What is the Art2Life CVP course?
CVP ( Creative Visionary Programme) is an intensive, twelve-week art course run once a year by Nick Wilton and his team at Art2Life. It begins with a free taster beginning this year on February 13th. That freebie course has some good information in it and is fun, although I actually think it doesn’t go anywhere near showing how good the whole course is!) . There is a short sign up period leading into the full course. The full course consists of several teaching videos released on a Monday. During each week there is a live group call, a coaching call with different artists and a pop up call for Q and A with Nick. Everything is available on replay for a full year. In addition there are added recorded bonus inspirational videos and technique resources. It is about to run again and I thought I might be helpful to people considering it to tell you about the good and bad experiences I had of it.
Why it did it and where I was as an artist
I had made sold and exhibited art for over ten years by the time I signed up. However I was a textile artist and was very new indeed to painting. I wanted to get a good foundation in this new medium. Also, I had gone through a burnout and had taken an early retirement from law to concentrate on a creative life. I wanted to set myself up with a foundation and a community. I was able to dedicate as much time as I needed to it as I was only working part time as a coach and freelance trainer at the time. In reality, however that changed drastically as I explain below.
Before I signed up, I asked a lot of alumni whether it was worth the cost and what I might expect from it. That information helped me make a good decision so I thought I would pay it forward in this post.
The great parts of CVP
- The buzz and excitement as the group opened was energising and not exaggerated. There were alumni who had done the class before and who came back excited for more which took away some of the concern for me about whether the class would be worth the money.
- There is a vast amount of material. The course builds so at first it is not so obvious but there is really a massive amount and it’s well worth the money.
- The teaching videos are all Nick Wilton but although they were very good, the coaching calls with other artists in his team were actually the best part of the course for me. They brought a range of artistic styles, personalities and outlooks and very practical technical information
- Unlike some courses online this is not a course run by someone wanting to use teaching to establish themselves as an artist. These are already well-established gallery-selling artists sharing a wealth of heard-earned lived experience. Other artist who have art degrees have said this course taught them material they did not get on degree courses. I don’t have an art degree so I cannot comment on that but I can say that I was thinking of doing one and having done CVP I no longer feel that ‘lack’ in myself that was making me consider it.
- The class is not just about art technique, it is about being an artist. You will go away with knowledge, yes, but also new outlooks and thinking patterns which for me was the most valuable thing.
- It starts by helping and encouraging you to understand what you want to make art about and what inspires you and what you want from life. That’s not fluff. It’s really key material. Exercises included making ‘boards’ of images and I had to do those digitally because my Mother-in-law died and I had to travel to N Ireland first to be with her in her last days and then for the funeral. I used Canva to make my boards and combined images of snippets that I liked from my own art with the art that I wished I could make. I realised that put together I couldn’t really tell a difference. It was hugely important to me in narrowing a perceived gap between what I was creating and what I admired in others. That gave me a real belief that I could be a painter!
- I learned really useful information about the paints themselves, about techniques and about the painting life.
- A fundamental way they teach is to do image adjustments where they take a piece of art and adjust it in photoshop to show the impact of different options. It is a visual and impactful way to show you how choices can make a work better or just different depending on your intent.
- Following the course there is the option to pay more to enter an Academy which is a monthly offering of group calls, inspirational interviews and technique classes. That reduces the sudden feeling of being alone after such a supportive experience.
The downsides of CVP
- I don’t think the free taster course really gives a realistic impression of how deep, detailed and empowering the full course is.
- I found Nick repetitive especially at first but that did get better. At around the one month mark – the time after which you can get your money back- I was still deciding if I could put up with him! Probably had I not had the assurance from other alumni I would have pulled out. But just after the course really ramped up. I realised they were making sure that no one got left behind. Plus I figured out that as he speaks slowly, if you play his videos at 1.5 x speed or higher you can still tell what he is saying perfectly well and it saves time! Overall, I was extremely happy with the course and glad I had not lost my patience with it!
- I watched a lot of the classes away from home as not only did we lose my MiL but my husband had an accident when we were at her home and I was stranded in N Ireland with him in hospital for three weeks and had no access to my studio! I felt a little left behind but was able to catch up and finished only a few weeks later. I did still feel part of the class as I could watch the videos on my i-pad and do the exercises later but some of the energy of doing it at the same time as others was lost. There were many people who could not keep up and along the way sub -Facebook groups were created by members who were able to support each other to continue at their own pace.
- I wanted to blog and journal more about my experience of the course as I went along but for all the reasons I’ve mentioned that didn’t happen although I did make very detailed notes from each video. I was probably realistic about how much extra I could do alongside the course which is a fairly typical flaw of mine! I have written a separate post about how to manage CVP and your time based on my experience.
- The demonstration videos each week are very focused on Nick Wilton’s style of painting. I saw comments that realistic painters struggled with translating the principles to their work. However, Susan Melrath one of the other artists on the weekly calls is excellent at sharing her realistic work and process and I understand that they are going to give even more focus this time to realistic painters.
- The class is huge and the Facebook group very busy. Some people found it hard to post in there, but it was very supportive. It would be easy to get distracted by it and not put limited available time to the art. As it was, for me it was a godsend while I was sitting in the in hospital or alone in my hotel room later to have all those artists to talk art to! I am still in touch with many of them in a separate Zoom based co-working group we created.
- The course is expensive. It’s well worth it but if you don’t have the money available without incurring debt remember that it will be available next year. I would endorse making the investment even if it feels a bit brave to spend so much on yourself and your art. I would not suggest paying the price just out of fear if missing out this year as a result of all the publicity Art2Life generate each year. Save up and wait if you need to.
- There is a short sign up for the Academy after the course and the details not made clear until the end of CVP. You can only sign up at that one point in the year although once you have done CVP you can join in subsequent years when it opens up. I think the money is worth what they offer, but the sale process felt a little pressurised especially after such a big investment in CVP for the first time and I would have preferred to know about it up front (which I why I am telling you!) I don’t know the 2023 cost but, from memory, it was in the region of £400 in 2022
I started this course in February and had a solo show at Gallery 1889 to complete by July. My intention had been to continue doing textile art for the show and learn the new medium alongside it. When the life events happened, that plan looked like a disaster! In fact, the show had over pieces in and 52 of them were new and painted as I went through the course starting with the free taster. That alone helped me complete a series to standard worthy of showing.. I sold work that were created in direct response to the CVP exercises including the one illustrating this post. If you had told me, I would be selling painted work just weeks after this course I would have said you were deluded!
I will be doing the class again in 2023 as an Alumni. You can read this post about my intentions for my 2023 attendance and why you might want to do the course more than once. It has so much in it there is real merit on going though again at a different level applying for the work in different ways. Plus, for me I have really benefitted from meeting the other artist and I’m looking forward to getting to know new people and revisiting with last year’s people. Nick likes Alumni in the class to encourage and support new members, something I’m really looking forward to being able to do and we get a reduced rate to attend the second time.
Nick Wilton is as good a businessman as he is an artist. He has an alumni affiliate link programme. If you sign up to the free taster course as linked below through my link, I don”t get any reward. However if you go on to sign up for the full course, you pay no extra, but I get a reward to help fund my attendance this year. This scheme has affected the timing of this post but not the content in any way.