Oil Painting Classes in NYC with Program Overviews

There are at least three schools within 35 miles of downtown New York City that have oil painting classes. Read an overview of the three schools' programs, requirements, and admission info and find out which school is the right one for you.

New York City Schools with Oil Painting Classes

There are about three schools in the New York City area that offer degree programs that include classes in oil painting. The programs can be found at two colleges that are individually affiliated with the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) systems, as well as a private art academy. Read summaries of the programs and courses below, and use the accompanying table to compare essential school information. This resource also includes a paragraph about other formal training options for oil painters.

  • The flagship school of the CUNY system, the City College of New York offers programs in architecture, education, engineering, and the liberal arts. The campus is located in the Harlem section of Manhattan, about nine miles from the downtown, where students can take oil painting classes through the bachelor's and master's degree programs in studio art.
  • The New York Academy of Art in lower Manhattan is a graduate art school with an institutional accreditation from the University of the State of New York's Board of Regents. Located less than half a mile from the downtown, the school offers a master's degree program in art that includes coursework in oil painting.
  • SUNY at Purchase College is home to one of the ten largest university museums in the United States. This visual and performing arts school is located in Westchester County, NY, about 35 miles from downtown New York City, and is easy to access through the college's shuttle bus service, as well as through Zimride and Zipcar services, the Metro North railroad, and the Westchester County Beeline Bus Service. The college offers an undergraduate program in painting.

CUNY City College of New York

The Art Department at the City College of New York offers undergraduate degrees in electronic design and multimedia, art education, art history, and studio art. Art education, art history and studio art majors can continue their studies at the graduate level, and the department also offers master's degrees in digital and interdisciplinary art and museum studies. Oil painting courses are found within the studio art programs, and students who pursue the Bachelor of Arts with a studio option do not have to meet any special admission requirements.

Bachelor of Arts in Art, Studio Option

This degree plan requires 42 credits of major coursework and, in addition to core courses in 2-D design, global art, and writing, students must also take four courses in art history. To fulfill the 2-D studio requirements, students can choose from among courses in drawing, painting, photography, and printmaking. Undergraduates must also take an additional seven studio art electives in drawing, painting, sculpture, or another departmental area.

The introductory course in painting provides aspiring artists with the opportunity to work with oils and explore both traditional and experimental techniques. The course emphasizes basic art elements and skills, including color, composition, and observation.

Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art

Students in the graduate-level studio art programs are assigned their own studio and create a thesis exhibition that is displayed in the Art Department's gallery. Courses include art history, teaching art, and professional development, as well as studio courses in their chosen medium (such as painting or oil painting).

New York Academy of Art

The academy offers graduate degrees in the fine arts; certificates in drawing and painting, art education and sculpture; and workshops in a variety of related disciplines. The full-time and rotating faculty includes professional and exhibiting artists, academics, and senior critics. Admission requirements include an artist's statements, a current digital portfolio, and letters of recommendation.

Classes in oil painting may also be available through the academy's continuing education program. For example, the Spring 2013 special workshops include a course in portrait painting that provides students with the chance to work with charcoal and oils while improving their brush handling and color mixing skills.

Master of Fine Arts in Painting

The Master of Fine Arts program is a 2-year course of study with specializations in drawing, painting, and sculpture. Serious art students take approximately five courses each semester, and those who concentrate in painting take classes in artistic anatomy, composition theory, and figure drawing. They can also pursue electives in historical painting techniques and color theory, or have the chance to draw and paint at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additional program features and requirements include master classes, constructive feedback from senior and visiting critics, a professional practice program, and a thesis project.

In particular, the painting program include classes that cover the use of oils to interpret the human form and train students in the use of the contemporary and historical techniques. They also cover the study of direct and indirect painting methods and provide opportunities for one-to-one and group critiques and independent projects.

SUNY Purchase College

At the School of Art and Design, students have the chance to work in one of the largest school-based studios in the Northeast, where they can pursue programs in drawing and painting, graphic art, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. In addition to the standard admission requirements, students must submit a letter of recommendation; a portfolio is recommended.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting

The fine arts program includes a freshman foundation that covers topics in drawing, design, and visual language. The coursework for the major begins during the second year, and the program culminates in an 8-credit senior thesis and project. Additional program features include the option to study abroad and pursue a concentration or a minor in art history. The degree requires 128 credits to complete; 88 of these are in the studio arts.

Along with the foundation program, the major in painting and drawing includes sophomore, junior and senior seminars, art history courses, and visual arts electives. Through two introductory courses in oil painting, aspiring artists study color and composition, as well as build skills related to alla prima (at once), transparency, and underpainting techniques. As the curriculum allows for a substantial number of electives, undergraduates may be able to study advanced, experimental, and on-site painting. While they complete their studio requirements, they can also visit galleries and museums in New York City and have their work critiqued by professional guest artists and critics.

Comparison of Schools

Aspiring artists who are interested in pursuing oil painting classes as part of a broader degree program in art can use the following table to find information about program costs and acceptance rates. Additional statistics include financial aid figures, as well as graduation and retention rates.

City College of New York (CUNY) New York Academy of Art Purchase College (SUNY)
School Type 4-year; public 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; public
Total Enrollment (Fall 2011) 16,005* 108* 4,267 *
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large suburb
Tuition (2011-2012) $5,459 in-state; $11,369 out-of-state (undergraduate tuition and fees)* $29,700 (graduate tuition and fees)* $6,829 in-state; $15,879 out-of-state (undergraduate tuition and fees)*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2011) 84%* N/A* 78%*
Undergraduate Acceptance Rate 30% (Fall 2010)* N/A* 34% (Fall 2011)*
Retention Rate (2011) 86% for full-time students; 81% for part-time students* N/A* 81% for full-time students*
Graduation Rate (students who enrolled in 2005) 40%* N/A* 56%*

Source: *NCES, College Navigator.

Other School Options

The continuing education divisions at some additional public and private colleges in New York City offer individual courses in oil painting on a per-term basis. These include CUNY Hunter College, The New School, and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at New York University. Students may also find courses at CUNY Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Recent topics have included oil painting basics, plein air painting (in the open air), and still life painting.

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