How to Learn Art: 5 Easy Ways to Inspire Your Inner Artist
Hundreds of people interested in how to learn art search the web for relevant information, resources, and classes every day. Needless to say, that approach can yield millions of results, quickly becoming overwhelming and time consuming.
At CourseStorm, we believe in making learning accessible, so we’re cutting through the complexity to offer five ways to learn art and improve artistic skills. If you’re an instructor, you can use these techniques to enrich your art classes for learners or to inform how you market your classes. You might even share this list with students so they can explore the world of art on their own. For those curious about how to learn art or expand their knowledge, these tips make a great starting point.
Why Learn Art?
“Creating visual art is one of the defining characteristics of the human species,” researchers have noted, citing evidence of art dating back to 2.4 million years ago found in African caves, depicting animals on stone slabs. From ancient times to the modern day, art challenges us to see the world through someone else’s eyes, whether that person lived thousands of years ago or right next door.
Learning art offers you a new way of interacting with and understanding the world.
Art comes in many forms: dance, theater, music, painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, ceramics, sewing, filmmaking, writing, design—the list goes on. Each of these is a form of communication. In short, learning art offers you a new way of interacting with and understanding the world.
Here are a few of the most common reasons people choose to learn art:
- Appreciation. Art can be incredibly powerful, and students may want to learn more about it so they can better appreciate and understand the purpose or significance of particular works, styles, or movements.
- Cultural understanding. Art can reflect cultural beliefs, values, and histories. By studying art from different parts of the world during varying time periods, students can learn about different people and cultures.
- Self-expression. Art offers students ways to authentically express themselves. They can share their experiences and viewpoints and explore their understanding of the world.
- Pleasure. For many people, art is fun and enriching. It adds depth and meaning to daily life. Engaging with art may even improve mental health.
- Professional development. Some people turn their interest in art into a career. Learning more about their craft can help them create salable works and build their professional presence.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, learning new genres, skills, and techniques can help you find inspiration and develop your own style.
Learning Art Is For Everyone
Many people feel intimidated by art. Disciplines traditionally labeled as “fine arts,” like oil painting or ballet, may feel exclusive and out of reach to people who have had little to no exposure to them.
It’s important to remember that art can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone, regardless of their knowledge level or experience. You can watch an Italian opera without understanding a word that’s being sung and still appreciate the costuming, the vocal skill, the acting, and the sets.
More than half of American adults attend at least one arts-related event every year.
The National Endowment for the Arts found that more than half of American adults attend at least one cultural event every year. This includes activities like attending the theater, going to a concert, visiting a museum, or streaming a dance class. All of these informal learning experiences can help improve your understanding of art.
5 Strategies for How to Learn Art
Whether you prefer self-study or instructor-led classes, these five strategies are approachable ways to start learning art or increase your knowledge.
1. Read books and magazines about art
If you’re curious about a particular artist or art form, books and magazines are a great place to start. You can even get many texts for free from your local library. If you’re not sure where to start, these are some tried and true classics:
- Art History: Janson’s History of Art. This book is a staple of any college-level art history course. It provides a comprehensive overview of Western art from prehistoric times to the 20th century, with each chapter focusing on a specific historical period (Ancient Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, etc.).
- Literature: The Norton Introduction to Literature. Another popular college textbook, the Norton anthology series covers almost every literary genre and style, from poetry and fiction to graphic novels and experiential forms of writing. The books help students develop critical reading and writing skills, and many pieces are accompanied by critical essays, discussion questions, and recommendations for further reading.
- Dance: The Dance Bible: The Complete Resource for Aspiring Dancers. Described as a “book for beginners,” this dance bible explores styles of dancing and movement. While it’s targeted at readers who may want to turn dance into a career, it’s helpful for anyone who wants to better understand dance history, dancing styles, and dance technique.
- Theater: An Introduction to the Art of Theatre: A Comprehensive Text of Past, Present, and Future. This textbook covers nearly everything a theater novice would want to know, including the nuances of directing, acting, and playwriting. It includes an overview of theater history and discussion questions.
You could also check out art and culture magazines to learn about events and exhibitions, discover up-and-coming artists, and dive deeper into your areas of interest.
2. Attend local art events
A quick Google search of “arts events near me” will probably generate a calendar of art-related events happening in your area. Even if you live in a sparsely populated area, you might be surprised at how many arts events are happening nearby. Keep an eye out for online events that you can access remotely, too.
Here are a few ways to stay informed of local arts events, including performances and classes:
- Use event websites like Eventbrite, Facebook Events, or Meetup for your area.
- Follow local arts venues on social media.
- Check local newspapers and magazines for event and class listings.
- Ask your friends what events and classes they’re attending.
- Check with your local tourist center.
- Join a local arts organization.
Many areas have a local arts alliance, art council, or other organization devoted to the arts. These organizations often welcome community involvement even from people who don’t think of themselves as artists. Helping to organize or publicize arts in your community is a powerful way to learn about art.
3. Visit museums
Experiencing art in person is an opportunity no virtual museum tour can match. Art museums offer in-person access to artworks and most museums host traveling exhibitions, so there’s something new to see every time you visit. But an art museum is so much more than a display room for artworks.
Many museums offer enrichment programs designed to teach you about art and help you learn artistic techniques.
Keep an eye on the classes and events calendars for art museums in your area. You might discover:
- Lectures by artists and curators
- Art classes taught by local artists
- Guided tours and arts appreciation programs
- Movie screenings and musical events
- Demonstrations of art or preservation techniques
- Kids camps and special children’s programming
Museum programs often take a local view, helping attendees connect art to their lives and communities. Whether you become a museum member or just attend the occasional event, museums offer unique opportunities to learn art.
4. Use YouTube to watch arts events and tutorials
YouTube has long been a resource for sharing music and watching tutorials. If you want to learn about art, YouTube can be a good starting point, although it does suffer from some of the same challenges as a general web search. Anyone can create a video and post it to YouTube, so you may need to do some research to find reliable channels worth watching.
Here are a few YouTube channels worth subscribing to if you want to learn about art:
- Royal Shakespeare Company
- American Ballet Theatre
- Metropolitan Opera
- Ours Poetica
- The Art Assignment
- The Museum of Modern Art
Tutorials and pre-recorded classes on YouTube can be a useful starting point. However, you won’t be able to get feedback or ask for help if you get stuck. For that, you need our last recommendation.
5. Take art classes
Taking an art class may sound like an obvious step for learning art, but it’s one that many people put off taking. They might be nervous about interacting with other students or shy about their level of talent. The message to prospective art students should be: Whatever is holding you back from taking an art class, don’t let it stop you!
Art classes from enrichment programs, museums, theaters, and businesses offer a range of benefits you just can’t get anywhere else. The benefits of taking an art class include:
- Individualized instruction and feedback
- Building a network of people with similar interests and passions
- The ability to ask questions in real time
- A dedicated time and place for learning
- Direction to help you focus on and complete a project
- Opportunities for conversation and connection
Whether you want to practice your improvisation skills, work on some stand-up comedy, sketch with charcoal, paint with watercolor, learn some graphic design skills, or try out some ballroom dance steps, you’ll be in good company.
Registering for classes is simple with CourseStorm. We provide a seamless online registration and payment system for arts organizations, enrichment programs, community colleges, and anyone else offering classes in person or online. Try a free trial or contact us to learn more.
Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.