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

The Painting program at SFAI has been at the forefront of many important historical developments, including Social Realism, Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Figuration, the California Funk Movement and the street art-inspired projects of the Mission School. This pluralistic history informs the contemporary moment where all possibilities are valued, from traditional approaches on canvas to interdisciplinary painting practices.

At SFAI, the ever-expanding definition of painting is affirmed by a philosophically diverse faculty enthusiastic about a wide range of approaches to material and conceptual solutions. Faculty challenge students to ask bold questions and to develop their own authentic approach to painting.

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