What to expect in your first trimester at The Florence Academy of Art

My life-long dream has come true: I am studying at The Florence Academy of Art at last. With its mantra of, “form in the lights and atmosphere in the darks,” there could be an institution with no better fit for my practice.

If you’re reading this and considering joining the school, perhaps this will give you a better idea of what life is like at The FAA.

Our days are long and broken down into three parts. The teachers and brochures will say two, but in reality it’s three. Here they are:

  • Project / Studio work: this consists of copying drawings by Charles Bargue, and then casts later in the year. Bargues help you first get a feel for pencil and charcoal, but more importantly, it helps train your eye to see shapes, read value and understand proportion. You’ll probably do two in your first trimester and start on your third if you’re studious enough.

  • Model room: another three hours, this time with a live, nude model. There is a huge misconception about why we have a black background (which we don’t always have), with people thinking that it is a stylistic choice. It is really to just help us get a larger value range so we can model the form better. In other words, it is easier to make the form look three dimensional if you use the full range of lights and darks. the nudity is there so that we can get a sense for the human form, and besides, even if you want to paint clothed figures later, you still have to understand how the form of your subject operates underneath.

  • Evening Drawing: one mandatory class a week, but in reality you should be going to three a week. These are arguably the most important lessons, even though we are simply producing humble pencil sketches. In first year we just focus on the outline and shadow line. This is incredibly helpful as this is similar to the initial block in stage of any drawing or painting, and carries the larger impression of the subject. My advice to any new student would be to go to as many of these as possible right from day one.

In addition to this gruelling 9am - 7pm schedule, we also have a casual portrait club on Saturdays (which I attend religiously), anatomy class on a Monday evening (includes drawing from a live model), and a fantastic art history lecture to cap off the week on a Friday.

The average student at the average art institution would never be seen dead at a lecture on a Friday night, but the entire school goes, without fail, every week. Be ready to entirely give yourself over to this experience.

Below are some examples of my academic study from the first trimester.