How Art Can Make You Happy

Ok instead of reviewing an art book this month I opted for another online course.  I received an email from Sketchbook Skool with a voucher code for a free course – How Art Can Make You Happy.  After the Illustration Nation course I was a bit put off Sketchbook Skool courses so thought this might be a good way to restore my confidence with them – so I signed up straight away.  The decision to sign up was also prompted by the fact that they applied a tried and trusted marketing technique of scarcity or limited availability – only 2 days to sign up, guaranteed to fast forward your decisioning.

As a free course it is understandably set up to convince you to sign up to additional courses so spends a lot of time up front introducing the founders and fakulty and also how to use the online content, information on the student resources, etc but it doesn’t really do the hard sell of other courses.

The course definitely lives up to expectation – the tutor is bubbly but not irritating, the video quality is good and the scripts and general content interesting and engaging.  For info the course tutor is Bridget Watson Payne, she’s full of energy, and her passion and pace is great and she’s clearly very knowledgeable.  I googled her and she’s written a few books including How Art Can Make You Happy – think I’ll pop one of these into my wishlist.


The general theme is that art is for everyone and is a source of joy in our lives.  The tutor explains about the scientific reaction that takes place in our brains and her passion really convinces you that art is magical.

I loved her explanation of how art helps us to experience (especially see) the world more.  The fact that we are overwhelmed by stimulus so our brains have developed great skills at blocking things out, stopping us from being bombarded by stimulus every second.  These sophisticated filters help us work out what to see, hear, experience and what to ignore.  But with art you see the beauty of the finished piece but also through the art you experience the world that inspired it.

The idea that an appreciation of art helps you to see and experience the world more makes complete sense to me as someone who sketches but I never considered that this may be the case when just looking at the works of others.  Naively I assumed it was the act of create art that did this but it seems not.  And her claim that art awakens you to your better self.  And has the power to make you feel, make you think and give you pleasure is also very convincing.

In terms of outright learning beyond theory the course really focuses on techniques to help you experience art in the sense of consciously experiencing it and as someone who visits galleries regularly I really found it interesting.  She guides you through the types of questions that you should be asking yourself when you look at art


She covered a lot more on visiting galleries including how to rid yourself of the guilt of missing out on blockbuster shows but what I really liked was she also talked about experiencing art at home.  Now if like me you have a whole host of books purchased after gallery visits or given by family and friends as gifts you will no doubt also have a load of dust collectors that have sat on shelves, untouched for months.  Her advice make yourself a cuppa, grab the book and slowly page through the whole book.  Try to make it last half an hour which forces you to really take the time to look at each image deciding what you like/don’t like.  I did this with a load of my books and not only is is a wonderful way to while away half an hour but I got loads of ideas for my sketching and remembered why I had loved the artist work so much I’d bought the book!

And one of the best bits of advice – if you don’t like the book – get rid of it!  Donate it to a charity shop, it may not float your boat but let someone else enjoy the art

So is it worth the money?  Well as a free course then absolutely!  In terms of the $29 charge which I think is the usual cost I’m not so sure.  I fully understand they have the costs of the tutor (who is great) and the production costs (good quality videos, well considered, pre written scripts very different to Illustration nation) but with so much great, free content available online and with other companies offering monthly subscriptions with access to all content I think $15 – 20 would be a better price point.  So if it’s on offer I’d definitely recommend it even if not Free of charge.

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