Judging by the name, I expect to see lots of brilliant concept art and creatures on here.
The Creature Art Teacher brand is the animation and (mainly) digital painting course website run by American animator Aaron Blaise.
A renowned figure in the animation industry having worked on Disney movies for over two decades, his most prominent period was in the early nineties when he worked not just as an animator but also as an animating supervisor on such animated Disney classics as Beauty and the Beast (1991), and The Lion King (1994).
These days he can be seen running art courses back home in his state of Florida, making online educational content, and indulging in his passion for creating art. Whether that’s painting wildlife on canvas or animating characters on his computer screen.
Creature Art Teacher gives prospective students the option to individually purchase one-off video tutorial courses and Photoshop brush sets, or join an all-inclusive annual premium membership plan which gives you access to everything on the site including all future updates.
The courses generally cover everything from digital painting to traditional animation, storyboarding, and a whole lot more.
With all this in mind let’s check out the annual membership plan and see if it’s worth the investment!
Since I am reviewing an entire website’s worth of content I will try to cover all of the content that annual premium members have access to.
Which includes access to all current courses, custom brushes, as well as discounts on new merchandise.
From the website’s main menu page we can see a list of the contents which are broken down into a number of groupings.
There are three separate groups for tutorial courses:
Tutorials & Lessons (with a total of 43 courses and 21 custom brush sets)
Animation Tutorials (11 courses)
Photoshop Tutorials (23 courses and around 20 brush sets)
All courses are in HD video format and can either be downloaded in mp4 or streamed.
In my case I was viewing on my iPhone so I had to stream.
I will say, make sure you have a decent wifi connection if you go this route because the videos can only be streamed in HD!
I was expecting course content to be unique to each group and initially felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content available in the annual membership plan.
However I soon began to notice that there is actually a lot of overlap between the three tutorial groups.
As it turns out, the Tutorials & Lessons section contains a lot of the main courses and brushes, including contents from the other sections of the website.
We can find some unique content here such as a course on traditional cartooning presented by fellow Disney animator Tim Hodge.
All of these lessons look good for beginners just getting into animation, right up to more experienced cartoonists. Using the example course above, I can easily tell how detailed this content is.
He explains the basics of which pencils and drawing tools to use while running through how he draws various cartoon style animals, superheroes, and more.
I found this information extremely useful and interesting despite not being a cartoonist.
This one runs for over 10 hours so you can strap yourself in and make a day of it if you like! Not to mention this is just one of dozens of courses in here.
There are also a host of painting courses run by experienced painter and animator Ronnie Williford (Lilo and Stitch, Mulan) that can only be found in this section.
Another thing I noticed about the membership plan is that you get a discount on the live drawing and painting workshop where you join Aaron Blaise in Sarasota for 4 days and 4 nights of drawing and painting on the Gulf of Mexico.
The individual price for this workshop is over $1000. So the price of the annual membership gets you all the digital video courses and gets you a nice discount on real in-person training.
Please note: this takes place in March of this year (as of this writing) so it’s worth checking the website to see if this date has updated.
For those who are interested, it’s also possible to buy access to this live training too. But at that point I think it’s worth paying the membership subscription to get access to the courses, then also buying the live class with the discount.
Elsewhere on the site there’s also a News and Posts section which provides links to all of Aaron’s livestreams.
All are shot in great detail and show the artist at work in various mediums such as in Photoshop or on canvas with oil paints or charcoals.
The presentation & organization of the videos is also very impressive as you would expect really from someone who has overseen big budget Disney features.
There is also an extensive gallery of the artist’s own published works including animal and concept art that has been used in movies and computer games as well as links to his fine art renderings.
But let’s move beyond all this so we can get to the good stuff: the premium tutorials and downloadable resources. I’ll break it down by checking out each section of the site’s premium content.
Animation is the area that Aaron Blaise is mainly associated with. Especially given his background spanning two decades in animation on Disney movies, so he knows a thing or two about it.
With the amount of content available it’s easy to see that for anyone interested in learning this brand of animation, Creature Art Teacher is a potential goldmine for useful knowledge.
Others run for as little as an hour, but there is enough content here to keep you busy for months.
Just as an example, the storyboarding course which is by no means the longest on the site runs for over 14 hours. So there is an awful lot of information to take on, and a lot of content may require multiple viewings for newer artists to grasp some of the finer points.
In this section you can find 22 courses running anywhere from 45 minutes up to a whopping 40 hours!
The courses here are wide-ranging, covering drawing and animating human figures as well as various different animals.
Once completed, you’ll be equipped with the necessary skills to create both Beauties and Beasts!
The bulk of the topics covered here include:
Drawing human anatomy
How to draw various animals
Creating fantasy creatures
The most popular course here is the Human Anatomy course which runs for 9.5 hours in total.
As well as the actual course content on how to draw humans anatomically, you also receive some original animated videos as well as the usual hi-res copies of the images + created and layered Photoshop files of his animation.
This way you can break down each pose on your own.
This course has a unique animation-influenced take on anatomy rather than the classical approach to the body.
One criticism I have of the layout is that scattered throughout this section are custom brushes and texture packages that Blaise uses in his own work.
Which are great, but there is a separate group that contains all of them and it’d be easier to find them right away. I’d rather they were not lumped in with the courses. It just makes things messy and more difficult to find in my opinion.
They don’t belong here as they bare no relation to Photoshop, but categorization aside I think those courses still provide a lot of value for anyone interested.
Brush and Texture Sets
There are over 20 custom brush sets that you get with the premium membership. And they cover a lot of variety:
Various animal skin and hair textures
Clouds & nature brushes
Various natural elements such as rain and snow
The list goes on and on. There are a lot!
With many of these you also get examples of the art created with the brushes, along with advice and video demos on how to use them.
Very comprehensive stuff!
Aaron Blaise and his Disney buddies are very good teachers.
Aaron runs most of the courses and he has vast experience and conveys his points clearly, self assuredly, and with passion.
Despite being an expert in his field, the content he delivers is inclusive so beginners can happily follow along with lessons.
And I personally feel he is quite engaging so the lessons never get boring.
I consider myself an artist and I’m not a big fan of Disney animation. But I have a lot of for respect someone who has been at the pinnacle of their profession and I found his videos to be extremely worthwhile and informative.
Technical Aspects & Site Performance
The videos are very pleasing to look at.
All are captured in high resolution and the sound came through crystal clear on my iPhone.
Those Disney production standards have been clearly ingrained by now!
Going back to my one major gripe, the layout and backend of this course feel quite difficult to navigate compared to larger scale learning platforms.
Not impossible, but definitely not the easiest backend to use for finding dozens of courses. I hope he may consider hiring a good developer to give it some kind of makeover soon.
I was unable to find a way to track my progress and I could only identify which course I was taking by the order number and not the title itself.
This is fine if you are only taking one course. But if you are a premium member it is a little confusing.
My guess is that perhaps the site was initially built with only one-off purchases in mind and that it will improve as the site evolves.
The annual premium membership costs $249 per year. But at the time of writing this review it’s on sale for $174/yr.
If you are a voracious student of digital art in general, or a fan of Aaron Blaise’s techniques, it is certainly worth dropping for this package.
Especially since the annual membership includes all future courses as well. So it’s really a library of digital art & animation courses, all designed & guided by Disney professionals.
If you are mainly interested in traditional non-digital mediums, there are courses elsewhere that may be better suited to that kind of work(Vitruvian Studio is one example).
But for digital art, especially animation, it’s tough to beat Creature Art Teacher. The site also offers access to all the courses on a monthly basis too.
The caveat is that you are unable to download courses and the custom brushes are not provided.
One-off courses vary in price depending on the length of each; the cheapest is $15 and the most expensive sits at $175, but these are non-recurring costs.
All of these courses are available in the annual membership plan, as well as access to his live workshop and future events which cost far more than the annual membership.
Overall I think if you’re serious about animation then Creature Art Teacher is by far the best value for your money.
For anyone who is already interested in these courses to begin with, I can safely recommend becoming a premium member.
The amount of learning material you get for the price is well worth it. I think these courses are also suited to a wide range of learners from ambitious beginners right through to mid-level and experienced artists.
To say that the content in these courses will provide enough knowledge to have you overseeing future Disney projects may be a stretch.
But if you can find any website better-suited to putting you on that path, I’d be surprised.
All of the teachers on the site are connected through their extensive experience on Disney animated films & TV shows.
These people have received some of the best tutelage in the entire animation industry and they’re ready to pass that information on to you.
We are the beneficiaries of living in a time when someone like myself living in Tokyo can sit in on these lessons while being on the other side of the world, without even having to leave my tatami floored room!
I’d highly recommend a Creature Art Teacher subscription for anyone who seriously wants to make a career out of animation. Or even someone who just wants to be really good as a hobbyist.
If you aren’t ready to commit to the annual membership then you can also try buying a one-off course, or try the monthly membership. That should give you plenty of material to judge the quality of these courses for yourself.
John is a freelance illustrator/artist and educator. He used to dabble in photorealistic portraiture while these days you’re more likely to find him honing his digital illustration techniques. Check out his work at https://www.behance.net/Johnkun