News & Blog: Judy Simonian

Introduction to Portrait Drawing and introduction to Color Theory classes NYC Introduction to Portrait Drawing and introduction to Color Theory classes NYC
Judy Simonian teaches Introduction to Portrait Drawing and introduction to Color Theory


Judy Simonian, who teaches drawing and painting in Cooper’s Continuing Education program, finds that her students come from all walks of life: “teachers, psychiatrists, graphic designers, lawyers, scientists,—fields where they've relied on a different kind of language. They’re expanding their worlds by learning an entirely new language. I live in a world with mostly other artists, so to relive this excitement of discovering for the first time that you can do something creative is wonderful.”

Simonian, whose own work has been awarded with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014, emphasizes that drawing and painting is not about innate talent. Instead, she says, what is needed is an acceptance of the discipline needed for the challenge. Besides creating art, students sharpen their observation skills. “Particularly in the portrait class and in color, they’re reporting to me that they’re noticing more than they had – people’s faces, color combinations, and they have more confidence about their color choices,” she says.

Her paintings are extraordinary collisions of different images: for instance, a picture of swimming fish is placed over a landscape of the French Riviera in Fish in Nice (2012). She finds that in juxtaposing two wholly separate images that one illuminates the other. By painting, she finds that she can make sense of each of the separate scenes.

After years of teaching, she has learned that her students’ enthusiasm deeply informs her own art making. She says, “I cherish seeing that excitement. It’s totally contagious.”


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.