Subscribe to the VAA Guest Newsletter

If you would like to receive our guest newsletter every month, please enter your details below.

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).

When you click Subscribe, we will send you an email to confirm your subscription, so please check your inbox and click on the button in the email.



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

Virtual Art Academy
Members’ Newsletter: April 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,

This is the view from the beach outside my Xiamen studio in China. It’s a great place to study the iridescent shimmer on the ocean when the air is hazy like this.

You can learn how to capture the beautiful iridescent effects in lesson O09 of Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program. It’s really quite easy when you know how.

For those of you interested in portraits, see the Graduate Focus Lesson. I’ve got some great portraits for you to study, and copy.  You can submit your copies to the Portrait SIG.

Happy painting!



Attention: VAA Members in the UK: Workshop with Barry coming up in June

This is a special late announcement workshop for Virtual Art Academy students. If at least 6 people confirm the workshop will be a go. Let me know as soon as possible if you would like to attend. The workshop will be limited to 12 people. 


Dates: Monday June 19 to Friday June 23rd

Place: Peak District, England

Tuition Cost

Cost for tuition for the week: £975

Learn More and Sign Up

Beginner’s Corner
Key Discovery: 
Drawing Technique – Envelope

You can simplify any complex shape by drawing an envelope around it using straight lines. The basic envelope has between three and six vertices. After you have drawn this basic envelope, you can further refine it to give the shape more definition. Click on read more to see the lesson in full.

To learn more quick techniques to improve your drawing skills, see the drawing lessons in workshop C of the Virtual Art Academy Apprentice Program.




Read More

Last Month’s Graduate VM&P Critique Challenge

This is the painting called Yachts Approaching the Harbour by Joseph Mallord William Turner that students analyzed last month. Here are my observations on this painting:

Turner again is using his favorite technique of soft gradations between a few masses of different values. The notan structure here is very simple, which is what makes it a powerful and moody painting. The focal area treatment is interesting. He does have a focal area (the boat on the left), but it is very indistinct. Normal a focal area is painted in some level of detail but here you can see it is very vague. He is using the concept of suggestion to give the idea of a boat without offering us any detail. To do this well you need to have a very clear idea of what makes a boat look like a boat: the itness of a boat. In this case it is simply a light curved shape and a mass below it. That is all you need to suggest a sailing boat. Turner does also have secondary focal areas, which are also very indistinct and suggestive. Arguably the boat is a secondary focal area, and the sun itself the primary focal area.

There are more insights into this painting in the student discussion.

See Student Discussion

Master Artist To Study This Month

Using the adjacent wet-in-wet brushstrokes technique very skillfully to create vibrant splashes of harmonious color. This brushwork also creates an optical color mixing effect.

His technique sometimes takes his work to the very limit of representation, and become almost abstract works. This is incredibly difficult to do well and is probably why he was so admired by his contemporaries. He was the only Soviet painter I know of to have been allowed to focus entirely on his own work, rather than having to paint the Soviet Realism scenes that they were trained for. The other painters used their spare time to create their impressionist works.  

Join Discussion

Graduate Focus Lesson This Month:
Lesson Name

Since many of you are interested in portraits, I thought this month I’d share with you some portraits that I think have been done very well. It is good to have a standard by which you can judge both your own work and that of others.   Check out these paintings to get an idea of what a competent portrait painting looks like. All of these artists have used the principle of large to small in their painting procedure. After a while you will be able to look at any portrait painting and know if the artist used this principle. There is a quality to the work that you just don’t get by piecemeal painting. Click read more and click on ‘Master Paintings’ link under the Reading title.

Read More

Free Course Updates Available


A really easy way to clean your brushes. And with no smell!
See Lesson: brush cleaner

Comments From Barry

More great work from our students. xxx

This beautiful painting by Diane.

This is a nice still life watercolor with a complementary green red color harmony. There is a nice contrast of saturation with three levels of saturation in the reds: weak, medium, and vivid. Also the temperatures of the various red shapes are different to create more variety. The overlapping forms create a nice sense of depth and the vertical white shape of the candle provides a nice contrast of line with the sloping lines of the books. Perhaps a simpler background might detract less from the focal areas and provide an area for the eye to rest (contrast of detail).

This beautiful painting by Kiffin

This is a very well drawn still life with good form. The texture on the apples and lemon is well done

The grapes let it down a bit. The secret with grapes is to paint them as a mass, then pick out a few nearer to you to paint in more detail. Focus on finding a highlight and some reflected lights in them.

The highlights on the jug need more color in them. At the moment the material of which it is made is not clear. Another improvement that could be made is to make greater use of overlapping forms and to avoid tangents.

Here is a section of a painting I did many years ago during my studies with David Leffel. You can see how I treated the grapes very simply here so as not to take too much attention away from the main focus of the painting.

Painting by Daniela

This beautiful painting is a great example of the principle of repeating color spots. The color of the red flowers are repeated both in the blue and green jugs. The green of the jug is repeated in the center of the yellow flowers. The yellow flowers themselves are repeated in the background in a cooler temperature which not only serves to add variety, but also gives atmospherice perspective to the painting. The blue is also distributed nicely around the surface of the painting.

The principle of unequal space division has been applied nicely everywhere.

The principle of point, line, mass is also at work here, and well as repetition of curved lines, which adds harmony and a lively movement to the design. These curved shapes also give a certain rhythm of shapes to the design.

Overall this is a very beautiful work.

These are some lovely works by Mara who was working on the more paint assignment. 

This painting is a good example of the use of thick and thin, and brushwork variety. Note the different directions of the brushwork, as well as the impasto strokes on top of thinner paint.

It is also an excellent example of the principle of contrast of temperature, and dominance. The dominant temperature is warm, and the cool colors and accents provide a nice contrast. The beauty of the color in the painting is due to the double split complementary color harmony.


Student Testimonials


The above paintings are from Workshop H, about half way through the program. Many of our students who have been putting the time in are starting to see results. Here are some comments from students who have completed the two years.

Thanks for your words Barry….. I have learned a LOT here in VAA  …  I love this, in fact I barely understand how can you have the time to paint and build this HUGE amount of learning material, you are a super human!

Thanks for your encouraging words.


I have learned so much from Unit H, as indeed the whole two years thus far, and once again wish to thank Barry and Jacqui for their tireless efforts to make this possible for all of us. I am VERY EXCITED to continue assignment work as I can begin to see things starting to gel together. Happy painting everyone.




Congratulations to Aude Nevius on the sale of her painting, excellent use of notan and color maps to get a great final result! 


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.


Please click here to give us your feedback on this newsletter







Use the following tool to translate this page into your local language:

Return to Top