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Course Review: Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals

Teacher: Will Kemp
Length: 2h 24m
Provider: Lynda.com (course link)

Some background…
Back in ninth and tenth grade, I decided to do high school art. Both my sisters had done it during their time in high school and I had an inkling that I would as well. As much as I tried, I also had to juggle other things that were going on at the time. I didn’t excel near as much as I had envisioned. In eleventh and twelfth grade, there was a choice between agriculture and art and I ended up choosing agriculture because it came a bit more naturally for me. Still, there was always this desire to one day return to art.
Several times over the decades that followed, I have tried to get back into it. I found some manga tutorials and attempted that but I always felt like I was missing some fundamentals. When my husband got a position in Gympie, I frequented a rather neat art group at the Gympie gallery. I met a bunch of awesome people there and learned a lot in a short period of time. We ended up moving and I found myself in a place where the art community wasn’t as accommodating for people trying to hone their skills. To this day, I still miss that Gympie art group.

When I came across several learning pathways focusing on improving art skills and design on Lynda last year, I decided to give them a run. The first part of the Improve Your Drawing Skills pathway is Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals course by Will Kemp, an entry-level course to get people started as artists.
Will Kemp begins by going over the tools and equipment that you’ll need for the various exercises covered in this two and half hour course. He then goes over some important elements and techniques in a lot of detail. He offers a bunch of exercises to assist with deep learning. Unfortunately, I was missing several of the tools and equipment necessary to participate in several of them which made it difficult to put the lessons to use.
I enjoyed this course overall. Will Kemp does a great job of making the material accessible to both beginners and veterans alike. The exercises are appropriately challenging and relevant to the current stage of learning, also encouraging students to go out and find some of their own studies to draw. Just make sure that you have access to the tools and equipment mentioned in the first module as it will help you get the most out of the course.

In conclusion, this course is great for learning the basic skills of drawing. I highly recommend this course to beginners and a terrific way for veterans to brush up on their skills. If you are innately curious about how to draw, this course will give you an idea of whether or not drawing is right for you. If any of this applies to you, be sure to set some time and money aside to do the course in the not-so-distant future.

Australian residents should check their local and state library services to see if membership provides free access to LYNDA course. In the case of the state of Queensland, the state library and rural libraries program offers this, which is something that I am currently taking advantage of. If you aren’t an Australian resident, check your regional library, college and/or place of employment to see if they offer a similar perk.

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Course Review: GIMP Essential Training

Teacher: Dave Rankin
Length: 5h 13m
Provider: Lynda.com (course link)

When I saw the offering on LYNDA, I jumped at the chance of seeing what Dave Rankin had to offer. I’ve been meaning to become acquainted with the software for years in order to make myself less reliant on crappy web-based services. Given that GIMP was listed as an alternative to Photoshop, learning GIMP seemed intimidating. GIMP Essential Training makes it a heck of a lot easier. As my introduction to courses by Dave Rankin, I am impressed.

In this course, Dave Rankin offers an in-depth look into the various features of GIMP, a popular piece of free, open-source image editing software. There aren’t a lot of courses that cover this subject as most tutors are geared towards paid products such as Photoshop. It is a shame as well, given that GIMP is packed full of features.
So, what is covered? It begins with basic features such as familiarising yourself with the interface, layers and brushes. Then, it builds upon this by dealing with more advanced features such as masks, cloning, filters and transform tools. Dave Rankin wraps things up by discussing exporting and print options.
This course covers a lot of ground, making this software accessible for a newcomer such as myself. Whilst I may not use the software a lot in future, I am confident that I’ll be able to navigate the numerous options with ease. If I come across issues, the course also offers some links to useful resources to overcome difficulty.

I recommend this course to anyone new to GIMP as well as veterans looking for a refresher. Just be prepared to do the suggested exercises as that will assist in getting you acquainted with the features. I am really looking forward to Dave Rankin’s course on Inkscape, another piece of free, open-source software.

Next stop, Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals!


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Course Review: Ebooks: Distribution and Marketing

Teacher: Dave Wogahn
Length: 3h 16m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Dave Wogahn goes over the various things that you’ll need to consider when you distribute and market an Ebook. This includes sales trends, search trends, market analysis, market history, promotional materials (press releases and book synopsis), promotional methods (social networking, blog networking), reviews, direct distribution versus aggregation services, pricing, and several other things worth taking into account. It was a lot to go over but it was well-worth the undertaking.
However, I will point out is that the course was produced in 2013, making several services obsolete, such as the now-defunct Shelfari. In this regard, you can use the course to teach you what to look out for when deciding the route that you will take with your Ebook. It will also offer a checklist of steps to take as well as some other relevant information to keep on hand when you are about to release your Ebook.
I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to distribute and market an Ebook, as well as those curious about what to expect from the process. If you do decide to release an Ebook, then I wish you the best in the undertaking. Just make sure to release a polished product.


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Course Review: iBooks Author Essential Training

Teacher: Chris Mattia
Length: 6h 55m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

Whilst the previous courses in the Publish an Ebook learning pathway dealt with EPUB and MOBI format Ebooks, this course gives a comprehensive look at how to make an Ebook for iDevices using iBooks Author. This piece of software is available free of charge and is impressive, to say the least. I was stunned at the available features. It is a powerful piece of software and I really wish there was an option for Windows users. (No, I am not inclined to create a virtual machine in order to use other operating systems.)
Chris Mattia begins the course by giving us an overview of how to modify an existing template before going into the creation of a project from scratch. You will learn how to add media such as video and image files; modify imported media; add and create graphs, tables, with objects and shapes; import content from Word, RTF, Apple Pages and LaTeX; and add interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions for textbooks. This is all followed up by a chapter on exporting as different formats and a final chapter on publishing your finished product to the Apple Store.
I was pretty impressed with what I learned during this course. While a lengthy title, it made me somewhat jealous of folks with Apple MAC computers. iBooks Author is such an awesome piece of software that I wish that I had a MAC to experiment with it. It also looks logical from a user experience viewpoint. If I ever get enough money to purchase a MAC on top of my Windows gaming rig then it is a serious consideration. Alas, that might be some time into the future.
In any case, I highly recommend that folks consider checking out this course. Chris Mattia is an awesome teacher as well, with some neat activities to give us some hands-on experience with the truckload of features. And if you are looking to learn the editing and publishing aspects, then this title will teach you everything that you need to get you up to snuff.

 


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Course Review: Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Kevin Callahan
Length: 2h 29m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Kevin Callahan goes over some formatting and organizational requirements for creating a high-quality fixed-layout Ebook for Kindle. Whilst Tony Harmer uses software such as Sigil and Calibre, Callahan uses programs such as Adobe InDesign and Dreamweaver. Callahan also discusses components such as the OPF file, creating pop-ups, regional magnification and a few other neat features. You’ll also see a few videos on programs such as Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to give students something fun to play with.
I found this course very useful because of how Kevin Callahan approached the material. He was concise, demonstrated features clearly and built on complexity over time without lingering too long on any given subject. He covered new material not previously covered in other courses of this learning pathway. Throughout this course, Kevin also offers some recommendations for other great resources for furthering your knowledge and as repositories for useful content such as fonts.
Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle was a great addition to my learning so far. As such all of this in mind, I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to understand what is involved in the messy business of getting an Ebook up to snuff. Heck, just enrol in the entire “Publish an Ebook” pathway and you should have a really good understanding of the process and some of the tools used for creating Ebooks in next to no time.


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Course Review: Creating Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 2h 11m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Tony covers some of the same ground as Tony’s course on CSS, but with more of a focus on setting up Ebooks for old and new Kindle devices. As with his last course, he uses Sigil and Calibre software for the MAC. However, he made sure to also give instructions for Windows users as well.
He discusses markup and metadata. Due to how varied formats are, he covers how to convert from MS Word, Apple Pages and rich text formats. This also includes how to save into multiple Kindle formats. He teaches students about batch formatting, breaking up larger files and merging files. More is covered before the last chapter on publishing to Amazon.
As with Tony’s previous course on CSS, Creating Ebooks for the Kindle is concise, sticking with the meat rather than wandering off into numerous distracting tangents. He also does it in an engaging and conversational matter that makes this course a must for anyone wanting to learn how to utilise software such as Caliber to create an Ebook for Kindle.


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Course Review: EPUB CSS

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 3h 4m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Tony Harmer gives an in-depth look at CSS for the purpose of creating EPUBs. The materials are straightforward and offer students problems at different stages to facilitate learning. It was a lot of fun and I found myself looking forward to each new lesson as a result.
You will also note the use of Calibre, a piece of free e-reader software that has been around for around a decade. It was interesting taking a look at the editing features that it offers as I was under the impression that it was solely an e-reader. Harmer also touched on the features of Sigil. However, he emphasised that students use any software that allows you to tinker with the styles sheets and HTML.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this course. Though the materials are geared towards creating EPUBs, anyone with an interest in learning CSS will likely benefit. If either applies to you or if you are looking for a refresher course in CSS, then I highly recommend that you enrol in this course.