In this course students will become familiar with representations of the human figure in historical and contemporary painting. The principles of both drawing and painting, proportion, value, form and color will be studied in order to gain technical knowledge and ultimately guide self-expression. The class begins with the basics of drawing and painting and builds to more sophisticated representations using paint.

Students will learn how to represent the human figure by first drawing/painting from the skeleton and models. Portrait painting as well as full figure painting will be taught. The class will situate figure painting as a studio practice within the context of art history and address contemporary issues surrounding figurative representation. Projects will focus on topics such as the psychological body, the political body and the abstracted body. Image presentations, critiques and a gallery/museum visit will supplement studio work.


  • To develop an understanding of figure painting as a means of personal expression.
  • To introduce students to basic oil painting techniques and safety protocol.
  • To utilize paint to convey an experience of light, space and volume.
  • To gain an understanding of the language and concepts of color and color theory: hue, saturation, intensity, complementary pairs, among others, and apply those to representations of the figure.
  • Begin to apply the fundamentals of painting and color theory towards a given end and as a means of personal expression.
  • To be able to situate and understand your paintings within the context of art history and contemporary art.
  • To be able to use the language of painting to communicate your ideas.


The course involves 6 hours and 20 minutes of scheduled class time each week. An additional 5 or 6 hours will be needed outside of class to complete homework assignments (some weeks reading/writing, some weeks practical studio work).

Studio practice includes working from a series of models in both drawing and painting media. Studio set-ups will be accompanied by demonstrations, image presentations/discussions, trips to museums/exhibitions, visiting artists, group and individual critiques to explore and familiarize students with the language of the visual arts.

Some of the technical skills we will be dealing with will be: construction of stretchers and canvas, development of color skills: value, hue, intensity, compositional skills, manipulation of space through color, and finally, the exploration of personal expression and idiosyncratic style.


There will be a review of your work at midterm and at the end of the semester. Your final grade is based on the following elements: class participation/attendance, semester-long projects, written response to field trips and presentations.