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. 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?, 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, 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 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, 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 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. 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 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. features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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New Tutorial Set: “Small Sparks”


Last weekend Art Prof TAs Lauryn Welch, Alex Rowe, Deepti Menon, and Casey Roonan came to my house for a 5 days of shooting. Our retreats are really intense, require serious concentration 24-7, are exhausting, but they are also a total blast.  All of us live in different places, so we really only get together a few times a year to shoot our video content. What’s been really exciting is that with every retreat, we’ve become noticeably more efficient with our time, and our work flow is much faster than before. It’s wonderful to see our team settling into a stable familiarity in the process that wasn’t there when we first got started.


It’s still incredible to me how much we managed to pack into 5 days.  Deepti shot a tutorial about how to create an animation piece using an eggplant, Alex did a tutorial on ink wash drawing which involved American colonial history and an on site visit to a farm to hang out with sheep, Lauryn showed us how to mix coffee grounds into acrylic paint to make a painting inspired by BBQ squid, and Casey showed us all kinds of ink technique that involved roadkill and toilet paper.


While we still want to include the basics on, we’re really excited about these quirkier tutorials that are a new hybrid of artist documentary and tutorial.  In our research, the video content out there is either exclusively a documentary (such as the PBS series art21) or a purely technical tutorial.  The idea of combining both documentary and tutorial in one is really exciting, as you’ll get the change to understand the initial inspiration for our work, but also have the opportunity to see every step of the process explained, using ordinary materials that are accessible and can be done in your own home.

We see Art Prof as a platform that is constantly growing, even since our site launch this past February so much of our mindset has changed. Ideas for new content formats keep coming up, which is exciting, but also frustrating at the same time.  With our extremely limited post-production staff (me, and Alex Hart occasionally) we just don’t have the man power to produce video content as quickly as we want to. We desperately need a sound designer, but without sustained funding that isn’t an option for us right now. (please consider a monthly donation to our Patreon!)


Now that Art Prof has been around for 3 years, we felt it was a good time to create a short “Making of Art Prof” documentary for people to see what happens behind the scenes.  Even thought our content is of professional quality, I’m not sure people realize how DIY Art Prof really is!  We shoot in a room right next to my kitchen, we scrape together whatever art supplies we own, we cook meals together, and make do with situations that are less than convenient. (I’m too cheap to buy comforters for everyone, so all the TAs have to bring their own comforter when they stay here)

Naturally, our retreat wouldn’t be half as fun without our guinea pigs, Bubba and Fluffy, who are now the official Art Prof mascots!


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

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We Need Your Feedback!

Now that has been live for about 3 months, we want to hear from YOU!  Tell us what you like, what could be improved, and what kind of content you want to see in the future.  Your feedback and thoughts are tremendously important to keep us moving forward.


Since our site launch in February 2017, we’ve already made several fundamental improvements to  our site now loads much more quickly because we compressed files, glitches on the mobile version have been fixed, and we are adding new content every week. (see our homepage for new releases!) In the coming weeks, we are working with our web developer to make AMP compliant. (Accelerated Mobile Pages) so that the mobile version will be significantly increased and load times will be super quick!

Stay tuned!  The first half of my Self-Portrait from Life tutorial is now available, with the second half and Casey Roonan’s charcoal version coming soon!

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

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A New Type of Tutorial: “Course Trios”

One aspect of Art Prof that we are trying to push is diversity of artistic approaches and media.  When I was a student in art school, I remember feeling like my head was exploding with excitement when I arrived on campus and was discovering so many new art materials. I found it to be an incredibly enriching experience to approach the same subject with different media.  I did portraits in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture techniques throughout my four years in art school. Every media I experienced revealed something new about the human face that could only be experienced with that specific media.


That’s why I’m thrilled that we’re bringing that diversity of materials to Art Prof with our Course Trios, beginning with our Self-Portrait from Life course.

The idea is different than the linear tutorials I’ve seen online:  My tutorial provides the fundamentals  & premise of the subject.  In the case of the Self-Portrait course,  how to set up a mirror, light your face, basics in the structure of the skull, and thumbnail sketches.  From there, the course branches out into 3 different paths:  1) a self-portrait in crayon by myself, 2) a self-portrait in charcoal by TA Casey Roonan, and 4) a self-portrait in animation by TA Deepti Menon.

Watching Casey do his charcoal drawing tutorial from behind the camera, I found myself seeing the concept of the self-portrait with new eyes. In the video above, Casey talks about how as a cartoonist, he has a cartoon version of himself in his head that he can draw “thoughtlessly.”  He talks about how cartoonists are often accused of just drawing themselves, citing Jack Kirby’s  Incredible Hulk as essentially a self-portrait of Kirby himself. As a fine artist, all of this was totally new to me, and I found it endlessly absorbing to listen to.

I told Casey afterwards that my “basics” tutorial on drawing a self-portrait from life felt so generic compared to his!  However, we agreed as a staff that having one tutorial provide the core basics was critical to the other two tutorials making sense.  Hope all of you have as much fun learning these diverse approaches as I do!  If you want to receive email notifications when a new course is released, you can sign up here.


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

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Art School Portfolios: Advice & Stories


Watch: Art School Portfolio advice from Catherine Huang

Art Prof has been keeping me busy.  Really busy.  What’s challenging is trying to keep all aspects of production going at the same time:  shooting footage, editing footage, and maintaining  Even though I have hours and hours of footage that has yet to be edited, I am still scheduling shoots regularly to continue creating new content. I always feel behind, but slowly I am creating a system for everything that is starting to become much more concrete and predictable than before.  That’s actually what is so time-consuming; when you produce something for the first time and there is no system in place that you can rely on!


Watch: Art School Portfolio advice from Annelise Yee

One upcoming video course that I am particularly excited about is about Art School Portfolios.  Hands down the top blog post here on my blog is an article that provides advice for what to include in an art school portfolio.  This video course will exponentially expand on the content in that post, and provide new content, such as the video testimonials from art school students on their experience preparing a portfolio.

The testimonials have been so much fun to shoot.  For some students speaking about their portfolio felt like a distant memory, while for others, it was very recently that they completed their portfolio. Every student has their own unique story, but pretty much across the board, it’s incredible how much frustration and lack of resources almost every student had preparing their portfolio.


Watch: Art School Portfolio advice from Julie Benbassat

The idea behind this art school portfolios course is to provide concrete advice and resources for students combined with personal stories and experiences. If you are preparing an art school portfolio, you don’t have to do it by yourself anymore!  I know that when I prepared my portfolio 23 years ago, I did everything entirely by myself.  It was a really isolating, miserable experience that I am hoping this course can spare some students from.

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

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Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.

ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.