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Art Classes: Level 1 (11 full lessons) Review by Leah Courtney

Art Achieve
4015 E 42nd Avenue
Spokane, WA 99223

My younger girls (in 5th and 6th grades) and I recently had the opportunity to try out the Level 1 art lessons from ArtAchieve. ArtAchieve is a website that has online art lessons intended to help all students develop the skill of drawing. The lessons are leveled, and we received the first level of lessons. There are eleven lessons in the first level. The lessons focus on drawing and coloring. They can be purchased individually or as a bundle. Multi-level bundles can also be purchased. There are some free lessons available on the site in Level 1 so that you can get a feel for how the ArtAchieve process works. The lessons are not presented by grade level but by ability level. All beginners, no matter the age, can begin with Level 1 and work up. There is an FAQ section on the website that can help guide you in choosing the right level to use.

In addition to the online lessons, you’ll need some basic art supplies to complete the lessons. The website has a convenient list of the supplies needed. Many were things we already had available, but some are more specialty art supplies that we needed to purchase. The lessons also suggest that students listen to quiet music while working. There is a CD of music available to purchase from the site, but I just created a playlist of instrumental music and used that to play while we were working.

Each ArtAchieve lesson begins with a warm up. These warm ups are PDF files that can be printed for the student to use. The warm ups contain pictures in a grid format. The object is to copy each portion of the warm up from each box on the grid. This lets the student practice with the lines and shapes that are going to be used in that day’s project.

After the warm up, students watch a PowerPoint presentation with step by step instructions for completing the project. There is an introduction that relates some information about the project- where it is from culturally and how it is going to be completed. If you’d rather watch the entire lesson instead of clicking through slides, the lessons are also available in a video format.

The lessons are presented in a very step by step manner. In each step students are given one part of the final picture to complete. By the time the lesson is completed, the students have a final, complete project.

My girls and I used the PowerPoint version of the lessons. I liked being able to click forward each slide as we were ready for it and stopping on slides that had steps that we needed more time to complete. I completed the lessons with the girls because I enjoyed the step by step approach, and I had fun coming up with a finished project at the end. Using the PowerPoint slides, we took about thirty minutes to complete a lesson. Most of the video versions of the lessons were also between twenty and thirty minutes long.

There were many things that we really enjoyed about these ArtAchieve lessons and only one thing that didn’t work as well for us. I liked the philosophy behind the lessons. The philosophy is that all students can develop drawing skills with practice. Even people who don’t consider themselves talented artists can learn these drawing skills and come up with a nice finished product. All of the lessons begin with art “rules” that emphasize to the kids that they can succeed in these drawing lessons.

I also liked the step by step presentation of the lessons. I’ve not had much training or practice in the realm of art and so I have trouble looking at a project and teaching the kids how to do it. These lessons were so detailed in the step by step presentation that we didn’t have any trouble following along and knowing what to do.

I love the fact that each lesson results in a completed project. I think that being able to complete something and have something to show for their work really motivates students. It is sometimes difficult when they learn art skills and techniques in isolation because they don’t get to see the skill translate into a project that they can take ownership of and be proud of.

The only drawback to the ArtAchieve lessons for us was that my middle daughter doesn’t do as well with “copying” a project. Although she enjoyed learning the various techniques, she doesn’t like copying each step and ending up with a project that is supposed to be basically the same as the model. She loves to draw, but she’s a perfectionist when she draws. So when she’s copying each step, she becomes frustrated if hers doesn’t look like the original. She usually does better to learn a technique but use it in her own creation so that she doesn’t compare it with anyone else’s.

My younger daughter really liked having the original model, and she enjoyed copying each step. She would occasionally be frustrated when hers didn’t look like the model, but she wasn’t so overwhelmed that it kept her from enjoying the project. Their response is evidence that different learning personalities respond better to different styles and methods.

Overall, we really enjoyed the ArtAchieve lessons. Even my daughter who protests the copying has looked forward to the lessons and learning the drawing techniques. I love the ease of using the lessons, and I’ve really enjoyed learning along with the girls. I love that we can use the lessons with multiple ages and include the rest of the family occasionally as well. I’ve looked over the lessons available in higher levels, and there are some really interesting projects coming up in other levels. ArtAchieve could easily be used as an ongoing art class for us.

-Product review by Leah Courtney, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2016