Blender Cookie Workshop Review

Instructor: Jonathan Williamson
Duration: 4-5 weeks
Price: $180 or $425 for the premium access

     Recently I participated in the "Mastering Modeling in Blender" workshop by Jonathan Williamson. This was a 4-5 week workshop that covered the entire process of creating models in blender. There were 2 different options for the course: one for $180 with 4 weeks of training, and one for $435 with 5 weeks of training, as well as personal instructor reviews on each week's exercise. Both packages also included a bonus starting pack, filled with tutorials on helping the beginners prepare for the workshop. Each week also provided an exercise to perform.

Edit: I forgot to mention that each week had two live Q/A sessions.

      First off I would like to note that I pre-ordered the basic membership for $165. I did, however, only order the basic membership thus I don't really know how good the premium membership was.

Site Design:
      The site itself was extremely well put together. They broke down each week into several different parts: an Overview, Lectures, Fundamentals, Tutorials, Exercises, and Resources. In the "Resources" tab you could download all of the .blends that you needed for the week. Each video also had a feature so that you could download them. They also had a forum which was quite nice.
     On another note, they did have a couple technical problems at the very start before the workshop began. I reported the bugs and they fixed almost instantaneously. The rest of the week didn't seem to have any problems.

My overall satisfaction of the site was:

Starters Pack
      The Starters Pack was a bonus week they threw in before the workshop actually started. It was a week full of useful information on how to use the tools in blender. For any beginner or semi beginner this week would be extremely helpful; however, for the more experienced it's mostly full of stuff you should already know. There were a few tips, though, that even I found to be helpful.

My overall satisfaction of the starters pack:

Week 1: Topology
     This week was all about topology: understanding it, planning it out, as well as techniques on achieving it. Honestly I thought this week would be the least helpful, and yet it turned out to be one of the most helpful things I've ever learned in 3D. You see I had always thought I knew what good topology was and how to achieve it; but now, looking back, I realized I hardly understood a thing about poles, animatable meshes, or edge rings. This week really taught me the underlying principles of good topology and some really insightful and practical ways to acquire it. If just for this week alone, I would recommend this workshop to any amateur who thinks he is good at modeling.

My overall satisfaction of Week #1: Topology

Each week has an exercise for you to do.
This was my result for week #1, correcting a flawed mesh.

Correcting a flawed mesh

Week 2: Poly Modeling
      This week was all about creating the model itself. This week was by far the most fun out of them all, and it certainly had the most tutorials packed into it. I really loved this week, and the progress from learning good topology really showed. One of the main things I liked was the introductions to box modeling and poly by poly modeling. I had never really been able to figure out how to effectively use box modeling, but this really explained it well. That being said there was one downside to this week. It took a ton of time! They packed in so much information that it was hard to get around to it all. I had to get back to one of their tutorials at the end of the workshop just because I didn't have time for it.

My overall satisfaction of week #2: Poly Modeling

Result of week #2 exercise: Modeling a Cartoon Dog

Week 3: Sculpting
      This week was all about sculpting. This week I anticipated the most, and it was probably the most disappointing. Not to say that it didn't do a great job directing me on how to do sculpting, or that it didn't show me useful tips for sculpting, but merely because I felt like it was a little lacking in content, and I didn't learn as much as I had hoped. I could see this as a great introduction on how to sculpt, but not an advanced sculpting course. But then again, I'm not sure what they could do better, besides maybe a tutorial on Dynamic Topology, which they may have in their next workshop. Another thing to note is that although I might be a little skeptical of this week it did teach me some incredibly valuable things and in the end I could sculpt some amazing objects I never thought I would be able to do before I began. Perhaps this wasn't Jonathan's strong point, but his only fault is that this week didn't teach me as much as the first two did.

my overall satisfaction of week #3: Sculpting

Result of week #3 exercise: Sculpting a Creature Head

Week 4: Retopology
     This week was all about taking a sculpted mesh and retopologizing it into an animatable, clean, all quad model. This week was a little lax on tutorials, but still had some really good tips. It seemed to cover all the bases and all the techniques for retopologizing. Probably the best tutorial during this week was the tutorial on how to use B-Meshes. It was just really interesting to me never having seen B-Meshes before.

My overall satisfaction of week #4: Retopology

Result of week #4 exercise: Creature Head Retopology

Week 5: Premiere Student Focus
Unfortunately I didn't sign up for the premium access, so I can't tell you how this week turned out.

My Final Result:
     At the end of the workshop they had one final exercise. This exercise was intended to incorporate all of the principles you learned throughout the course. Each exercise is reviewed, and if it passes you receive the Certificate of Completion. Below is my final result.

Final Exercise: Modeling an Ant

     All in all this workshop was incredible! I never thought I would learn so much. All the videos were top notch. It was clear, understandable and there never was anything I wasn't able to grasp.
     One thing I might forewarn you about is that it takes a lot of time. I would definitely suggest making sure to put in some time each day going through the workshop, perhaps an hour or two. You don't really have to, since you can always come back at the end of the workshop to go over what you missed, but I think its a good idea to follow along and finish the exercise each week.
    I would definitely recommend that you sign up for this the next time they do the workshop. The next one doesn't have a definite date yet, but it looks like early 2013. You can sign up for updates here

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  1. Thanks for taking time to write this review.

    ps: change Jonathon to Jonathan and you're good. :)

    1. haha, thanks for pointing that out. although I probably should have caught that before I mispelled his name numerous times.

  2. Yeah, I would agree that it is the best thing ever regarding modelling, there is nothing that compares even remotely to this workshop!
    I had difficulty on the second week, as there was 11 gigs of material to download, and I freaked out, as it was impossible that I could get through that quantity in 1 or 2 weeks!
    But these videos are definitely a cut above anything else Jonathan Williamson has done before (in my opinion), he has put his heart and soul into making something awesome, and I think he achieved it.
    Highly recommended, you can achieve a totally professional standard from doing this workshop, it certainly was better than I had imagined something like this could be.
    p.s. great review Joshua.

  3. Hey! I was in the first class as well. I agree that it was a fantastic course!

    At least your week 2 came out looking like the reference husky! :D mine looked more like a boxer. It looked like a dog... Just not the one in the reference pics.

    One thing I'll say about the sculpting is that it does take a lot of time and effort. The more effort you put in, the better the overall result will be. If you go back and look, there is now a set of bonus videos that does cover sculpting in a little bit more detail and does use Dynotopo. (Week 3 was my favorite week. :D ) Oh, I also got a Wacom tablet, and it makes sculpting MUCH easier, so if you were just doing it with a mouse, that might be one thing to consider.

    My biggest complaint with the course was that it stopped with the modeling. Okay... I know it was a modeling course, and I know a bit about texturing, but I feel that they should have covered how to unwrap a model and create and apply the high res version onto the retopoed low res version. They mentioned it could (and often is) done, but stopped just short of this step.

    I went back through the course when the last class went through in Jan/Feb, and felt like I had a better grasp on what was going on and what to do. What I really need to do now is start applying that knowledge to my own projects. I've done a few things, but not much... not like I intended to last month. I did do a head that came out looking fairly decent, but again, nothing like the reference. I think my problem there is trying to match both front and side views too closely and not checking the "beauty shot" angle enough.

    Good luck with your future projects!

  4. I am absolutely amazed at how terrific the stuff is on this site. I have saved this
    webpage and I truly intend on visiting the site in the upcoming days.
    Keep up the excellent work!

  5. Isn't it hard to follow video and then refer to blender ui back and forth and maybe having to rewind because video was not clear on operation to perform and reset of screen size of video and selecting and reselecting video then UI then video resize window, maybe rewind, back and forth while trying to follow video with accuracy, etc., etc., ad infiniyum for hundreds of dollars? and isn't pricing a little suspect? for 150 you get 4 weeks, but for 5 weeks is 400? Suggests that most useful tech detail is in last week?

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