100+ Awesome Open Courseware Links for Artists

Nov 20th, 2008

By Kelsey Allen

Whether you’re into art theory, studying ancient art or making art yourself, you can find a range of online courses and lectures that can help educate you on your field of interest. Check out these open courseware resources to learn more, get fresh perspectives and expand your artistic horizons.

Introductory Courses

Learn the basics from these courses geared towards the beginner.

  1. Introduction to Sculpture: This course will deal with issues central to modern sculpture like site, context, process, psychology and aesthetics as well as helping students to work with some more non-traditional materials. [MIT]
  2. Introduction to Photography: Start with the basics in this course which discusses how images are produced and used within our culture, with additional instruction on photographic practice. [MIT]
  3. Introduction to Photography and Related Media: Through this course you’ll learn the basics of photography with digital and traditional cameras, how to work in the darkroom and create successful lighting.[MIT]
  4. Introduction to Video: THose interested in video as a means of artistic expression should check out this class to learn how to shoot, edit and present videos. [MIT]
  5. Introduction to the Visual Arts: Using a variety of contemporary ideas, this course will discuss artistic practice in video, sculpture and the public space. [MIT]
  6. BSAD Foundations in the Visual Arts: Geared towards architects, this course can provide anyone with a good foundation in artistic development in a wide range of media. [MIT]
  7. Studying the Arts and Humanities: For those who are new to studying the arts in a serious manner, this course can be a helpful primer for knowing how to approach images, literature and more. [Open University]
  8. Making Sense of the Arts: Learn about some of the basics it takes to understand the arts, both visual and literature, through this short course. [Open University]
  9. Pathway to Dreams: This collection of articles is designed to help you make your career as an artist as successful as possible and bring your dreams and ideas into reality. [Connexions]
  10. Introduction to Art History: Check out this course to learn about past cultures and art in the present day as well as theories that have been used to understand these types of art. [U of Utah]

Images and Online Exhibits

These museums and online exhibits are wonderful places to find free and public domain images for inspiration or scholarly art study.

  1. Smithsonian American Art Museum Online Exhibitions: The SAAM has a number of online exhibits that range from landscape painting to modern photography.
  2. The Getty: Check out the Getty museum for videos and photos of the works the museum owns.
  3. The Guggenheim Collection Online: The Guggenheim has made it easy to look through the works they own and display on this site. While it only reflects a selection of their actually collection it is nonetheless a valuable free resource for those looking to learn about art.
  4. The Visual Front: If poster art is more your style you can get your fill on this site which collects a large number of propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War and displays them with informative commentary in this online exhibit.
  5. The Nocturnes: This online show presents artists that give a sense of mystery, discovery and experimentation with beautiful photography.
  6. National Gallery of Art Online: Take one of the online tours offered by the National Gallery of Art to explore images by artist or theme.
  7. Beyond Interface: This online exhibit brings together art and technology not only in the work it presents but in the fact that it’s entirely curated online.
  8. Virtual Library Museums: Looking for a museum that has online resources you can use for free? This site is a portal to all museum sites that are available on the web, making it easy to find what you need.
  9. Library of Congress Exhibitions: Study America’s history through the great drawings and photographs provided in the online exhibits at the Library of Congress.
  10. The Louvre: The Louvre is home to some of the most well-known images in the world. If you can’t get there in person use their website to browse some of their extensive collection.
  11. The British Museum: Whether you want to study medieval armor or the decoration of Egyptian tombs, you’ll find great images, interactive online exhibits and valuable information on this site.

Studio Arts

Follow along with these free studio art courses from some of the most prestigious schools in the world according to these online university reviews.

  1. The Art of Color: In this course you’ll learn some of the basic principles of using color in visual art as well as the psychology and history of the topic as well. [MIT]
  2. Studio Seminar in Public Art: Those interested in the role museums play in defining our ideas of public art may find the subject matter of this course especially interesting as students will be asked to create their own personal imaginary museum that fits their ideal of public space. [MIT]
  3. Furniture Making: Whether you’re into industrial design or just want to make yourself a custom bookshelf, this course will teach you how to use woodworking tools, let you study furniture designers like Le Corbusier and help you make a design of your own. [MIT]
  4. Design for the Theater: Scenery: For those who love the theater but can’t stand the idea of speaking in front of a room full of people, this course provides a way to participate by creating the scenery that is necessary to set the stage for the performers.[MIT]
  5. Studio Art: Media Art I: In the first of this series of courses, students will learn to work with time-based art practices like sound, installation and video art. [Capilano]
  6. Studio Art: Media Art II: The focus of the second part of these studio art courses is in black and white chemical photography, digital imaging, and new genre public art. [Capilano]
  7. Studio Art: Media Art III: In this course students will work with video, performance art and digital sound while addressing it from both a creative and critical perspective. [Capilano]
  8. Studio Art: Media Art IV: The culmination of this series, this class encourages students in their independent art making, proposal writing and thematic art production. [Capilano]

Lectures and Seminars

If you don’t have time to go through a full course, check out these seminars and lectures that focus on a wide range of art topics.

  1. Art and Understanding: Hosted by Arnold Aronson, professor of theater, this seminar asks the question "what is art?" of several artists. [Columbia]
  2. Schoenberg and Modernism: This lecture focuses on Arnold Schoenberg, covering his biography, his work as a composer and as a painter and ultimately his place in the modernist movement. [Columbia]
  3. Art and Politics: Cultural Criticism in a Democracy: E-Seminar 1, The Origins of Modern Criticism: Michael Janeway discusses issues like the role of art in a democracy, how we take our cultural criticism for granted and the need for more diversity in art and more in this lecture. [Columbia]
  4. Filmmakers Master Class with Milos Forman: Oscar-winning director Milos Forman gives this lecture taken from his life experiences as he became a well-known and successful film director. [Columbia]
  5. Digital Video: An Introduction: This e-seminar is designed to help students complete their own video projects with guidance on how to use the equipment, organize material and get the best shots. [Columbia]
  6. The City of Sardis: Approaches in Graphic Recording: This lecture deals with the changing methods of recording the ancient city of Sardis, from paintings in earlier times to photos and videos today.[Harvard]
  7. Byzantium at the Royal Academy: This lecture explains the materials held in the Royal Academy of Art that relate to the Byzantine era. Even if you can’t get there you can still learn about the history of the period from the lecture. [Gresham]
  8. Creativity and mental illness – do you have to be mad to be creative?: We’re all familiar with the stereotypes about dramatic, depressed and even crazy artists and this lecture explores why mental illness often accompanies artistic genius. [Gresham]
  9. Manet and Cézanne: The ‘Heroics’ of Modernism: Learn about the role of Manet and Cézanne in modernism through this Princeton lecture. [Princeton]
  10. A Conversation with Mira Nair: Director of such films as Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair is a well-known filmmaker. In this seminar she talks with students about her experiences and can provide some valuable insight into the field. [Harvard]
  11. Do Movies have a Future?: This lecture explores the future of the film industry, a topic relevant to anyone who makes or loves cinema. [Princeton]
  12. Through a Looking Glass: The Art of the Science of Renaissance Painting: Explore the ways that science influenced the methods and imagery of painting during the Renaissance through this informative lecture. [Princeton]
  13. Marketing the Arts: The Secret Weapon: Michael Kaiser is an expert at turning around failing cultural institutions and in this lecture he talks about what makes up a successful advertising campaign for the arts. [MIT]
  14. Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image: In this lecturer, Felice Frankel discusses how images can be essential in communicating complex ideas in science and technology through color, form and scale.[MIT]
  15. Moche Portraits from Ancient Peru: The Moche were a powerful and wide-spread civilization in ancient Peru and this lecture focuses on the exquisite pottery they left behind. [UCLA]

Theory and Advanced Study

These courses cover both analytical and critical theories of art and expand on the material in more introductory classes.

  1. Feeling and Imagination in Art, Science and Technology: This course discusses how art, science and technology are dependent on one another and how they each interact with our emotions and imagination in our aesthetic appreciation of them. [MIT]
  2. Topics in the Avant-Garde in Literature and Cinema: Learn more about the terms Avant Garde and Kulturindustrie in this course in regard to the Dada and surrealist movements and see how they place out in film. [MIT]
  3. The Production of Space: Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Dialogue: This course examines the idea of space and how it’s used in a variety of urban and social settings within art and architecture. [MIT]
  4. Dialogue in Art, Architecture, and Urbanism: Gain a better understanding of how the idea of the city has been used by artists, architects, and other diverse disciplines in this course from MIT. [MIT]
  5. Advanced Projects in the Visual Arts: Personal Narrative: Expanding on ideas from introductory video courses, this class aims to teach students how to build a successful narrative using video as the medium. [MIT]
  6. Interrogative Design Workshop: This course addresses ideas of free speech and criticism in the artistic forum from the viewpoint of the artist. [MIT]
  7. Theory and Method in the Study of Architecture and Art: Learn about some of the great thinkers in art history and architecture and their methodologies in this course. [MIT]
  8. Godel, Escher, Bach: This course will allow you to gain a better understanding of how music, art and language are intertwined by using these individuals as examples. [MIT]
  9. Musée du Louvre: The Louvre has one of the largest art collections in the world and this course can help you learn how such large collections are amassed and taken care of over time. [Open University]
  10. Arts, Metaphor and Life: Explore some of the deeper meanings behind art in this course for artists and art historians. [SVCC]
  11. Philosophy of the Arts: Check out this course to understand how philosophy has influenced the arts both in the high and low art realms. [Minnesota State]

Technology Training

Many artists today work with computer technology to create or promote their artwork. These college courses and tutorials can help make you an expert on the programs you need to use to be effective in this endeavor.

  1. Adobe Online Training: If you need to learn how to use Adobe products but don’t have the resources to shell out for paid classes, this site can be an essential resource for free and informative tutorials.
  2. QuarkEd: Many designers will use quark in their work and this site provides a number of tutorials and classes to help you learn how to more effectively use the program.
  3. Holographic Imaging: For those looking to make some futuristic images, this course from MIT will help students understand the basics behind the process and eventually create their own. [MIT]
  4. Planet Photoshop: Whether you’re just editing your own photos or making something for a design client, this site is full of free resources to help you learn to use Photoshop like a true pro.
  5. Blender 3D Design: Get an introduction to designing in the 3-D world in Blender with this beginner’s course from Tufts. [Tufts]
  6. Adobe Illustrator: Those who need to learn the basics of Illustrator will benefit from the course material offered here. [Connexions]
  7. Dreamweaver CS3 – Part 1: This multi-part series will help you learn to better use Dreamweaver to design and publish webpages. [BBC]
  8. Flash Part 1: Want to make some animations or jazz up your webpage? This course from the BBC will help give you a better understanding of the basics of Flash animation. [BBC]
  9. HTML: An Introduction: If you’ve never made an HTML webpage before, this introductory course from the BBC can help you learn how it works. [BBC]
  10. Adobe Photoshop Basics: Check out this tutorial to learn the essentials of using Adobe Photoshop. [About U]
  11. Photoshop Part 1: Start from the basics with this Photoshop course through the BBC. [BBC]
  12. Paint Shop Pro Colorizing Tutorial: If Paint Shop Pro is more your style, this tutorial and other related ones from Designer Today can help you learn what you need to know without spending a fortune.
  13. Illustrator CS2 Live Trace Tutorial: This site is full of helpful training courses that can assist you in learning how to use Illustrator.
  14. QoolSqool: Want to enhance your skills as a graphic designer? This site provides dozens of extremely helpful tutorials and classes.
  15. Color Balancing Tutorial: From a site dedicated to tutorials, designers and artists of all kinds can learn to correctly color balance their images.

Photography and Film

If your interests in art run to more modern media then check out these great free courses.

  1. Stories Without Words: Photographing the First Year: Making the transition between high school and home life to college and university life can be difficult and this course aims to help students to capture their first semester at school as a record of their experiences. [MIT]
  2. Photography and Related Media: Students will learn how to use photography materials and techniques in this class as well as gain a better understanding of how images in our culture are produced and constructed.[MIT]
  3. Sensing Place: Photography as Inquiry: In this class, students will learn about photography as a way of seeing, of investigating landscapes and expressing ideas and how it can be used to inform architectural planning and design. [MIT]
  4. Numeric Photography: Learn to blend photography and computer technology in this studio-based course. [MIT]
  5. Special Topics in Cinematic Storytelling: Students will learn to take their stories from their minds and execute them skillfully in visual media in this course. [MIT]
  6. Photography and Truth: This course explores the role of photography in anthropology as a recording tool in research and communication. [MIT]
  7. Philosophy of Film: Analyze film from a philosophical viewpoint in this course that deals with aspects of reality, visual affects, communication and alienation. [MIT]
  8. Producing Films for Social Change: If you’re making films with the desire to make a difference, this course can provide some insight and education on how to make the most of the resources and ideas you have. [Tufts]

Graphic Design and New Media

Get a little head start on your design career by checking out these free online courses and resources.

  1. Fundamentals of Computational Media Design: If you’re working on or would like to work on designing interactive media like websites or computer programs check out this course to learn some of the basics. [MIT]
  2. Signals, Systems, and Information for Media Technology: Gain a better understanding of the math and computer science lying behind the creation of multimedia commercial and fine art. [MIT]
  3. Special Topics in Multimedia Production: Experiences in Interactive Art: Learn what it takes to create truly effective interactive art in this seminar class. [MIT]
  4. Digital Typography: Typography is so commonplace we often take it for granted, especially in the digital world. This course explores algorithmic manipulation of type as word, symbol, and form. [MIT]
  5. Graphic Design for Desktop Publishing: Learn how to better use your graphic design skills in desktop publishing through this course from About.com. [About U]
  6. Beginning Web Design: If you’re just now beginning to learn about design check out this web design school to learn some of the fundamentals. [About U]
  7. Web Design Class: With web design an essential part of any designers repertoire these days, this course can help make sure you’re on track to know how to use any programs you might need to. [About U]
  8. 30 Days of Web Design Help: Follow through this extended course to make sure you’re getting the help you need to be an all-star web designer. [About U]
  9. DHTML Animation: DHTML is a combination of HTML, cascading style sheets, and Javascript and this course will take you through step-by-step instructions on how to use it on your webpages. [About U]
  10. Design Principles for the Web: The BBC provides this online course which can help you learn the basic design principles for the web, as they may be quite different from the way print media is constructed. [BBC]
  11. Production and Design for Interactive TV: If you have an interest in making interactive television productions for your own art or for a job, this course can show you the ropes. [BBC]
  12. Logo Design: Offered by Web Design from Scratch, this informative tutorial will help you learn how to make logos that are effective at company branding. Check out the rest of the site for even more helpful tutorials.

Art History

Even those focusing on studio art can gain something from taking a course in art history, and these courses provide a low-cost way to do so.

  1. Modern Art and Mass Culture: This class will provide an introduction to modern art and theories of modernism and postmodernism focusing on the tension between fine art and mass culture.[MIT]
  2. 20th Century Art: This course will take students through the major developments in European and American art during the past century focusing not only on imagery but history, philosophy and theory as well. [MIT]
  3. Analysis of Historic Structures: From the Hagia Sofia to Notre Dame, this course will help you learn about the construction of many important architectural structures. [MIT]
  4. Visualizing Cultures: Focusing on Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan, this course takes a close-up look at the images being generated during this fascinating period in history. [MIT]
  5. Helen Langdon’s ‘Caravaggio’: In order to help students learn more about the artist as well as monographs as a primary source of information, this class concentrates on one book to provide information on Caravaggio’s life and works. [Open University]
  6. Introducing the Classical World: Learn the basics of ancient Greek and Roman art, politics and culture from this beginner level class. [Open University]
  7. Goya: Goya, a Spanish painter often lauded as one of the first modern masters, is discussed in-depth in this informative art history course. [Open University]
  8. Napoleonic Paintings: While small in stature, Napoleon was big in history and this course explore the art created during his period of power in Europe. [Open University]
  9. Houston Reflections: Art in the City, 1950s, 60s and 70s: Get a specific look at how art developed in the Houston area from this short but informative course.[Connexions]
  10. Art and Technology: Check out this course to gain a deeper understanding of how technology is impacting art and how certain artists are choosing to use it in their work. [Capilano]
  11. Art History: This introductory course will take students through art from the prehistoric era up to the middle ages. [Rice U]
  12. Renaissance to Modern: For those looking for art a little more modern, this class offers art and information from the Renaissance up to the modern era. [U of Wisconsin-Madison]