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The Best Online Art Master Classes and Short Courses

painting drawing online course

There are advantages to going to art school which I have laid out in a previous post Is an Art Education Worth the Investment? However, for those that can’t commit to going to art school there is a wealth of top-quality short courses and master classes online that can help with your progress as an artist.


I have focused on reputable sources to pick out some of the more interesting courses that go a little way to plugging the gaps in knowledge that you may experience if you haven’t formally studied art.

Technique & Methodology

Platforms such as Udemy, Skillshare and Domestika have an endless supply of video guides for every type of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, anything you may want to create.

To find a course that suits you it is best to clarify specifically what you want to achieve. In a future post I will look in more detail about painting techniques but for this post I will start with the absolute basics, a skill that is required in most forms of visual communication and art development whether it be planning, forming ideas in a sketchbook, organizing the layout of a show or marking the early stages of a painting: the foundation skill of drawing.


The Complete Drawing Masterclass: From Beginner to Advanced

Available via Udemy


This is a paid Complete Drawing Masterclass but there are other free courses out there. This masterclass is designed to teach you effective industry standard techniques for understanding and drawing perspectives, creating depth and texture, structural drawing, portraying light sources and shadowing. 

Theory & Concepts

In art school you learn about critical thinking. It really is the backbone of most reputable art school courses and the key to understanding what art is, what it offers society and the art history that has led us to where we are today creatively.

Upon building knowledge in these different theories and concepts, you learn how your art practice may fit within the industry and generally what it offers to the viewers and society.  


Modern and Contemporary Art and Design by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)Available via Coursera (Free)The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers a short course available on Coursera titled Modern and Contemporary Art and Design.

Overall this course is designed to develop a deeper understanding of artists’ and designers’ processes and critical thinking. It aims to boost your confidence in looking at and talking about modern and contemporary art and design. Within this course there are four specializations, two of which I wanted to highlight; Modern Art Ideas and What Is Contemporary Art?.

Modern Art Ideas uses a variety of themes, including Places and Spaces, Art and Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art and Society, to illustrate how artists use their creative practice to react to and explore the world around them. The module includes interviews with artists and other industry professionals who speak about their processes and sources of inspiration. What is Contemporary Art? builds skills for looking at contemporary art and through a series of interviews, helps to develop a deeper understanding of how artists work. 

History of Art  

This is probably the toughest topic to cover in short courses as it is vast. I have selected a couple of options to give you a kick start.

Touring Modernism: From the French Avant-Garde to American Pop and Beyond by School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

Available via Kadenze (Free)


Art historian, Lisa Wainwright, designed the course Touring Modernism, to look at the history of modern and postmodern art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The program covers the 19th century movements of Romanticism, Realism and Impressionism, which set the stage for Post Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and pure abstraction.

Art Explora (Free)Art Explora offers a huge number of free, fun, quickfire courses on art history. You can find every topic here you could ever wish for. Just choose a theme such as: Contemporary Art, 19th Century Art, African Art, Women in Mediterranean Art and you will be given a list to indulge in. It is very addictive!

The site is less serious than others, but I have selected it as a ‘wild card’ for those of you that just want to delve into a wide variety of topics for inspiration. Art Explora has a Which art history course is right for you? test to help get you started. 


I hope my selection gives you a little more insight into your understanding of art, what it offers society and how your practice can evolve. Let me know in the comments which courses you have taken.

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