The groundbreaking legacy of painting at SFAI informs the present and future of the medium.

The legacy of painting runs deep, encompassing Abstract Expressionism, the graffiti-inflected Mission School, California Funk, Diego Rivera’s Social Realism, and Figuration (after Diebenkorn and straight through to Kehinde Wiley BFA, 1999). We are challenged by this legacy, but we’re not held back by it—we know that each of these movements came from new questions and an upheaval of the norm.

Our students can stick to the canvas (if it supports their concept), or expand onto the wall, into other media, or across platforms.

Past Courses

  • Painting I + II / Painting II + III
  • Night Painting
  • Eye of the Beholder
  • Better Painting through Chemistry
  • Visual Culture in Contemporary Painting
  • Painting between Action and Idea
  • Knowing the Subject: Beyond Replication


Our Painting Department offers 24-hour access to four large painting studios with natural light from the large north- and east- facing windows, halogen lighting, state-of-the-art ventilation, large basin sinks, as well as two drawing studios equipped with abundant natural light, blackout shades, and track lighting. Additional facilities and equipment include a work area for building supports, painting racks in each painting studio for storage of works on progress, and a critique/slide viewing room.


See a sample four-year academic plan.

Total: 120

Title Units
Liberal Arts Requirements 33
Studio Requirements 72
Art History Requirements 15

Studio Requirements

Title Units
Contemporary Practice 3
Drawing I 3
Painting I 3
Drawing Electives 9
Painting Electives 18
Senior Review Seminar 3
Electives in any studio discipline 24
General Electives 9
BFA Exhibition 0

Art History Requirements

Title Units
Global Art History 3
Modernity and Modernism 3
Art Since 1945 3
History of Painting 3
Art History Electives 3