For this review I went through the New Masters Academy website digging into their premium membership plan.
This educational art site was founded in 2012 and features traditional mediums such as drawing, painting and sculpture(along with technical topics like anatomy and even animation). It claims to include over 1000 hours of video content from over twenty instructors.
For $35 per month you get a subscription with access to the entire library of content on the site. So far I have exclusively written about digital-focused art courses, so I’m really looking forward to actually getting my hands dirty with NMA.
Let’s dive in!
The website itself is very easy to navigate.
The main menu used when accessing various parts of the site is referred to as the Library and has 5 headers to choose from.
In the Learn section there is an ultra-vast video library that includes courses on drawing, painting, modelling/sculpture and art theory, as well as some entertainment design courses which cover niches such as movie posters and monster art.
A welcome feature is a beginner-friendly filter that enables novice learners to select courses suited to their experience level. And videos can be watched on computers or mobile devices.
Also from the menu is another section Images. This offers a seemingly endless stream of visual content from still-life models to high resolution images of famous artist’s works.
There are tens of thousands of high quality, royalty-free images here. This is huge for artists who are putting in hours of practice every day.
There is also a 3D Models viewing application that the site claims to be a “first-of-its-kind”. This is a customizable tool for viewing human poses.
And a separate plan exists for Coaching that ranges from the basic plan of $99 a month right up to a hefty $949 a month plan.
This involves doing assignments and receiving advice and tutelage from instructors, but is not something I will be looking at for this review since it is not included in the regular monthly membership plan. The option is there, though.
And for anyone with the willingness and resources to commit to a plan I’d say it’s worth looking into the one-on-one coaching options.
The final section is Forums.
There are various threads for members to ask questions and get tips from some of the established artists who work on the site.
I would hesitate to say the forums are a bustling hive of activity, but there is a lot of useful information contained within them And so far as I can tell, many of the instructors are active in them and will respond to questions.
It must be said that not all of them do this. Some of the higher profile instructors are perhaps busy with their own projects.
But even just the courses themselves offer so much value, it’s crazy that you get access to a massive image library and these forums too.
The bulk of this review will focus on the video content in the “Learn” section, because that is where the most of the value lies.
There are over 1000 hours of videos with 31 instructors to deliver it all. You can watch any of it at any time so live classes are not required, but you can request live coaching for extra fees.
Later in this review I will delve into who some of these instructors are. But even at a glance it became clear that there are some truly established artists on here creating very detailed video courses.
Content is broken up into the following categories:
I tried to count the courses for each medium but it was just too much in some cases, so I will say that there are more drawing courses than I could count.
And an equally innumerable number of painting courses mixed in here too.
I can say for sure is that it would take months if not years to digest all the information in the New Masters Academy library!
Beginner-friendly courses can be found within every medium so this is not really a separate category, but rather a simple way for beginners to choose something that won’t overwhelm them.
There is a lot of beginner info that covers stuff like starting materials, sketchbooks, and the early stuff that you might learn attending an art college(but with NMA you’re paying a much cheaper price).
Most of the painting lessons seem to be part of one massive course on landscape painting by renowned painter Ben Fenske.
It claims to be the most in-depth landscape painting course ever produced and I wouldn’t doubt it!
The videos in this course are very therapeutic and shot beautifully, often using soothing music for long stretches which I found works well with the medium.
Now the modeling and sculpture courses that I looked at are run by Johanna Schwaiger and focused on sculpting a female portrait.
It was quite enjoyable. I had some trouble keeping up with color theory which unsurprisingly can be found in the Theory sub category. But if you keep repeating these videos this stuff will stick in your brain over time.
I found the presenter a little dry and monotonous for my tastes, although the information is solid.
Courses vary in length but many run for many hours(The one on landscape painting ran for a total of 50 hours!)
But they are all broken into manageable chunks to make learning easier.
All progress is logged in a simple and pleasing interface, similar to those on large learning platforms such as Udemy.
A typical course has a short introduction, followed by a guided walkthrough by the artist as they create a new work from start to finish.
There is a lot of explanation along the way to make sure you can follow along easily.
Each video course menu shows an overview of the course, a link to the forums to discuss the course, a transcript for the entirety of each video, and reference images relevant to the course. This includes photos to work from and the work of the artist at different stages including the final piece.
Talk about thorough resources!
There is also a useful algorithm that suggests similar videos as you continue digging into the library.
The overall design of the course section is just simply incredible. A vast improvement over the other course sites I’ve covered.
Rather than hinder the student by clunky hard-to-follow lists, NMA is seamless and really helps to make the learning experience comfortable.
As for the images, there are over 10,000 here.
All accessible with the monthly premium subscription. That’s just massive.
You can find hi-res photos of young, middle-aged, or mature male or female forms of any ethnicity for your life study observations.
There were far too many models and variations to go through them all but suffice it to say there are likely more than you’ll ever need… which more or less disproves the theory that less is more.
Images free to peruse and download include:
Check Out NMA’s Images Library
There are a full range of ethnicities, body types and ages to suit most life drawing needs but if that still isn’t enough…
Now this is pretty cool.
Using something called an NMA Full-Body Scanner, the team behind NMA have created this feature where you can see a 3D rendering of a human form and can view it from any angle and in any lighting.
It is visually quite impressive and certainly useful for practicing the human form. Figure & gesture drawing can go on for hours with this tool at your disposal.
Just know that as of this writing, the 3D modeler tool is only available on desktop computers. So keep that in mind if you like to work from tablets or phones a lot.
Now for anatomical drawing there are models with layers too.
You can move between skeleton, flesh, and muscle and play with transparency so you can see multiple layers at once.
I found this feature very impressive and would recommend it to those who want to improve their ability to sketch, paint, or sculpt human forms.
Learning all the bones and muscles can be an arduous task. Certain courses like the Proko Anatomy course are useful, but nothing makes up for direct practice with a tool like this.
In the 3D library you can find renderings of some of the models that appear in the photo galleries, as well as some Michelangelo sculptures and closeup studies.
It’s easy to get the hang of this once you load it up and get going.
All videos are viewed via streaming in HD.
There is a brief intro with each video, followed by a step-by-step demonstration on how to perform various artistic endeavors.
Since the videos are shot in HD, each small detail can clearly be observed.
Footage is typically shot from a place where the viewer has a clear view of the work in progress and the reference image or subject is also shown. Throughout the process you have a running commentary including a useful transcript under the video too.
I found this useful especially in the art theory videos where I found it easy to get lost or distracted due to the complicated information.
In terms of describing the teaching style, I would say one word: professional.
Each presenter is of course different, and they display varying levels of comfort in front of a camera. However on the whole I found the teaching style in most videos very dry and academic.
I felt like I was sitting in a slightly stiff classroom where there is little room for goofing around and it is all very serious with a focus on learning. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering we pay a fortune to go to art universities to get this very same information in this very same style.
But for those less academically inclined, or like me afflicted with a shortened attention span due to modern life, it may drag in places.
Having said that, the tutelage on New Masters Academy was much what I experienced from tutors in college. So take from that what you will.
One plus is that we have the benefit skipping the boring parts online which trumps real life lessons where this feature is sadly not possible (yet)!
Originally NMA started with a small core of contributors consisting of master draughtsman Glenn Vilppu, figurative painter Steve Huston, and monumental sculptor Ed Fraughton.
Now the site has grown to accommodate 31 instructors in total. I can’t cover each and every one obviously so I will just namedrop a few from the courses that I looked at.
First up there is the late (sadly) Mark Westermoe who teaches us how to make movie posters with various tools including an airbrush.
He was a big name in the movie poster industry having designed the posters for Home Alone, Total Recall, and Braveheart to name but a few.
There is Ben Fenske with the aforementioned mammoth 50 hour 24 part series on how to paint landscapes.
Mr Fenske was notably voted one of the best 25 living artists in 2012 according to American Artist Magazine. So seeing him paint for 50 hours is a bit of a treat!
Saltzburg-based Sculptor and HTBLA sculptor school instructor Johanna Schwaiger teaches us how to sculpt a female portrait in a six part series.
Ms Schwaiger has experience sculpting for private collectors as well as publicly funded memorials.
The final instructor I’ll shine light on is Bill Perkins who was also part of that initial core of contributors to the site in its early days.
He has worked in various artistic roles including as art director on Disney hits such as the early 90s inceptions of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.
We are treated to a plethora of courses on color theory, building your personal style, and composition.
There are many more contributors but these are just a few that I came across for the purposes of this review.
Each of them have successful careers doing what they love, are competent and professional, and certainly wouldn’t look out of place doing their thing in the classrooms of a distinguished art institution.
For a monthly membership that gives you carte blanche over the entire site you will need to pay $35 a month. Is it worth it?
I believe so. Especially if you want an all-around introduction to truly improving your artistic skills.
At little more than a dollar a day you have access to a slew of quality educational content.
And here’s the kicker: you can sign up today for a totally free trial and never pay a dime. Try it out for free, if you hate it then cancel early and never pay.
Love it? Then you can upgrade to whichever plan you want.
Check out the signup page for more details on pricing and what you get.
And remember these courses are massive.
Just finishing the landscape painting course alone would take at least a month by my calculations, and that is just one course! So there really is a lot to get through.
And for the $49/mo price you also get thousands of photos and you can use, the 3D tool for your life drawings, and more lesson attachments.
So the two plans roughly break down like this:
For $10/mo extra I know I’d go with the full premium subscription.
Heck, many other online course libraries charge even more than this per month!
And with NMA you’re getting so many lessons with so much variety, it’s basically one of the best deals you’ll find in the online art learning space.
Especially if you want to hone your skills as a whole and truly become a more well-rounded artist.
With so much art content available here, and for such a relatively low monthly cost, I would definitely recommend this as a viable all-encompassing traditional art foundation.
Especially for those looking to study online and follow the self-taught route.
Beginners all the way to intermediate-level artists can pick up an immense amount of information on everything from art theory to renaissance style drawing or even concept artwork.
Since it requires a monthly subscription, the value is derived from the amount of time you spend on the site.
So if you are busy then perhaps you should look to purchase a course you can store away for a rainy day. If on the other hand you are in a situation where you can spare an hour or two on a regular basis, you will absolutely get maximum value from this course.
The information on hand is akin to that of a very good art school.
What you can get from these courses is more than enough to equip you with the skills to become a competent artist in any field(game art, animation, comics, fine art, or anything else).
The only drawback for me personally would be the uber-academic approach which I sometimes found a little dry(and at times boring).
I can only attest to having seen a mere snippet of what’s to offer when making this review.
I may have just been unlucky with the sections I picked, or maybe I’m still just a bad student after all these years!
But jokes aside, there are definitely other online courses that will do a better job of presenting similar content in a more entertaining way. That’s why I’d almost recommend NMA more for semi-experienced artists, because your foundations will push you further even with dry instruction.
Take Proko’s courses, they are a great example of more entertaining art instruction videos. And they come at a single-cost price(no subscription) but they also do not cover the same variety of topics that you get with NMA’s library.
If you approach art studies from an academic standpoint and like your information delivered in a no-nonsense style, or if you want to learn how to paint like a top class painter or sculpt like a professional(really NMA’s lessons are top-tier) then you’ll find what you want here.
Or even if you just want to master traditional drawing & painting skills, there is something in NMA for you. And I would highly recommend signing up for a free NMA account just to see what it offers.
You can test out some courses and see what you think at no risk. Whether you want to improve your figure drawings, realist paintings, sculpture work, or any number of other topics, it’s all here.