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Student and graduate work is directly affected by the philosophy, teaching methodology, and physical structure of the studio in which it is created. Ramiro Sanchez, the Director of the FAA’s Advanced Painting Program, says the following about building a student’s skill base:
“As the program challenges individuals to push their technical ability beyond their perceived capacity, they develop strength of character and the confidence necessary to be a professional painter. This helps to create a state of mind in which they are certain of their choices. Our graduates will never stand in front of a blank canvas and feel lost. They will always be able to return to the method. They will never say how am I going to do this, but rather concentrate on what they want to say, and follow their inspiration.”
A distinguishing characteristic of The Florence Academy of Art is that we require all our students to work from life under natural north light, in the tradition of the masters of the past whom we admire: Titian, Rembrandt, and Velázquez, to name a few. Our students do not idly copy their subjects but instead learn to translate nature in a way that is both anatomically accurate and artistically beautiful. Long poses may last three hours a day, five days a week for four or five weeks. This gives artists time to work out problems and produce a competent drawing or painting. Natural light allows students to select a specific area of the painting to keep in sharp focus while peripheral areas remain out of focus, just as the eye sees in nature: there are no edges in natural light, but soft gradations of light to dark.
The sight-size method is a helpful tool, and we apply it in the early stages of the curriculum when students are learning measurement, proportion, and shadow shape. Artists at the advanced levels are taught to apply comparative measurements when necessary.
The rate at which students progress through the Drawing and Painting Program varies by individual, and normally requires a minimum of three years to complete. Classes meet Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. First year drawing and sculpture students are required to attend Anatomy Lectures which are held on Monday evenings from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Students are placed in an additional figure drawing class one evening a week. All students are encouraged to participate in the Friday evening Viewing and Reviewing Artists lectures and the technical demonstrations on materials & techniques held during the academic year.
Students are considered graduates when they have successfully finished all assigned projects. The diploma our graduates receive upon completion of the Painting Program or Sculpture Program is recognized by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design as a university-level certificate.
Student and graduate work is also affected by the faculty, who are chosen from the best of our student body. Each year, five to seven advanced students are selected as teaching assistants in the Intensive Drawing Program. Over time, some become Principal Instructors, and eventually Program Directors. The academy is therefore sustained by a group of committed artists whose instructional language is unified by their common background, but each brings his or her individual voice to the critique.