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Everything CreativeLive Instructors Did (and Didn’t) Learn In School

by CreativeLive Staff
art & design, featured, photo & video

With summer coming to a close and the beginning of the school year just around the corner, we asked some of our instructors to reminisce about their own time in the classroom — and this time, not as teachers. Below are some of the learnings and memories our community of instructors shared about how their education developed both inside and outside of the classroom.

Kelly Brown

“I’ve always been drawn to more creative subjects like art and textiles so during high school I excelled more in those subjects but when I moved onto college I studies business and office administration which I’ve been able to implement into the everyday running of my photography business. But it was after the arrival of my first baby that really sparked my passion for photography. I didn’t want to miss a second of her growing up so I took hundreds of photos every week. 


At school you’re tested and graded, you either pass or fail.  It wasn’t until entering the workforce — especially starting my own business — that I realized making mistakes was how I learned, it’s part of the process. I’ve now learned to embrace each and every failure and not fear them because if you’re not learning you’re not evolving.”

Kelly Brown is a portrait photographer, specializing in newborn and baby portraiture. Her nurturing desire to capture her family as it grows led to launching her business Little Pieces of Photography in 2005. Check out her CreativeLive courses here.

Ann Rea

“So many artists think that they need to attend art school to be successful. But the average tuition at the top 42 art schools in North America costs over $50,000 a year. Two years after I graduated from a top school I had to stop making art and focus on paying back my student loan debt.

If you want to be a successful artist, you’ll need to learn what they don’t teach you in art school, and what they can’t teach you in business school.”

Ann Rea is on a personal mission to destroy the myth of the “starving artist.” Her paintings, and her inspired business approach, have been featured on HGTV and the Good Life Project, in Fortune and The Wine Enthusiast magazines, and profiled in the book Career Renegade. View her CreativeLive courses here.

Brooke Shaden

“I started studying filmmaking and creative writing in high school and continued that into college where I got two degrees: Filmmaking and English Literature. Those degrees helped me tremendously to figure out how to tell stories in universal ways — visually and symbolically. 

I actually began filmmaking because of my husband – we met in high school and he took a filmmaking class. He did so poorly in it that he dared me to try and do better. It turns out that I won a local film competition that year and that is why I went on to film school!

So often in school we are taught techniques but not as much advice about how to actually persevere in a competitive world. We are too often pushed out with no real tools to manage ourselves, our business, and even our creativity. Having extreme self-discipline is what I attribute to any success I’ve had.”

Brooke Shaden began creating self-portraits for ease and to have full control over the images, and has since grown into a self-portrait artist. Self portraiture for her is not autobiographical in nature. Learn more about her CreativeLive courses today.

Nigel Barker

“Obviously life is very different from school, especially the boarding schools I attended in the English countryside. What I did get from school was a solid foundation to trust my instincts and think outside the box. But in life there’s not a safety net to catch you and I had an interesting ride to where I am today. I slept on park benches in Milan and ate tuna fish out of a can when I couldn’t afford much else but refused to give up or ask for help from my folks.

But what I learnt from those early days was that I could overcome almost anything if I believed in myself, if I gave myself a chance to get it right or wrong. I guess at heart I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoyed the risk of gambling on my own intuition and gut feelings.”

Nigel Barker is an internationally renowned photographer who opened his New York studio in 1996. He served 18 seasons as photographer and judge on the hit TV show, America’s Next Top Model, which airs in over 150 countries, and hosted Oxygen Network’s modeling competition series, The Face. View his CreativeLive courses here.

Ben Willmore

“Most seemingly complex subjects can be reduced down to a few simple core concepts that rarely reveal themselves to beginners. Once I can understand the most fundamental concepts, then it’s much easier to deal with all the details that make things look complex. I found my brain does that naturally and that it was a huge part of my success as an author and teacher. I’d start with the core concepts, relate them to things people already know and then slowly add the complexity that was essential to using complex software.

In the end, I’d just try to re-introduce myself to a subject as if I wasn’t already familiar with it. That’s the essence of my teaching method and my approach to life. Simplify until I understand the core idea, then work backward to incorporate all the details until I understand whatever is important in life.”

Ben Willmore is a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame who has taught over 100,000 Adobe® Photoshop® users on all seven continents. His bestselling books and hit seminars have established Ben as one of America’s favorite Adobe® Photoshop® instructors, and he is often the top-selling speaker at design and photography conferences throughout the world. Watch one of his CreativeLive courses today.

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