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Master Certificate

Please contact Milena Spasic with questions about the application process:

Master Certificate

Master Certificate

Eligibility & Application Process

Eligibility is determined through portfolio review and the application process. Applicants must have strong skills at the intermediate/advanced level in the language and materials of drawing and painting from observation, including the figure, and have demonstrated a high level of commitment to advanced and independent studies in the visual arts.


Applicants to the Master Certificate program must submit:

● A portfolio of 10 drawings and 5 paintings is required for application. Work should be primarily from observation (rather than from photos), and Included should be work that demonstrates an understanding of the structure and gesture of the human figure;

● A statement (1-page) telling us about themselves, their previous art training, and why they are choosing to apply to the Master Certificate at WSS (a resume may be attached);

● 2 letters of recommendation from previous art instructors;

● A $100 application fee is required.

An interview may be scheduled after application materials are reviewed. 

Master Certificate Program Structure

Designed to span three full time years- two course intensive academic years and one additional year of independent study to put together a thesis show. The completion timetable is based on achieving a level of mastery determined by faculty review.

Course selection is determined with the help of a faculty advisor, and is unique for each student. Coursework during the first two years:

● Drawing;­ every term

● Painting; ­every term

● 3D/Sculpture;­ minimum 2 terms / every term if electing to focus on 3D work

● Anatomy/Figure Drawing;­ minimum 3 terms

● Color; ­minimum 2 terms

● Methods, Tools and Materials; 1 term

● Elements of Abstraction/Design; 1 term

● Working from the Masters; minimum 2 terms


Electives (2 are required) can be selected from classes such as:

Landscape; Printmaking
; Watercolor / Wet Media
; Mixed Media; 3-Dimensionality / Sculpture; Portraiture
; and, Pastel. Some specialized intensive workshops and seminars may qualify towards fulfilling part of the elective course requirements.


Full­-time study involves enrollment in a minimum of three classes (9 hours/week ) per term in addition to independent studio work.


Full-time students are expected to spend a minimum of 20 hours a week on independent studio work in addition to coursework. This includes sketchbook/journal, transcriptions, drop-in figure sessions, and independent studio time.


Part-time study is possible with a minimum enrollment in one class per term in addition to independent work. Study should be continuous and not intermittent. Continuous enrollment in the fall, winter and spring terms is required to stay in the program.Independent study with a member of WSS faculty is required in the final year of the program.


Most 10-week classes at WSS cost $495. There are three 10-week terms per year. The recommended full-time course of study for the Master Certificate involves three classes per term.

There is a $275 certificate fee per term to cover advisor, administrative costs, and critiques.


Full-time study plus certificate fee is approximately $5,280 per year.

Master Certificate students often opt to take advantage of additional workshops and visiting artist master classes to supplement their studies. This is highly encouraged but is outside of the official certificate curriculum and costs are additional. Students may opt to go through the program on a part-time basis by determining a schedule with WSS that will prolong the length of time to completion.

Occasionally students who have completed some of the required classes at WSS before application may place out of these requirements. This will be determined by faculty review. The total duration of the program varies from student to student as the assessment is mastery-based, thus making the overall cost variable. However, students who take a full-time course load and engage in independent studio time should be able to finish in three years.


All art supplies are provided by the student.


 Please read the FAQ section below for further important information before applying.

  • What is the Foundation Certificate Program?
    This 2-year structured introductory program is meant to develop fundamental proficiency in drawing and painting based on direct observation. The program will provide students with a firm foundation in the materials, techniques, language, concepts and processes of visual art.
  • What is the Master Certificate Program?
    The Master Certificate Program is designed for serious, advanced level 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. The Master Certificate Program has been a hallmark of the school’s offerings for over 20 years.
  • Why earn it?
    Foundation Certificate: Students who complete the Foundation Certificate will have received a comprehensive, sequential course of study in the basics of visual art, and will emerge being able to see as an artist does and translate that response with assurance, skill and a vocabulary of visual elements and principles. Master Certificate: Students who complete the Master Certificate will emerge with the necessary skill, discipline, curiosity and independence required to maintain a strong studio practice. They will be prepared to go on as professional artists, asking individual questions and producing personal work.
  • Am I ready?
    Foundation Certificate: Anyone willing to make the commitment to the sequential, structured study of the basic foundations of art is ready. There are no prerequisites. Master Certificate: Program Directors and faculty are available to help assess whether you are ready to apply to the Master Certificate program. Strong skills at the intermediate level as well the willingness to put in time both inside and outside of classes helps determine the readiness for the rigor of this program.
  • What do you look for in a portfolio?
    Master Certificate Only: The portfolio should demonstrate skill in seeing visual relationships (shape, value, color, etc.) and how they find form, space, movement, and feeling. Reviewers will look for both depth and breadth in media used and subject matter. Portfolios are expected to portray a high level of proficiency, but with the understanding that it is student work rather than professional level.
  • Is an interview required?
    After reviewing other materials, the Program Directors may schedule a brief interview to further assess applicant’s commitment and compatibility with the program philosophy.
  • Does Washington Studio School offer student visas or permits for international students?
    WSS is a non-accredited non-profit institution. Accordingly, Washington Studio School is unable to offer visas or permits for international students to attend our program.
  • How long will the program take?
    Foundation Certificate: If the recommended sequence and schedule is followed, the program will take two academic years. However, it may be extended up to four years. Master Certificate: The program will take approximately three years. The completion timetable is based on achieving a level of mastery determined by faculty review. Some students take more time to achieve that level than others.
  • Can I start any time?
    Foundation Certificate: It is recommended that students begin this program in the fall to best benefit from the sequential aspect of the three terms (Fall, Winter and Spring). Master Certificate: Applications to the Master Certificate program are on a rolling basis. Students can apply to begin any of the three 10-week terms.
  • Is financial aid available?
    At this time, only very limited scholarship funds and work study opportunities are available. Please visit the Work Study & Scholarships page to learn more.
  • Who are the instructors?
    Faculty at WSS are all practicing artists who are highly trained, experienced instructors. While they all have individual artistic styles and teaching styles, they are chosen to teach at WSS because of an overall shared language and teaching philosophy. This makes it possible to move from instructor to instructor without hearing conflicting lessons. Please visit our Faculty page for more details about our individual faculty members.
  • Are my classes only with certificate students?
    No. Certificate and non-certificate students enjoy classes together. Many strong students do not have schedules that allow them to participate in the certificate programs, yet all students benefit from the combined nature of our classes. Occasionally a class is planned just for Certificate students.
  • How much time is required outside of class?
    Foundation Certificate: Full-time students are expected to put in a minimum of 10 hours per week beyond class time. This includes keeping a sketchbook as well as attending drop-in figure drawing sessions. Master Certificate: Full-time students are expected to put in a minimum of 20 hours per week of independent work in addition to coursework. This includes sketchbook/journal, transcriptions, drop-in figure sessions, and independent studio time.
  • Can I take classes before committing to a program?
    Foundation Certificate: Yes. If you would like to try a class before applying to the program you may. If the review committee feels the work meets standards, the class may be applied to the program requirements. Master Certificate: Almost all applicants to the Master Certificate program have taken classes at WSS before applying to the program. These classes prepare them for the rigors of the Master program and allow them to experience the culture and philosophy of the school, ensuring that it’s a good fit.
  • Can I take another class in place of a required course?
    Our curriculum for both programs is carefully considered to give the most depth and growth possibility to the students’ experience, but we will consider on a case by case basis the substitution of a class for another if there is reason.
  • May I take a leave of absence? For how long?
    Continuity is important in the growth of an artist. Occasionally a student must take a leave of absence from the program for health, family or work matters. We may accommodate a maximum of one year leave. For absences loners than one year, students must reapply to the program.
  • Will I have an advisor, and what role do they play?
    Foundation Certificate: Students will have a faculty advisor who they will meet with three hours per term to discuss progress and recommendations for classes. Master Certificate: Students will have a faculty advisor who they meet with three hours per term, with increments to be decided by the student and advisor. Meetings are for the purpose of discussing progress, artists to look at, and recommended classes. Working with an advisor is a separate aspect of the program from the Independent Study component. Students are expected to maintain a journal of their process and growth and to submit it for review by their advisor at the end of every term. A minimum of two entries per week are expected in a ten week term.
  • How am I evaluated?
    Foundation Certificate: Instructors and advisors will evaluate work based on a set of criteria established to demonstrate understanding of visual language at different levels of learning. Successful candidates will complete all coursework with regular attendance and evidence that they are working outside of class in sketchbooks and open sessions. Master Certificate: The Master Certificate is based on reaching a high level of mastery, rather than the mere completion of a list of classes. Instructors and advisors will evaluate work based on a set of criteria established to demonstrate understanding of visual language at different levels of learning, including the use of visual elements and principles to develop a personal vocabulary for communication. Students meet with their faculty advisor multiple times during the term.
  • Is there a formal graduation?
    There is no formal graduation. There are opportunities for exhibition.
  • What can I do with the certificate?
    Foundation Certificate: Graduates of our Foundation program will have developed a portfolio of work. This program can stand as an independent course of study or prepare students for further study. Master Certificate: Graduates of our Master Certificate program are professional practicing artists who are showing their work in galleries and alternative spaces, and a number are teaching in non-degree visual art schools.
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