Spreading the joy of painting online

Nicola Blakemore has been successful as a painting teacher with her gentle instructional style and encouraging personality. That formula works for her classes online and off, because a genuine desire to help people learn underlies both.

Nicola originally trained as a graphic artist before working in the media, travel, and public relations fields in London and Paris. “I wasn’t one of those life-plan people,” she says, though she did always dream of living in France. She realized that dream and now resides in Languedoc, but it hasn’t been as easy as she’d envisioned.

Nicola’s primary livelihood comes from hosting painting vacations that entice travelers with the promise of visiting a beautiful region while brushing up on their painting skills in a picture-perfect setting. When she met an American artist who was using an online service to create courses, Nicola thought the internet might be her solution for reaching as many potential students as possible too. She’d already built a website effective for promoting her Painting Holidays in France, but it was still hard for her to maintain general interest year ‘round. She tried the online service recommended by her acquaintance, but it didn’t offer support for marketing her courses, which was really what she needed.

Translating watercolor to video
That’s when Nicola read about Udemy on Facebook. She describes it as “a leap of faith,” but she was convinced that “online was the way to go.” The courses she’d created for the other service were text-only, so she had to rejigger them for Udemy’s video platform. To get over her learning curve, Nicola got a lot of help from her fellow instructors in Udemy’s Facebook groups regarding what camera, microphone, and lighting equipment to buy and best practices for recording and editing. She also spent time watching other people’s video courses to pick up pointers.

Now, Nicola has 11 courses on Udemy and more than 6,300 students. Most of her courses follow the format of presenting students with a picture and showing them how to recreate it themselves; other courses introduce students to the basics of watercolor technique and stenciling. Reading Nicola’s course descriptions, her teaching approach and philosophy really come through—she invites students to put aside any “limiting belief” that has previously “inhibited them from enjoying a fun, enlightening, soothing, and expressive creative pursuit.” In other words, Nicola wants her students to enjoy themselves and dismiss any notion they lack talent.

Understanding her audience is key
That sense of empathy is the result of Nicola’s early career pursuits, which helped her develop people skills, along with her years teaching in-person painting classes. She knows her audience very, very well and has crafted courses that strike exactly the right chord with them. For example, Nicola’s courses skip the background music and fancy graphics that would turn off her target students—beginner-level hobbyists who may lack confidence in their ability and need someone to guide them. She also films her courses to mirror the in-person experience of watching over her shoulder as she demonstrates painting techniques. “I keep it simple,” she says.

sketching“My goal is to help people paint on their own; I want them to feel they’re accomplishing something,” Nicola explains. Her easy-going style is intended to help students enjoy the whole process of painting and not fixate on the end product. Nicola cites the current craze for adult coloring books to support her contention that the very act of painting can be occupying, relaxing, and rewarding in its own right and says, “it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”

In addition to being able to share her love for watercoloring with students worldwide, Nicola appreciates knowing her courses are always available and generating extra income for her. She has ideas for more courses — offering new pictures or trying out different paints — and is continuing to fine-tune how she cross-promotes her Udemy presence on her holiday website.

Being able to teach in-person and online at once has turned out to be a worthwhile combo for Nicola’s purposes. Some of the vacationers who’ve visited her in Languedoc have even gone on to take her Udemy courses, which Nicola really loves to see. She also has her own Facebook group where students post their work and “get more chatty.”

So, while money is important, Nicola feels good helping more people get access to instruction that will enable them to love painting, thanks to Udemy. She firmly believes “the mission of creating education for the world is honorable and commendable.”window-2