This is the first in a series of portraits called Teachers of a Self-Guided Artist. Check out the intro post The Self-Taught Myth to read more about it.


At the end of 2011, I was feeling pretty stuck with painting. I’d been doing it on and off for maybe 5 years, mostly using acrylics, and mostly learning by trial and error, having never had any painting lessons. I was frustrated, and wanted to learn how to paint properly. I considered moving to London to go to an art school there, but it was expensive, and I didn’t even have a job at the time.

So I started looking at what options were available online, and after a bit of searching, I found a website called Classical Art Online, run by Jonathan Hardesty.

Who is Jonathan Hardesty?

Jon Hardesty wasn’t always an artist. In fact he didn’t start learning to draw until he was 22, at which point he decided he wanted to become a professional artist, and he posted every piece of art he made for the next nine years on conceptart.org (sadly no longer online).

If you look at most successful artists online today, usually all you can find is their best, most recent work. Even if you go back to the start of their Instagram feed, you won’t find many bad drawings, messy sketches, or early work from their student days.

With Jon, you can see it all. Page after page of drawings and paintings, spanning the journey from complete novice to master painter. Here are two self-portraits than Jon did in 2002 and 2007:

Self-portraits by Jon Hardesty

Although the forum where these were posted is no longer around, Jon is planning a book that will show the full journey, and until then, you can watch a video on his site that shows the journey of nine years in seventeen minutes.

Learning from Jonathan

Classical Art Online is an online atelier, where Jon teaches the same classical drawing and painting methods you would find in a real atelier, from sight-size Bargue drawings to full colour oil painting.

How it works is you pay a monthly fee (or 6 month / annual if you prefer), and you get Jon as your personal art instructor. He provides demo videos, pdf guides, but most importantly, direct email support. You can email him any time for feedback or just to ask questions, and he’s super responsive and helpful. I have some pretty long emails from Jon, where he’s explained things to me in great detail.

So what did I learn from studying with Jon? Well, I mentioned I was out of work at the time, and my financial situation wasn’t great, so unfortunately I was only able to afford it for a few months before I had to focus on things like paying rent and buying food! But I learned a lot during that short time.

We started with some Bargue drawings, which introduced me to the sight-size approach, and taught me a lot about value relationships in drawing. Here’s one of the first Bargue drawings I completed:

Bargue Drawing by Dan Johnson
Completed Bargue Drawing

At the same time, Jon knew I was keen to learn painting, so he was happy to tailor the curriculum to my needs, and we got started on creating a set of colour charts, which took a long time, but helped train me to understand value and colour simultaneously, as well as creating a reference for colour mixing. I still have those colour charts nine years later and they still come in useful from time to time when mixing colours.

I didn’t get to start learning painting properly at that time, but a few years later, in 2015, I got chance to take a 4 day alla prima portrait workshop that Jon was teaching.

In that workshop, I learned how to paint a portrait from a photo, from start to finish, and again, at each stage, I got feedback from Jon, where he would record a video of himself painting over my work in Photoshop to show me where I needed to make some changes. Here’s my final portrait from that workshop:

Portrait of Marie by Dan Johnson – 2015

So thank you, Jon, for being one of my first real art instructors, my first introduction to classical atelier training, and above all for being a super friendly and responsive teacher! Hope to get the chance to study with you again at some point.

Here’s my portrait of Jon Hardesty. Oils on 9×12″ panel:

Jon Hardesty by Dan Johnson – 2019

Study with Jonathan Hardesty

If you’d like to study with Jon, you can get in touch with him via Classical Art Online, or his artist website https://www.jonathanhardesty.com/

He also teaches a couple of courses at Schoolism.com

Learning

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