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My Art Journey: How I found a way to pursue my passion in arts

For those who are in similar positions as I am, currently unable to go to art school due to the lack of finances, time, and/or the need to priorities responsibilities, I have found a possible alternative to still be able to pursue your passion for arts (or any passion for that matter) and that is to take individual online courses.

I will first talk a little bit about my background in order for you to understand why I have chosen to take online courses instead of going to university, then I will talk about what I am doing to pursue my passion, as well as the courses I am taking.

This is going to be a series about the courses I am taking and how much improvement I have gained from them.

My Background:

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Global Business Management and I currently work full-time as a paralegal. I have been taking continuing studies since graduating university:

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design               

  • Introduction to Digital Photography
  • Introduction to Adobe InDesign
  • Introduction and Intermediate Figure Drawing
  • Introduction to Watercolour
  • Introduction to Oil Painting

University of British Columbia (Game Writing Academy)

  • Video Game Narrative
  • Writing Dialogue for Games
  • Writing with Style
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • World Building

I do not have the finances to go back to art school unless I take out another student loan. I do not have the time to take 2-4 years off to go back to school as I am going to join my family’s company soon.

Drawing (and writing) has always been passions of mine that I have not fully academically pursued because of my responsibilities. Throughout my life I have placed my passions second to my responsibilities, such as going to business school instead of art school. I regretted doing this in the past; however, I told myself that if I want to succeed in something there is always a way. I realized it is possible to pursue both passion and responsibilities successfully because I did know someone who was an accomplished singer and at the same time, was able to manage and grow his family’s business.

I finally accepted that I needed to make some changes in my life in order to be succeed in both my passions and responsibilities. The following are what I have decided to do and may help you as well:

1. Prioritize your Time:

The first step I made was to change the way I used my free time. I used to always complain that I did not have enough time to do the things I wanted to do, then I realized that I was using my free time for things that did not help me accomplish my goals.

The first sacrifice I made was to discontinue playing the video games that took up a lot of my time, such as FFXIV. I then decided to stop watching T.V. series and stop mindlessly checking Facebook and Instagram. I then vowed to devote all my free time to learning and perfecting my art: this includes drawing and taking courses after work and during weekends. I do still play video games, read novels, and watch some shows, but only when I am too tired to draw/write and for inspiration.

By prioritizing my time, I can become a better artist and writer, while at the same time I am able to work and prepare myself to be a capable and qualified member of my family’s company.

2. Set Your Goals and Time Line:

I wrote down exactly what I wanted to accomplish for the following reasons:

  • In order to keep me focused since I am doing this on my own
  • In order to focus and narrow my search for courses and tutorials
  • To keep me motivated
  • To see my progress

The following are my goals (Both short and long term):

  • to be able to draw the human figure at any angle (and with several figures together)
  • to be able to draw realistic clothing on a human figure
  • to draw in perspective
  • to be able to create characters and draw them exhibiting their personalities (the way they walk, stand, and their gestures, etc.)
  • to be able to conceptualize and draw environments
  • to be able to tell a story through my drawings (comics, etc.)
  • to create artwork that I can proudly hang on the walls  ^_^
  • Long term: for my artworks to be bought and displayed, to have comics published, etc.

I want to be able to do the first 5 within 1-2 years, although I understand I will need a lot of practice to do it. I want to be able to do the rest within the next 5 years of my life. This will be dependent on my other responsibilities.

3. Find a Way to Accomplish Your Goals No Matter What Restrictions you Have!

The Alternative to Art School: Individual Online Courses

The best way I knew for me to improve my skills was to further my studies. Even after graduating in university I never stopped learning. I took continuing studies in arts; however, I felt these were not enough to fulfill my passion for arts and I really wanted to go back to full-time studies.

I researched different programs in Canada and the U.S.A. and found several schools besides NSCAD, such as the Academy of Arts University, VanArts, and Emily Carr University. Among these schools, I found the program that best suited what I wanted was the Visual Development program of the Academy of Arts University; however at $2,000 USD a course for 4 years, I could not afford it and I did not have that time to take off. An option would have been to take their continuing studies program, but it still cost a fortune!

I looked back at the other universities, but I did not find that their curriculum suited what I wanted for myself and still, even if they were less expensive, all the programs were 2-4 years. They were not as flexible as I wished they could be.

I found the possible answer through my search for “ways to become a better artist”, and that was to take online courses from accomplished artists themselves. I know of many artists who are self taught: drawing from life, master studies, books, tutorials from other artists. Since I did not have the time or the money to go back to university, I decided that taking individual online courses was a viable option for me.

I carefully read the curriculum of the Visual Arts Development program I wanted to join. I found many online courses and tutorials that taught similar subjects. I also searched for courses that matched my goals. With these, I created my own “curriculum”.

Taking individual courses gives you the freedom to choose what you want to learn, but you must be careful as well, because you do need to properly learn the fundamentals in order to become a good artist. Some courses also offer critiques from the artists, but many do not and so, cannot really ask questions the way you can in a classroom.

For the next few months, I will chronicle my experiences with this self-taught program I made for myself. I will provide meaningful critique of each of the courses I take (both free and paid courses). I will also share the practice drawings I have done to show my progress.

Online Art Courses I’m Taking:

Currently, I am focusing on the fundamentals: figure drawing, perspective etc. These are the courses I am currently taking and will be talking about in the next few posts:

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll be talking about my experience in the first few weeks of taking these courses. I have been doing this for only a month, and I can happily say that I already see progress!

If you have any suggestions, such as courses and books, please let me know through the comments!

Note: This is a personal path that I am taking and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the same. I cannot determine that this path is comparable to going to an art university because I have no experience going to one except for continuing studies courses. As I mentioned above, taking online courses is just the most viable option for me at this time. I am experimenting with the resources I have and I am just showing an option if you are in a similar position as me.

Art is not going to be my main source of income because I am going to be working for my family’s company. So, if you are planning to pursue arts as a career, school would probably be better than taking individual courses, although individual courses can help improve your skills and knowledge.

This blog series is  meant to show how this experiment of learning on my own will turn out: whether my skills improve and at what pace, as well as provide you with resources and ideas to help develop your art skills.



  1. empiricspirit says

    Hey My girlfriend and I are doing the same thing!
    I myself graduated with a BSC in Psychology and right now I’m self-studying to become a screenwriter.

    And my girlfriend actually did graduate with a BA in fine art but she herself needs a lot more training to be proficient. (She says over and over again that art school wasn’t helpful to her and that self-studying is far more efficient for an artist. So I personally think that you’ve made the right choice when you’ve decided not to go to art school since you can learn art better on your own)

    Have you considered having some art/writing coaching? I can recommend you some very cheap providers I use.
    ^ $15 for 4 hours per month. He’s very good.
    ^ Published author. He’s not only a very good editor but also a very good writer.

    In my opinion it’s better to join art communities/writing communities online and pay for feedback. At the end of the day feedback is the only thing school can provide and you can get that for far less than an University.

    On the other hand I myself considered the Game Writing Academy at UBC. What’s your opinion about it? I’d love to read your review of it as I couldn’t find one online (It would make a great blog post: hint hint)


    • Hey! Thanks for the comment and suggestions!

      Are you planning to become a writer in the gaming industry? I took the Game Writing Courses because I wanted to find some direction to my stories (and I saw the stories I had in my mind as good for video games).

      I find that the Game Writing Academy at UBC really helped shape my stories, from the plot to the characters and the world building. It also helped me with dialogues. After the courses I took, I found that I paid much closer attention to details, such as how a characters speaks or the description of their mannerisms. (I took all the courses except the one about the gaming industry.)

      I find that the professor, Sean Smilie, gives great advice and responds to questions in a timely manner.

      I would recommend it. It was helpful and fun 🙂


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