Academics Painting

Bachelor’s Program

BFA | 4-year program

Given a mix of freedom and discipline, Painting majors develop the purpose, confidence and critical and technical skills necessary to express their ideas as artists. Fellow students and faculty also offer critical and emotional support, which is especially important for the emergence of strong personal work. Overall, the department offers a stimulating atmosphere conducive to exploration and growth.

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • demonstrate strong visual, verbal and technical skills.
  • recognize the interdependence of content and form.
  • appreciate context and physical properties vital to works of art not designed for reproduction.
  • demonstrate enhanced critical reasoning with broad historical overviews and social insight.
  • support intellectual and academic freedom.
  • deliver discerning critiques of their own work and that of others.
  • create new works of art.

Inspiring community

Painting majors form a supportive community united by a strong work ethic and an eagerness to experiment. Students and faculty in the department share a respect for the tradition of painting along with a keen interest in its evolving contemporary manifestations. Visiting artists and critics bring new perspectives to the conversation and the recent addition of an endowed position known as the Kirloskar Visiting Scholar in Painting supports focused exploration of Indian art and culture.

Learning environment

Headquartered in a former 19th-century church originally designed by architect Thomas Tefft, the Painting department offers a dedicated gallery for student work along with well-lit and appropriately ventilated studios for electives and home spaces. Just next door, the RISD Museum offers ready access to its amazing collection of painting and sculpture from almost every period and genre, along with countless other works of art from around the world. Direct study of these works provides students with invaluable insights and inspiration, as does hands-on access to specimens in the Nature Lab and in the Fleet Library's extraordinary collection of artists' books.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

After RISD's required year of Foundation Studies, sophomores entering the program are introduced to basic concepts and techniques that foster the development of a personal visual vocabulary. Juniors continue to expand and strengthen their visual and technical skills through studio work that allows for in-depth exploration of content and meaning.

FOUNDATION YEAR

FALL
Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds

SOPHOMORE

FALL
Painting I
Drawing I
Fundamentals: Painting Methods and Materials
Liberal Arts elective
WINTERSESSION
Non-major studio elective
SPRING
Painting II
Drawing II
Prehistory/Contemporary Art
Liberal Arts electives

JUNIOR

FALL
Painting III
Painterly Prints (take in fall or spring)
Open elective
Liberal Arts elective
WINTERSESSION
Non-major studio elective
SPRING
Painting IV
Contemporary Art and Criticism
Non-major studio elective
Liberal Arts elective

SENIOR

FALL
Painting Workshop
Required Painting course*
Open elective
Liberal Arts elective
WINTERSESSION
Color Workshop or non-major studio elective
SPRING
Degree Project
Required Painting course*
Open elective
Liberal Arts elective

students must take two of the following courses:

  • Case Studies in Contemporary Art (spring)
  • Color Workshop (fall/Wintersession/spring)
  • Critical Curating (spring)
  • Digital Tools (fall)
  • Experiments in Drawing (fall)
  • Experiments in Materials (spring)
  • Paint to Film (spring)
  • Professional Practices (fall)

Usually students take one course in fall and one in spring.

Degree project

After gaining increasing control over the direction of their work and thought processes, seniors devote much of the final year to producing an independently conceived degree project subject to evaluation by the Painting faculty, along with peers and outside critics.

Application requirements

  1. First-year applicants

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $60 to use this service, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the first-year application here.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the transfer application here.

  2. First-year applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

    Transfer applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts covering at least the last three full years of academic work completed. This should include all college transcripts and, if applicable, your secondary school transcript. If you attend a school where the language of instruction is not English, your academic credentials must be translated into English by an approved translator.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    RISD is offering all applicants (domestic and international) the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting the test-optional option under the "Testing" portion within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    Transfer credits

    Some Advanced Placement (AP), A-Level classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from AP courses with a score of 4 or 5, A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB scores of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept AP or IB credit from art or studio classes. View RISD's full transfer credit policy.

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since English proficiency is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants are required to meet a minimum score of at least 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on the IELTS, or 115 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must email the Admissions Office at admissions@risd.edu to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible for a waiver.

  4. Portfolio Submission

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. Once you've started your application to RISD in the Common Application, you will be directed to SlideRoom, a separate online platform, where you will upload your portfolio.

    What to include

    Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation (rather than from imagination, a photograph, or video). Drawing is a fundamental tool for visual makers from initial concept to execution, so it is valuable for reviewers to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing.

    While the majority of your portfolio should feature finished pieces, we suggest including some research or preparatory work in up to three—but no more than three—portfolio uploads/slides. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    Documentation

    Finally, we strongly discourage including excessive visual elements and text descriptions in a single slide submission. These are difficult to view and are likely to exceed the allowed submission limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can be submitted across multiple slide submissions, combined into one composite including no more than 3 images or in a single video upload. Editing is an important part of curating your portfolio. You may need to devise creative solutions to best show your work within the limits of submission guidelines.

    Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive or zipped files are discouraged.

    You may be interested in attending or watching the recording of one of our Portfolio Tips webinars for more advice on how to approach your RISD application portfolio. 

    The RISD Assignment is no longer part of the application

    After extensive research and discussion, it has become evident that requiring the RISD Assignment functions as a barrier for applicants and is in direct conflict with RISD’s Social Equity and Inclusion action plan. To provide more access and equity in our admissions process, we have made the decision to remove the RISD Assignment as an application requirement beginning with the 2022/23 application cycle. We will continue to prioritize the portfolio when evaluating the visual component of an applicant’s candidacy.

  5. First-year applicants

    If you are applying as a first-year, RISD requires the Common Application Personal Essay (up to 650 words). You will find the writing prompts in the Writing section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in your essay.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit a written statement, up to 650 words, using the prompt indicated below. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    • Provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve by joining us at RISD.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a dynamic position in the samples you submit.

  6. Letters of recommendation can be very helpful to your application. One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    First-year applicants

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to admissions@risd.edu.

    Transfer applicants

    Please have your recommendation writers submit their letters directly to admissions@risd.edu. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below).