Virtual Art Academy

Online Painting Classes Curriculum: Structured Building Blocks

What Are Online Painting Classes?

Online painting classes are an alternative to a traditional art school in which you do all of your learning online rather than in a bricks and mortar building. There are two types: synchronous and asynchronous. In synchronous online painting classes, all students learn together at the same time. In asynchronous, classes, students learn at the own pace. This means that the schedule is more flexible (the Virtual Art Academy approach), as you are not tied to a specific schedule.

Organization of The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program

Modular Virtual Art Classes

Our core program of virtual art classes is called the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program and is broken down into 16 workshops.

Each of these 16 workshops is equivalent to taking a week-long Master Class with a top professional artist.

Each workshop builds on the knowledge in earlier workshops improving your skills one-by-one and steadily improving your paintings.

Together, these 16 workshops contain all the information a professional artist needs to paint well. We give you the equivalent education and knowledge you would get if you attended a four-year program at a prestigious Art Academy or University.

Virtual Art Classes Course Content

Our virtual art classes include 192 painting lessons, organized into 16 workshops of 12 lessons each.

Each lesson covers a key secret from professional artist Barry John Raybould, that you need to master in order to paint well.

You will learn all the key principles that apply to all paintings, whatever medium you choose to use.

online painting classes

At the end of each painting lesson, there is a summary painting project to show off what you learned in the class.

In each painting lesson you get:

  • Background reading material – covering all the painting techniques and principles you need.
  • Short painting video segments – to make difficult concepts easy to understand (200 video segments in total).
  • Focused learning assignments – to help you fully master and internalize each painting technique (350 assignments in total).
  • A tip of the day section – to help you solve common painting problems.

The course covers: oil painting techniques, acrylic painting techniques, and watercolor painting techniques.

The Virtual Art Academy Online Campus

Our Online Campus integrates all your learning materials and our student community where you can upload your work and discuss it with other like-minded students. This is also where Barry give his weekly painting projects for discussion.

Lesson Plans

Here you can see the curriculum of our online painting classes for the full four year program.

Online Painting Classes Curriculum

Here are more details of the virtual art classes in each year of the four-year Apprentice Program:

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Building Your Foundation: Skill Building Blocks™

In the Virtual Art Academy we organize our online art classes around a framework of nine skill Building Blocks™. Over the course of our Apprentice Program you will learn all the key skills in every one of these nine Building Blocks.

Skill Building Blocks in our Virtual Art Classes
Virtual Art Academy Skill Building Blocks™

Concept Building Block

Far Music – Design Building Block

Near Music – Brushwork Building Block

Illusion/Realism Building Block

Process, Materials & Equipment Building Block

Why is this important?

Other virtual art classes teach you how to paint a particular subject such as a tree, a rock, a flower, or other objects. And they focus on just one medium such as oils, or watercolor. When you try to paint a different subject, or use a different medium, you will not know how.

After you have mastered these skills in all our nine Building Blocks, you will be able to paint any subject you want. You will also be able to use any medium you want: oils, watercolor, acrylics, or pastels. Or you could use any other medium. Neither will you be limited by any style or technique.

Finding your own style

Most other online painting classes and virtual art classes are based around painting demonstrations. We don’t believe in that approach because you just end up learning how to paint like your teacher.

Our approach is completely different. We give you the fishing rod, not the fish.

This means you will be able to find your own artistic voice and paint subject matter that moves you, not just other people’s subject matter.

You will be also be able to paint in any style you want. You can choose whatever style fits your own personal mood and feelings. Whether that be a realistic, or a more abstract style. You don’t have to paint like Barry (the author of the course).

This is the Virtual Art Academy difference. Just ask any of our students. You can hear some of their experiences with our program in their own words here:

Build Your Skills One-By-One

We also make it easy for you to learn.

With our virtual art classes you build your skills one-by-one in a structured way.

Each step is simple and doable. We don’t ask you to create a great painting right from the beginning. Instead we give you simple task that will help you gradually build up your skills.

Over the course of the full Apprentice Program, you will learn 192 key skills, each with its own lesson. A key part of the program are the 350 focused assignments and an Online Campus in which you can interact with other students to help you master each of these skills.

Master all these 192 skills and see your paintings improve!

Caution: Don’t expect this build up of skills to happen quickly. Any course that promises you a fast result is not being honest. It takes time and effort to get to be a good painter. You have to put some work in. There are no quick fixes.

However, many artists who have followed our program have told us they have seen significant improvements after just a few months. To get to a really high level though takes at least a couple of years, and to reach a professional level you will need at least four years (you need to keep practicing the basics).

Do I Need To Buy Art Instruction Books?

No you don’t. The Apprentice Program includes the most comprehensive digital library of ebooks on how to paint you will find anywhere. You won’t need to buy any other art books, since these books contain all the knowledge you need to learn how to paint well. The 58 eBooks contain over 1500 pages of easy-to-read information on how to paint.

P.S. It took the artist Barry John Raybould 15 years to research and document all this knowledge to save you the time and expense of doing it yourself.

If you purchase our Apprentice Pro Membership you will get the complete 58 eBook digital download library completely FREE ($960 when purchased separately).

Length of Online Painting Classes

With our Apprentice Program you will have the equivalent to a four-year art program at a prestigious Art Academy of University available to you. However you can take as long as you like to complete the program depending on how much time you have available.

You can also do as much or as little of the program as you want. You are not committed to doing the complete program. With our modular workshop-based structure, you have complete flexibility to take your art as far as you want to go. For example:

  • For a good beginner program covering the key fundamentals, you can take our workshops A and B. If you spend about 8-16 hours per week, this course will take you about three to six months. You will see some significant improvement over this time.
  • Students who have only about 6-8 hours per week available can take the complete course of 16 workshop in four years.
  • If you want to take the fast-track and have 16-24 hours per week to dedicate to the program, you can complete the entire course of 16 workshops in two years.


With the Virtual Art Academy you pay on a monthly basis to access the curriculum. The system works much like a Netflix membership.

Unlike Netflix though we reward our loyal Apprentice Pro members who stay with us continuously by giving them a very good preferential rate after two continuous years of membership.

Our goal is to provide you with a lifetime of learning opportunities so that your painting will continue to improve to a high professional level. We have many members who have been with us for four years or longer.

We also have many students who come back again after a gap of 10 years! They all say they that with the Virtual Art Academy they can learn something new every day. The reason for this is that our Virtual Art Classes knowledge base is very deep, going all the way to professional level. Students don’t generally appreciate the depth of the information until they have been with us for several years. You will discover this to be true by reading reviews from past and current VAA members.

Since our mission is to offer an affordable high-quality art education, we aim to keep your monthly membership fee significantly lower than the $1500 per month cost you would pay at a traditional art academy or university.

No Long Term Commitments

You don’t have to commit to all the virtual art classes up front. You can stop your monthly payment at any time and you will not owe anything.

This means you are never committed to paying for more than one month of instruction at a time.

Why Beginner Painters Should Choose The Virtual Art Academy

The beauty of the Virtual Art Academy program is that it gives beginners an easy place to start. And you will have an easy upgrade path to more advanced lessons.

As an absolute beginner, you can start off with our beginner fundamentals Workshop A. Or you could go for a more comprehensive beginner foundation and do both Workshops A and B.

Then it is up to you whether you go further. If you would like to continue your studies to an intermediate or advanced level, you can. And you will be confident that you are building your skills on a solid foundation.

You simply keep on with your monthly subscription and take the next workshop in the series of 16 workshops in our Apprentice Program.

A Pathway To Professional

With our membership plans you can just keep adding workshops and go all the way to becoming a professional artist.

In fact we have helped many of our students turn professional and start selling their work: See our alumni’s work.

No other program of online painting classes gives you such a smooth and systematic progression – from absolute beginner to top professional level.

And with our special Apprentice Pro pricing model, you will get a lifetime of learning at a very reasonable cost.


What is an Online Painting Class?

An online painting class is a class in which students learn online rather than in a classroom setting. The advantage is that students can learn in the comfort of their own home and at their own pace.

Can I learn painting online?

Yes, you can learn to paint completely online and without a teacher. It takes about 6-12 months to reach a basic level of skill, and about 3-4 years to reach a professional level. Many of our students have started to sell their work after going through our Virtual Art Academy® four-year Apprentice Program. Read some of our online painting class reviews.

What are the two types of online painting classes?

There a basically two types of online painting class: synchronous and asynchronous. With asynchronous classes you can choose when you want to take the class, and can do the class on your own. In synchronous classes, all the students work together with a teacher at a scheduled time. This can be a problem when students are in different time zones. It is also far less flexible. Asynchronous classes are the most flexible because students can choose when they want to learn. This is how the Virtual Art Academy works.

What are the best online painting classes?

The best online painting classes are taught by full-time top professional artists, and are designed for serious beginners or artists who want to take their work to a higher level. This type of virtual painting classes are recommended since you will learn best painting practices from the very beginning. This means that you will not pick up bad habits early on that will be difficult to break, and that will eventually slow down your learning. If you look at the great majority of master artists throughout art history, you will find that they were taught by the highly respected master professional artists of their time.

How can you tell if an online painting course is run by a professional artist?

Do a search for paintings by the author of the course. You will find lots of great artworks online if the artist is a top professional. The artist will also have an artist website dedicated to their own artwork (not just to their art instruction). . Professional artists generally work in oils rather than in acrylics.
A second tip is to search the artist’s biography for group shows and exhibitions with other professional artists. Professional artists are often invited to participate in group exhibitions or shows. Amateur artists on the other hand are unlikely to be invited to participate in an exhibition with professional painters.
Ignore phrases such as professional’, ‘award-winning’, ‘scholar’, ‘studied in Florence’, ‘collected worldwide’, and so on as there is no way to verify them.

Can I learn to paint on YouTube?

You can learn to paint by watching videos on YouTube, bur it is likely that you will pick up some poor painting practices that will hinder your future development. This is because the majority of free videos on YouTube are produced by amateurs. Videos by professionals are usually not available for free on YouTube. Having said that, there are some good resources on YouTube. But for the reasons we mention above, we don’t recommend spending a lot of time on YouTube until you have a lot more experience and can choose wisely.

Can I learn painting from art instruction videos?

It is a good idea to buy a few videos in order to learn new techniques from artists you like. But according to research into learning, most learning takes place during structured activities and exercises, not by watching. Also, buying a lot of videos will likely show diminishing returns on your investment because you will find a lot of duplication – most professional artists say basically the same things in their demonstration videos. Videos from good professional artists are also expensive and are not a very useful reference source after you have watched them because it takes a long time to try to find some information you saw hidden in a two-hour long video.

What is the difference between hobby, amateur, and professionally authored online painting classes?

There are three types of online painting classes. The first are websites designed for hobby painters and are generally run by amateur artists. The second are designed for beginner and intermediate painters and are generally run by semi-professional artists who spend the majority of their time running the teaching website, rather than doing creative work themselves. The third type are for painters who want to take their art to a more advanced level and are taught by working full-time professional artists.