I’ve been a fan of Mark Kistler’s for many years. Now students have access to the inspiration and teaching skills of Mark Kistler in an even better format through online lessons. A one-year subscription with over a thousand hours of art lessons can be used by the entire family working together or individually. There are also group membership prices that might be of interest to some homeschool groups.
The website features three levels of lessons, all of which are accessible with your subscription: Level 1: Mini-marshmallow lessons, level 2: School of imagination, and level 3: Online Video Art Lessons. There are over 300 lessons in total.
Kistler makes the lessons fun with his kid-friendly teaching style. He often creates stories while he’s drawing. For example, while he draws a birthday cake, he creates a story about ants coming to attack the cake and eating a door into the side—all of which gets drawn.
Students should work in a spiral-bound sketchbook to keep their drawings together. All work is done simply with pencil and paper. No fancy or expensive resources are required.
There are over 100 mini-marshmallow lessons. These are videos of Mark Kistler teaching how to draw a specific thing in each lesson. Rather than teaching isolated skills, he teaches in the context of simple drawings. For example, students can start by drawing an “alien blob,” in the process learning about drawing things smaller or larger to make them appear further away or closer. They also learn some simple shadowing. Another mini-marshmallow lesson teaches how to draw a group of daisy-like flowers in which they learn how create texture to simulate the ground as well as the use of horizon lines and shadowing. The mini-marshmallow lessons are presented on video. Most students will not be able to draw as quickly as Kistler, so they will need to stop and start the videos as they work through the drawings themselves.
You will probably want to print out the PDF of “the Twelve Renaissance Words of Drawing in 3-D” which illustrates and explains twelve basic drawing techniques such as foreshortening, overlapping, and contour on a single page. Likewise, you will probably want to print out the two-page “22 Augmenting Art Accents” that teaches about techniques such as grouping, spirals, texture, and proportion and the “Drawing Compass” that helps students think about orientation of elements in their drawings. These are great references to remind students of both basic techniques and the extras that make drawing both fun to do and interesting to look at.
Throughout the website, it’s a little challenging to determine which lesson comes next except at the beginning of the School of Imagination lessons where it tells you to “start here.” Students are then supposed to follow the “stepping stone” path for the sequence of the lessons since skills build from one lesson to another. At level two, the style of lesson presentation changes. Instead of video with audio instruction, written instructions and commentary are shown at the bottom of the screen and Kistler works through the drawing step-by-step above the instruction, sometimes animating the drawing. Students click on the “next” button when ready to move from step-to-step. These drawings are more involved than those at level 1. Students begin by drawing a pencil, then work through twenty lessons that include jelly fish, manta rays and other sea creatures in the “Ocean Odyssey.” Next are drawings in “Ancient Egyptian Adventure,” “Marshmallow Metropolis,” “Dinosaurs,” and “Space.”
Level 3 lessons are once again presented as video lessons as for mini-marshmallow lessons, but these are much more complex with multiple items and special techniques used for each drawing. By this level, students are generally able to create amazing, three-dimensional drawings. With Kistler’s guidance, it’s gratifying to see how quickly students can achieve an outstanding level of skill.
Students learn realistic drawing techniques, although subjects of their drawings in these lessons are generally cartoonish or imaginative. You will probably want to print out the PDF of “the Twelve Renaissance Words of Drawing in 3-D” which illustrates and explains twelve basic drawing techniques such as foreshortening, overlapping, and contour on a single page. Likewise, you will probably want to print out the two-page “22 Augmenting Art Accents” that illustrates techniques such as grouping, spirals, texture, and proportion as well as the single-page “Drawing Compass” that helps students think about orientation of elements in their drawings. These are great references to remind students of both basic techniques and the extras that make drawing both fun to do and interesting to look at.
In addition to the videos and animated lessons, there are a few e-books with additional activities in more of a comic-book format plus drawing games for offline drawing challenges between students.
While it would be great for two or more students to watch the lessons and work through them together, lessons are equally good for students working independently. Instruction is thorough so there’s no need for parent or teacher involvement other than to encourage students and compliment them on their efforts.