A Mainstream Audience for Artprof.org?

Sometimes when I doubt myself, one activity that is guaranteed to always lift me up is reading the scores of testimonials from people who use Artprof.org. When I was researching early on to see what kinds of art education sites were available, one aspect that I definitely took note of was the types of comments and reactions that people had to various types of content.  There are tons of YouTube channels with art instruction, and I noted that many of the YouTube comments generally were either one word exclamations, “Cool!” or sentences that had three words or less: “So cool!”

Which is why when I read the reactions from our users, I know that we are definitely doing something noticeably different. In fact, the reactions from my Taiwan brush pen video are even more unique in that so many come from people who are not artists.  Our other video lessons tend to be aimed more towards people who want really specific instruction and intend to take that instruction and act upon it in their own work.

That’s why I think this Taiwan video (watch it below) is a major milestone for us. The content is immensely more diverse both in terms of the visuals and the content, making the video much more like a personal narrative and has the potential to become mainstream.  Our other video lessons are still just as important to me, but they’re definitely much more niche and targeted towards a specific demographic of people.

Here are some of the reactions we’ve gotten from the Taiwan video:

“Even though I’m not an artist, I really enjoy your videos. The narrative is so interesting and informative! Great work and I can’t wait to see the next one!”

“Clara’s view of the world with an artist view is so much more detailed than my non-artistic view!”

“It is very engaging video. I felt like taking up sketching just from watching!”

“Lovely well produced video. I wanna get a brush pen!”

“Now I’m hungry for dumplings after watching the video.”


Happy Birthday Artprof.org!

We celebrated the one year anniversary of Artprof.org last week!  Hard to believe that it’s only been one year; Art Prof started as a one paragraph blog post way back in 2014 so I have to remind myself that technically speaking, the site really hasn’t been around for that long!

There are so many aspects to running the site on a daily basis that most days I feel like it’s a continuous game of whack-a-mole that I’m playing. However, we are moving into our second year armed with three partnerships that are really exciting:  Fredrix canvas, Tombow, and our digital partner, Cantina. So much of starting a project like this from scratch is trying to convince people that what you’re doing is worthwhile and that they should join your journey.

As the site grows every day, I’m proud that our content keeps evolving for the better. The first course posted on the site was a Drawing with Crayons course, and while I still think that course has it’s own merits, it’s a far cry from the Brush Pens in Taiwan course and the two person courses we’ve been producing like this Balsa Wood carving course below.

It can be really challenging to be constantly experimenting with different formats for the courses, as there’s a lack of stability that accompanies that approach, but it’s also incredibly exciting at the same time. Every time we make plans to shoot a new course, such as the upcoming Digital Illustration and Oil vs. Acrylic course, and we start talking through the logistics, I feel exhilarated by the possibilities and the opportunity to explore ways to present the content.

Art Prof has been so exhilarating to work on that I wake up everyday with a powerful drive to tackle what at times feels like 5 billion tasks that need to be done, but I thrive and flourish with that drive. I’ll admit that my fine arts career has really been neglected for some time now for that reason; I mean, I haven’t lifted a finger really to get into exhibitions and push my career forward the way I used to.

Ironically, that’s when major career landmarks started happening.  I was invited to show in a 4 person exhibition, “March Four Women,” at Boston City Hall which goes up this week and to my tremendous surprise, I was awarded an artist fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. I’ve applied to this artist fellowship every year I’ve been eligible (the categories alternate years) since 1998, so I was in complete disbelief when I got the phone call.

I used to obsess over every detail of my fine arts career, probably to a degree that verged on unhealthy, and it’s such a relief to have a project I am so excited about that those emotions have completely disappeared from my head. When I do make some work on occasionally, it’s almost always influenced by what we’re working on at Art Prof.  I haven’t picked up a paint brush to oil paint in over 12 years, and yet shooting the Oil vs. Acrylic course made me want to paint again.  (I seriously thought painting and I were OVER.) I got out an old canvas that has done nothing but sit in my garage for many years, and starting painting over it.

In a field that can be so unstable, unpredictable and nervewracking, I think I’ve finally found the balance and positive energy I’ve been searching for, for as long as I can remember. Looking forward to what the next year has in store for Art Prof!

Brush Pens in Taiwan


I’m thrilled to release my Tombow brush pen course on sketching in Taiwan!  I’ve been working on Artprof.org since 2014, and to say that our videos have evolved would be a severe understatement. Out of all the videos we’ve produced, this is one is hands down my personal favorite.  This course has all of my favorite things in the world:  drawing, food, culture, and travel!

Shooting the tutorial was the most chaotic, bare bones production I’ve ever done.  I traveled with my husband, 2 kids, and my parents throughout Taiwan and trying to find moments to draw, much less set up a camera to shoot was not easy!  Despite the almost complete lack of a production crew on this trip, (it was either it was me with a tripod by myself, or my husband doing a few minutes of hand held when we could squeeze it in) it was the most fun I’ve had in my life!



Drawing, Traveling, Shooting, Editing


I’m a workaholic, and although working is incredibly satisfying to me, I’ll also admit that it makes me a little crazy at times.  Which is why this trip to Taiwan is exactly what I needed in terms of stepping away from my life and trying to reset.  In terms of Art Prof, this past year has definitely been the most stressful of the entire project; the site launch alone I think took 10 years off my life, and then figuring out how to keep moving forward and keeping the project alive from there was an immense challenge.

I hadn’t even thought about creating any Art Prof content while on this trip until Tom (my Art Prof partner) mentioned that the trip would be an amazing opportunity to film a tutorial here. I had been experimenting with Tombow brush pens for some time and had been thinking at the back of my head that I wanted to eventually do a tutorial on their brush pens.


That’s why this trip has become the best of both worlds:  satisfying my compulsive need to work, but under the best, most exciting circumstances possible. I’ve been able to shoot a lot of Broll footage on my own, and my husband Alex has been filling in the gaps an setting up shots of me drawing. In the evenings, I’ve been editing the footage, photographing my drawings, and trying to come up with a narrative for the tutorial.

At first the footage I shot felt totally all over the place and I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to format and present the content.  While I wanted to highlight my personal experience, I didn’t want it to turn entirely into a personal video about me. After a few days of editing, I think I’ve finally figured out a balance between a tutorial and personal stories.  It’s definitely a unique tutorial, I’m weaving in stories of my experiences here with technical advice on the brush pens, while also speaking about what frame of mind to be in when you’re traveling and drawing.

Initially I didn’t bother doing any editing, but once I started editing, it really helped me recognize where I was missing footage and what content I hadn’t talked about yet. Perfect because I won’t be able to come back and re-shoot any missing footage!


Editing on the go has also been important because all of the tiny details of the trip are really present and fresh in my head.  Although I am taking detailed notes in my sketchbook about what’s been happening, it’s great to be able to tell a story the same day that it happened so that the details are a lot more vivid.

Artist Conversations

When I remind myself that I started thinking about Art Prof back in 2014, it seems incredible to think that we’ve been working on Art Prof for 3 years.  Not only has the time passed very quickly, but the project continues to change and evolve so much that I constantly feel like we are just getting started.

The most significant change in our tutorials is we have shifted away from one person tutorials to tutorials that feature two people.  I got the idea from Jacques Pepin’s series Cooking with Claudine, where his daughter Claudine was on the set as a student learning and asking questions during the show. We were amazed that these two people tutorials were a billion times easier to shoot, as all of the pressure of being the only person speaking on the set was taken away.  On top of that, these tutorials also seem much more informative because someone is there to ask questions.

It’s also fun because even though I’m the Art Prof, I get to be on both student and teacher in these two person tutorials.  Not only do I get to learn so many new techniques, but I like that this emphasizes that even when you work professionally, learning is still ongoing!

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Will Art Prof Survive My Return to Teaching?

Artist profile on Judy Brown, the latest release in our Emerging Artist section.

I was on sabbatical from RISD this past spring semester, so the last time I was teaching on campus was way back in December 2016! As much as it was wonderful to finally have the head space to think clearly during sabbatical, it’s also been lovely to come back to campus.  I missed seeing former students and colleagues on a weekly basis. (I’m not an artist who can sit in the studio by myself for 8 hours every day.)

However, my life is very different from where I was in December 2016. The difference? Artprof.org, which didn’t exist before I went on sabbatical. This summer I’m teaching studio courses 5 days at week at RISD Pre-College. While my schedule is still densely packed with my commitments in teaching and Art Prof, I’ve got an incredible team of interns who are producing written columns for our Emerging Artists section, writing thoughtful and constructive comments on Artprof.org, creating video content for future use, and much more.

Most importantly, I have 2 Assistant Editors, Monika Hedman and Anjali Shankar, who are burning through our vast stock of video content, which has been huge in terms of getting new content released. The preparatory editing process is extremely tedious, and having that part of the process lifted from my shoulders has made all the difference in the world.  Despite that support, there is still plenty to do. I’m still doing heavy lifting in the second half of the editing process. I’m compulsive about keeping our high standards of quality that regardless of my 2 Assistant Editors, the process remains very time consuming.

However, this fall I’m returning to RISD, and I’ll be teaching 2 courses in the Printmaking department; Relief Projects and Senior Print Workshop Seminar.

I’m worried.

The teaching load in the fall is a little less than what I’m doing now, but the big difference is that my amazing team of interns are going to disappear in the fall, along with my 2 Assistant Editors. I’m scared that we won’t be able to continue hiring our incredible staff of Teaching Assistants, maintain content production at a reasonable pace, and keep Artprof.org 100% free.

Our options aren’t pretty.

We could stop hiring our Teaching Assistants, and lose an extraordinary team that make Art Prof what it is. We could set up a paywall on Artprof.org, which in my opinion basically destroys our mission to provide a free visual arts education for everyone. Or our content production slows to such a pace that we release a tutorial only once or twice a year. And that still includes myself, my partner Thomas Lerra, and Alex Hart all continuing to work on a volunteer basis.

I have only 2 months to figure this out.  Despite our push for donations on our Patreon, the donations have been very slim.

Which is why I’m going to ask you, if Artprof.org is a resource you are learning from, please consider a monthly donation to keep us alive. Even $1 a month will make a difference! 

Consider this: if every person on our mailing list gave us $1 a month, none of the hypothetical scenarios will happen in September.

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Harsh Realities at Art Prof

The heart of Art Prof’s mission is to make our visual arts education content free and available to everyone.  Now, 3 years into this project, there are some harsh financial realities that we have to face.

Our Kickstarter funds were the launching pad that enabled us to actually create Artprof.org and turn our abstract ideas into a tangible, fully functional platform. We purchased tons of video/sound equipment, paid our Teaching Assistants for one year, hired our web developer, amongst other costs.

Some people might think that the $30k we raised would make us flush with cash, but that simply was not the case.  Despite the Kickstarter funding, Thomas Lerra, myself, and Alex Hart still had to keep working on a volunteer basis.  Even then, we knew that we had to keep scraping the bottom of the barrel, cut corners on almost every expense, and squeeze every last cent. I’m quite frankly amazed that we were able to make $30k last for this long.

On top of launching our site/producing content/marketing over the past year, we have been constantly pursuing all other means of raising funds:  we have been courting several sponsors non-stop for the past year, we’ve researched all kinds of grants, and looked for private donors. Basically, we have tried everything that was within our means, given everything else that was going on.

While we will continue to keep chipping away at these initiatives, we can no longer wait around. Art Prof needs a financial solution now. We are at a fork in the road: our funding is gone, and we have to figure out how to stay alive.

Either we get enough donations to stay alive, or we will have to set up a paywall. 

I really, really, don’t want to have a paywall on Art Prof.  Yet we can’t pay for Art Prof out of our own pockets long term. (we have already done plenty of that) The scope of Art Prof is far too big for that to even be a possibility.

While a paywall would certainly be the easier solution, I always go back to thinking about the teen from Nigeria, who wrote to me 2 years ago. She told me that there was no art program at her school, but that when she found my blog, she saw “a glimmer of hope.” I remember the retired adult who wrote to me and said that because of his disability and lack of finances, he will never be able to pay for an art class. Art Prof was the art class that would always be open for him. Help us keep our classroom door open to these people.

Please donate, every amount counts!



ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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