one that not only concerns prospective art students. At some point in their studies, some advanced students may have involuntarily asked themselves whether there might be a better or simpler teaching method. Sentences such as "I can teach myself" and "Five minutes on YouTube is enough to understand this" are likely to have crossed the minds of some.

But can online instructions replace actual lessons?

Zeichnen und Malen - Online lernen

What online courses are available?

Anyone looking for online courses should first find out about their options. Different types of courses naturally offer different levels of knowledge transfer, so you should first realise what you expect from your lessons and then make your choice:


Tutorials can be found in almost unlimited numbers on the internet (e.g. on YouTube or Instagram) and are the simplest form of online courses. Precisely because there are so many of them, you can find posts on practically any topic, whether it's traditional drawing and painting or digital work - but for the same reason, it's often difficult to find specific posts. Overall, most tutorials tend to be short and very general, and the quality is rather low.

Of course, there are always exceptions: many professional artists and schools also create tutorials to demonstrate their own working or teaching methods - so if you are aiming for a very specific style, for example, you may well find what you are looking for here. Tutorials are also ideal for teaching the essential basics. Even if someone looking for a challenge quickly reaches the limits of the free online courses, any beginner in their field can learn a lot for little effort.

Free courses:

Free but professional courses can often be found on the internet in the form of parts or samples of paid courses. Like tutorials, these usually teach the basics for their respective area, but are often better structured or go into more detail on individual aspects.

So if you put in a little more effort and choose a professional course that is precisely tailored to the area in which you want to learn, you will probably end up learning more than from a tutorial. This can be worthwhile for those who already have previous experience in painting and drawing.

Paid courses:

Paid online courses are usually focussed on a specific direction or area of art - this can be medium (pencil, chalk and charcoal drawing, oil and acrylic painting, digital art...) or subject (portrait, landscape, people, animals etc.). Most of these courses cover your specialism in as much detail as you could wish for, with all the details, tips and tricks. You usually have the chance to learn directly from experienced masters in their field.

The learning offerings of paid courses are often divided into different levels of difficulty or experience - starting with help for beginners, which makes them suitable for both people with and without prior knowledge.

Online courses from schools and universities (distance learning):

Even if you don't necessarily find online courses at the art schools and universities that also teach on site, there are platforms specifically for distance learning that also offer drawing or painting (such as ILS or SGD). The majority of these distance learning programmes require some previous experience, but this should not put you off - if you are interested, you can usually assume that you already have this level of artistic ability.

It should be noted, however, that these courses are usually only intended as further or advanced training and can therefore teach a lot, but not the entire content of a degree programme or training course. A certificate usually serves as a final certificate, but this is not a recognised qualification in itself.

Zeichnen und Malen - vor Ort lernen

Advantages and disadvantages compared to on-site teaching

The content and techniques taught in online courses can of course also be found in classes at art schools and universities. Nevertheless, there are some significant differences between such courses and on-site teaching, which can have both favourable and unfavourable effects:


Most of the online courses mentioned above have the significant advantage over on-site lessons that they can be accessed at any time. This allows the learner a great deal of flexibility in terms of time, so that learning can take place alongside a job or other studies without having to travel anywhere, and it is also no problem to postpone learning because of an appointment. Of course, this is not possible with an on-site course.

However, with a digital course at an art school or distance learning programme, there may well be fixed times for lectures and seminars may also have to be attended on site.


The online offerings available today also allow interested parties who do not have a suitable art school or university within reach and are unable to relocate to learn drawing and painting skills - even on a large scale and at a high level.


As a rule, an online course is also associated with a reduction in costs, as teaching media such as books - if required - often do not have to be purchased by the learner themselves, but are available for download, for example. Those who learn from tutorials alone naturally do not incur costs of this kind, as they can decide for themselves whether or not to follow any recommendations for further reading. Visitors to an online course are also spared any travelling costs - with the exception, of course, of any compulsory attendance at seminars as part of a distance learning course.

The materials used for drawing and painting, whether traditional or digital, must of course be purchased for an online course in the same way as for studying directly at an art school or university (although with the latter you often have the advantage of advice or recommendations in this regard). Only the possible purchase of additional technology or software for attending an online course can increase the costs somewhat.


As mentioned above, the recognition of qualifications is a major disadvantage of online courses. While it is possible to obtain a certificate of completion for paid courses and distance learning, this is not recognised everywhere or is not sufficient to certify training of sufficient scope (e.g. for a specific profession). While such a course is a good way to further your education or training for personal interest, a degree programme or on-site training is the safer choice as a start to an artistic career.

Learning ability:

The diverse selection of online offerings allows everyone to find the way of learning that suits them best, whether this is in the form of many short tutorials or a few long course contributions. As long as they are not tied to a fixed timetable like a degree programme, everyone can also progress at their own pace, as it is up to them to decide when and how often they want to study a lesson.

However, the use of digital media can also have a negative impact on the ability to learn, as it is also associated with many distractions.


One major advantage that on-site study has over most online courses is personalised feedback. Whereas in a university or academy the student gets tips and support from teachers, it can be very difficult to get individual help online. In a distance learning or paid course with lecturers, you may still be able to get some feedback on your own work - albeit slowed down by an email exchange, for example. With tutorials, on the other hand, you can only post requests in the comments or look for another platform for feedback (such as asking friends for their opinion on your own picture), which of course does not necessarily create a professional or objective opinion.

Social relationships:

Similarly, learning on site offers the advantages of direct contact with teachers and fellow students, which can be beneficial not only for exchanging ideas about one's own art, but also for making new acquaintances. A good social climate at an art school can also have a positive effect on the working atmosphere and thus indirectly on the student's learning results.


Depending on the type of course chosen and your own requirements, online learning can greatly shorten or lengthen the duration of the learning process:

Those who achieve their learning goals with tutorials will reach the desired artistic ability much faster thanks to the immediate availability. However, those who are only satisfied with their work at the end of a more extensive distance learning programme will probably need considerably longer than at an art school due to the time allocation, as the number of lessons per week is sometimes very low.

A lack of concentration and, above all, a lack of feedback can also significantly slow down your own learning process in online courses.

Ultimately, it is still up to those wishing to learn to weigh up these advantages and disadvantages themselves, as everyone attaches different levels of importance to the individual points. Whether it is more important to create your art in the comfort of your own home or to be able to interact directly with others is ultimately a matter of individual opinion.

In the end, the most important thing is to find an offer that challenges you in such a way that you are still learning, but never lose the fun of your art.


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