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Drawing Success Review by Debra Brinkman

Bower Arts
Jan Bower
7700 Timbers Trail
Traverse City, MI 49685

“This is the best drawing program I’ve ever used,” announced my son when I told him I needed to write this review.

This teen loves art, and that is an area where I feel completely incompetent. We’ve tried a few things over the years, and have found a winner with the Drawing Success with Jan Bower DVD Course.

This set includes ten DVDs with over eighteen hours of instruction, a lesson book, and a photo reference book. If you are using this with multiple students, each student needs their own copy of the two books.

You will need some art supplies. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we already had most of what is required, so about $9 was all we had to spend to get started. If you need everything, they do have a supply kit available for under $30. Required supplies include:

  • 11x14” Sketch Pad
  • Copy paper
  • 6B Sketch Pencil
  • Charcoal Pencil
  • Erasing Shield
  • Kneaded Eraser
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Ruler
  • Paper Stumps

You also need space to work, a light colored wall (or some type of neutral backdrop), and a light you can aim to create shadows.

The instruction included is spread over 36 lessons, so the course can be a year-long art class, which is what we’ve chosen to do, or you can double up and do it in a semester. Retail price is $189.99, which is just over $5 per lesson. I don’t know anywhere that I can find professionally taught art lessons for anything near that. Given that I can use this with all of my kids, and each can pause, rewind, and rewatch, this is an even greater value.

Intended for teens and adults, this makes a great self-study course. What I’m finding though is that for a motivated younger child, a 9-year-old in our case, it is easy to adapt and make it work. I just need to be sure to be present for the DVD session, to be sure she is grasping what she is to work on, and to stay nearby as she draws.

Each lesson includes 30 minutes of DVD instruction and a drawing assignment. Key information is presented both in the video and in the lesson book. My 14-year-old more readily grasps concepts from the DVD and would prefer to avoid the lesson book. I think the lesson book makes the goals of each lesson clear. It also helps me to know when you are finished, as there is a section in the book for “You’re ready for the next session if …”

The lessons start out with very basic information. The first lesson covers how to hold your pencil and has you sketching circles. I will tell you that my son rolled his eyes at this and had quite the attitude. He really thought he was too good for it, but a statement he made to me just the other day shows just why the program starts this way.

“Right off the bat,” he told me, “this corrected how I was holding my pencil and that alone has helped quite a bit. I certainly feel like I’ve gotten better since I’ve been using Drawing Success.”

Another observation he made was that the lessons don’t rush you through. “She introduces a concept, and talks you through it. She explains things as though you aren’t familiar with the ideas being presented, but never in a talking down to you kind of way. I never felt patronized or inadequate.”

What I noticed was that my son would focus on the lesson, sometimes complaining about not liking a particular shading technique, and then throughout the week as he was just drawing things, he would be using what he had just learned. Sometimes he knew he was doing that, but at other points, I really am not sure he realized he was practicing that week’s lesson.

As you work through the course, you move from sketching basic shapes to creating some pretty fantastic drawings. Looking at the lessons at the end of the book is quite overwhelming, but when you take just one lesson at a time and actually learn the concepts being presented, this does build your skills up to the point that those final lessons really are just the next step.

One key for me is my teen’s attitude towards drawing now. He just approaches things differently, doing a rough sketch so the perspective is right, and then going back to create detail and nice lines. Before, he’d focus on one area without thinking about how it should fit into the whole, leading to a lot of erasing or just scrapping a project. He’s far happier with his work now.

The package says that this is Drawing Success with Jan Bower, Level One. My family is hoping that there will be a Level Two. We will purchase it.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, January, 2016