I would like to send you my best wishes for the holiday season and to thank you all for helping to create the online community we now have today. I started the Virtual Art Academy five years ago with the vision of sharing information I had been lucky enough in discovering during my endeavors to become a professional artist.
Just over a year ago I created an online campus environment structured around the learning assignments in the Virtual Art Academy course rather than a free-form discussion chat forum like so many other artist online communities you see on the internet. Those forums have their value, but without any structure I think it is difficult to really learn on those forums.
For those of you who have joined the online campus and who have been working on the assignments, although you may not have heard from me, I have been watching your progress and am happy that many of you have seen great developments in your own work and have shared your personal 'aha' moments with your artist colleagues as you have been working through the exercises.
For those of you who have been just watching, I hope you have enjoyed the discussions, and that you too will eventually contribute your assignments.
When I studied how people learn at various learning technology conferences in the United States that I used to attend many years ago when I was consulting in knowledge engineering and instructional design in a previous career，I discovered that you don't learn by reading, listening, or even watching videos, but the real learning takes place during the actual 'doing'. You also don't learn by doing things right the first time. You learn by making mistakes, and then after realizing your mistake, doing it again but doing it right the second time. That is where the real learning takes place. When you compare your work with other assignments that others have uploaded, you will soon find your mistakes and so be able to learn from them. That is why the assignments are very focused - each assignment covers just one skill. If the assignments were not so focused, a forum such as this with no formal instructor would not be so effective.
My vision when I started the Virtual Art Academy program was to provide you with a self-study learning experience that was 80% as effective as a three year university art course at a tiny fraction of the $30,000-$60,000 cost that such an instructor-led course would cost. I also wanted to share with you all of the learning that I have had in my career studying with some of the top living artists in their respective fields of expertise. I was extremely lucky in my own career to have met and studied with some very fine artists, and over the years have gained some extremely valuable knowledge from these individuals. Sometimes it can be a single idea, or method, something that might be a single bullet point on just one of the pages of my course materials. Yet at the right time, such a piece of information can be the thing that make the difference between a mediocre artist and a great artist. All of this information I have carefully captured over the years and put in the various building blocks of the Virtual Art Academy course.
It has been a great pleasure for me to be able to share this information with you because in many cases it was a real struggle for me to find the information. Sometimes one of these little 'bullets' of information was learned only after several years with one of the master painters I've studied with. Each one made a significant difference to my own work, and hopefully will make a difference to your work too. A few of you who have taken university art courses have realized the significance of some of these seemingly 'minor' points that I have documented and told me you appreciate the information that is here.
95% of the information is common to all painting courses whatever the source or author - it is just presented in different ways. But the thing that I have learned in my art career and through studying paintings by the great masters is that the thing that differentiates the really great master painters and the mediocre average painter, is not this 95% of information. It is two things: it is (1) that small 5% of information that somehow most art courses and books seem to omit, but that all great masters intuitively understand, (and what I have documented in this program), and (2) the simple fact that they do the 95% better than all the other artists. It is for this second reason that I have my experienced students continually work on improving the basic foundation skills - things that they already know. By continually refining these basics, and adding to it the missing information, you will really see your paintings improve.
Painting is a slow and steady journey. The only important thing is to steadily improve and enjoy this steady progress and your journey. By making lots of small and regular improvements, you will be able to achieve great things over time that you never thought you were capable of. I have been pleasantly surprised over the years by many students who have surpassed my skills and have gone on to develop successful artist careers. I am happy to have made a small contribution to their success.
As a result of this vision over the past twelve months or so I have seen our online campus grow to over 650 members in our first year. For those of you who have been members for several months now, I thank you for your participation in the forums. It is your contributions that have helped create the community we have today. I am still amazed when I see lively conversations about an assignment between members in Switzerland, Mauritania, Malta, Silicon Valley in California all discussing assignments as though you were in the same classroom, yet separated by thousands of miles and on entirely different continents! The power of the internet to bring people of like minds together is I think truly amazing.
So in summary, thank you all once again, it has been a pleasure meeting you on this forum and I wish you a continued and happy artistic journey in 2011!
Barry John Raybould