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Design Garden Foundation Class: Online Class Review

Foundation Class Hand Drawn Graphics

When I talked about my recent venture into digital art making,  I also mentioned an online course that I was taking to learn the skills to create hand drawn digital graphics. I have now officially completed the program, so I thought I’d blog about my experience, for those who might be interested in this area too.

When I first came across Design Garden’s Foundation Class just over a month ago, I became really excited. It’s taught by the talented Sabina Radeva.

For many years, I’ve been playing with digital art making but I couldn’t quite get the look and feel that I want, just teaching myself how to do it. With so many other things competing for my time and energy, I ended up pushing this interest away because of my lack of success to start with. I thought I needed to go to a ‘proper’ design school to do what I wanted to do with digital art.

That’s why I felt that Design Garden was a great find. With a price tag of US$550, however, I wasn’t quite sure if I could make that investment.

So, I decided to investigate a little. I started looking at the testimonials and visited students’ websites/blogs, just to see where they’re at and if they had anything to say about the course.

A couple of days later, I came across the work of this lovely artist called Julia, who’s known online as Moogbee. I saw her through DG’s student testimonials section. Julia also took the Design Garden course and I found out from her blog that she has taken a few other courses that I was considering. So, I gathered the courage to write to her via her Facebook Page to ask what she thought of DG and if she had any advice for someone like me.

Thankfully, Julia took the time to respond and give some very helpful advice. And yes, she couldn't recommend Sabina’s class highly enough. So, that same day that I heard from her, I decided to sign up for the course.

And, I was like a puppy who couldn’t get enough treats.

I consumed as much of the material as I could, every chance I got outside of work and other commitments. So,  even though the course was a 6-week self-paced one, I ended up finishing the program within a month.

Within a week, I went from being a complete Adobe Illustrator newbie to being able to understand how to process hand drawn graphics. At least, at its most basic.

Over the course of the program, I’ve also learnt some really important concepts such as:

  • The importance of research. This is actually module one of the course. And, Sabina has rightly pointed out that this is one aspect of design that we mustn’t overlook. I really found this enlightening – how mood boards, trends, and such help us to come up with better designs.
  • Understanding colour theory in design. Thanks to my love of painting, colour has always been something that I love studying. Except, I realised that when I started doing this graphic design course – it’s definitely one aspect that I’m finding really hard to master. I’ve learnt a lot – but I know there is much, much more to learn. There is one whole lesson/module dedicated to colour in the course. But, Sabina doesn’t stop there. She also offers a FREE Colour Workshop with three lessons, to all students who are signed up with the course. Actually, lesson 1 from the colour workshop is available for free if you sign-up for her mailing list. I actually did just that, to get a feel for Sabina’s teaching and course material – and I was immediately impressed from that lesson alone.
  • How to present and package your digital art work for sale. Selling is the final module from the class. And honestly, when I first signed up, I didn’t think I’d be ready to have anything for sale by the end of it. After all, as I said, I was a complete noob with all of these. So, at the time, I thought that I’ll just learn what I can and then get my work ready for selling one day. But, with Sabina’s expert guidance and firm encouragement, I ended up surprising myself. Not only did I learn so much in such a short time, this course even helped me to do something I’ve been wanting to do for so long: Get going again with my creative business and have products available for sale. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. So, I’m definitely blogging more about this later. In fact, if all goes well, I’m hoping to be able to share more about this progress in many future blog posts.

The thing with this course is that Sabina offers a wealth of information all throughout. There’s a “Getting Started” section, that’s already filled with plenty of useful tips. Then, there’s the Research module, and then the Drawing module, followed by two Adobe Illustrator modules, the colour module, and the selling module. Each module comes with a pre-recorded webinar video (+ some extra videos in some cases), hand-outs, a list of resources, and assignment files. The hand-outs are not text heavy, and the course is only accessible within a certain period of time (90 days for the self-paced one). So, if you want to remember the lessons, you’ll have to resort to good old-fashioned note-taking like I did. I had my handy One Note app open while I watched the videos so I can take notes.

Apart from the information that you’ll get, Sabina also gives one-to-one feedback on the assignments. Usually, by email. I found these feedback emails about as valuable  as the information that I received from the actual course. She doesn’t just come up with “This is wonderful!” type comments. She is honest and open, and I found that really refreshing and helpful. Especially because I learnt over the course of the programme, that Sabina gives feedback from a good place. She REALLY wants her students to succeed. She wants her students to come up with incredible products and good designs. She wants everyone to learn and to come up with something that they can be proud of. And, she encourages her students to be helpful to each other as well.

That’s what the private Design Garden Facebook group is all about: the DG artist community helping each other out. There, participants can share my works-in-progress and people don’t just ‘like’ or ‘gush’ (of course, those can happen too and are very much appreciated when they do :)) – but the incredible group of artists there also give each other helpful feedback about what may be missing in their work, or what may not be working in their clip art set. Again, extremely valuable input. Especially from such talented people!

So, yes, even though this may be the most expensive online course (or perhaps, even the most expensive art-related course I’ve ever signed up for) – I feel like it has been money well spent.

Sabina has developed a great program for beginning and aspiring graphic design artists who wish to work with hand drawn elements. I am pleased to have made this investment. And, I can’t wait to learn more from Sabina and the rest of the Design Garden artist community.

Some Sketches from my Design Garden Foundation Class

Some of my sketches from the Design Garden Foundation Class. Some of these drawings have been turned into clip art! More later.

* DISCLOSURE: I have paid my course at Design Garden in full and have not been asked to write this review. However, Sabina offers an affiliate linking program whereby I may get discount for future classes should you decide to sign-up for the course through my link.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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