Colin Bradley Artist Interview
Online art instructor Colin Bradley talks about teaching online art classes and the benefits of having your own art gallery.
Colin Bradley Bio
Although I always loved to draw from an early age it was not until I was in my late thirties that I started to paint seriously. My preferred medium was watercolour having tried oil acrylics and soft pastel I felt that watercolour suited my style of painting best.
I started selling my landscapes through a local art gallery resulting in an exhibition that again was successful and confidence building. I was persuaded to open my own art gallery where I not only sold my own paintings but those of other local artists. I discovered pastel pencils a few years later having tried, unsuccessfully to paint a friends dog. The pastel pencils proved to be very suitable for pet portrait work and I soon developed a demand from my clients to paint their pets.
I caught the eye of a pastel pencil distributor who asked me to demonstrate my skills for them in a major art exhibition in London. This lead to many years of demonstrating around the UK and for art groups. Eventually I was asked if I could teach a small group of artists my techniques, this was well received and I went on to running my own private art classes and workshops for over 18 years.
I started teaching online through YouTube in 2007 and very quickly developed a following for my techniques. In 2011 with the help of my son Steve we started our online teaching school which has proved to be very popular and an online store for students to purchase the materials I use. On YouTube we now have well over 30,000 subscribers.
Please tell us what you do?
We run an online art school and also sell art materials in an online shop. The Colin Bradley School of Art is a membership whereby students can access hundreds of classes across all subjects – animals, landscapes, portraits and still life. They can also learn a variety of mediums – Pastel Pencils, Watercolour, PanPastels, Coloured Pencils and Stick Pastels. They can buy all the materials used in the courses in our online shop, we keep our prices very competitive and provide incentives such as a reward “points” discount system to encourage repeat orders. We also sell courses individually on Craftsy and Udemy.
What is your art background?
I never received any official art training but started on my own with watercolour. I was unaware of how watercolour was ‘meant’ to be done so developed my own style and techniques which I understand are different from the norm.
When I discovered pastel pencils, again I experimented and found techniques that worked. I applied the knowledge I had gained from using watercolour and worked in a similar way (from light to dark).
I began painting in 1979 and turned professional in 1982.
Can you explain how pastel pencils influenced your art career?
I discovered the pastel pencils when I was asked to do a pet portrait for someone. At the time I was using watercolour and found I could not produce the results I wanted. At a local art shop I spotted the pastel pencils and never looked back.
The variety of subjects you can produce with the pencils are endless. Because they were so easy to use, I found that others were able to achieve fantastic results very quickly. This makes it a very enjoyable medium to teach.
Every time I pick up the pencils I learn something new, and that is after 30 years of experience. My art career would not be as varied or as exciting as it is without this medium.
I read that you started your own art gallery, how important was the gallery to your success as an artist?
Opening my own gallery coincided with a shift in my life to be a full time artist. At first I had others’ artwork displayed as well as my own and the gallery was a great income to have. Customers would come in and I would be working on my own pictures which would peak their interest. As well as commissions, I sold prints and did framing. When I decided to teach the gallery also provided me a space to hold classes and workshops. When I look back I realise just how important the gallery was to my success.
Is owning an art gallery a good way to fund an art career?
As mentioned in the previous question, I had various ‘strings to my bow’ and used the space wisely. Of course there were pressures and stressful periods however it provided a solid source of income and security.
If you feel that opening a gallery would open up other opportunities to earn income as it did for me then it may be the right move. There are a lot of factors that went into opening mine, including the fact that my family and I could live in the same property above the gallery.
Do you recommend teaching art classes as a good income source for artists?
Teaching art classes in person provided me a good source of income, so it would be fair to say this could be the same for others. The online space provides many more opportunities for artists to teach as well as in person.
However, there are many others ways for artists to earn an income online. Whether this be starting a YouTube channel, Patreon, Instagram or TikTok account.
Is it difficult for artists to earn a living sell their art?
Definitely for the chosen few. The majority of our income is through art classes with selling our products a close second, say 65% classes, 35% products. When I owned the gallery, I also found success in selling prints, cards and naturally the pictures themselves.
How do you attract students for your in-person workshops?
I retired from doing in-person workshops some time ago however back in those days it was predominantly through working with the Faber-Castell distributor in the UK and traditional marketing material such as magazines.
How do you promote your online art classes?
We have a variety of free full classes on our website, YouTube and Udemy platforms. These give people an opportunity to try the medium and see if they like my teaching style. If they do, then they can choose to buy classes on an individual basis or unlock the entire library with a membership. We also put up Time-Lapse videos on our Facebook Page which help spread the word of the School and also bring in a small amount of ad revenue. We occasionally edit small clips from our classes and put those on YouTube to teach specific techniques. All of this content is found organically through the search algorithms, we don’t usually opt for paid advertising.
If you were starting today, what would you focus
The times today are very different to when I started. Concentrating on local scenes and animal portraits would have been my best advice, and even though this still applies today, technology has been a complete game-changer. Your artwork can be seen by thousands of people within a matter of days. Focusing on popular subjects as I said and putting this work out there in galleries, and online. If teaching comes into the equation too, then this can act as great support.
Learn to draw using pastel pencils with Colin Bradley. Join his membership and watch over 500 classes online.