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Below you can see a sample newsletter that goes out to our students.  Each newsletter contains a free lesson for Beginners, advice from Barry John Raybould on how to make the best use of your painting time, any special offers we are running for new and existing students, as well as lots of information about what is happening on the VAA online campus (our student meeting place).

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What you will find new on the Virtual Art Academy Online Campus this month.

Virtual Art Academy
Members’ Newsletter

Please note: The links for more information will only work if you are a member and logged onto the Online Campus. If you are not a member of the Online Campus, you can join here. It is easy to try the program to see if you like it, since we have a simple pay-as-you-go system which you can cancel at any time.

Hello from Barry

Hi everyone,
I am currently having some fun working on some larger studio pieces like this painting which I based on my travels and sketches done in China last year. (See my FaceBook page for the background story to this piece – comments welcome – about the painting or the VAA.)I have added some figures to the painting which I think always adds another element of interest to the composition. If you are primarily a landscape painter, practicing figures is good for honing your skills on form. But it is easy to get hooked on adding figures to your landscapes because it adds a new dimension to your work. I know I got hooked this way!I am looking forward to seeing some of you next month in my plein air workshop in the Peak District, England. (details here).   Happy painting!


Beginner’s Corner
Key Discovery: Use Saturated Colors in the Focal Area

I have discovered many ways to emphasize your focal area. One is to use your more saturated, or “purer” colors in that area to draw your eye there. If you use highly saturated colors all over your painting, you would not know where to look – if everyone is shouting in a room, you don’t know who to listen to. This technique is called contrast of saturation. I painted “Segovia Shadows” in Spain outdoors towards the end of the day (my favorite times for painting).

At this time of the day the warm setting sun emphasized the redness in the shutters of one of the small windows. It was a scene ready made for a focal point using color saturation. Because of the falling light and shifting shadows I had to paint extremely quickly to capture this scene and the color relationships before they changed drastically. I probably finished the complete painting in about one hour. I had backed up to a wall so I would not be disturbed while painting, needing all my concentration to paint quickly.

When I finished I turned around and found about a dozen people had clambered up on to the wall to watch the performance!




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Last Month’s Graduate VM&P Critique Challenge

This is the painting by Zakharov that students analyzed last month. Here are my observations on this painting:

This is a nice painting by Zakharov that relies mainly on shape distinctionwarm/cool contrast in the brushwork in each of the major shapes of the painting, and an overall contrast of temperature that is dominantly cool with a few warm color accents. He uses the technique of repeated color spots with the crimson color spots, which perfectly complement the clear blue sky. Note also the vertical variations in color in the sky. Read more about these hue changes in lesson F10.

Read More

Master Artist To Study This Month: John Constable

The VM&P Critique This Month is Salisbury Cathedral by John Constable.

Join Discussion

Graduate Focus Lesson This Month:

This month’s focus for more advanced students is the notan idea of spotting. This is a technique in notan in which you use small shapes of a generally dark value to make the notan design interesting. In a more general sense it is any series of small shapes of a one value on a field of a contrasting value. If you look at the last example by Sargent you can see he uses light shapes on a dark background, the reverse of the usual method of spotting darks on a gray or light field of value. I have created a new Master Paintings Using Spotting album for you of some paintings that use this idea.

See Lesson: G03

Tips for Using The Online Campus:

All of the reference books in the Virtual Art Academy are cross-referenced into a large knowledge base, to give you access to the information you need at your finger tips. No more looking searching for hours through hundreds of art books to try to find that bit of information you read somewhere. 

Whenever you come across a word in the course materials written in blue like this, it means that you can click on it to find more information. You can also add your own links to the glossary when you are more experienced on the online campus.

Learn More about the Glossary

Interesting Student Discussions on The Online Campus

“Red paint drives me nuts! How to lighten without chalkiness?”
This was a comment from one of our students on the online campus this month.It’s a common problem and one that challenged me for a long time before I started to understand the issue.

The problem

The problem is that when you add white to red pigments in order to lighten them to give the feeling of light, they lose saturation. But red is a warm color and sunlight is a warm color, and so the saturation should be increased in the sun, not decreased. As a result when you lighten the red, it often looks pasty and destroys the feeling of sunlight in your painting. The old masters of the Renaissance could not solve this problem because of the limitations of their pigments. Just look at the red robes of Renaissance figures in the light. They are all pasty. You will also see this problem in lot in much professional work. The solution is a little tricky and relies on some of the ideas you will learn in later parts of the VAA curriculum: hue changes on a form and optical color mixing.

The solution

Step One: You need a variety of reds and analogous pigments on your palette and need to experiment with them so you fully understand what happens when you add white to them. In particular you will need:

  • a saturated warm red such as cadmium red light or naphol red (PR112)
  • a high saturation orange such as cadmium orange, or a cadmium yellow orange to lighten the red in the sunlight
  • a quinacridone based pigment (PV19) that retains saturation when you add white, to give you more options for lightening your reds
  • not essential, but really useful if you are painting sunsets when this problem becomes particularly acute, use a slightly fluorescent peach pink pigment. I have recently discoverd such a pigment sold in China by a company called Maries. Its saturation at a very light value is even greater than white added to a quinacridone pigment and so it is wonderful for painting the setting sun. 

Step Two: You need a thorough knowledge of hue changes on a form. The key is for the passages of your painting in sunlight to use the warmest red in its purest state as possible (very little other colors added). Then you lighten it with a higher value analogous color, such as cadmium orange or cadmium yellow orange and use just a minimal amount of white.

There is more to this discussion because the shadow color you use is also important.

Read More


“Barry has put together excellent teaching and reference materials and has allowed a great student community to evolve. Relax, have fun, participate, share…in my experience, that sums up the VAA experience. Welcome aboard!” …. Deborah

“I love so many things about VAA.  One is that I have stepped back (at least most of the time) from trying to make a painting.  I work on one skill at a time.  That reduces my frustration and is fun.  Also, when life takes me away from the easel and the VAA for awhile, I can come back at any time.  No pressure.  You can work at your own pace.  One of the students said it like this once. It is like a train.  You travel for awhile with a group of students.  If you need to get off the train for a while, you can always get back on.  That group of people have kept traveling, but you will be in another car with another supportive group of people. ” …. Susan

“VAA is a wonderful resource. Barry has put together a huge amount of information in a very accessible way. And we are all helping each other on the journey. Take time to find your way around the site…I have been a member for years and still find things I haven’t come across before.” …. Sue


Congratulations Oksana




Oksana painted “Capdenac. Midi Pyrenees” when she was in the South France for the weekend. It is now in an exhibition at the Royden Art Show along with five other of her paintings.
Well done Okasana!


Virtual Art Academy Options

When joining the VAA you have a choice of three programs:

  • Program A: an Art Appreciation Program for hobbyists and art collectors
  • Program B: a four-year structured Apprentice Program for serious students, and
  • Program C: a Professional Program program for professionals and advanced students that is completely flexible and lets you build your own custom learning path.

As a member of the Virtual Art Academy you can switch from one program to another at any time to suit your own particular needs. The program is completely flexible.


Program A: The Virtual Art Academy®
Art Appreciation Program

For art lovers with limited time

For those of you who are interested in painting but have limited time to paint. Each month you will systematically build up a personal library of 58 integrated eBooks that cover everything you ever want to know about painting. Analyse master paintings of the past to discover exactly what makes them work, and increase your appreciation and enjoyment of great artworks.
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Program C: The Virtual Art Academy®
Professional Program

For intermediate and advanced painters

Designed for more experienced artists and professionals, this program is structured to give you complete flexibility in your learning program. Strengthen your foundation in those areas in which you are weakest and take your paintings to a new and higher level. A key element of this program is a study of historical master works so you can learn what makes their paintings great and apply that knowledge to your own work.
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Going Faster in the Program

Did you know you can easily get access to more lessons in the program at any time?

You can add a new workshops of 12 new lessons to your account for only $60 ($5 per lesson), by simply going to My Account – My Workshops on the Online Campus.

Get instant access to 12 more lessons




Add-on Workshop: Portrait

If you are particularly interested in painting portraits, I have made some videos, and developed some lesson notes and assignments that I think you will find very useful.

For more information see:  add-on workshops.


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