The academic approach of learning how to paint like the Old Masters is a system that derived from the experience of hundreds of years. This approach is so successful that even a total beginner in arts is able to achieve mastery, no matter what skill level one has. The academies are so confident with that and the results prove them right. For example the Angel Academy of Art accepts students without any restrictions and without a portfolio:
Application is open to all: there are no restrictions on age or experience. We do not require any previous Educational Certificates of whatever title from the applicant.
Angel Academy of Art | http://www.angelartschool.com/enrolment.html
The process for these three or four years of art training in an atelier is mostly the same: first Bargue Drawing and Cast Drawing, then Figure Drawing. After drawing comes painting, first with a limited palette and then successivley with a broader range of colors. As you can see every next step is founded on the previous steps.
This is a three part video introduction on the academic process taught at the Angel Academy of Art and it it narrated by the founder of the Academy, John Michael Angel: