A painting class working on a still life project

Our program recognizes painting as an enduring, vital practice with its own history and culture of signification and craft. Building on this foundational understanding, we encourage students to work within a broad spectrum of conceptual and material exploration in order to realize their personal vision.

Your Studies

  • Visual literacy developed in the painting program contributes to a richer understanding of the world and offers creative opportunities to engage with it.
  • Important professional and life skills delivered in our program include critical thinking and creative problem solving.
  • Communication skills acquired in group and individual critiques help students develop the ability to articulate ideas about both tangible and abstract concepts.
  • Project course work in painting teaches students to conduct research and organize visual information effectively.
  • The brisk pace and ambitious curriculum teaches students to manage time and meet goals in order to complete each project successfully.
  • Students will gain an historical overview of the practice of painting, working to understand the complex network of formal, perceptual, and conceptual relationships that constitute pictorial composition and define content.
  • They will learn to see the world more carefully through sustained observation of various subject matter including life models.
  • Through the understanding of craft and material as a way to channel activity and ideas, they will gain the confidence and skill to pursue a directed studio practice and to create original works of art.
  • Practicing Artist: Painting BFA grads in the past several years have participated in exhibitions at local, national, and international venues. They've exhibited their work in commercial, and public galleries, artist-run centres, as well as at various non-traditional venues. In addition, recent BFA graduates have been selected to participate in local, national, and international artist residencies. Our BFA grads have won the BMO Art First competition for the province of Alberta and been shortlisted for the Sobey Award.
  • Museum/Cultural Sector: gallery attendant, museum preparator, assistant registrar or curatorial assistant, art conservator's apprentice
  • Art Teacher (with post-secondary degree)
  • MFA Studies: Graduates of the BFA program have been accepted and gone on to attend MFA programs at Concordia in Montreal, Goldsmiths in London, SVA in New York, and the Glasgow School of Art, among many others.

Undergraduate Studies

Undergraduate student work

The painting program is an exciting environment that encourages experimentation, learning, and personal growth. There is a strong sense of community among students within the studio as they progress through the course itinerary from skills acquisition to conceptual engagement and the development of a self-directed studio practice that expresses their own personal vision and ideas. We offer small class sizes, excellent instructors, a knowledgeable full-time technician, and a dedicated woodshop along with 24-hour access to extensive studio space.

Instruction is through assigned course projects, group, and individual critiques with many opportunities for direct one-to-one interaction with the professor. Assignments and critiques are designed to help students develop strong visual and verbal skills and to encourage effective critical thinking.

Introductory courses focus on the development of observational and technical skills related to colour, light, form, and space through subject matter including still life, interior, and life models. Second year studies consist of increasingly experimental and self-directed thematic investigations into topics that encourage conceptual awareness of historical and contemporary developments in painting. Students in upper level courses engage in self-directed studio practice. We acknowledge the broad and inclusive contemporary practices that constitute painting and endeavour to support students as they work to find the best way to realize their ideas in material form.

The University of Alberta's BFA painting program has the strengths of a top-tier art school and is located on Alberta's premier research university campus. It possesses the benefits that come with both-teachers who are knowledgeable and passionate about painting, large research libraries, opportunities for cross- disciplinary studies, and various other resources. Students enjoy 24 hr. studio access and benefit from a collegial work environment with other young artists. Active student groups like the Visual Arts Students Association (VASA) and the Student Design Association (SDA) produce student-run initiatives, and a strong sense of community is developed through shared engagement with an ambitious workload as students acquire a strong technical foundation in the first year and prepare to move forward into intermediate and advanced studies.

Graduate Studies


Adam Slusar, Reaganomics: Looking Up At The Moon, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 48 inches

The MFA in Painting emphasizes artistic development through rigorous studio practice and increased critical and conceptual knowledge. While we share a common belief in the history and craft of the medium, the painting faculty and staff are committed to helping graduate students explore a range of media and method to produce a body of work with a coherent conceptual focus reflecting their personal vision.

In addition to opportunities to work with professors on research projects, graduate students are mentored in creative research methodologies that enable them to more effectively support their studio practice with academic research and/or theoretical discourse related to their thesis topic. Students also gain insights into how their own studio practice relates to and intersects with questions within the broader field of contemporary art.

One advantage of pursuing an MFA in Painting is the potential for inter-disciplinary research at Alberta's premier research University. There are numerous funding opportunities for students throughout the program including scholarships, research assistantships and teaching assistantships. Graduate students gain experience as teaching assistants in Art & Design Fundamentals, Drawing, or Painting. There are opportunities to put these skills to use acting as a Primary Instructor teaching an undergraduate course in Art and Design.

On average, we accept 2 graduate students per year, and the program generally takes 2 to 3 years to complete. In addition to this low student-to-professor ratio, graduate students in painting benefit from regular studio visits by visiting artists and critics. Graduate students have 24-hour access to large, individual studio spaces in painting.

Research travel opportunities: past students have successfully applied for university funding for research travel to museums and galleries. Recent departmental trips have been to London, NY, Paris, Montreal, and Madrid.

Studies culminate in a solo thesis exhibition at the FAB Gallery at the conclusion of the program.

Our graduate students have pursued a variety of subjects during their studies, such as:

  • Pop Culture and Fragmented Consciousness
  • Provisional and Conceptual Practices
  • West Coast Hip Figuration
  • New Urban Landscape
  • Nature and Culture in the Canadian Rockies


Painting offers students a wide range of resources and facilities in spacious, distinct undergraduate and graduate studio spaces. Individual flexible studio spaces are provided for senior level students specializing in Painting. All students are provided with easels, benches and storage lockers for paint materials, plan chests for works on paper, and racks for the storage of canvasses. The Painting area has a fully equipped workshop and a separate preparation area expressly for the stretching and surface priming of canvasses. Expert technical staff are on hand to provide students with high quality support, assistance and training for the construction and preparation of stretchers for canvas, wood and paper. Critique spaces are also provided for the display, contemplation and discussion of student work, with dedicated digital equipment for slide and video presentation, and overhead projection for image enlargement. Our learning environment is designed to support both traditional and contemporary approaches to painting, enhanced by the Painting Research Studio, an innovative, interdisciplinary and collaborative research and teaching space.


The faculty and staff within the Painting Area are active studio artists, who have built strong connections to a wide array of contemporary art communities. The creative research focus of faculty and staff is grounded in the practice of painting, interrogating the limits of its forms and extending the language of painting into an expanded field of inquiry. Their work has been exhibited extensively at local, national, and international venues and can be found in numerous public and private collections.