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Foundation Program

 2 YEARS (if pursued, full-time)  

Launched in the Fall of 2018, the WSS FOUNDATION CERTIFICATE PROGRAM is a formalized version of our core beginning and intermediate level classes, as a means to prepare students for the rigors of the Master Certificate Program, or simply to provide strong foundation skills, This program takes students through a structured sequence of beginning and intermediate level drawing and painting classes, as well as an introduction to figure sculpture, art history/appreciation, and methods/materials.  Students will learn to use the formal elements of line, shape, value, color, form, space and texture to convey principles such as weight, balance, movement, rhythm, tension, emphasis, unity, repetition and variation.  They will work primarily from direct observation using still life, interior space, the human figure, and landscape as source, and will use time-tested materials such as graphite, charcoal, ink, paint and clay for their explorations.  Classes are taught through a responsive rather than formulaic academic tradition because if one is truly working from observation there are no formulas.



  • To develop literacy in the use of visual language – formal elements and principles

  • Learning to see and translate visual relationships rather than rendering objects

  • Ability to translate observed 3-D world into a sense of space and form on a 2-D surface

  • Craftsmanship and technical skills in use of materials

  • Use of visual language as a means to communicate

  • Discipline and commitment

  • Discovery / Empathy

  • Basic knowledge of history of art, and how it relates to contemporary work

  • Critical thinking about one’s own and others’ work

  • Ability to talk and write about work

  • Preparation of a body of work for exhibition in the certificate program

This structured introductory program is designed to develop strong, fundamental proficiency in drawing, painting, and sculpture based on direct observation, including the human figure. The curriculum will introduce students to the materials, techniques, language, concepts, and history of visual art.  Students who complete the program will be able to translate the observed world with both a sound degree of technical skill and empathic response. By the second year, students will be exposed to a wide variety of traditional and contemporary practices and will begin to see how they each connect to the visual world in their own personal way. The program can stand as an independent course of study or can prepare students for application to the more advanced Master Certificate Program. Hard work and commitment are expected, including work outside of the classroom.

Each student is assigned a faculty advisor to steer her/him through the program and provide feedback.

It is recommended that students begin the program during our Fall Term. Applications are due on August 1 of each year. Application is by form, statement, interview, and a non-refundable application fee of $50. A portfolio is not required, but previous work will be looked at if it is available. ​


Master Certificate


Washington Studio School’s  MASTER CERTIFICATE PROGRAM  has been a hallmark of the school’s offerings for over 20 years.  As a program for students with both a strong foundation in the visual arts and a commitment to the discipline required for the life of a practicing artist, it functions as a non-degree alternative to a Masters in Fine Arts.  Students do coursework at an advanced level for several years, with set requirements, and are expected to put in additional independent studio time to further their growth.  They are mentored through the program by a faculty advisor and independent study instructors, as they transition from faculty-provided classroom lessons to self-generated questions explored on their own in the studio.  The program builds on the painterly tradition that the school is rooted in, and students develop a vocabulary that stems initially from direct observation.  However, the path each student takes in terms of visual language, level of abstraction, and content becomes unique and personal. Student work is assessed by faculty review, and the determination of next steps is based on reaching a certain level of mastery rather than simply completing a menu of classes. 


The program culminates in a thesis exhibition of work, and graduates have had successful careers as gallery-affiliated artists and as instructors of drawing and painting.

The Master Certificate Program is designed for serious, advanced students at various stages of life as an alternative to a university MFA program. Students who are accepted into the program enter with strong skills and a commitment to the rigor, seriousness of purpose, and curiosity necessary to the life of an artist.  During their time in the program, they will deepen their existing skills and use them to begin producing work that is meaningful and personal to them. Work comes from a vocabulary built out of direct observation but can move into abstraction, memory, or imagination. The program involves both coursework at the advanced level and independent time in the studio and is based on achieving a level of mastery in the use of visual language and material technique. While there are listed class requirements, the goal of the program is to develop sound studio practices, discipline, and independent thinking. Art history and appreciation begin to serve as a source and catalyst for work outside of the classroom as students absorb the lessons of old and modern masters. Students work with a faculty advisor throughout. The final year of the program is primarily an independent study with a faculty mentor. Additionally, the culminating thesis exhibition is a means to develop the professional skills needed to produce and mount a cohesive and personal body of work.


We accept applications on a rolling basis. Application is by form, statement, portfolio (10 drawings, 5 paintings), recommendations, and a non-refundable application fee ($100).

Foundation Certificate
Master Certificate
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