What is The Academy?

Rees Atelier


Click here for Course Descriptions

Program length: 3 terms

Each term is 20 sessions (days optional), and a term must be completed within 3 months

Year Two Painting Curriculum

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.

The Academy Details at a Glance


Class typically meets 2 days a week. (more or less is up to student, 20 sessions total)

Each class is 3 hours long.

Each term is 10 weeks long. (but can go as long as 3 months if needed for 20 sessions)

New students can start anytime.

Each term is $550

It is recomended students pass a review before advancing terms, but may choose to audit and advance through the program.

HOURS:  9am-12pm

Click here for Course Descriptions

Program length: 3 terms

Each term is 20 sessions (days optional), and a term must be completed within 3 months 

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. 

The Academy at Rees Atelier in Arizona is a two-year training program focusing on the methods and information presented in the 19th century ateliers and academies.  Unlike traditional schools, however, the program is condensed and structured in a way to encourage independent study aside from instructed class time. 

About The Academy at Rees Atelier

The Academy at Rees Atelier has been described as intense, sometimes stressful, challenging, and very, very rewarding.  It is intended for those who want solid classical training, but who are dedicated enough to put in the extra time and effort for a fast-paced program.  Rather than learning at individual speeds, students follow a set curriculum, and each week brings new information and new challenges, requiring a solid understanding of all concepts that came in the weeks before.  That said, students are encouraged to repeat any assignment whenevever needed before advancing to the next level, to ensure they can master the next lessons.  This formula of refined curriculum and high pressure typically yields incredible advancement in a short amount of time.  


Each level of the 6 level program (3 drawing levels and 3 painting levels) are broken up into roughly 20 sessions.  Because of the flexiblity of the atelier, students can condense a level and utlize their 20 sessions in 4 weeks, or if travel or life gets in the way, stretch it out to as much as 4 months.


The primary mission of The Academy is to provide efficient training at a cost manageable to all ages and financial situations.  Students are encouraged to meet twice a week for instructed 3 hour studio classes, but it is up to them to maintain this regiment. 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 at home (5-20 hours a week is recommended).  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.


More Details About the Program

Cost of Program

$550 for one term.  A term consists of 20 sessions, and the recommended format is to attend 2 sessions per week for 10 weeks.

Each of the two years is divided into three terms.  Each term must be completed within 4 months. Students typically attend two sessions per week over the course of 10 weeks to fulfill their term.  Sometimes students may miss a week and make it up with addtional days in another week, or decide to use more sessions in a single week for additional instruction. Because of the reduced amount of instructed class time, students are expected to cultivate their ability to work and study independently, a critical requirement for a practicing professional artist.  The amount of time outside of class the student must commit will vary by the individual, but the average expectation is 5 -10 hours per week the first term, 10-15 hours per week the second term, and 10-20 hours per week the third term.  This volume of time is expected to help the student develop good working habits as a transition is made into a more professional role. Those who cannot make this time commitment are far less likely to succeed with the program.  Advancement to each successive term is contingent upon the completion of an at-home final assignment. 


The enrollment of the program is limited to 10 students, resulting in ample individual teacher-to-student interaction.  All levels are grouped in the same studio, which allows new students to look to senior students as models or additional instruction.  Students are allowed to start the program at any time, and if need be, take breaks in between terms. This allows the student the possibility of integrating the program into other facets of life requiring a brief sabbatical.  One may leave for 3, 6, or 9 months and return to pick up the program where it was left off.


Additionally, it is important to consider that while the program is structured for advancement into painting after 9 months of drawing, this should be considered an accelerated path.  The traditional timeline to a program of similar design is one to two years, and as such many students may need to repeat one or several terms until they have gained sufficient mastery.  This is not a sign of one’s inability to grasp the concept or become an artist, but a mark of the grave and challenging nature of the program. It is simply a sign that the student may require more than the brief 10 weeks to understand and use all of the information presented.

For those not able to commit the time or intensity described above but want to increase their skill set and broaden their knowledge, The Academy offers an Audit Pathway. While students are still encouraged to complete homework and final projects, it is not required to advance through the program.  Students who have taken this approach are often delighted by all they have learned, though there is typically a frustration with the lack of ability to implement that knowledge into their work.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Academy at Rees Atelier



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

            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 graduate the Academy 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?

            Because we now group all levels within the same time period, students generally receive individual demonstrations and instruction, meaning missing a regular day wont be a problem.  Just show up when you can, and try to get your 20 sessions done within 4 months.


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 out of class- can I still do well in the Academy?

            Students who have devoted little studio (non-studying) hours outside of class 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 usually 4 outside hours per week (10 total hours a week including class time), and progresses to an additional 15 per week in the last term (20 total a week including class time).  Any less time devoted will most likely be insufficient to pass.  This should be considered a minimum estimate, as most students will spend far longer to achieve the necessary results required to 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 storage to leave drawing boards/paper, as well as a small cabinet to leave a variety of drawing supplies.


What If I don’t pass the first term?  Does that mean I won’t be a good artist and I should quit?

            Although the program is well organized and condensed to allow a student to progress to painting in thirty weeks, one must consider this is under ideal circumstances for a student with strong problem solving skills and good physical condition.  It is expected that a large volume of students are unable to advance immediately to the following term.  Due to the volume of skills to be learned, and the required volume of time needed for homework, 10-20% of students are not able to immediately advance each term.

            This does not mean a student should relent to the common myth “artists are born”.  It is a learned skill that requires the dexterity of handwriting, the study of learning a new language, and the problem solving skills of a decent chess player (or at very least checkers).  These activities are typically not learned quickly.  That said, if a passing mark is not received, it simply signifies the required skills have not been acquired, and further practice and study is needed.


Will I work from a nude model?

          The flexiblity of the part-time program does not permit us to hire a model, which would demand a more set schedule.  Instead, it is encouraged students attend open studios at local facility to work with a live model, as well as work from pre-recorded model sessions such as those available through Croquis Cafe.  In class, part time students will work from casts, still life, masterwork drawings/paintings, and reference photos.  Full-Time students work with models on a regular basis (43 days per term).  




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