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Mastering any artistic medium is tough. But this is especially true for traditional mediums like oil paints since there just isn’t as much content online compared to digital art.
The Proko videos are brilliant for beginners. They all cover traditional work and focus mostly on fundamentals.
Yet one new addition to the Proko library stands out from the others.
Aaron Westerberg created this awesome painting demo as a premium series exclusive to Proko. I got to sample his series and I’ve shared my thoughts in this review.
Just note this is not a course and it’s not meant to provide step-by-step guidance for beginners.
This is a demo where you watch Aaron’s painting process the whole way through. It’s a completely new style for Proko and it’s quite a change from his usual teaching videos, although certainly exciting for anyone who loves traditional work.
Who Is Aaron Westerberg?
If you’re not big into traditional art then you probably don’t know anything about Aaron’s work.
He’s a traditional painter with heavy influences from John Singer Sargent and Edmund Charles Tarbell(among many others).
His portraiture often features unique atmospheres with powerful color choices. Models are often painted in deep thought or thematically captured in a tranquil or restful state.
Aaron is from California and studied alongside Jeff Watts who currently manages the Watts Atelier just north of San Diego.
Stan(founder of Proko) studied at Watts and still teaches there now. So it’s not hard to connect the dots to see how Aaron’s work could find its way into the Proko library.
Most of Aaron’s work relies heavily on realism with contemporary themes. You can see a bunch of examples on his Facebook along with paintings on his main website.
He created this demo as a way to show off his entire process from start to finish.
It’s not a course and it’s not a self-paced learning tool(well, not directly). Instead Aaron took his years of painting experience and condensed that into a lengthy video series.
This Is A Demo, Not A Course
Most Proko courses aim to teach you a specific subject with exercises, study materials, and videos that take you through lessons on learning how to draw.
This series is totally different.
With Aaron’s masterpiece demo you’re more like a fly on the wall observing his process.
Check out this brief promo vid to learn a bit more on what this course offers.
In the very first video you’ll get an introduction from Aaron telling you how the demo works and what you can expect. This process includes a photo shoot with a model to gather poses, then a complete setup for painting a whole portrait from scratch.
Proko’s very first series was a portrait drawing course offering a brilliant start to portraiture without the paints.
If you’d rather be working with oils or acrylics then Aaron’s demo might be a little more useful.
Remember each video does have some narration with Aaron talking about what he’s doing along the way. This is where you’ll be learning and it’s how you’ll absorb the most valuable information in all of these videos.
I just want to clarify that this course isn’t really a course. It’s a recorded painting process from start to finish.
While you will get some nuggets of knowledge along the way, it’s mostly a video series documenting how a master painter sets up and completes a painting.
What You Get
So this demo offers two different options for buying.
Standard Edition – a slimmer version with only the good stuff totaling 2 hours of instructions and key aspects of the demo.
Real-Time Edition – the full demo with 10+ hours of video. Nothing was cut except for breaks and moments where nothing was happening. You can watch the entire thing from start to finish.
With both editions you’ll learn a ton.
You get to see which paints Aaron uses, how he primes the canvas along with his choices for brush strokes and colors at each stage of the painting.
Both courses also include footage from the model photoshoot, organizing those photos, and preparing the initial thumbnails before painting.
The standard edition breaks down into three videos totaling 30-50 minutes each.
The real-time edition has over 15 videos split into three days.
Here’s a quick rundown of the full video list for the real-time package:
Selecting a Photo
Color Study Thoughts
Preparing the Panel
Setting up the Palette
Keying the Panel
Painting the Face
Continuing the Face
Adjusting the Hand
Jacket and Scarf
Flipping it Upside Down
Painting the Hand
All of those videos add up to well over 10 hours of viewing time. So it’s a long series to sit through.
The standard edition highlights key points from each of the 3 days and you get those mixed together.
Also in the premium dashboard you’ll find a list of all the paints Aaron uses for this demo along with 3 super sized JPGs:
The reference photo
The final painting
A photo of his palette fully labeled
If you’re already comfortable with oil paints then you’ll find a lot in here to get excited about.
In fact, you could even use the hi-res reference pic to follow a similar painting exercise on your own.
This demo isn’t a guided lesson so it’s not meant to help you recreate the finished piece. But that is one viable way to study and learn from the videos if you want.
And thankfully everything is organized nicely on the backend from your Proko dashboard.
If you get the standard edition you’ll find 3 embedded videos along with the list of image resources and all the paints used in the demo.
If you get the real-time edition you’ll find all of the above plus separate pages in the dashboard for each of the three days, and those pages have all the 15+ videos you get all recorded in real time.
Narration is phenomenal and the entire painting process really does unfold before your eyes.
My biggest gripe is the potential boredom you might face if you’re not big into oil painting. Or even if you are, maybe you just don’t want to watch someone prime paints & put oil to canvas for 10 hours.
Remember this is only a recording of Aaron creating a painting from scratch. It’s certainly valuable and there are points where Aaron talks about what he’s doing.
But it’s not something specifically designed to educate novice painters, and it’s not something everyone is going to enjoy binging on. Especially not 10 hours worth of material.
Video Quality & Structure
The actual videos themselves are, by all accounts, superb.
This is generally true of every Proko series. Some of his older stuff was only released in 720p but recently he’s been releasing full 1080p videos. That’s exactly what you get with this demo.
If you’re looking for serious HD quality this has it in spades.
Not to mention there are many close-up shots of Aaron’s palette and his canvas. Those shots give you the perfect vantage point for all the tiny details we often miss.
Audio is fantastic so you won’t have any crackles or cut-outs. One thing I did notice is the audio in some videos can be rather quiet, possibly because of Aaron’s position away from the mic. I notice it when Aaron films outside the studio as well(likely due to wind).
I wouldn’t say this is a huge deal since you can always just turn up the volume for those videos.
But you may find yourself tweaking the audio frequently as you go through the demo.
Also I should mention that you can download all of these videos as MP4 files.
So if you wanna keep local copies of this demo you can download them all in full 1080p.
This is true for both standard & real-time editions since they’re both cut from the same videos.
I’ll also say the demo is very well organized considering it’s not teaching a specific area beyond color & portrait painting.
The demo flows over 3 days and it’s probably the most comprehensive painting demo you’ll find online.
With great quality videos, downloadable files, bonus goodies and 10+ hours capturing every single brush stroke… there’s a lot to like about this series.
Especially if you’re a professional painter or hoping to become one.
Who Is This For?
Compared to Proko’s other video series this masterpiece demo targets a smaller audience.
If you primarily create digital artwork and have no interest in oil painting, this demo won’t help much at all. You may pick up a few tips on color choices but I wouldn’t say that justifies the price.
Same goes for anyone who doesn’t care much for traditional art.
However there is a solid audience here and I think these two groups would love this demo:
Painters and aspiring painters
Traditional artists who want to learn more about color
Aaron’s work involves lots of preparation to find the right color palette for each painting.
It’s one subject that you can learn a lot just from watching his demo. Granted there are plenty of color theory books out there but nothing compares to watching a master artist work their magic.
Now even if you are a painter(or working to get there) you still might not like this demo.
It really depends what your expectations are.
If you’re psyched about a full-length recording that follows a professional painter start to finish, observing over-the-shoulder as they create a finished piece, then you’ll absolutely adore this.
And if you do like that idea I highly recommend getting the real-time edition.
You’ll already be spending money anyways so it’s not much of an upgrade to get the full set of videos.
That way you can choose which videos to watch and which to skip giving you far more control over how you consume the demo. I’d almost consider the standard edition more as a “lite” version.
Not to say standard edition isn’t worth buying.
It’s just that the real-time videos offer so much more and the price difference isn’t very much considering the amount you get in return.
Aaron Westerberg is certainly a skilled guy and his demo series proves it.
The HD videos and downloadable files give you plenty to work through, nevermind the free HD images of his palette & portrait plus the original modal photo. You’ll get a heaping helping of painting brilliance with this course that’ll keep traditional art lovers enamored for hours.
If you like the idea of watching a painting unfold from scratch then you’ll really enjoy this demo.
As I mentioned above you’ll probably want to snag the real-time edition for a few reasons:
You get 5x more video
It barely costs any extra(only $30 more)
You truly watch the entire painting process unfold