Review: Sketchbook Skool - Beginning

Even since Sketchbook Skool started in 2014 (?), I've been curious to find out what it's all about.

What is Sketchbook Skook?

For those who don't know, Sketchbook Skool is a series of online courses on sketching. The Skool, purposely misspelled, is started by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. Danny Gregory is from New York and Koosje Koene is from Amsterdam. They both love to draw. You might probably already know of Danny Gregory because he has written several inspiring books on sketching in the last decade.

So now Danny and Koosje are trying to inspire more people to start sketching with the Sketchbook Skook video platform.

There are several kourses in the skool already and there are always new ones coming up.

The ones that are currently listed are:

  • Beginning - April - USD $99
  • Stretching - April - $99
  • Seeing - May - $99
  • Storytelling - June - $99
  • Playing - July - $69
  • More Playing - August - $69

I've enrolled for Beginning and Stretching just to check out what it's all about, and also to let you readers know what you can expect. I'll review the Stretching course separately.

They are a bit pricey in my opinion. For EU students, you have to top up more for the VAT.

You may have noticed that there are months mentioned after the course. The reason is those courses are only released in those particular months (and I think for a few months after that).

The lessons and instructors

Beginning is a course split into six lessons, each handled by an instructor. The target audience for this course is beginners, and the goal is get you started with drawing in a sketchbook and also inspire you to do so regularly.

The instructors for this course are

Total length of the course is 256 minutes. Each lesson is split into several smaller segments which is more manageable because sometimes you don't want to watch everything in one go. I tried watching it on my iPad and the videos would not play so I can only watch them on my computer.

Generally speaking, each lesson will have an introduction of the instructor, they will then talk about what sketching means to them, there will be flipping through of sketchbooks, introduction to art materials, drawing demonstrations, gallery, instructor's answers to some questions asked by the students and parting gifts from the instructors that usually comes in the form of a PDF with more tips on sketching.

The topics covered are on creativity and how not to suppress it. Danny Gregory sets you up for sketching with some encouraging words. Koosje talks about dealing with the inner critic. Prashant Miranda on the habit of sketchbook keeping. Jane LaFazio on her sketching habit. Roz Stendah's course focuses more on techniques, and Tommy Kane tells you how to do detailed sketches and also be inspired by other artists.

The videos are inspiring and engaging to watch. You'll learn more about the instructors and what they do, check out their styles and learn some techniques from them.

The course provides more inspiration rather than techniques. Each instructor would have around 2 to 3 demonstrations, and those demonstrations would talk about some tips. For example, Danny would talk about pen, ink and colours about his sketches. Koosje would show you how she uses coloured pencils to colour cherry tomatoes, or how to tackle an outdoor scene. They are not comprehensive courses on pen and ink, or coloured pencils. Many of the techniques are certainly very interesting, and will make you want to learn more about those particular drawing tools, but the demonstrations with their limited time can only cover so much.

To be fair, many of the tools have dedicated books and video courses created, so it's not unexpected that the courses in Sketchbook Skool will not be able to cover everything you need to know about a particular tool. Chances are, you're going to have to learn more techniques on your own. In a way, I guess that's good because it makes you curious enough to explore the medium. But if you're expecting this course to be more focused on techniques, then you may find it lacking.

The lesson I enjoyed most is the one from Roz Stendahl because she's really generous in sharing techniques, and her Q&A PDF is really long (29 pages) and insightful. It's not surprising that Roz Stendahl's course is also the longest. Anyway, I highly recommend that you also check out her informative blog.

About the Sketchbook Skool platform

There are exercises and homework suggested. You can post your homework on the video tutorial pages and get feedback. Feedback usually comes from other students who are beginners and also new to sketching. If you're looking for professional critique to improve on your techniques, this is not the place. Roz Stendahl seems to be the only instructor who's more active on the video pages, interacting with the students.

In addition to the video tutorials, another aspect of Sketchbook Skool is that you can interact with other students in the forums. In the forums, you will find there are students who really enjoyed the courses, there are also students sharing their sketches, talking about tools and materials.

This is not the type of school where teachers are required to interact. Interaction with the instructors would have been most beneficial to the students because there are bound to be questions about techniques and you don't have an expert whom you can ask.


So is this Beginning course value for money?

It really depends on what you're expecting.

If you are a beginner and want to start sketching, the videos and instructors are very inspiring. Their galleries and volumes of sketchbooks may be enough to motivate you to aspire towards making your personal art journals.

If you're an intermediate artist, the videos serve more of an entertainment purpose where you get to learn more about the instructors. If you want to learn techniques, then you may find the courses falling short because they can only provide limited coverage on certain tools.

Interaction with instructors are very limited so you have to take note of that. I guess you can still contact the instructors outside of the Sketchbook Skool or if you can find them in the forums (that's if they actually frequent the forums).

If you want intensive courses on art techniques, check out all the Craftsy courses I've reviewed instead.

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