Visual Arts

A primary objective of the visual arts program is to guide the student, major and non-major alike, to a practical understanding of many of the languages and traditions of visual expression. The program encourages a holistic exploration of the arts, while simultaneously requiring art majors to develop advanced skills in at least one of the following sub-disciplines: art + intermedia; drawing; video; painting; photography; printmaking; sculpture; or visual communications. Visual arts majors who are considering graduate study are encouraged to complete a minor in art history. 

Emphases: Art + Intermedia; Drawing; Video; Painting; Photography; Printmaking; Sculpture; and Visual Communications

Students choosing an emphasis in Art + Intermedia must complete a different set of degree requirements (see below for section titled, “Emphasis: Art + Intermedia”).

Preparation for the Major

ARTH 101Introduction to the History of Art3
Select four of the following:12
Fundamentals of Drawing
Design Foundations
Introduction to Sculpture
Introduction to Video Art

Visual arts students are strongly encouraged to complete the above five courses by the end of their sophomore year.

The Major

  1. Select at least one area of specialization from the sub-disciplines of visual arts.
  2. Complete 28 Upper-Division Units of visual arts (ARTV) including ARTV 495 and ARTV 496. At least nine of the total 28 Upper-Division Units in visual arts need to be in the selected area of specialization.
  3. Complete ARTH 334 or ARTH 360, as well as one additional upper-division art history course.

Additional Requirements

  1. Students must participate in a junior review during the second semester of the junior year.
  2. ARTV 495 (formerly 478) must be completed during the first semester of the senior year.
  3. ARTV 496 (formerly 495) must be completed during the second semester of the senior year.
  4. Students must take at least one upper division course in their selected area of specialization during their senior year.
  5. Students selecting drawing or painting as an area of specialization must take ARTV 302.

Emphasis: Art + Intermedia

Art + Intermedia focuses on the interdisciplinary study of art, technology and culture, supporting a wide range of projects and practices. It is structured to encourage students to apply multiple media and integrate disciplines into new forms of expression. Students prepare to be independent artists and cultural producers in a world of new media representations and strategies. Integrating the production of art and critical studies, the lower- and upper-division requirements are drawn from equal amounts of studio art and art history courses. It is designed specifically for creative uses of media beyond singular discipline areas of study in photography, film, video, sound, music, sculpture, performance or theater. Students choosing a concentration in Art + Intermedia must complete the following requirements:

Preparation for the Major (Art + Intermedia)

Lower-Division Requirements
ARTV 105Introduction to Sculpture3
ARTV 108Introduction to Video Art3
ARTV 160Photography3
ARTH 101Introduction to the History of Art3
ARTH 109Introduction to Sound Art3
Select one of the following:3
Art and Visual Culture
Theatre and Society
Introduction to Modern Architecture (formerly 135)

The Major (Art + Intermedia)

Upper-Division Requirements
Select five upper-division visual arts courses (15 units) from the following:15
Video Art: Site and Screen
Video Art: The Cinematic
Intermediate/Advanced Video Art
Color Photography
Photo Strategies
Advanced Photography
Intermediate / Advanced Sculpture
Designing for Social Space
Sculpture / Landscape
Digital Audio Composition
Interactive Digital Music and Arts
Art and the Soundscape
Select four upper-division art history courses (12 units) from the following:12
City and Utopia: Introduction to History of Urbanism (formerly ARTH 338)
Contemporary Architecture
Art in Public Spaces
Modern Art: 1780-1920
Art of the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries in Europe and the Americas
History and Theory of Photography
The Avant-Garde and Mass Culture: Art and Politics
Art Since 1960
Race, Ethnicity, Art and Film
Public Art Studio Seminar
Critical Methods in the Analysis of Visual Culture
Methods in Art History
Contemporary Theatre
Performance Studies
Participate in Junior Review during the second semester of Junior year.
ARTV 495Senior Thesis Studio Seminar3
Senior Thesis Studio Seminar (3) during first semester of Senior year.
ARTV 496Senior Thesis1
Senior Exhibition Project (1) during final semester of Senior year.

Please note that some courses may be taken more than once for course credit and that under certain circumstances substitution of classes will be allowed with advisor approval.

Recommended Elective Courses for Visual Arts Majors

Visual Arts majors and minors are encouraged to consider some of the following courses for fulfillment of core curriculum and elective requirements:

For students selecting a specialization in drawing or painting:
ARTH 333Modern Art: 1780-19203
ENGL 385Topics in Creative Writing3
For students selecting a specialization in visual communications:
COMM 300Communication Theory3
COMM 475Intercultural Communication3
COMM 435Principles of Video Production3
PHIL 338Environmental Ethics3
PHIL 274Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy3
For students selecting a specialization in photography:
ARTH 333Modern Art: 1780-1920 (and other upper division art history courses)3
ARTH 336History and Theory of Photography3
For students selecting a specialization in sculpture:
ENGL 222Poetry3
ARTV 424Art and the Soundscape3

Visual Arts Study Abroad

No more than a total of two ARTV 275 and/or ARTV 375, can be counted toward Visual Arts major credit. ARTV 275 or ARTV 375 can be repeated once for credit. Two sections of ARTV 275 or ARTV 375 can be taken concurrently during a study abroad semester or summer.

Recommended Program of Study, Visual Arts Majors

Freshman Year
Semester IHours
ARTV 101Fundamentals of Drawing3
CC or electives9-10
Semester II
ARTV 103
or 108
Design Foundations
Introduction to Video Art
ARTH 101Introduction to the History of Art3
CC or electives9-10
Sophomore Year
Semester I
ARTV 105Introduction to Sculpture3
ARTV 160Photography3
CC or electives9
Semester II
ARTH 334
or 360
Art of the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries in Europe and the Americas
Asia Modern
ARTV 302Intermediate Drawing3
CC or electives9
Junior Year
Semester I
ARTV electives9
CC or electives6-7
Semester II
Upper Division ARTH Elective3
ARTV electives6
CC electives6
Junior Review 
Senior Year
Semester I
ARTV 495Senior Thesis Studio Seminar (formerly 478)3
ARTV electives6
Semester II
ARTV 496Senior Thesis (formerly 495)1
ARTV Electives9

The Visual Arts Minor

The minor in visual arts requires the following:

Select four from the following:12
Fundamentals of Drawing
Design Foundations
Introduction to Sculpture
Introduction to Video Art
Select two from the following:6
Introduction to the History of Art
Introduction to Modern Architecture (formerly 135) 1
Introduction to Art History I
Introduction to Art History II
The Year 1500: A Global History of Art and Architecture
Art and Visual Culture
The Buddhist Temple
12 upper division visual arts units12

ARCH 121 can be substituted for ARTH 121



Units: 3

Introduction to the fundamental elements and principles of drawing. Exploration of a variety of dry and wet media. Primary emphasis on developing the student’s perceptual capabilities and representational skills. Every semester.


Units: 3

Study of two-dimensional design principles stressing the dynamics of line, shape, value, texture, color, spatial relationships, and composition. This course introduces students to the basics of visual communications. Every semester.


Units: 3 Repeatability: No

This studio course is an introductory exploration of the media and methods (traditional and experimental) that form the basis of an ongoing dialogue between object and artist. Students will investigate sculptural form as a means of cultural production through technical exercises, studio projects, critiques, slide lectures, readings, and discussions. Every semester.


Units: 3

This course examines the concept of time in contemporary art. Examples of experimental films and video art are screened and discussed, along with related texts. Students create video projects through directed assignments using department equipment and software. Every semester.


Units: 3-4

A lecture and laboratory course designed to provide a foundation for students majoring or minoring in Visual Arts with an emphasis in photography. Working from documentary perspectives this class investigates the world realistically stressing the historical, cultural and intellectual challenges of the medium. We will be making pictures that are faithful to experience and cognizant of art historical traditions. Processing and printing takes place in traditional darkrooms and computer labs. Students will need access to both film and digital cameras, and purchase materials as required. Lab fee required.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

An investigation of site-specific issues or topics in visual arts, offered by a USD-affiliated program abroad. Can be repeated once for credit. Two sections of ARTV 275 can be taken concurrently during a study abroad semester or summer.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 103

Study of design concepts, form analysis, and development of visual thinking for creative problem solving. Lectures, discussions, and class presentations explore historical, cultural and contemporary issues and practices in visual communications. May be repeated for credit. Fall semester.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 101

The primary objective of this course is to investigate the intimate relationship between form and content in the creation of images. Drawing projects, lectures, and critiques will stress the organization of the pictorial field and the technical manipulation of the material as means for identifying and articulating the artist’s intentions. Students will be guided through the process of developing visually compelling drawings that are technically and conceptually sophisticated. Required for art majors selecting a specialization in drawing or painting. Spring semester.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 101

Basic techniques and expressive possibilities of intaglio and relief printmaking including etching, drypoint, aquatint, soft ground, and woodcut. Various methods of printmaking will be introduced. Equal emphasis will be placed on creative image making and craftsmanship. May be repeated for credit.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 108

This course considers the body in new media art. Texts and screenings relate to how artists craft a physical experience of video art installations, and how they render the disembodied space of virtual realms. Students produce moving image projects along these themes.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 108

This course focuses on specific strategies of the cinematic moving image; screenings and texts explore film theory, art and media scholarship. Assignments highlight the production of individual video projects with unique consideration of time and narrative.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Repeatable once for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 108

Advanced studies in selected themes and strategies of film and video art through texts, screenings and individual projects. May be repeated for credit.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 101

Introduction to the fundamental principles, tools, and techniques necessary for successful expression through the language of painting. The primary emphasis throughout the semester will be on developing the student’s technical proficiency with the medium of painting and enhancing eye/hand coordination. The majority of paintings will be developed from direct observation, with a few projects exploring the artist’s subjective interests. May be repeated for credit when ARTV 429 is not offered.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 101

A studio course emphasizing the structure and anatomy of the human figure. A variety of drawing techniques and media will be utilized to depict the live model. May be repeated for credit.


Units: 3

A study of the fundamentals of art as they relate to creative and cognitive growth. Emphasis is placed on the stages of development from preschool through junior high school. Hands-on experience with appropriate media and techniques, combined with motivational topics that help in establishing the creative atmosphere, which stimulates growth of visual expression. Intended for liberal studies majors or with permission of instructor.


Units: 3

An introduction to the aesthetic and technical considerations of color photography. The course covers basic camera operations, appropriate exposure and processing strategies, and the development of critical issues of color photography. The class includes an introduction to digital imaging, including image scanning and storage strategies, image manipulation, color correction, and digital photographic printing. All prints will be made digitally in the computer lab. Materials not included.


Units: 3

In this course photographs are made in an attempt to discover the student’s singular voice by building upon the foundation laid by exemplary photographers. The study of artists selected by the student is encouraged through assigned readings, discussions, lectures, and writing assignments. Photographs are made in color and black and white, with both digital and traditional media. Materials not included.


Units: 3 Repeatability: No

We will make color images with the digital camera, editing the results and making prints with Adobe Photoshop software. Directed projects are designed to encourage visual thinking and to assist us in seeking to understand the world as seen through a camera. All pictures will be understood within fine art traditions, and examined against the background of selected photographers who have contributed to the medium's history since its 19th century beginnings. Bold old and new traditions of picture making will inform discussions and we will read and comment about its artistic, historical and social roles.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 160

Advanced lecture and laboratory course that develops technical skills and encourages the growth of the student’s personal aesthetic in photography. Advanced topics include analog and digital approaches to documentary projects, synthetic imagery, non-silver printing, and special topics of student interest. Materials not included.


Units: 3

This course engages the student in making analog and digital portraits in color and black and white photographic media. Students make environmental and formal portraits utilizing both natural and artificial light, including electronic strobe. Students are required to complete a body of work reflecting the concerns of portraiture within a fine arts context. Materials not included.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 104 or ARTV 105

A multi-level studio course designed to advance students’ technical and conceptual skills through a series of sculptural problems beyond the introductory level. Studio projects, technical demonstrations, lectures, readings and field trips create context within the history and practice of contemporary sculpture, expanding students’ knowledge of traditional and experimental approaches to sculpture, while aiding the development (particularly at the advanced level) of a personal body of work.


Units: 3

This studio seminar considers a constellation of artistic developments of the last 40 years that employ social space and activity as important artistic venues or materials. The class will examine the impulse towards social engagement in art: the desire to make art beyond the gallery, to facilitate collective change, to practice a form of creativity beyond individual authorship, or to avoid the market’s hold on art. Through experiments, exercises and art projects, readings and lectures students will explore site-specific sculpture and installation, social sculpture, collaborations and artistic interactivity.


Units: 3

A studio seminar course organized around the overlapping topics of landscape, sculpture and land art, Sculpture/Landscape is designed to offer intermediate and advanced Visual Arts students an opportunity to continue developing technical and conceptual skills in sculpture while also providing motivated students without experience an exciting entry to the discipline. Through technical exercises, studio projects, field trips, lectures, readings and discussions we will explore contemporary sculpture and installation practice in relation to the land and historical and contemporary ideas about land, all while taking advantage of San Diego’s year-round growing season, diverse micro-climates and post-modern botanical vocabulary.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

An investigation of site-specific issues or topics in visual arts, offered by a USD affiliated program abroad. Can be repeated once for credit. Two sections of ARTV 375 can be taken concurrently during a study abroad semester or summer.


Units: 3

This course focuses on the role of the artist outside of the gallery/museum context. Tangential to this investigation will be discussions that engage social, political, and urban issues relevant to this expanded public context. Traditional approaches of enhancement and commemoration will be examined in light of more temporal and critical methodologies. Historical examples will be studied and discussed, including the Soviet Constructivist experiments, the Situationists, Conceptual art and more recent interventionist strategies. Cross-listed as ARTH 382.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 103 and ARTV 300

Advanced problem-solving, further analysis of form and meaning, and continued exploration of the historical and cultural issues in contemporary visual communications. Projects emphasize creative thinking and require the students to place greater emphasis on research, exploration, and preparation of work for final presentation. May be repeated for credit. Spring semester.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 101 and ARTV 302

This course is designed to challenge students who have already demonstrated an intermediate level of proficiency in drawing. Lectures, reading discussions, and drawing projects will unfold throughout the semester around a single unified topic, resulting in a cohesive portfolio for the student. The course’s central topic will change every semester, enabling students to repeat the course without repeating its content. The following is a partial list of the topics that will be explored: representation, identity, and the narrative portrait; informed by nature: The landscape from the panoramic to the microscopic; the expressionist voice; techniques of the old masters; drawing the artists’ book. May be repeated for credit.


Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: ARTH 109

Analysis of historical and contemporary experimental music and sound provides the foundation for structured and creative composition using digitized sound. Includes an introduction to sampling, recording techniques, digital audio editing, effects processing, and mixing using Digital Performer and related software. Workshop format includes critique of work-in-progress and opportunities for public performance. Cross-listed as MUSC 420. ARTH 109/MUSC 109 recommended, but not required. Prior musical experience not required.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTV 420 or MUSC 420

A workshop on the creation of interactive digital works of sound art or music using state-of-the-art hardware and software, focusing on Mas/MSP/Jitter. Includes study of the theoretical, aesthetic, philosophical and historical background in computer-human interaction and the arts, basic tenets of programming, and practical exercises in programming interactive computer multimedia art. Cross-listed as MUSC 421.


Units: 3

Prerequisites: ARTH 109 or MUSC 109

Artistic and scholarly investigation into the soundscape—the totality of the sonic environment invested with significance by human imagination. Creative work in media of the students choice, including new and cross-disciplinary media such as sound art, installation art, electronic music, phonography, instrument construction and the internet. Critical writing about creative work and its social and historical situation. Cross-listed as MUSC 424.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: ARTV 328

A multi-level course designed to refine the technical skills of intermediate and advanced students, while developing their individual concerns through a cohesive series of paintings. Assignments, presentations, and readings will challenge the student to consider a variety of thematic and stylistic approaches to the art of painting. May be repeated for credit.


Units: 3 Repeatability: Yes (Repeatable if topic differs)

An in-depth investigation in a studio setting of selected topics in the visual arts. Issues of current and historical interests, methods, and techniques are addressed. May be repeated when topic changes. Two sections may be enrolled in concurrently if topic differs.


Units: 3

A studio-seminar course designed for Visual Art majors in their senior year to help prepare them for ARTV 496 – Senior Exhibition Project. Students will develop a mature body of work in their selected discipline(s) and formulate critical positions on their work through readings, lectures and cross-disciplinary discussions pertaining to a range of creative practices. Required for all Visual Art majors in their senior year. Fall semester.


Units: 1

This course requires the student to mount an exhibition of his or her most significant art work carried out during undergraduate education; present a written thesis that analyzes the development of, and influences on, his/her work; and participate in an oral defense of that thesis with the art faculty and their peers. Senior Exhibition Project should be taken in the final semester of the senior year. Every semester.


Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

The practice of the specialized skills, tools, basic materials and production techniques at local professional art and design studios under the direct supervision of their senior staff. Students will present a written report to the faculty.


Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

A project developed by the student in coordination with an instructor. The project should investigate in-depth a field of interest to the student not covered by established visual arts courses.