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Our 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: March 2017


Please feel free to forward this newsletter to all your friends as well as to any art groups to which you belong, and let them know about the Virtual Art Academy. They can sign up to receive a copy of the newsletter into their Inbox by signing up here.

Please note that 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 have just returned to southern China from a rather cold UK, and am now looking forward to a little tropical weather!

One of the strangest discoveries I made was that it is the dirty grays that give a painting its beautiful color, and not the nice clean color you get directly out of the tube. This discovery took me a long time to make. It is only when your painting has a lot of gray mud in it that you can make your color accents really stand out. You can make grays in four main ways:

  • add black and/or white.
  • mix two complements. For example, red and blue-green, yellow and purple-blue, purple and green-yellow, blue and yellow-orange.
  • use your leftover muds
  • buy a tube of gray and modify it.

This month I have something very special to share with those of you who like to paint portraits in watercolors. I know many of have been having difficulty finding good portrait instruction.  For this reason I have been working with one of our more experienced members, who is a very fine watercolor and portrait artist, on developing a new workshop based on a watercolor portrait demonstration that you can paint along with in order to learn a good process. 

Happy painting!



As part of our effort to improve the speed and performance of the online campus, we are moving to a new URL (vaa.NET instead of vaa.COM). Please update your bookmark for the online campus to the following so you are viewing the current version: 



Plein Air Workshop:
April 2017, China 


An exciting 10 day Plein Air Workshop in a traditional Chinese village

The workshop will be held in a traditional mountain village in the Fujian Province of China. The village is characterised by its traditional architecture of circular multi story dwellings made of mud. This special architecture is characteristic only to this part of China.  The village has a lovely river running through it, and is surrounded by mountain scenery. The workshop will be held in an Art Center with comfortable guest rooms with private bathrooms. The Art Center is used by universities from all over China to run plein air workshops, including the top Art Academy in China, CAFA.

Each day we will go out painting doing lots of studies and plein air painting, and then return to the studio to discuss the day’s work and do individual critiques. The goal will be to identify where you need the most help, and if necessary select assignments that will help take your work to the next level.

More Information

Beginner’s Corner
Key Discovery: Making Grays

One of the strangest discoveries I made was that it is the dirty grays that give a painting its beautiful color.

The main secret to this painting was to paint it using all my muddy colors. You can make grays in four main ways:

  • add black and/or white
  • mix two complements. For example, red and blue-green, yellow and purple-blue, purple and green-yellow, blue and yellow-orange.
  • use your leftover muds, or
  • buy a tube of gray and modify it

In “Via Garibaldi, Venice” I used all of the above except for using bought tube grays. When I added a touch of pure color to the figure on the right it really stood out beautifully against all of that mud! I painted this work out doors under direct sunlight. That is how to learn color and was a key part of the color learning program that I was taught.




See Lesson: B07

Last Month’s Graduate VM&P Critique Challenge

This is the painting called “The purple noon’s transparent might” by Arthur Streeton that students analyzed last month. Here are my observations on this painting:

Perhaps the most important feature of this painting that creates the strength in its far music is its very simple 3-value notan structure combined with a single gradation. The three values are light gray, middle value gray, and dark gray. The sky and sand form the light grey value. The middle value shape is the land and distant mountain. The dark value is the foreground trees. These values are all very close but Streeton has exercised a great deal of control in how he flattened the values into these three bands. The single gradation is a large blue shape which transitions from the dark value in the foreground to the middle value in the distance. This gradation serves two purposes. It also serves to convey the poetry of the painting – the feeling of depth created by the river that leads your eye into the distance.

Read More

Master Artist To Study This Month

An English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who took landscape painting to an level that rivaled the history painting that was popular in his time. His later works were so abstract and expressive that they could have been painted in the mid to late 20th century after the rise in popularity of abstract art. Although well known for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest masters of British watercolour landscape painting. He is commonly known as “the painter of light” and his work could be regarded as a Romantic anticipation of Impressionism. His oil painting technique was very interesting, and the paint surface was very varied, using a variety of techniques such as scumblingwet-in-wet and glazing.


Join Discussion

Graduate Focus Lesson This Month:
Watercolor Portrait Demo – Blonde Young Woman

This month’s focus for more advanced students is a watercolor demonstration of painting a portrait. It is designed for you to paint along with.

This process for painting a portrait follows the critical principle of large to small, and of working on the major planes (based on structural anatomy) before even starting to work on the features. You will be amazed at how little work you actually need to do on the features to make a great portrait. This is an extremely efficient way of painting portraits.

See Lesson: PD101

Thought For The Day:

As part of your Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program membership, each month you will get a new eBook that you can download to your computer, iPad or Android device.

Over the course of your 48 month program, you will end up with a personal Reference Library that you can keep forever after your membership is over.

Whether you are using a desktop computer, laptop or a mobile device to read your course units, we recommend you organize your Reference Library so you can easily access them. In this way you can carry the complete library with you all the time, wherever you are.


Tips for Using The Online Campus:
Marketing SIG


Did you know we have a Special Interest Group for Marketing your artwork?  

At the top of this SIG there is a list of useful resources for those of you who are planning to try to sell your work.

One of our students recently found a new resource called reddot. You will find it in the section called: “Resources to Present, Promote, Market Your Art”

Read More

Interesting Student Discussions on The Online Campus



This Henri sea scape is a wonderful example of expressive and descriptive brushwork
Robert Henri  “Rough Seas near Lobster Point”

Read More

Comments From Barry

More great work from our students

This is a very nice summary painting project from Kathy for Workshop B. The final painting has a nice shape division and a nice contrast of saturation between the saturated red vase and the grayer pink wall. The various steps of the project have been well worked out and the final painting has a visual poetry of its own with a clear focus on the vase in the room. It is a good example of a well drawn room in perspective. If you are having trouble with drawing interior scenes like this in perspective, there is a good lesson on how to do this called ‘triangulation’.

From: Workshop B Summary Painting Project


Welcome Messages for New Students


Here are a few examples of welcome messages from current students to new students and what they can expect from joining VAA:

“Hi Maria, Welcome to VAA!  I love the step by step structured way that Barry has set up this course.  The lessons build on each other as you go through the workshops, you will circle around and cover the principles again and again from a different perspective or a more complex level.  Don’t worry about perfection.  We learn from our mistakes and from each others.  The website is a treasure trove of resources.  It took me a while to get the lay of the land here.  There is so much.  There is lots of support here, and it is great to be connected to a global community.  Welcome aboard!”

“Welcome Nadezhda to the VAA! It is a right place to widen your horizon and learn much more about art. Looking forward to seeing your work in the future.”

“Hello Susan and a hearty welcome to VAA. Great to have you join us, you are in for a treat. There are many of us who have started as beginners and have come a long way, all due to the wonderful lay-out and teaching of the principle requirements and thanks to Barry in sharing with us. Looking forward to seeing your progress in your painting.”



We’re now on instagram!

Virtual Art Academy instagram is now up and running! Follow us for an insight into the Virtual Art Academy world! Click the icon below to give us a follow or simply search virtualartacademy on instagram!


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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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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