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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.

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
Professional Practices or Experiments in Drawing or Digital Tools
Open elective
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Degree Project
Open elective
Liberal Arts elective
Case Studies in Contemporary Art or Critical Curating

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. Common Application

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a non-refundable application fee of $60 to use this service; eligible students may apply for a fee waiver.

  2. Academic transcripts

    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.

  3. Tests and Test-Optional

    Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    Beginning with students applying for entrance in 2020, RISD is offering citizens or permanent residents of the United States the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students who qualify may opt into this process by selecting this option within the RISD section of the Common Application. Students who hold citizenship from all other countries, as well as students who are homeschooled, are still required to submit test results from the SAT or ACT exams.

    For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates. Subject tests are not required.

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

    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 proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS.

    Duolingo is changing its scoring system beginning with tests completed on July 15, 2019 and beyond. If you took this test prior to the change, we require a minimum result of 63. Applicants who completed the Duolingo test on or after July 15, 2019 must achieve a minimum score of 115, which is the equivalent of 63 in their prior scoring system.

    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 contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

  4. Portfolio

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. You will upload your portfolio in SlideRoom through the Common Application, where you will begin the application process.

    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 or a photograph). 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 selections. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    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 file limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can either be submitted as an individual image or video upload, or you can upload a composite including up to three images. 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 not recommended formats for sharing your artwork.

  5. The Assignment

    In addition to submitting your portfolio, all applicants must respond to the following assignment (your response to which will be uploaded in a specific section of SlideRoom dedicated to the assignment):

    Begin by observing a phenomenon or choosing an object in the natural world. Create a visual reaction to this object or phenomenon. You may use any medium and work at any scale. Document this work and upload it as your first response.

    Then, make a transformation to or modification of your first response. We encourage you to impose no limits to the potential nature or scale of the alteration to your first solution. Document this altered work and upload it as your second response.

  6. Writing sample

    Submit one example of your writing, up to 650 words. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    You will find the writing prompts in the Personal Essay 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 the samples you submit.

  7. Letter(s) of recommendation

    Although not required, these letters can be very helpful to your application. One letter is suggested, 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.

    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.