Marathon Student working on a large Charcoal Drawing from life

The School's internationally-recognized Marathon programs were developed in 1988 by Dean Graham Nickson, initially as a measure for the rest of the semester at the start of the program year. The program has since expanded to become a core component of the School's curriculum. Meanwhile, intense outside interest led to the extension of the Marathons to a wider audience of participants outside of the full-time student body. Renowned artists, art historians, dealers, collectors,  art educators, writers, journalists and students of all levels and affiliations have since experienced the intensity of the program.

The Marathon course hours are 9:00am to 6:00pm, with a lunch break from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. In some Marathons, there may be critiques. The specific critique schedule will be determined once courses have commenced.



Originally designed to address the importance of drawing as the basis of understanding one's experience in the world, the Marathons are based in an exploration of this most direct route to an enriched understanding of the language of the plastic arts. The innovation inherent in the Marathon program reawakens the way that drawing is experienced by artists and appreciators alike.

The Marathons are intensive, all-day programs that run for two weeks at the beginning of each semester and during the Summer Session. Drawing, Painting and Sculpture marathons are offered, both by full-time faculty and distinguished visiting artists, who are present for the entire session. All programs operate along the same basic model of immersing the student in their chosen discipline.

The level of commitment reached by participants during the Marathon is extraordinary. Each individual must confront the problems of drawing, painting and sculpture with vigor and intensity if they are are to show that they are equal to the fierce demands of concentration and stamina necessary for the program. Not only are participants fully engaged in the physical aspects of making art, they are also intellectually challenged and stimulated by extensive group and individual critiques. The strong and surprising works made often work as catalysts for future work.

Marathons are open to beginning and advanced artists, regardless of their affiliation. Admission follows the same requirements and procedures as for the full-time program. Fees for the ten-day course must be paid in full upon registration.



(Please click on each Marathon heading, for a pdf with Full description, including Materials list)

Week 1:  Tuesday, January 19th - Saturday, January 23rd 

Week 2:  Monday, January 25th - Friday, January 29th

Drawing Marathon: Graham Nickson & Guests | January 19th-29th, 2016

In this Marathon, students learn the importance of drawing as the basis of understanding one's experience of the world. Drawing is seen here as the most direct route to the examination of our perceptions. Unorthodox tools and exercises will be introduced to broaden the student's drawing vocabulary.

This course will investigate many implications of drawing as a physical and cerebral activity as well as drawing as a philosophy.  It will discuss key issues, including those of scale, tiny to huge; the use of different formats; the use of the rectangle; the vertical axis and its significance; the nature of distortions; the compression of space and depth; the search for 'form' and its consequences; space and its meaning, functions and the different kinds of space; and the nature of relational drawing.

We will approach the meaning of images, investigating what contributes to a "powerful image".  We will discuss "pictorial" subject versus narrative subject: the diversities of structure, especially using strategies like the grid, the organic spiral and geometry, all of which play a part in research into the language of drawing.

The class meets everyday for two consecutive weeks from 9:00AM - 6:00PM, five days a week. Evening critiques will be held most nights during during both weeks, from approx 6:30pm - 9pm. This course is open to students of all levels. Cost: $1625.

Sculpture Marathon: Jeff Lowe & Lee Tribe | January 19th-29th, 2016

"There and Not There: Building Space"

This Marathon offers physically demanding exercises that provoke exciting dialogues between two and three-dimensional interpretation. In the past, experiencing the full two weeks of this course has resulted in important breakthroughs for painters and sculptors of all levels of development.

This course will explore the making of three-dimensional objects that relate to figues and portrait-objects by working, initially with the actual and imagined space around the live model. Students will use a variety of materials, including found objects, to describe implied volume and presence. Great consideration will be given to the points at which space and material meet. Students will work additively and reductively to allow for many changes throughout the working process. Emphasis will be placed on the many ways of joining and touching different elements within the work. Objects will be self-supporting and mutable in a variety of different positions.

The course is an introduction to working in three dimensions for those students who have no experience of doing so. For the student who has some experience, the course will provide additional experience which will be integrated with important aspects of the language of sculpture. For the more advanced sculpture students, it will facilitate a reconsideration of their practice.

Cost: $1625 + Materials Fee: $200


Drawing Marathon: Denis Farrell | January 19th-23rd, 2016

"Learning to Love your Work"

To understand the complex simplicity of art is to understand that in the process of effort, that self perceived failure is often an echo of the very heights of the heroic efforts of one or more of our masters.  This "failure" is our inability to keep up with those efforts as intellectual beings.  This tragedy is in fact the misfortune of time itself.  Failure is then a prisoner of time which is none the less a guardian of humility.  Learn to love your work.

In this Drawing Marathon the student begins the valuable lesson in learning to love their work.  By quick direct observational drawing of still life objects over the first two days the student will amass a body of drawings during this time and which over the following two days will be analyzed and furthered intellectually and sensually.  All possible drawing tools are permitted in order to glean a personal, sensual response that should contribute to a final drawing on the final day.  Responding to the incidental and consequential will constitute a large part of this marathon.

Dates: Tuesday, January 19th through Saturday, January 23rd 2016. Cost: $890

Drawing Marathon: Claire Sherman | January 25th-29th, 2016

"A Wind-Storm in the Forests--Visionary Landscapes"

Basing its title on John Muir's essay from 1984, "A Wind-Storm in the Forests", this course focuses on imagined and constructed landscapes using mixed media in drawing.  The class will take field trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, and Central Park to gather source material from which to work during the week.  Landscape will be considered from many different perspectives ranging from the allegorical, to the history of the sublime, as well as current environmental concerns and investigations.  Students will scavenge imagery while drawing at these various locations and are encouraged to bring their own photographs, clippings, and collage materials to class to use in their work.  With these sources combined, the class will bring their drawings and photographs back to the studio to work on mixed-media works on paper in a range of sizes.  Supporting readings and films will also be assigned, ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Elizabeth Kolbert.

Dates: Monday, January 25th through Friday, January 29th, 2016. Cost: $890



Upcoming Marathon dates:

Summer Session 2016

NB: All classes are subject to cancellation.


If you are currently enrolled as a full-time student at NYSS, or if you have successfully completed a Marathon or full-time program within the last five years, you are not required to submit an application in order to enroll in upcoming Marathons.

Please e-mail the Student Services Coordinator Tanya Steinberg at and provide: (1) the name of the upcoming course in which you would like to enroll; (2) the name of the program you most recently attended; and (3) the semester and year of the program that you most recently attended.

We will ask you to verify your contact information and update your Emergency Contact information.  We will also ask that you submit a non-refundable $45 processing fee along with a $500 Tuition Deposit (which will be applied to your Tuition payment) in order to secure your place in the upcoming program of your choice. 

We look forward to welcoming you back to the New York Studio School!

The deadline for SPRING 2016 Enrollment is January 18th, 2016.

Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis and early applicants have a much stronger chance of securing a spot in upcoming Marathons.



Marathon Students in the Drawing Room