Painting | BFA

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.

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.


Summary of Required Credits

Liberal Arts Requirements (Examples: Global Social Movements, Un/Natural Ideologies, Concepts of Creativity, Mathematics: A Visual History, Extinction)33
Studio & General Elective Requirements 72
Art History Requirements15

Painting Major, Elective + Exhibition Requirements

Drawing 13
Painting 13
Drawing Electives9
Painting Electives (Ex: Performative Figure, Beyond the Frame, Painting as Protest) 18
Contemporary Practice3
Electives in any studio discipline (Ex: Screenprinting, Three-Dimensional Collage) 24
General Electives (Ex: Sacred and Profane, Performance / Sound / Language) 9
Senior Seminar3
BFA Exhibition0

Art History Requirements

Topics and Foundations in Global Visual Culture3
Topics and Foundations in Contemporary Art3
History of the Major3
Art History Elective3
Art History Elective3

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Students demonstrate the ability to consistently create drawings and paintings that embody significant technical, formal, aesthetic, and conceptual qualities in relation to a sophisticated understanding of historical and contemporary artistic practices.
  • Students acquire a meaningful understanding of the responsibilities and social purposes that are concomitant to the public exhibition of art, emphasizing the contextualization of one’s art within an arena of public understanding.
  • Students demonstrate an appreciation of how the crystallization of experience, medium, and information can construct a bridge between private experience and shared public awareness.
  • Students develop abilities for self-evaluation and self criticism.
  • Students demonstrate an expanded knowledge of global art historical precedents.
  • Students demonstrate familiarity with contemporary practices in relation to a variety of cultural and ideological constructs.
  • Students acquire requisite work habits and discipline.
  • Students develop a record of professional achievement that includes teaching, exhibitions, curatorial projects, and community activism.
  • Students demonstrate the ability to correlate and apply the methodology of art practice to a broad range of creative occupations.

Past Courses

  • Beyond the Frame: Expanded Painting
  • Merging Worlds of Painting and Social Media
  • The Performative Figure in Painting
  • Real Life Comics
  • Art On Paper
  • Polymer Painting: Acrylic Reconsidered
  • Documentary Painting
  • The Magician and the Surgeon: Painting Photography
  • Chain Link: Painting, Pattern, and Disruption
  • Anatomy
  • Abstraction: Politics and Possibilities