Do You Need Professional Help?
Sure you do. But, the kind of professional help I'm talking about is online software courses. I know that sounds like a common subject line for spam, but this is the real thing and it includes some of the most popular fractal art programs in use today --taught by experts and reasonably priced.
The place is Visual Arts Academy and according to Virginia and Sparrow, who run the place:
VAA started about five years ago, answering a specific need for a venue for two classes based on PhotoImpact. It was an offshoot of the PhotoImpact International bulletin board, with which we are still associated.
Since then, the virtual campus has exploded to include courses on Ultra Fractal, Apophysis, Xenodream, Bryce, Poser (the lingerie dolls on Renderosity) as well as many of the more mainstream digital art programs like Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, and PhotoImpact. There's also some courses on web design, MS Office and Photography.
Perhaps you know all that stuff and aren't interested in taking a course by "experts"? Well, you --yes you-- could be one of those experts! Let's call you, "Expert Without a Course". Here's what Virginia and Sparrow say about that:
We are always interested in new classes for a variety of software. We do tend to lean to digital art but would be more than willing to talk with a potential instructor for any class he or she thinks could work in an online setting. We're also open to different class structures than our usual six-weeks-plus-one format. The instructor and the school split the tuition: VAA keeps an administrative fee and the rest goes to the instructor. Those interested should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I think this is exciting. There aren't too many places where you can find courses for something as exotic as fractal software and here is one which already covers three of the most popular programs and is open to providing more. Based on what I've seen in various online forums and mailing lists, there's a lot of people asking for help and much of it revolves around the same basic things. Yes, there's already quite a number of online tutorials available (I've written one for Sterlingware) and there's always the option of asking for help in a forum. But I know from my own experience that a significant number of users really would prefer something more formal and structured -- and that's Professional Help. But first there have to be some Professional Helpers.
Although I've never taken any of these courses, I think the fees are reasonable, ranging from $25 for a one semester, several week course to $50 for double semester courses. The fees of course cover the basic cost of running the online school as well as providing some compensation to the instructors for their efforts and the careful attention they give students. If you think you have specialized expertise in the area of fractal art, or in some other area of digital art, then this could be a great way for you to share that expertise in a more organized and formal setting and be compensated for it.
The instructor won't be in the room with you. But maybe that's better.
You probably won't make enough to quit your day job or anything like that, but I think the way the Visual Arts Academy has set things up is one which benefits both instructors and students. There are some real advantages to this over the more casual forms of online help.
Anyone could conceivably start up their own online school and start teaching students independently, but working through an established online entity like the Visual Arts Academy might make it easier for them as well as their students. Just as Ebay provides a secure and trustworthy environment that attracts individuals to do business with each other, an organization like VAA can bring instructors and students together and handle the basic administrative functions. These administrative things in any business, online or offline, can become a real headache for people just getting started.
Current fractal art courses at VAA include: Apophysis Exploration, and Apophysis: Beyond the Basics, by Travis Williams; Working with Ultra Fractal, Ultra Fractal Masking Techniques and Ultra Fractal Artistry by Janet Parke; and XenoDream by Joseph Presley. Although not currently offered, Kerry Mitchell used to teach a course on working with Ultra Fractal formulas.
What's missing from that list? The course that only you, the expert without a course can teach. There's got to be a million things people can learn about Ultra Fractal, and let's not forget about that other thing --art-- how about something on Post-processing in Photoshop or something a little more general like Design Theory for Fractal Art. Or why not something like Programming With Fractal Math? If you know how to do something, there's a good chance that other people will want to know how to do it too.
Don't think that because you're going to be charging students a fee to take your course that no one will want to spend the money. $25 to study an exciting area of fractal or digital art for several weeks with someone who has an established reputation in the field is a trifle, even for an online venue. Think of the possible mentoring relationships that could be formed and the influence on the art form it could have in the years to come.
Come to think of it; maybe the one thing that fractal art really needs right now is a school. A place where serious students and experienced instructors can engage in some disciplined training and development. You can tell your friends you're an online Professor and put Dr. in front of your screen name.
Seriously, this could be a really big thing.