Our Story

This is the story of one artist’s dream for making top quality education for how to paint in oils, acrylics, and watercolors available to everyone.

Early Inspiration in Italy


After being interested in oil, acrylic, and watercolor painting all my childhood, my decision to  become an artist was made after my parents took me to Italy as a teenager. A country I would return to 30 years later to build an art studio.


I still remember how Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel in Rome just took my breath away.

Fortuitous Change Of Focus


My career shifted from engineering in 1986 when I discovered a cutting edge field called EPSS. With a small group of pioneers, we were designing completely new approaches for using computers to teach.


I wrote several papers on EPSS and became a regular conference presenter at  the annual Society for Applied Learning Technology.


These skills later on became the key to the unique Information Design of the Virtual Art Academy® online art school.


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My First Career As An Engineer


Following the path of one of my early idols, Leonardo da Vinci, I studied Engineering at Cambridge University in England in 1973-1978 and started a career in Engineering.


This training in engineering later on proved invaluable when developing the Visual Music & Poetry™ method for analyzing the oil paintings techniques of the great masters, and finding out what really differentiates quality work from the rest.

My Second Career as an Artist


In the mid 90's I decided to give up engineering and concentrate full time on learning how to paint in oils, and plein air painting.


To get the best possible art education, I knew one thing. Who you learn from is critical.


Michelangelo apprenticed with the renowned Florentine painter of his time Andrea del Verrocchio. Claude Monet studied under Eugène Boudin and Johan Barthold Jongkind. All great masters.


So I sought out the best contemporary oil and watercolor painters I could find, including David Leffel, Ovanes Berberian, Jove Wang, Kevin Macpherson, Cedric Egeli, Stephen Perkins, and Daniel Sprick.


And I set about to analyze what made master oil and watercolor paintings different.

The Plein Air Painting Renaissance Starts In California


In 1996 I became a part of a group of oil painters in the Central Coast of California and we became known as "The Informalists".


​We had our first group exhibition of plein air paintings entitled "Informal Views" in 1996 in our Galerie Plein Aire in Carmel. This gallery later became a hub for plein air painting on the Central Coast of California.


​This was the very early days of the new Renaissance in plein air painting. An art movement that is now spreading worldwide.

Investment In Art Education Pays Off


In 2005 I was invited to participate in the annual Telluride Plein Air Painting event and competition, and won First Prize.


The judges were the participating artists who included many of the top plein air oil, watercolor and pastel painters in the United States.


By that time I had spent well over $20,000 on taking workshops with master artists to get the knowledge I needed to learn to paint in oils.


Three of my oil paintings sold at that event for a total of $26,000, a record sale for me at that time. The investment in my own education on how to paint was paying off.

Early Success


In 1996 I won my first prize for oil painting: 3rd place in the Carmel Art Festival. It was an important  competition and attended by many top plein air oil, watercolor, and pastel painters.


In 1999 I was juried into the Carmel Art Association, the most prestigious association for oil. acrylic, and watercolor painters in the Central Coast area of California.


​Just three years later in 2002 I got juried into the California Art Club as an artist member. This organization represents the top painters in California.

Hanging With The Masters


My happiest moment was being invited to hang my oil paintings in Jim Reiser's Gallery of Fine Art in Carmel, California.


​My oil paintings were now hanging next to two of my favorite California Impressionist painters: Edgar Payne (1883–1947)  and William Ritschel (1864–1949).


I got to study their wonderful plein air and studio paintings up close every time I went into the gallery to deliver new work. Absolute bliss!

A New Online Art School


In the early 2000's I started teaching workshops on how to paint in oils, acrylics, and watercolor both in California and in my studio in Tuscany, Italy.  My frustration was that I couldn't get across all the important knowledge I had to share in a single week-long painting workshop.


Students were telling me that many of the ideas on how to paint that I taught them, such as Notan and Visual Music & Poetry™, were totally new to them. They urged me to write a book.


So I began to document everything I had learned to create a painting course of over 30 e-books. They covered principles that applied to all media, including how to paint in oils, watercolor, acrylics, pastels, and digital media.


This was the start of the Virtual Art Academy online art school.

Combining Careers To Create The VAA


In 2003 I created the Virtual Art Academy. I used my Engineering training to systematically analyze what made great paintings work.  And I used the skills I learned during my career in Learning Technologies and EPSS in the 90's to create a new type of art school with painting lessons on how to paint in oils, acrylics or watercolor organized into bite-sized manageable chunks.


That is how the Virtual Art Academy online art school was born.

Virtual Art Academy Mission


“I created the Virtual Art Academy in order to make a top quality art education available to everyone who wants it, even if they don’t earn much money. In this way I can give young students who cannot afford today’s high university and art academy fees the opportunity to learn to paint at a high level."


Barry John Raybould - Author of Virtual Art Academy

Artwork by Barry

We know when choosing a painting course you will want to check out the artwork of the person who wrote the course. Here are some of my paintings. You can also visit my professional art website at:www.barryjohnraybould.com. There you will find more artwork, a full biography, and the professional galleries where my work is sold. Click on a painting to enlarge it.

Continue Below

Our Team


We are not a big company. Compared with other Academic and University Institutions, we keep our overheads low so that we can fulfill our mission of offering a top quality online painting school for how to paint at a cost that anyone can afford.


When not working on my professional art. I spend much of my spare time adding every new bit of knowledge and insight I get into new painting lessons. I have a vision of the Virtual Art Academy Reference Library becoming a repository of knowledge on how to paint in oils, acrylics, watercolor and other media for future generations. Much of the information in the VAA Reference Library was very difficult to acquire. I don't want it to be lost.


One of our key supporters is International Artist Magazine, one of the top Artist Magazines in the world. Since 2003 they have given me a regular two-page column in every issue of their magazine on how to paint.

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We use contract programmers and have third party marketing relationships to help get the word out about the VAA.


Painting is my passion. The quality of the knowledge you get here on how to paint is my top priority. My goal is give you the absolutely very best art education you can find anywhere.


Thank you for reading our story!


Barry John Raybould, 2017

Our Students


Our community of students are what sets us apart. We have a wonderful global community of dedicated and mutually supportive students working in all media.


In any online art self-study program, peer support is very important. Since our students are all working with the same high quality information materials, you will get the best support you will find anywhere online.


​Many of our students have gone on to win awards and started to sell their work. Some have turned professional. Here are some of their oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings. Read more reviews of the Virtual Art Academy from our current and past students.

Use the arrows to navigate/Click on painting to enlarge.

Student Representational Paintings

Student Abstract Paintings

Use the arrows to navigate/Click on painting to enlarge.

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Copyright © 2004-2018 Barry John Raybould, Virtual Art Academy, Inc., Panama City, Rep.de Panama

Visual Music & Poetry, Spiral Of Learning, and Building Blocks are all registered trademarks of Virtual Art Academy