Florence Academy of Art

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Florence Academy of Art

From Richard

Published before 2005


I just noticed the thread re: lighting at the Florence Academy. Perhaps I'm different from most of the atelier students but I spent a good deal of time in the atelier system in darkened cubicles with incandescent lighting to paint and draw casts and feel that it is cruel and inhuman punishment to be in such a "doghouse" (as I used to call it). From my point of view, there is something in the human spirit (or art spirit) which is crushed under such oppressive conditions for so long a period of time. We used to look forward to Fridays when we had composition/illustration classes in a naturally lit, south facing room and would find excuses to get into some natural light and have contact with the "real world" and see other students in real light.

At the time, I thought that there was no alternative and simply went along with the practice. Life cannot always be fun and sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and go through it, but to this day, I cannot bear to do the same and in further atelier training at a different school, paid only for figure classes in large, better light rooms. I would never do the dark room approach again and would not subject any student to it. (I used to describe the ticky-tacky cubicles as "Philippine slums," although a slum anywhere would do admirably). My present studio has six pairs of color corrected lights, 3500 lumens per bulb at 5000K and I use it day and night and do not even have to think if the light [has] changed. It's not even on my radar screen.

Perhaps there is a reason for the Florence Academy to retain this practice of "insufficient light." I am not an expert on teaching methods but having spent many years in realist schools, both atelier and non atelier, I think that I can say from my limited and personal experience that any time spent in the "murk" should be limited. I have found that it also tends to produce overly saturated paintings as the eye tends to brighten and lighten the color in order to see the painting in the gloom. This has happened to me many times especially when painting sunrises or in the gloom of ill light museums and was never intentional on my part.

Richard