Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program


Master at Work – Oil on Board – 9″ x 12″

Barry John Raybould, one of our Top Ten Oil Painting Masters of Today, has just released a brand new program of painting instruction called the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program. This is a major upgrade to his original Virtual Art Academy series of 50 publications which covered all aspects of painting, from drawing and form, to color, brushwork, and composition, that he first published in 2004.

He designed the new 2014 program to be equivalent to taking a four-year university course in painting, but with the flexibility of being able to do it in your own home and at your own pace. The key idea behind the program is that to become proficient at painting, it is not enough to watch demonstrations of other artists or take the occasional painting course here and there without any formal structure. Problems and frustrations in your paintings are nearly always a result of a poor foundation. To fix these problems you need to steadily build your foundation in a more structured way. This new apprentice program does just that. Once you have built your foundation in this way, your paintings will automatically show major improvement.

raybould_woman sitting

Maya, 2006 – Oil on Linen – 16″ x 16″

This new program basically models the way master artists over the centuries have learned to paint. It includes every piece of knowledge that Barry himself learned on his path to becoming one of our Top Ten Masters, all of which he carefully documented in a the detailed program notes that accompany the program. At the completion of the course you will have built up a reference library of 50 individual books on all aspects of painting. Barry also wrote all of the reading material for the program using a special structured writing methodology called “Information Mapping”, which helps make difficult concepts in painting exceptionally easy to understand.

The way the new Apprentice Program works is that the four-year course of study is broken down into sixteen workshops. Each workshop builds upon the skills you learned in the previous workshop. Once you have finished all the assignments in one workshop, you are ready to move on to the next workshop. You take each of these sixteen workshops sequentially. In this way you gradually and systematically build your foundation. You can take as long as you like to finish each workshop, there is no fixed schedule. In this way you can tailor the course to your own level.  For example, if you are a beginner or intermediate artist, you might want to do one workshop each quarter (about one lesson per week). On the other hand if you are a more advanced artist you might want to accelerate your program and two or more workshops each quarter, and so finish the course sooner.

Since a key aspect of the program is its focus on the principles underlying all good paintings, it is suitable for every media, from oils and acrylics, to watercolors and pastels, and even photography.

Each workshop is designed to contain about the same amount of information that you would get in an intensive one-week workshop with a professional artist. Those workshops would normally cost you around $1,000 to $2,000 including travel and lodgings.

With each workshop you get:

  • 12 lessons, each lesson covering a critical skill you need to learn to paint well. There are 192 lessons in total in the Apprentice Program
  • Between 1 and 3 learning assignments per lesson. These assignments are designed to help you fully master the concepts taught in the lesson. You can take as long as you like to complete the assignments.
  • At the end of each workshop there is a painting assignment that combines the new skills that you have just learned in that workshop
  • Access to the Virtual Art Academy online campus, a members-only forum where you can upload your assignments, and discuss them with other students. Many students report that this is one of the most beneficial features of the program. It helps motivate you to learn, and if you are in an isolated location, it gives you a convenient  way of being part of a worldwide community of like-minded artists working on the exact same assignments so that you can share your artistic journey, making it a lot more fun.

The new Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program was designed to provide a more affordable option to the online courses offered by major art academies and universities that cost $20,000 per year and up.  They have a very flexible fee structure in which you can become a member and pay as you go, month by month.

For more details, visit

You can see examples of the Barry’s work on his website at

The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America


This interesting book provides information on The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. According to the author, John Villani, the top ten best art towns are:

  1. Northampton, Massachusetts
  2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  3. Eureka and Arcata, California
  4. Portland, Maine
  5. Nelson, British Columbia
  6. Burlington, Vermont
  7. Panama City and Seaside, Florida
  8. Loveland, Colorado
  9. Hot Springs, Arkansas
  10. Ashland, Oregon

Wondering where Carmel, Sedona, and Telluride are on the list?  Buy the book or check it out at your local library.

The Power of Notans

For those of you who have never heard the word “notan”, it is a Japanese word meaning “dark, light”.  Notan is best described as the design of a work of art as seen in flat areas of dark and light values only.

“A notan painting is a small, quickly executed monochrome painting that consists of simple shapes with a limited number of flat values,” says Barry John Raybould, owner of The Virtual Art Academy.

Notan Blog

The image above shows a few notan studies I created using a Tombow marker and a 6″ x 8″ Strathmore Drawing pad.  I used a #15 Tombow for the darks, and the white of the paper for the lights.


I took this photo of a road close to my home in the winter of 2010.


A few days later I executed this notan painting from the photo in just a couple of minutes. This gave me a two-value study that was much easier and quicker to create than the value studies I had done in the past.

If you would like to do four-value notan studies I recommend using a Tombow #15 for the darks, a #65 for the dark mid-tones, a #75 for the light mid-tones, and the white of the paper for the lights.


Another photo I took the same day in the winter of 2010.


And another rapidly executed notan painting created from the photo above.  As crude as this little study may look, it achieves the goal of being able to quickly state your values in order to see if a good design has been established before beginning a painting.  By using this powerful technique you will know instantly whether you have a good composition or whether you should experiment with different compositions and ideas before proceeding to paint.

For more information about notans, check out the Notan Painting Lessons offered by The Virtual Art Academy.

The Turning Point in My Drawing Ability


I created the first drawing in 1997 from a photo of Tom Cruise. Then in 2004, after studying Lee Hammond’s book How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs (North Light Books, 1995), I rendered the second drawing of my brother, David.

Needless to say, Hammond’s book was responsible for a big turning point in my drawing ability. This lesson certainly opened up my eyes and reinforced my belief in the saying that “Knowledge is Power”.

Alex_97Lex Barker

Here are two more “before and after” examples.  The first one was drawn from a photograph of actress Kim Delaney in 1997. I drew the second portrait in 2007 from an image of Lex Barker, one of my favorite actors who played Tarzan.

Thank you, Lee Hammond, for sharing your knowledge with me and everyone else who reads your books.