Everything starts in the studio. The studio is a place to take risks, experiment, embrace failure, and learn how to draw a vision of our highest potential.
It’s where we learn about who we are and what we want out of our lives.
An active studio practice involves problem solving, flexibility, creating a vision, developing a critical eye, strategizing, time management, common sense, and sometimes letting go of all of it to find a new way of working.
Painting students learn to balance working fast while thinking on their feet with the slow and methodical practice of observation and perception. Painting builds confidence in working alone. Only you know the challenges that face you. You are the only one who can do your work.
The Painting/Drawing Program boasts a diverse Painting faculty that has extremely varied perspectives on how to make a painting and what painting is: whether it’s more traditionally based figurative and landscape painting or materially experimental works that move off the canvas and into areas of sculpture, performance, film, and video.
We are all painters and we provide a supportive environment for students to build a lifelong studio practice and to grow into becoming socially engaged and connected with their greater community outside the studio long after graduation.
At the beginning of senior year, all Painting students get and maintain their own studio on the San Francisco campus. The senior studios are where students transition from having course assignments and learning technique to building a body of work based on their own ideas.
Senior painters take the Senior Projects course and participate in discussions about the solitary focus of studio time, critical thinking, form, content, and presentation, and how to lead a discussion about the work outside of art school.
The San Francisco location of the senior studios allows students to interact and collaborate with students in the Graduate Program in Fine Arts, who often become mentors to the seniors.
Students benefit both from the Painting Lecture Series and Notes From the Studio, programs that attract internationally known artists and local practitioners to visit and talk to students about their work.
Seniors also get the opportunity to prepare for future professional relationships when they present their work to the public during spring Open Studios, when hundreds of visitors see and talk to students about their work in their studios.
Bay Area Advantage
San Francisco and Oakland have long histories of well-known alternative spaces that give emerging artists an entrance into the world of exhibiting their work right out of school.
The burgeoning gallery scene in Oakland and beyond has exploded in the past couple of years and provides an extensive list of venues for students to show their work, both while in school and after they graduate.
New York, Los Angeles & You
Outside of the Bay Area we offer intensive courses in New York and Los Angeles that bring students into the studios of some of the most important artists working today.
I teach a New York Studio course each summer during which students get their own studios in Brooklyn for three weeks. They work on their studio projects, absorb the numerous museums and galleries, and have several studio visits with prominent working and exhibiting artists who often also teach at Yale, Columbia, RISD, and Bard.
This is a rigorous immersion course wherein the students get the experience of seeing and talking to artists in the studio, looking at unfinished work, hearing about the artistic process, and seeing what artists’ careers look like in the contemporary art world.
During the year, James Gobel takes a class to Los Angeles to visit artists in their studios as well as gallerists and curators. This course allows students to experience the culture of the Los Angeles art scene and to get an insider’s view into artists’ lives and studios there.
Many of those artists teach at UCLA, USC, Cal Arts, and Claremont, and because of the proximity of Los Angeles and San Francisco, those artists pass through our program, providing additional opportunities for mentorship with students.
Studio Practice & Teaching
I thrive on talking to other artists as a way to gather information and keep engaged with the contemporary art world. I just finished a project for which I visited 100 artists, writers, and curators in the Bay Area, and am doing a book about the conversations I had with each person.
My role is to listen and to ask key questions, to provide feedback if asked, and to invisibly guide the conversation. My work as a painter demands a similar set of tools, along with patience and solitude.
I bring these qualities to my teaching, where I’m always looking for ways to improve and broaden the level of class discussion and critique. One way is by encouraging mentorship. I pair up seniors with graduate students and sophomores with seniors.
Part of the curriculum of my Painting 3 senior course is a one-on-one hour studio visit with an assigned MFA student. The senior learns how to conduct a studio visit with a new person and the graduate students are invited to visit the undergraduates in their studios.
Many meaningful connections are made, and both parties gain insight into other levels of practice.
Most importantly they learn that conversation with another artist can transcend the normal frustrations that exist in any studio situation.
My role as teacher and artist is to champion the importance of outreach, entrepreneurial activity, and innovation.
My goal is to help students make the best work possible by the time they graduate, and to give them the tools they need to build a sustainable studio practice they have for the rest of their lives.