Artist Interview with Cindy Wider
Artist Cindy Wider talks about the benefits of teaching comprehensive online art courses and publishing art instruction books.
Cindy Wider Bio
Cindy Wider is a professional award-winning artist, author and art instructor with over 20 years of experience sharing her passion for art with her students.
As one of the internet’s most experienced instructors teaching on-line since 2008 she also trains others to teach her course. She is the course author and co-founder of DrawPj.com along with her husband and fellow artist Stuart Wider.
Cindy’s unique method of teaching complete beginners how to draw is known as the ‘Cindy Wider Method’. This course which is based upon Cindy’s method is the The Complete Drawing Certificate Course.
Cindy presents her course worldwide through both internet and live art classrooms supported by her team of international instructors.
Please tell us about your work.
We both work full time in the art industry and together we have been presenting our Complete Drawing Certificate course in the real world since 2003 and online since 2008, but my venture into making a living as a full time artist/author and art educator actually began over 25 years ago. I haven’t worked at any other job since I was 23 years old and during that time I consistently maintained my base-line income through teaching art. Teaching private art classes also takes the pressure off having to make art sales. I love sharing my knowledge of art with others so its the best job in the world!
We currently make our income through the sales of our art course, art books and artworks. Our course is sold as both a self-teach and an Instructor supported version. We also sell licenses (along with full support and training) so that others can teach our course in the real world and online.
There is no previous experience necessary because I provide the full training. Over the years we’ve been commissioned to create artworks for major corporations and private individuals, sold art through gallery representation, independent art exhibitions as original art and prints and even as rubber stamp designs.
What is your art background?
When I first decided to learn to draw as a young adult, I was living in rural South Australia and had very limited access to art education. At that time I enrolled to study with a Distance Education program based in Sydney Australia, apparently the same course that Charles Schultz of the famous ‘Peanuts’ cartoon strip studied.
This was a great head start into learning how to draw, but it also provided me with an insight to where art education was lacking for me personally. I had to research a lot around the subject and realised that others might have been feeling the same.
I wanted to constantly know more than what was presented in art books about learning to draw. The instructions always seemed to assume I knew more than what I did. So I set about studying how people people actually learn to draw in the first place.
This is the motivation behind the development of the unique ‘Complete Drawing Certificate Course.’ It was to help others learn to draw in much smaller steps and with deeper descriptions and explanations as to why and how we need to do what we do with any given process. I also present my own unique method in this art course, that helps people to gain incredible results way sooner. People really learn to draw right from not being able to draw a stick figure through to creating original, saleable standard artworks through studying our complete course.
Please give an overview of the classes and
workshops you teach?
My course ‘The Complete Drawing Certificate Course’ is presented both online at DrawPj.com and in the real world through our international instructors with live classes based in Australia, the USA and Norway. Its currently available in English, Italian and Russian Language versions. It’s in the process of being translated into several other languages including French, Spanish and Norwegian (Bokmal.) The Complete Course consists of printable course books with full step by step instructions and images, supported by over 210 HD videos all presented in an easy to follow and well-organised learning management system online at DrawPj.com.
As a business, how do in-person workshops
compare to online courses?
I always loved the personal interactions that I had with my students when I was teaching in real live world workshops. People are so filled with awe, happiness and excitement when they create amazing artworks and learn to draw for the first time. Online teaching doesn’t give me that same opportunity to witness their joy, however, I have found that it isn’t necessary to offer in-person workshops to build a connection with our clients.
We have some clients who have remained with us ever since we first began online in 2008. These are people who also ‘chat’ through the written word by email about their personal lives (occasionally) and are constantly willing to purchase new products from us. They are treasured as DrawPj friends.
We also have an excellent support network in our DrawPj Community on facebook with a large group of genuinely caring people who support anyone who enrols to study with us online. Our instructors also offer one-to-one feedback by private email with a video or written critique for every single exercise in the course. So they are making a personal connection with their students (clients) there.
The earnings from in-person workshops can be similar to online teaching when you are teaching 10 to 12 people all in the same 3 hour time slot each week. It depends on how quickly you can critique this same number of people when teaching online as to whether it’s more or less profitable for each instructor. It takes on average anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to create a video critique for each students work (each week,) so to critique 10 students work each week it could take from two and a half to three hours on average. All instructors are encouraged to ask the same fee; $247usd per unit whether there students are studying in real world classrooms or online. There are six units of study all together. If the course is presented in the real world I recommend presenting it either in one 3 hour time slot per week and the course could be completed in 42 weeks. It can be presented in so many different ways though such as either week-long events, or weekend workshops. Its very profitable.
We have worked hard over the past 20 years to create and refine this system that enables artists to teach part time and then create art for themselves the rest of the time. This is the reason that our course works so incredibly well as a business model; its personal and systematised.
Your website mentions “specialized commenting
methods that can bring the best out of each and
every student,” can you please explain?
Our specialized commenting methods focus on a holistic approach to the entire experience of learning to draw. We know that learning to draw is not only a technical journey, it also involves an emotional process. We understand that through providing emotional support as well as technical assistance, our students progress far more quickly than they might without that personal one-to-one support.
Far more than simply teaching techniques, our commenting methods include an empathetic and deeply caring approach to critique using our three-step system for every single exercise in the course. Our instructors are especially chosen from our student base for their ability to empathise and encourage others, their excellence in skill and their personal characteristics that demonstrate consistence, persistence, courage and reliability. Our instructors are trained using the three step commenting system of first of all seeking out areas of success, then explaining where the method or technique wasn’t properly understood and finally (most importantly) how they need to fix the problem. This process helps our students to engage in as near-to-perfect practice as possible. Therefore they are able to easily develop their skills based upon solid foundations.
What are the differences between the self-teach
and complete certificate courses you offer?
Through selecting to study our course as a self-teach option our clients can study on their own at their own pace as they gradually journey through the course in our beautifully organised learning management system.
There are quizzes to complete at the end of each of the six units of study so they can check up on themselves to see how well they are learning. From a socialising aspect, they are invited to join in with our Community Facebook group for encouragement and support.
The main difference with the self-teach is that there is no instructor feedback given and our CPD and DrawPj certificates are not awarded. When our clients select the instructor supported option they are given their own personal instructor who will be there for them every step of the way through the entire course. Our clients submit their weekly course exercise drawings to their instructor by private email and their instructor will comment on, and provide valuable advice (through video screencast on their work – within the same week.
From an emotional point of view, often our students (clients) find that it can be life-changing to learn to draw. Many people experience an emotional journey as they discover a new-found confidence, happiness and wonder as the discover drawing. Other times they may feel concerned, worried, fearful and experience thoughts that they cannot draw at all. During these good and difficult times equally, they appreciate the personal support of their instructor. Their instructor will provide much needed encouragement to continue with their course or to help them understand that the emotions they are experiencing are quite typical for many creatives discovering their ability to draw for the first time. If our students are not submitting their work, their instructor will contact them by email and ask if they are okay or need any help at all.
It looks like you offer one large, complete online
course rather than many short courses, are there
advantages to being focused like this?
Yes, we have purposely maintained a complete course approach but each unit of the six-unit course does also stand alone as a complete area of study on its own. We do keep the whole course together as much as possibly though, because this course covers all the basic fundamental principles that have the potential to take a person from complete beginner to creating totally original artworks. It also involves the unique ‘Cindy Wider Method’ which has several major parts that make up the whole skill of drawing. In my method, I separate the whole skill of drawing into four major areas of study.
Each area of study focuses on one particular comparison skill at a time and also brings them together in some of the units. These four skills are – the comparison of angles, tones, sizes and spaces. If any of the units were not studied, the students experience of learning to draw would be greatly compromised. There would be huge skill gaps.
Often we offer smaller ‘taster’ courses to introduce our students to the entire course.
Please tell us about your books?
I have taken some information from our main course and published it as softcover books and ebooks. This is to give people an area of specific study that they might be interested in, or just to get started with drawing. For example ‘6 Pencil Techniques’ provides enough information for people to begin drawing and experimenting with all kinds of techniques just by preparing and holding a simple graphite pencil in a few different ways. Its very exciting!
In ‘12 Charcoal techniques’ I cover an entire course on how to draw portraits after presenting many different ways to apply a humble stick of charcoal onto a piece of paper. In ‘12 Coloured Pencil techniques’ I demonstrate how you can use coloured pencils to draw realistic images once again by just preparing and using the pencils in different ways. These books are information from the course that can stand alone and provide people with bite-sized learning chunks.
Do you think it still makes sense for artists to
publish books with the explosion in online courses?
Amazon is a fantastic source for publishing print books and we earn regular income from them on a reliable basis. Publishing art books is a valuable thing – its always wonderful to be able to grab a print book and escape from the computer for a while to have a relaxing read in a coffee shop or park. There will always be something special about holding a print-copy of a book in my opinion.
Can you please offer some advice for artists
interested in offering their own courses and
With an online art class, its so important to be very well-organised with your course, to provide fully printable course notes as well as full HD video tutorials. You should also present it in an easy-to-navigate learning management system. All of this costs money to set up but in the long run its worth it. Try to make the art materials as affordable as possible for your students to study with you; so that they they are able to buy your course in the first place.
The foundation of a solid real world (or online) art education business like ours is to make sure that you are using a complete system so that you have a good solid repeat-business model. This can take years to develop. Mine has taken 25 years of knowledge and experience (and 4 years to put it into full books and videos.) If your students know that they are enrolling into a planned and well-organised art course they are more likely to show up to class week after week. If you are searching for what you are going to teach your students each week then it really isn’t a sustainable business. Every week you will be busily preparing art lessons or working out what to teach instead of creating your own artwork in those days that you aren’t teaching. It can be stressful constantly coming up with new ideas, techniques and methods to teach. You will also find that your enrollment rate is very sporadic with some students not attending class some weeks and just strolling in on other weeks because they ‘feel like it.’
Having a completed course like I have created takes away that huge hassle of constantly preparing new lessons and the stress-free environment knowing your students have paid up-front for the entire unit regardless if they attend class or not. Its also great to be able to hand your students their weekly course notes in fully printed form. If one of your students cant make it to class, they can catch up by reading their course notes. Remember to always keep creating art yourself, so that you teach from love, caring and sharing.