Oil Painting Lessons & Watercolor Lessons

Welcome to the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program, a flexible and affordable alternative to taking a degree course in Fine Art and Painting at a prestigious Art University or Art Academy.

Painting is a complex task that requires a high degree of skill to do well — there are no quick solutions. The best way to learn is to take a structured three or four year course in an art school. The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program lets you do that from your own home and in your own time.

The problem with learning how to paint

There are many problems with learning how to paint online. Two key problems are:

  • How do you find a structured course, rather than multiple confusing and overlapping lessons written by different instructors? To paint well you need a solid foundation, and you need to follow a comprehensive curriculum.
  • How do you discover the best practices in art? You can only learn those practices from a successful professional artist. If you get into poor painting habits from the beginning, it could take you a lifetime to unlearn.

These are the problems that the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program was designed to solve.

Our Difference

Our differences are:

  1. Structure. The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program was designed as an integrated program. This means you get a highly structured program for learning how to paint that ensures you develop all the skills you need. Just the same as at a prestigious Art Academy or University.
  2. Information You Can Trust. The information you get comes directly from a successful professional fine artist so it’s information you can trust. Barry John Raybould, the creator of the Apprentice Program, has had his work shown in many museum exhibitions, had a large number of solo and group shows in professional galleries, and has won many top awards in painting competitions, some judged by his peers.  (See his biography). When investing your money in art courses or art books, this makes a big difference to the quality of the information you receive.
  3. Comprehensive. The complete program covers everything you need to know to paint in oils or watercolors, or any other medium. When you complete the program you will have your own personal art reference library of 58 eBooks that you can download and keep forever. To learn more about the breadth and structure of our online painting lessons, click Curriculum (of oil and watercolor painting lessons) and Reference Library in the menu above. .
  4. Manageable chunks. The program is broken down into manageable bite-sized chunks so you can make steady progress without being overwhelmed. The program will help you systematically master the over 200 + key individual skills you need to become a fine artist
  5. Complete learning experience. With our unique Online Campus software and over 350 individual assignments,  you get to do actual project work and have interaction with other students from all over the world to accelerate you learning. It’s both fun and motivating.
  6. For both beginner and experienced artists. The information is layered into multiple levels of difficulty. If you are a more experienced or professional painter our unique Spiral of LearningVisual Music & Poetry process, and Learning From The Masters Program will help you reach higher and higher levels in your work. Beginners will learn the best practices used by professional artists right from the beginning and not have to unlearn information later on.  
  7. Flexibility. The program offers complete flexibility. You can learn how to oil or watercolor paint at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. There are no time deadlines or timetables. If you are a beginner, you can take the full four years to complete the oil painting lessons or watercolor lessons. If you are a more experienced painter, you can complete the online painting course in less time. The choice is yours.
  8. Simple to Start. You can get started easily and do not have to commit to the whole program. The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program works like a fitness club membership. You pay for fixed period of time. During that time you can  enjoy all the learning experiences available to you to help you improve your art. Memberships are automatically renewed and you can stop them at any time for any reason and owe nothing. It is very simple. We hope you stay with us for the full program but if it doesn’t work for you, you can easily stop at any time. There is nothing to lose by giving us a try. To learn how our Online Campus and community work, click on How It Works.

International Artist

We have been in business since 2003. Today we are highly regarded by our students as being the most thorough and trustworthy art instruction available online for learning how to paint.

The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program is endorsed by the International Artist Magazine, voted the best artist magazine in the world. Barry has been a longtime regular author for the magazine and has an article in every bi-monthly issue.


The best way to learn about the program is talk to our existing and past students.  Here are some: reviews from our online campus students. You can also google Virtual Art Academy reviews and you will find many reviews on public websites.

As soon as you join our community you will be able to interact with the other students. They are are ambassadors and will tell you a lot more about the program. We are a very friendly and supportive community, so you will get plenty of advice.

P.S. You can click on any image on our website to see a larger version. The artwork is by the author of this course, Barry John Raybould.


This is not a course for anyone looking for a quick technique on how to paint a tree, how to paint a cat, how to paint water, and so on. Those kind of  online oil painting lessons and watercolor lessons will teach you a technique for one specific painting that will work. The problem though is that you will only ever be able to paint that specific painting. When it comes to painting your own subject you will find yourself struggling. Professional artists know that to become a master you have to put in the effort to learn the key foundational skills from the ground up. After you have that knowledge, you will be able to paint any subject you like.  And you will be able to use whatever materials you want: oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, crayons, digital media, or even house paint. It does not matter. It is mastering the fundamentals principles that is important. And that is what you will get with the Virtual Art Academ® Apprentice Program.


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