Andy Walker Artist Interview
Artist Andy Walker shares his experiences teaching art classes online since 2005.
Andy Walker Bio
My first memory of drawing was sitting at an aunt’s bureau in Suffolk when I was about five, and being taught how to hold a brush the right way around! Throughout my life I continued to paint and eventually developed a business hand-painting ceramic tile panels for clients who wanted something special. During this time I also taught painting in a large adult education class, and as the Internet Revolution took hold, I began to write various painting courses and publish them online through my website artclasspro.com, continuing to add more courses when my wife Donna and I moved to Spain in 2008. Over the years I have taught thousands of people worldwide to paint and draw from the comfort of their own homes. I believe that anyone can learn to paint if they are shown the right techniques. I am now also selling my original paintings online on my website at andywalkerart.com and on Facebook @andywalkerart.
Please tell us what you do?
On my website at ArtClassPro.com I sell painting courses that I’ve written over the years since 2005. Each one comes as a series of weekly lessons that build up skills step-by-step, and because the lessons come once a week they help to keep you both interested and practising.
I’ve made all my courses to be very practical and ‘hands on’, and they include videos and worksheets to help anyone learn to paint.
How did you learn to paint?
I have always painted, ever since I was a child, and I’ve taught myself along the way, through books, videos and some help from professional artists. It’s been a lifetime of learning, and I guess that will never stop!
You created your first online art class in 2005, what
was that course and what has changed since then?
My first course was intended to be my last! I wanted to teach watercolour painting online as I had already been doing that with an adult evening class, and I wanted to share more of what I and they were learning. The idea of making the course into weekly lessons came from the joy I always had in getting a monthly art magazine in the mail. It was something I always looked forward to and that kept my interest going, and I thought that this would be a great way for others to learn to paint. I knew from experience that if you give a whole course to someone in one go (as in a book), they would dip in and out of it, or perhaps read it right through on one sitting, but would not progress in their art. By sending out lessons on a weekly basis, I knew I could keep people learning and interested.
I didn’t know how long this course would be when I started it. My original idea was for it to go on forever! But eventually I settled at 32 lessons. The course proved to be a great success, and so on the back of this I began to write others (drawing, painting in oils, painting in acrylics, etc..), but I made them shorter.
Over the past 12 years the technology has developed incredibly, and so I have had to change things along the way to keep up. Video quality and length of videos is much better now, but basically the method of teaching remains the same because it works!
What percentage of your income comes from
selling your art versus online classes?
Almost all my income comes from writing and selling courses online, although I also tutor on painting holidays from time to time. In the past I have also sold paintings in art galleries, although that is much harder to do now that I live in Spain – there just aren’t the galleries around here.
Are there good opportunities for artists to sell their
I know that some artists do make a living by selling their work online, but I’ve yet to go down that route, and I expect it is not as easy as it seems!
I think that it is actually quite difficult to sell enough art to make a living solely from that. Most artists that I know also teach, either online or by giving classes or painting holidays. It’s only when you create a distinct style that is also in demand that you can raise your prices enough to be able to live from your paintings alone. Of course, some artists do this, but for me, and I suspect for many others, the sale of a painting or two is just the icing on the cake.
Tell us about your writing.
I wrote a historical novel a couple of years ago, called So Shines the Phoenix, based on the true story of the Lollards in England in 1401. This was when the king decreed that people could be burned at the stake for owning a Bible. I read about some fugitives who were secretly spreading Bibles around the country while the authorities were hunting them down, and thought this would make a good story. So I did a lot of research and taught myself to write (not as easy as I first thought!) and published the book about 18 months later. I was so excited about it that I decided to make it the first part of a trilogy, but since then I have had no time to write part 2.
If you could start over, what would you do
To be honest, I wouldn’t change much. The format of my online courses has proven to work, and the response I get from students is very positive. I think that one thing I hadn´t thought about was the social impact of my classes. Because they are online they are accessible to people with disabilities, or those living in remote parts of the world, who would otherwise have no means of joining a class or learning to paint. I have a Facebook group for those taking my courses and this is now becoming a social meeting place for these scattered people where they can share their paintings and encourage each other.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Just do it! There’s no better way to learn than by getting out the brushes and paints and having a go. There are numerous courses online that will give you guidance and help to get you started, but you do need to start!
I always say that art is not a competitive sport. By this I mean that you never need to compare your paintings with others, as this puts most people off and makes them think that they can’t do it. The only person you need to be true to is yourself, and so have a go, do a drawing, paint something, and then do another. In time you will look back on your
earlier work and see just how much you have improved.
Finally, art is as much about enjoying the process of painting as it is about the finished result. Actually, it is more about the fun of putting colour on paper than about a painting you can hang on the wall. So enjoy the process, and don’t worry if the result is disappointing. Tomorrow’s painting may be a masterpiece!