Becoming a Better Artist – Critical knowledge and techniques for today’s artists


Hi there, I’m a UK artist currently on my gap year before I go to university (where I want to study illustration), I;m very interested in taking your course as it seems exactly what I need to improve my abilities, however, due to the time difference in the UK what time during the week does the course take place? I dont mind having to stay up all night (thats when most of my art gets made anyway), but its something I need to consider just due to work commitments. Thanks.


All interaction is done through the forum, so there’s no time difference issue. :slight_smile: For students that want real-time interaction, they can request real-time sessions, but to date, after seeing how astoundingly comprehensive and epic the course material is (lecture notes, images, videos, forum discussions, critiques), not a single student has felt like they needed real-time interaction.


Becoming a Better Artist workshop (for January 2016) has a big sale going on right now with $100 discount. Better hurry and enroll before it ends:


Enrollment for the next run (March 2016) of the Becoming a Better Artist workshop has begun!


Hi, the workshop sounds fantastic - exactly what I need to rid myself of several bad habits! Just a couple of queries.

Firstly, my wife is due to give birth to our second child about 3 weeks before the next class (April 2016) begins. Are you planning on running another class towards the summer (which would suit my personal time better), or does the ‘no time limit’ approach to this course mean that I could join the April class and get involved when I find the time between nappy changes?!

Secondly, I work in arch vis and have never once been required to illustrate a character. The course description sounds like it majors on characters. I assume I’ll still find it all useful?!



There are no deadlines for the workshop or the assignments, so once you enroll, you can take as long as you need to read the lecture notes, watch the videos, and do the assignments. Some students ran into unexpected changes in their lives during the workshop, such as suddenly losing their jobs, death of a loved one, becoming ill, moving to another country, etc., and they took as much time off as they needed and resumed at their own pace–sometimes even many months or even years later. And I still help them with their questions and give them critiques on their assignments.

And no, the workshop is not only focused on characters. It teaches all of the critical foundations of visual art. Characters are simply an important part of the foundation, but there is so much more than just characters.


I am interested in this class. I really love art but a lot of times I feel constricted, like I don’t know what next step to take in order to finish a quality piece and make its message and emotion come across due to getting bored quite easily in the process (from lineart to a finished colored piece would take me 2-8 hours). My interests are also on perspective/environment design and digital painting.

I have some basic questions if you don’t mind answering.
Does this class teach some coloring and perspective techniques in Photoshop?
How are the classes conducted, like is there a video in the first part of the session? What time do we have to meet online (I am from Asia)? As it says the start date is April 4, what is the typical week’s timeline? Like how many hours is a lesson conducted and when is the general time we must submit our homeworks for critique? Will we also have critiques and advice per week so that we may improve better? And lastly, is it possible to see any of your students’ works in order to see their improvements from before and after taking the class?

Thank you. I hope for a kind response to my inquiries.


Have you read the detailed outline of the workshop’s week-by-week overview? If not, you can find out all the details about what will be taught during the course here:

The class is forum-based, and every week there are lecture notes to read and videos to watch, and then there are assignments that you do. You’ll get in-depth critiques on your assignments, and answers to whatever questions you have. Since it’s forum based, there’s no time-zone issue. My workshop has no deadlines so you can work at your own pace (great for students who live a busy life, having to work full-time jobs, or go to school, or raising a family). You can do the course at your own pace, take however long you need, and I’ll be there to answer your questions and give critiques to your assignment no matter what. I have students whose lives got derailed during the workshop and then come back a year or two later and I still help them with critiques and answer their questions.

As for my students’ work, there are so many of them, and they range from total beginners to professional concept artists, lead artists, and art directors working in games and film. Based on what you said, I’m assuming you’re a beginner. In the past one of my beginner students posted a thread, which contains the kind of drawings he was doing before he took the workshop, and what he did by the end of the workshop–the difference was night and day:

I have many other examples of the drastic difference between what the students were doing before the workshop and during/after the workshop–I can fill a book with all those examples. That thread is just one very simple example out of many.


Enrollment for the July 2016 run of Becoming a Better Artist is now open:


Thanks Lunatique,

I have enrolled for this session, looking forward to interact with You and the class.


I was hoping to get a bit more information on the course.
The first 2 weeks seem to deal with layer management and brushes etc., which seems pretty basic. But you then move on to more advanced topics.
I think i have an issue creating a mood/setting up lighting, value patterns and creating textures on clothing and objects/environments. I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on what exactly will be covered. How to manipulate photos for texture, use of brushes to build up texture etc. ? Will Week 3 Effective Lighting be a how to use Ps to light something or more like this is what needs to be planned and mapped out when lighting a scene and then this is how it is carried out with value? Also what kind of assignments will be given?(i did not see that mentioned)
Week Six: Expressive characters, Stylization, and Aesthetics seems very interesting.

Sorry for the long post just trying to get some clarification.

Thanks in Advance.


There seems to be some misunderstanding about what the workshop covers week-by-week. I’m not sure what gave you the impression that the first two weeks are only about layer management and brushes. Were you only looking at the video content description and didn’t read the lecture notes content description? If that’s the case, then I’ll need to modify the layout of the week-by-week descriptions so that people don’t misunderstand what the actual emphasis is. (I really need to know if that’s what created the wrong impression, because if it’s true I’ll have to fix it, so please let me know.)

Here are the lecture notes content descriptions for week one and two, as well as for week three and five (covering your questions regarding lighting and textures and brushwork):


Lecture notes content (text and images):

In the first week, students will learn about the heart of an image—what makes some images evocative and exciting while others uninspired and lifeless. Students will learn to understand different types of images such as visualization, decorative, straightforward and abstract narratives, and subcategories like voyeuristic, exhibitive, simple action, and cause & effect. Students will also learn the different purposes each serves, and learn to utilize the same storytelling techniques that good fiction writers use to make their images more compelling and entertaining. The complex subject of taste will also be analyzed and discussed, bringing to light both practical and philosophical issues that all artists must face during their artistic existence.

Week one will also demonstrate how students can inject life and personality into images of inanimate objects and scenes containing cars, products, and interiors, thus turning sterile images of artificial objects into expressive ones with emotional resonance.
To wrap up week one, Rob will bust some common myths, address typical misguided mentalities, correct popular misinformation, set the record straight about some popular controversies in the digital art community, and even demonstrate his secret weapon for preventing carpel tunnel syndrome when working very long hours repeatedly, as well as explore the importance of effective time-management and how to combat lack of motivation.


Lecture notes content (text and images):

For many artists, effective composition is something that eludes them. Week Two will cover various aspects of composition such as dividing up a space, choosing focal areas, uses of variations, selective detail, overlapping, framing, balance, repetition, diagonals, contrast, negative space, leading the eye, spatial depth…etc. In conjunction, perspective, camera angles, and focal lengths will also be explored to further enhance and strengthen students’ ability to construct effective composition. Other topics also covered include accidental distractions and manipulation of the horizon, as well as how to create emotional intimacy with effective choice of composition, how to establish the desired psychic distance between the viewer and your characters, and how to create visual drama by using uncommon camera angles appropriately.


Lecture notes content (text and images):

Lighting is one of the most powerful tools for establishing the mood of an image, and it is also responsible for the sense of dimensionality in images. In week three, students will be exploring the various ways to design and construct lighting setups (dramatic, soft, low key, high key, 3-point lighting, and beyond) and learn about light quality, light type, light direction, and how to utilize them to portray different types of moods and atmosphere. The relationship between light and shadow, and the complexities of ambient light and bounced light will also be covered, as well as the varying light behaviours in relation to surface properties and viewing angles, how light falloff behaves when considering distance vs. angle, and how light sources appear in various conditions. In addition, Students will learn about the deceptive values of colors and how it can make their images too flat and uninteresting, the importance of value coherency, how and when to manipulate values for stylization purposes, and how to design their images with tonal composition for maximum readability and overall coherency.


Lecture notes content (text and images):

Week five will cover the topic that stomps many artists as much as colors do—the surface treatment. Students will explore important aspects of surface treatment such as how to depict weight, distance, size, and lighting with just contour lines, various painting techniques and brushwork such as bristle marks, impastos, splatters, dry brush/scumbling, stamping, washes, scribbling, etc, when to use smudging/blending and when not to, how to avoid the dreaded “smudge-a-titus” syndrome, understanding the differences between traditional mediums vs. digital and how to utilize them each effectively. Other topics includes the importance of edge dynamics, how to create textures quickly and creatively, the proper use of textures, matching brushwork to specific surface types, how to use selective detail, when to rendering against or along forms, using appropriate brush sizes for different situations, the struggle between painting smooth/clean vs. expressive brushwork, the misconception of what “speedpainting” is and isn’t, understanding brush economy and speed vs. deliberate expressiveness, and how to gauge the amount of detail an image actually needs for the purpose it serves.

For lighting, I’ll teach you everything you’ll need to know about lighting, from the simple basics to the most complex and advanced lighting schemes, as well as how exactly to execute whatever lighting idea you have for your scene step-by-step, building the lighting scheme one light source at a time until you have a fully lit scene (similar the way 3D rendering and compositing is done). I’ll show you how to block in the lighting for the overall look you want extremely quickly with just simple painting techniques, and also advanced techniques that fine tunes the details of the lighting, including how to completely change the lighting even after you’ve already flattened all layers.

For the textures and brushwork section, I demonstrate in videos how to create textures from scratch using just brushes, layering different types of brushes and applying interesting lighting effects to the results to create dimensional effects that pops out and looks very realistic. I also demonstrate how to extract textures from photos and how to use them to fit whatever you’re working on.

As for assignments, they are very challenging and you’ll have to apply everything you’ve learned each week in order to do the assignments well. Everything I’ve described above you’ll have to apply to your assignments when you do them. For example, I give you a completely flat scene with no lighting information whatsoever, just flat values/silhouettes to represent objects/backgrounds in a scene, and you’ll have to paint over it with lighting information and make it look as convincing as possible.

Another assignment will have you take a B/W photo and force you to only used limited number of flat values and convey the image as accurately as possible, and you’ll have to really think hard on where the demarcations for value shifts are, how to shape the values so the form reads correctly, how to balance the intervals between the values so the image looks balanced, etc.

And those are just week three’s assignments. Every single week will have multiple assignments that push you far past your comfort zone and force you to think in new ways and try new approaches, as well as help you internalize the lessons you learned that week and put to them to use, so they immediately become a part of your creative arsenal that will have instant impact on how you think creatively and execute your artworks.

BTW, if you did miss all the weekly lecture notes descriptions, you should go back and read them for the other weeks too and see what else you missed:


I will try to keep this concise, I enrolled with the July 2016 class.

I was a total beginner who knew nothing about drawing or painting, all I knew was I had ideas in my head that I could not translate to the page. Rob didn’t hold my hand, but opened the door and allowed me to walk into a world of understanding. I now know how to look at drawings and analyze them, what I must consider in the composition and creation of my own works - I no longer feel lost. There is a fundamental base of knowledge that I look forward to building on. Rob also shared some innovative tricks and methods that I would never have thought of to help keep the quality of my work high. I have a lot of work to do on my technical proficiency, which nobody but myself and time can improve, but even there Rob has given me some great tips and exercises to help focus my efforts!

I highly recommend this course to anyone, cannot speak highly enough of the depth of material and effort that Rob has put into this course.

Myrmedon (Jon)
Class of 07/16


Enrollment for the October run of Becoming a Better Artist:

The previous run was done on CGMA’s platform, and it took a bit of acclimating and tweaks to get it to feel more like how I’d like to run my workshop, but I’m happy to say that things worked out and it was a good run. The folks at CGMA were very accommodating and helpful, and it’s been a great experience.



I just wanted to say, I’ve been looking into your workshop for a bit now. I wanted to take it this session but other classes ended up getting in the way and I figured it’d be better to do it when I can devote as much as possible. Do you know if the workshop will definitely be running during this Winter semester? I’d definitely be able to join up then.

I’m really excited about the opportunity to take part in it if it is. I’ve heard stellar things, and I do have a fair bit of questions I wish to ask, and so much to learn. (If it wasn’t obvious, I’m pretty much a total newbie)

Just wanted to pop in and ask! Hope to see you this Winter!


I try to run the workshop back-to-back, with maybe a little bit of rest between reach run (a week to a month, depending on the scheduling), so you can always expect me to teach the workshop on an average of four times a year under normal circumstances, spaced out fairly evenly.


For those of you still on the fence, I totally recommend this workshop. I am from the last run (Aug/Sept) and it was worth the time and money invested. I actually wished I had taken this workshop sooner.

Rob has summarized years of experience and lesson learned and will cut your learning curve by a significant time. There is a lot to absorb during the workshop, so reserve time each week to read the material, watch the videos, read the instructor feedback and do your assignments (in that order).

THIS is the master class you are looking for. What are you waiting then. Join in, have fun and be amaze on how fast you will improve with dedication, hard work and focussed teaching.



Fantastic, I’ll definitely be here for this winter’s run then. Looking forward to it!


Enrollment for February 2017 is currently open:


Enrollment for Becoming a Better Artist workshop (May 2017) is open:

Is 2017 the year you get really serious about your artistic development and aspirations?