I receive no monetary compensation from
The Virtual Art Academy.
I am a customer and pay my own way.
Many of you have asked me about taking workshops. Truth is, I’ve studied with many nationally known artists and while their workshops have helped my painter’s brush, I knew I was missing the bigger picture (ok, pun intended).
I didn’t go to art school, therefore I felt I didn’t have the right background or pedigree when I went to these workshops. So I began a search for a structured approach to painting. What was I doing right? What was I doing wrong? Reading Carlson’s book was great but I wanted more.
If you only had a hammer in your “paintbox” of tricks, every situation you encounter will become a nail. However, I wanted a wrench, a screwdriver and *gasp* an acetylene torch for my “paintbox”. I was willing to unlearn bad habits, reinforce good habits and learn new habits. Being flexible is not just limited to the yoga mat.
In my quixotic quest, I eventually found the Virtual Art Academy (VAA) https://www.virtualartacademy.com.
The VAA is a completely structured approach to learning how to paint. It has both revolutionized and evolutionized my brush. It is the first painting workshop that uses a curriculum map. Having built curricula as a Performance Consultant in my past life, I knew I’d found what I had been looking for. They even use learning objectives – be still my instructional designer’s heart. Nirvana! Here’s why I like the VAA approach:
VAA curriculum focuses on fundamentals
The VAA focuses on the fundamentals of painting. There ain’t anything new under the sun (ask Solomon, he’ll tell you). Great painting is really an adherence to the basics.
As any athlete would tell you, to be the best, you have to be good at the fundamentals. Michael Jordan once said, “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.1”
The VAA offers a completely self-paced curriculum encompassing four years worth of content. Self-paced is huge because it means I can log on when it’s convenient for me. Each Workshop (A-P) contains 12 Lessons (A1, A2, A3…A12, etc.) Each lesson is taken from one of nine building blocks. It is a very planned approach to learning. Here’s a visual of the curriculum:
Using the VAA curriculum map, I now am very intentional on which in-person artist workshops I attend. If there is a particular area I am weak in, I will keep an eye out for those opportunities to study with another artist. What’s nice is I can practice the fundamentals using the VAA’s structure before attending thus increasing my number of learning cycles which promotes a stronger brush.
VAA Lessons combine Knowledge and Skill
Most lessons include a video, reading, and practice exercise(s). This approach builds both the Knowledge and Skill necessary to become a better painter. Knowledge is a set of retrievable facts while Skill is the ability to perform a “task”. The VAA Lessons allow me to grow both my Knowledge and Skill in parallel.
Here’s how it works. The Lessons begin with an overview followed by reading and then an assignment. I then take a look at previous students’ work. From that and their comments I can get a sense of what to look for when doing my own. This approach is common in multi-user online communities. Learning takes place vertically between me and the content as well as horizontally between me and my fellow students.
I print each lesson because I’m creating my own reference library as I go. Once a month I will read a Building Block in its entirety to help refresh a concept.
VAA is a global community
A sense of a global community exists in the VAA as I’ve had conversations with fellow artists from around the world. The interaction between students helps me think through their approach to a painting exercise and also how I will approach my own lesson. While I would like to have more interaction with students farther along in the curriculum, I am pleased with the interactions thus far. There is a sense of helping each other out.
VAA’s Price is “shocking”
Are you ready for this? The price is $24.95 (US dollars) per month, plus a once-off joining fee of $495. That works out at an average of $423.15 per year for four year’s of tuition, or about $8 per week. Let that sink in for a moment.
Where are you going to find a complete curriculum for that price? It blew my mind.
Since each Workshop is 12 Lessons I could do one lesson per week for 12 weeks or I could do a lesson a day for 12 straight days and then practice the concepts over and over. For me, I actually fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Because I’m in control of when I take a lesson I plan my practice cycles with a lot of boringly brutal repetition. Repetition, for me, is key in getting comfortable with a new concept. I don’t want to rush through a lesson just to “check a box”. Check a box training has never worked for anyone except the lawyers.
I would encourage you to try the VAA Starter Membership for at least Workshops A – B which is a $199.65 investment in yourself. If you don’t like it after that, by all means, go do something else. However, I think once you see the change in your brush – you’ll be as hooked as I am on making progress.
This is your brush we are talking about. Invest in it wisely. Be picky.