The Best Online Art Courses to Kickstart 2021

Our selection of the top online art courses to get your creative juices flowing in the new year.

News of a COVID-19 vaccine has brought about much excitement, and rightly so. It is, however, still unclear when things will return to a ‘regular’ schedule again. The pandemic might have dampened spirits, but it also showed us the power of digital and staying connected online.

During this arduous time, many fantastic resources have appeared online. From virtual exhibitions to online auctions and viewing rooms, the art world adapted to these ever so strange times and has helped keep us engaged and feel connected to others. Coronavirus has shown how so many of us, when trapped at home, have reached instinctively for art.

And while maybe, hopefully, the coronavirus is finally letting us catch a breath (and hopefully relinquishing us from its unforgiving grip quite soon), it’s safest to assume that things won’t be quite the same for some time. Now, we can either mope around in sorrow and lament how things are no longer the same. Or we can embrace the less-than-perfect moment and stand up in defiance.

Our suggestion for 2021 is to help get your creative juices flowing by embarking on an online art course. Whether you’ve wanted to refine your portrait sketching skills or your understanding of art history, there are plenty of worthwhile courses out there.

Here are our top picks:

  1. Central St Martin’s Contemporary Drawing and Painting Online Short Course: This contemporary drawing and painting course is for passionate painters and artists who want to dedicate time to improving their skills and techniques. It will inspire you to build on existing knowledge and techniques so you can create with confidence, and take your art to the next level. The course is led by a professional artist, and centres around three fundamental topics: Subject matter – what we paint; Imagination and observation – how we see things; Technique and language – the way we work. The course is 4 weeks long, with lessons held once a week. You’ll receive a certificate upon completion.
  2. Sotheby’s Institute of Art Global Art History: 1600-2020: Using an interdisciplinary approach and unfolding across two terms, this course will unravel the complexities of a deeply networked and globalized art system. Students will encounter many fresh perspectives on art historical narratives, museological debates and market trends. The first two weeks, led by Dr David Bellingham, will investigate how visual culture reflected and mediated global socio-political movements, events and ideas from 1600-1900. It will focus on synchronic themes which, although often emanating from the traditional dominant “western” cultures, affected the wider world through trade and imperialism. The subject matter of art will be seen to be as important as art historical movements and styles. The first part of this course starts February 17th.
  3. Royal Academy Life Drawing Class: A free online life drawing class you can take from anywhere! Life drawing is the artistic tradition of drawing the human body from a live model – something that the likes of Turner and Constable would have studied at the Royal Academy, and which still takes part in our Life Room today. Life drawing can be an important way for artists to hone their skills – but it can have a much wider impact too. It can contribute to a mindful and relaxed state, reduce anxiety, improve problem-solving and encourage new perspectives. It’s a 90 minute, one-off lesson that’s well worth checking out.
  4. Goldsmiths Art Psychotherapy Foundation: A 28 week, in-depth short course is a practical and theoretical introduction to Art Psychotherapy in the UK, on which you will experience how art therapy works as a tool for self-reflection.  The course is suitable for people interested in training as an art therapist, as well as those looking for a stand-alone course. It is facilitated by state-registered Art Psychotherapists, and features eight visiting tutors who offer extensive experience from this diverse profession. You will learn about core art psychotherapy theory, professional contexts, and hear examples of sensitive case material from a range of art therapy practices. Case material and clinical contexts will include work with adults, adolescents, and children from a diverse range of organisations, approaches, and services. You will also gain first-hand experience of artmaking in workshop sessions, and participate in a small ten-week experiential art therapy group.
  5. MoMA What Is Contemporary Art?: In this course, you’ll consider this question through more than 70 works of art made between 1980 and the present, with a focus on art from the past decade. You’ll hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. By taking this course, you’ll gain confidence to look at contemporary art wherever you encounter it and make connections to your own life or creative practice. You can audit this course for free. When you audit a course, you can access the course materials without graded assignments or the ability to earn a certificate.

Whichever course you choose, you’re guaranteed to have an inspired, creative start to 2021!

Veronica Morozova
Veronica Morozova
Veronica Morozova is a London-based content writer and copyeditor. She has a Master's in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths University, and writes about a range of topics including political and social activism, mental health awareness, Eastern European culture, and more.