Studying at a Fine Arts Atelier: New York Academy of Art

Studying at a Fine Arts Atelier: New York Academy of Art

If you are considering an Art Atelier for classical and technical training, this review of the New York Academy of Art, is worth the read.

U.S. Navy Vet turned Concept Artist, Willie Jimenez, is on a journey to master the fine art fundamentals that will take his artwork to the next level. If you are considering an Art Atelier for classical and technical training, his latest review of the New York Academy of Art, is worth the read.

Last summer, I had the honour and pleasure of being accepted into a summer residency program at the New York Academy Of Art (NYAA). Like many, I was searching for a school that took a deeper dive into the fundamentals and took my work to the next level. I knew an Atelier was the answer for a long time, but I also knew that some Ateliers were renowned for being costly.

I know a lot of artists that deliberate a lot on what kind of education is best for them and I am writing this article in hopes that I can shed some light on what studying at an Atelier is like, compared to my experiences in other courses.

Image courtesy of NYAA

New York Academy of Art

The New York Academy of Art is a private art school in Tribeca. Although the academy offers a Master of Fine Arts degree with a focus on technical training, it also has other certifications and shorter courses. From what I understand the school started as an Atelier. Classical training which the Atelier provided, with a focus on the human figure, is still a huge part of their core teaching.

The teachings have obviously evolved since then, and courses cover modern and contemporary styles as well; students have access to a broad range of knowledge at NYAA.

Where a university may help you attain entry level skills in your chosen field, an Atelier will take a deeper dive into art fundamentals that will take your skills to the next level; you will leave with the skills that are required to start your professional journey.

So, for those who are trying to get into animation or concept art for video games, an Atelier is a very viable option.

We have had students (now professors) who have come from a concept background like Jean-Pierre Roy who worked with Spielberg on several movies, and also pursues his first love, painting (he shows internationally). We also have several faculty members who use digital platforms to realise their work like John Jacobsmeyer who creates environments in Maya and then works from them for his paintings. -Peter Drake, Provost, Professional Artist and Thesis Advisor.
Summer Undergraduate Residency Program (SURP). Image courtesy of Willie Jimenez

NYAA offers a unique month-long residency for ambitious undergraduate students and recent graduates. Students come from all over the world to take part in the program.

The residency is a highly sought after program for which you can get a scholarship, as I did, which expands your technical skill, studio practice and professional development.

For one month I trained everyday except for weekends. I spent 8 hours a day working, only to go home to the studio to work on homework. It wasn't the type of residency where you worked on your own projects, it was more intensive with expected outcomes.

It reminded me of a military bootcamp, without the crying (although some did) and a lot more fun.

The Program

All students in the Summer Residency take five required courses:

  • Drawing: Exploration of the Human Form
  • Theory: The Trajectory of Contemporary Figurative Art
  • Cultural Studies: Museums, Galleries, Artist Studios
  • Dialogues in Painting: Traditional Materials
  • Sculpting the Figure: Perceptual Modeling
Image courtesy of Willie Jimenez

The Experience

The program is 4 weeks of training, with 8 hour workshops each day. All the practical classes were spent in the studio in front of a nude figure, A theory and history class which was done online only because of Covid, and one day a week we took field trips all over NYC: Manhattan and Brooklyn. We got to see art in person, visiting museums, galleries, and artists' studios. By the end of each week we felt like zombies, but I think we'd all do it again.

John Volk, Director of continuing studies said at the start of the program, that we have no idea how much we will learn and grow in such a small time, until well after we leave the school and let it all sink in. He was right.

Even some of our lunches were taken over at times to sneak in more quick lectures on different subjects. We had to curate, put on and take down our own student show, we also had the experience of having our own studio visited by well known artists. I got to meet Alyssa Monks, who gave me the best professional advice i've ever received.

Moving Forward

I still had one semester of college left when I left NYAA. I came to NYAA to be able to create fine art. I wanted to learn how to paint traditionally, in order to become a better digital painter and illustrator. My theory was right, I can totally see the improvement.

I was exposed to so much in such little time, and I feel that as a result of what I have learned and what I am applying to my artwork, I am starting to be taken more seriously as an artist.  And best of all, I made some lasting friendships and am still in contact with most of my instructors.

Image courtesy of Willie Jimenez


Places like Concept Design Academy and FZD School are great if you can afford to move to that location, and I would have stayed in California and continued at Brainstorm if I had the means, however having a school like NYAA on the east coast in the heart of NYC is great for myself and other artists in the area.

“Most of our students want to be fine artists, but there are many who also want to teach on a very sophisticated level and need our training to achieve this. So many BFA and MFA Programs do not offer the foundational tools that we offer and consequently their graduates are not capable of teaching foundational skills. Many ateliers offer sound technical training but do not encourage creative self-investigation that is essential to creative growth. We offer both traditional skills and contemporary discourse.” -Peter Drake.
Image courtesy of Willie Jimenez

In the end... college or self-taught, in person or online, be prepared to do a lot of work and to probably attend more than one school or program to cover everything you need or want to learn.

Email John Volk Director of Continuing Studies at New York Academy of Art for more information about the school.