Welcome to the second installment of my series on setting up and promoting your own email art class. Didn’t read the first article? Take a moment to find why you might want to do an email art class and how to find ideas for your class.
OK, ready for Part 2? Let’s get started!
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Step 1: Choose your topic
You may have already settled on the perfect topic after reading Part 1. If so, congratulations! You’re ahead of the game! If not, take fifteen or twenty minutes now to brainstorm ideas. Write down every idea that comes to mind, no matter how big, small or silly it may seem.
Set your list aside for an hour or two, or maybe a day. You’re likely to find new ideas coming to mind when you’re doing other things. Write them all down.
When you’ve finished brainstorming, review your list. Cross off any ideas that require you learn new skills, or that have no appeal. Of the remaining topic ideas, chose the two or three best or most exciting ideas.
These are your A-list. Pick one and run with it!
TIP: Don’t toss the rest. Everybody needs a B-list! And if your class is successful, you’ll need topics for new classes.
Step 2: Choose your reference photos
It’s important to begin with the best possible reference photo, so take time to find the perfect image that you’ll be working from for this class. Time spent now will save time later, especially if you find out later the image isn’t working and you have to start over.
Make whatever adjustments need to be made to the image. That includes cropping, color adjustments, and any other post-processing that’s standard for you, or necessary for the image.
After all of those adjustments have been made and the reference photo suits you, save a copy for student use.
Reference photos should be:
A) Your own photos or photos which you’re allowed to use as class material. Make sure the photographer understands students will use the reference photos and can be expected to share the resulting artwork. That will make a difference for a lot of professional photographers. (This is why it’s usually easier to use your own photos.)
B) 300 dpi resolution. Students will be downloading images and possibly enlarging them to see details (depending on the type of art you’re teaching), so references need to be clear even when magnified.
C) 1500 pixels minimum on the long side. For example, 1500×1000 or 1000×1500. The image file will then be large enough to provide suitable magnification without being too large for emailing.
D) 3000 pixels maximum, otherwise you may encounter emailing problems.
E) Saved as a jpg files (to reduce file size)
TIP: Set up a class folder early in the process, then save every image and document to that folder. I also use separate sub-folders for original scans and images that were processed for insertion into each lesson. That way, if I messed something up, I could go back to the original scan.
Step 3: Make art – Step 4: Write your lesson!
I put these two items together because, quite frankly, it’s easier to write about your art immediately, as you’re doing it!
I usually work on the drawing for each of my lessons for about 20 to 30 minutes, then scan it and describe what I did. Admittedly, I have a bit of an advantage because that’s how I’ve been writing tutorials for years. If it feels awkward to you, just find the best combination of making art and creating content for your own working habits.
It’s also easier to add special tips, suggestions, and mistakes (yes, even those) if you write about them immediately after they happened. Go ahead and pause your work anytime you need to jot down a note. These details are key to a successful class, and will give your students the feel of working right beside you.
NOTE: I’m assuming you’re writing your lesson rather than filming it. If you’re using video, you can film the entire project, then add the voice-over instructions after editing the film.
Here are several tips for creating great content:
Keep it simple
Setting up written content can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. Since most artists aren’t writers, it’s important to find the process that makes this step as painless as possible.
Here’s a screenshot of my own writing process. If it helps, feel free to use my example below as a pattern for your own process.
You’ll see that I don’t stop to add images while I write. So that first line is simply the name of image that goes with the description below it. (I’ll add all the images in later.)
The following paragraphs in that screenshot describe the actions I just took on the drawing. I try to write as if speaking to a student in person, and also attempt to anticipate any questions that might arise from that description.
Keep it short
The best lessons are made up of short and sweet steps. 300 words is the maximum I try to stay within. It isn’t always possible, but that is my goal.
Keep it uniform
Uniformity helps students follow your steps. For most of my lessons, I put each illustration with its descriptions following, but that’s just my personal preference.
If it makes more sense for you to have the illustration follow the description, that’s fine too. Whichever arrangement you choose, just try to keep consistent so you don’t confuse your readers.
Scan or photograph frequently
Take photographs or scan your work frequently. For colored pencil work, I try to scan after every two or three layers of color. If you wait too long to photograph or scan your work, you run the risk of a long description, or leaving your students behind.
You will forget, though. It’s inevitable! Photograph or scan your work when you do remember, even if it’s in the middle of a step. That before-and-after image will help your students see what you’re doing and how it changes the art. That can be more valuable than 300 words of the best description you can write.
Step 5: Edit and package the lesson
Now you’ve finished your art and written the lesson, what’s next?
The last step is to insert your finished images into each lesson. Make sure to read through the lesson afterward, to make sure the right images and descriptions are together.
Editing your writing is vital, even if you do nothing more than proofread what you’ve written (or have someone else proofread it.) If you do your own editing, review the lesson a few days after you finish it. You’re more likely to see mistakes that if you’ve let the writing “cool off” first.
Another option is to offer brand-new lessons for free and ask users to point out typos or other problems. Let them know you want feedback, but also give them a due date. They’re more likely to read the lessons if they know time is limited.
When everything has been reviewed, corrected, and fine-tuned, convert the lesson to PDF format, either through your word processing document or via online or cloud-based software. At that point, your product is finished, and you’re ready to deliver it to your students!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series (coming soon!) where I’ll cover the next step selling your email course for artists!