I am not a “crafty” sort of person. I’m creative, but being creative is a bit different from being crafty. “Crafty” involves cutting, pasting, measuring, making grids, using scraps of ribbons and fabrics, and many other things that I’m just not good at. I can’t handle rulers, compasses, Exacto knives, and other “crafty” implements.
Just as there is a difference between creating and crafting, there is also a difference between “crafty” and “Craftsy” — note the spelling and capitalization. Craftsy, as you no doubt know, is an online teaching site for a variety of arts and — wait for it — crafts!
Occasionally Craftsy offers free classes as an enticement, a way of getting potential paying members to the site. My first experience with Craftsy was through one of these free programs — a figure-drawing class that, while a bit advanced for my skill level, was very instructive. Later I attended another free class — this one on charcoal portraits — but found it more than I could handle at the time. I still have it available in “my content” on Craftsy, along with the figure-drawing class, so maybe I’ll re-visit it one day.
After those early experiences with the site, I determined that I wasn’t really ready to take advantage of what they had to offer. I did not become a member. I don’t recall now what the monthly membership fee was at the time, but for what it’s worth, the current membership cost is $7.99 per month, or $79.99 annually. This is for a “Premium” membership at the site. There is also a “Gold” membership level available for an extra charge, but I haven’t found much information on it. In addition to the membership program, Craftsy users can also “purchase” classes. The Oil Painters Handbook, as an example, can be purchased for $39.99. I don’t plan to make that purchase. In fact, I don’t plan to purchase any of the Craftsy classes.
I am now a Craftsy “Premium” member. I took advantage of a very special offer and joined for $2.49. That’s not a monthly rate. That was the cost for a full year of Premium membership. I don’t regret it. I have to say that I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth in only the first month since I joined.
Before going on, let me show you the end result of one Craftsy class I took. It was, obviously, a class on creating a specific type of abstract painting using oil paints, cold wax medium, and a variety of scrapers. I was pleased with how it turned out.
I will probably use this technique again for future oil abstracts. It was enjoyable, and the step-by-step videos in the course were informative and easy to follow.
So, overall, do I love Craftsy? No, but I like it. Will I renew my membership next year? That’s highly unlikely, but I will take full advantage of it while I have it.
Does it seem as though I have a few mixed feelings about Craftsy? Yes, I do, but while it’s not a completely “right fit” for me, the site might be just exactly what you’re looking for. So, here are a few observations I can share based on my personal experience as a Craftsy member.
First, as the name implies, the instruction provided tends more toward “craft-based” activities than art-related classes. Categories include — but are not limited to — quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, cake-decorating, cooking, along with drawing and painting. There are numerous projects you can make, such as hand-sewn wallets, Asian dumplings, and quick quilted gifts. All of these are great for crafters and cooks, but they’re not what I’m looking for. Despite having “over 1500 premium classes” available, the drawing and painting categories don’t offer a lot. There are 87 classes listed for “Drawing”, and 93 available for “Painting”, of which 17 are for oil painting. Maybe that does sound like a lot, but as I browse through the courses, there are only a few I’m really interested in. Of course, I have another eleven months to go, new courses may be added, and I might actually enjoy a lot of the classes available if I jump in and give them a try.
Second, the instruction really is top-notch, at least it has been for all but one of the courses I’ve tried. Remember those first two classes I took several years ago? They featured extremely knowledgeable and talented instructors but were actually a bit overwhelming for a beginning art student like me. I did benefit from both classes, but I found them difficult, and, at times, frustrating. I simply wasn’t ready for that level of instruction. In fact, judging from my experience with Tony Curanaj and The Oil Painter’s Handbook, I might not yet be ready for the highly-detailed instruction provided. I can’t speak, of course, for any of the “craftier” categories, but judging from the art classes I’ve taken, I would expect to find highly-skilled instructors in all areas.
Third, the classes are designed for participation. This is a gigantic PLUS in my opinion. Unlike simple video tutorials where you’re watching an artist draw or paint, the classes offered through Craftsy are designed with doing in mind. During each lesson of The Oil Painters Handbook, the artist gave clear instructions on what we, as students, were expected to do. No, I didn’t follow all of his instructions, but even so, I did learn from the experience and came away with a finished still life painting, albeit a bit wonky in places, but overall a painting that taught me a lot. In similar fashion, the Abstract Painting in Oil and Wax with Kristen Abbott took students through a one-step-at-a-time approach to creating our painting. A third course I’m currently taking includes specific “homework” assignments at the close of each video lesson. The point here is that Craftsy is not for watching, but for doing. Unless you’re willing to put in the time required to complete the steps, you won’t gain much benefit from the class. Case in point, yes, I could have learned much, much more from Tony Curanaj had I not so stubbornly resisted his tedious approach to art.
Fourth, with so much variety, why not try different things? As I browse through course listings, I shake my head a bit. No, I’d never want to do pet portraits in colored pencil… would I? Well, maybe it’s something I’d have fun with if I gave it a try. And what about jewelry making? Or maybe a photography course? With my current membership, I have plenty of time to EXPLORE — my 2021 word — many different categories and classes, and I might find something that sparks my interest once I jump in and give it a try.
Fifth, there is a “discussion” feature where students can share their thoughts — and their projects — or ask specific questions for the instructor. That benefit alone might be worth the price for self-taught artists like me or for crafters who might be stuck on a particular knitting stitch or confused about the ingredients of a recipe.
Considering all of these — the advantages and the disadvantages — I can still come away saying that for me, Craftsy has definitely been worth the price. But, keep in mind, I paid only $2.49. At this point, I don’t think it would be worth $79.99 per year for me, but it might be perfect for you.
Now, what about the one class I mentioned that wasn’t “top-notch” as far as instruction goes? I shared it yesterday when I showed “How to Draw a Cupcake”. It was the “course” on easy pictures for beginners to draw, and I place that in quotes because it’s really not a course at all. It’s nothing more than 10 pictures with a few notes about each. These aren’t “drawing lessons” or “how-to” illustrations. They’re just a collection of 10 relatively easy things to draw. Even so, I had a very enjoyable time drawing cupcakes, and I learned a lot about art and about being an artist, so I have to say that I’m happy with that little Craftsy “class” — such as it is.
NOTE: You’ll be hearing more about this “simple” drawing class in future posts.
I’ve found Craftsy to be a place that pushes me. Sometimes that’s challenging. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but for the most part it’s been beneficial. Even if I have nothing more to show for my time at the site than this “Oil and Wax Abstract”, I’ll be happy. I’d say this painting is worth at least $2.49, but, no, it’s not for sale.