What is The Curriculum?

Rees Atelier


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Year One Academic Drawing Curriculum

The first year of the program is dedicated to drawing, and students work primarily in charcoal, as it affords the broad range of lights and darks they will be dealing with while painting.  Aside from a technical proficiency in charcoal, students can expect to learn effective ways to handle other drawing mediums, such as pen, marker, and white chalk.  While students may execute studies and sketches with graphite, final projects are executed in charcoal.  Those who complete all requirements for the first year are recommended to continue on to painting.

Year Two Painting Curriculum

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Additional Topics At Rees Atleier

In Addition to the topics outlined in the Academy Curriculum and the Deeper Study Outline, other topics of instruction offered to Apprentices at Rees Atelier include framing and frame making, website construction, marketing, visits from professional artists, and more.


The second year of the program is dedicated to oil painting.  Students begin in monochrome (one color) and advance to limited palette.  If the student can successfully manage a limited palette, working in a broader palette may be permitted. The subject of each class will be similar to the drawing year, and students will spend the majority of their time acquiring a technical proficiency in a variety of painting methods including direct, layering, glazing, scumbling, etc, and knowledge of various painting mediums. 

For those students wishing to dive into deeper study at Rees Atelier, it is recomended to follow this more comprehensive assignment list (to flesh out the Academy Curriculum).  This is recommended for students who are able to spend 30+ hours per week at the Atelier.


           Block 1    Bargue Plate Drawing

           Block 2    Cast Drawing

           Block 3    Master Copy Still Life Drawing

           Block 4    Still Life Drawing Drawing

           Block 5    Master Copy Figure Block In Drawing

           Block 6    Anatomy Drawings

           Block 7    Master Copy Portrait Drawing

           Block 8    Portrait Drawing

           Block 9    Master Copy Figure Drawing

           Block 10  Figure Drawing


           Block 11  Open Grisaille Master Copy Still Life/Landscape Painting

           Block 12  Closed Grisaille Master Copy Still Life/Landscape Painting

           Block 13  Closed Grisaille Cast Painting

           Block 14  Color Master Copy Still Life/Landscape Painting

           Block 15  Color Still Life Painting

           Block 16  Master Copy Anatomy Studies Painting

           Block 17  Anatomy Studies Painting

           Block 18  Master Copy Portrait Painting

           Block 19  Portrait Painting

           Block 20  Master copy Figure Painting

           Block 21  Figure Painting

           Block 22  Master copy Multi-Figurative Painting (optional)


           Apprentices should demonstrate sufficient ability in each block before advancing, and there is no set time frame on mastery of each subject.  Traditional study in this approach can take 2-4 years to complete each block.




Deeper Study At Rees Atelier

The Academy curriculum at Rees Atelier in Arizona is a two-year training curriculum focusing on the methods and information presented in the 19th century ateliers and academies.  Though it began as a rigid course schedule at the Scottsdale Artists' School, it now exists as a guideline of study for Apprentices at Rees Atelier, particularly those who want to streamline their learning experience.

About The Academy Curriculum at Rees Atelier

Each level of the 6 level program (3 drawing levels and 3 painting levels) was originally broken up into roughly 20 sessions.  Students can now follow that original guidline to get a strong overview of all the concepts/techniques in the Atelier, or dive into the deeper study block assingnments.


Students are encouraged to meet at least twice a week for instruction/feedback, but it is up to them to maintain this regiment and schedule critique time. It is also recomended students attend open studio sessions at local facilities that offer them 1-2 times a week, as well as work on work in the studio or at home 10-20 hours a week.  Students must develop the ability to work independently, then come to class with thoughtful questions.  This was a hallmark of French ateliers of the 19th century.


Frequently Asked Questions About The Academy Curriculum at Rees Atelier



I'm a complete beginner- can I be successful with the Academy curriculum?

            The academic program has been designed in such a way to allow students of all skill levels to achieve success.  It begins with fundamental concepts and quickly progresses to the concepts and techniques necessary to achieve an accurate finished drawing.  While no initial skill level is required, students that are most successful are those who commit substantial amounts of time outside of class to drawing and study, and those who are willing to adhere to the advice and techniques presented in class.  The students who face the largest opposition are those who have established set patterns and habits of drawing, and those who are unwilling or unable, for whatever reason, to work in the manner presented.  


I'm a fairly experienced artist/student. Can I skip ahead to the advanced levels? or I don’t like to draw, I just want to paint.  Can I skip ahead to the painting year?

            Because of the manner in which the program is designed and information is presented, it is not advisable to skip ahead in the program.  However, if the prospective student does wish to skip a level, he or she is welcome to submit a drawing of the subject intended to skip (analogous to the final project of that skill level), as well as complete an administered written exam.  Provided the prospective student has met the requirements demanded of the students in the program (listed in the course competency sections of the textbook) as well as a final exam score exceeding 85%, the prospective student is permitted to skip that level. Those who wish to advance directly to the painting program may do so by successfully completing the 3 final assignments of the drawing program and scoring 85% or higher on the written exams.


Doesn't all of that measuring produce '"stiff" or "static" un-lifelike work?

            The academic process has the potential to produce drawings and paintings that are very precise, which some people may interpret as stiff or static.  The requirements demanded of the students suggest a 95% accuracy of shape faithful to the reference, which, in the early terms of the program, will create something very precise and photographic.  The later terms of the program encourage the student to combine accurate perception with anatomical knowledge and theoretical concepts, affording a certain amount of gestural quality.  This integration will depend largely on the student. An ideal historical example is the figurative works of Solomon J. Solomon.


Will everyone finish the Academy curriculum with the same style?

This depends entirely on the student, but the short answer is unlikely.  The beginning of the program will see all students working very similarly and precisely, and individual variations will be introduced and encouraged as the program proceeds from there, largely depending on the student’s likes and dislikes.  The Academy will instead focus on 4 common measuring techniques (mechanical and estimated), a skillful handling of the charcoal medium, and a solid working method (which can ultimately be modified as the year progresses depending on the comfort and skill level of the student).


Will I get the chance to be creative?

            The first term, focusing on the development of technical skill via copying, will involve no creativity, other than the selection of work to be copied.  Following this term, students will be granted creative liberty in selection and arrangement of subjects and composition to make something unique to them, clear in the visual language of art.


I travel a lot and will probably miss a few weeks at a time, will this be a problem?

            Missing a week or two here or there doesn't present a problem in the context of a 4 month block.  The important think is to keep a good work ethic when availalbe.  All instruction and the pace of things is individual, so students won't "miss anything" by not attending, other than experience.


I want to be an abstract artist- will I still get use out of the Academy?

            We have had several abstract artists enrolled in the program who have found it very useful.  Topics most focused on are mastering of materials, strong design with planned composition, and an understanding of the figure in order to integrate it into abstract works.


I'm enthusiastic about learning this approach to drawing and painting but don't have much time- can I still do well in the Academy?

            Students who have devoted little studio (non-studying) hours  have progressed through some terms of the program, but do not achieve the same success and growth as those who have committed many hours.  It should be expected the total amount of time required for the Academy grows each term.  It begins with a minimum of 6-10 hours per week, and progresses to 15-20 per week in the last term of the curriculum .  Any less time devoted will most likely be insufficient to be successful.  This should be considered a minimum estimate, as most students will spend far longer to achieve the necessary results required to successfully progress with the program.


What is the mood like at the Academy?

            The atmosphere can be stressful when students realize the massive amount to learn, but with the support of senior students, the environment is welcoming, hardworking, sometimes serious, and sometimes playful.  Those who establish dialogue and relationships with current students tend to last longer in the program and learn more than those who are reclusive.


Do I have to bring my materials to class each day?

            Students will have space to leave supplies in their studio, if they desire.


Will I work from a nude model?

          The format of the apprenticeship no longer allows us to hire a model, which would demand a more set schedule and higher tuition costs.  Instead, it is encouraged students attend open studios at local facility to work with a live model, work from pre-recorded model sessions such as those available through various websites, and work with other students to higher their own models to complete assignments. (These options are recommendations, but not requirements). Please note, utilizing the resource "Croquis Cafe" cannot be, and is not, recommended- it is advised artists work from other modeling resources.




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