As a painter everything seems to be about tradition;  whether it is upholding them, smashing them to the ground or finding a way to take the best of what each tradition has to offer.  Personally, I strive for the latter.  This was not always the case for me.  When I began painting, all I could do was stare in awe at the work being done in traditional ateliers like the Florence Academy.  As I have grown as a painter my tastes have shifted toward less predictable directions.  I began to respond more to the sensuality of the paint itself and the light and color in a very different way.  I began to respond to the abstract language within the picture plane and suddenly I was looking at work that was very different from what I had become accustomed to.  Not only was I looking at it but I wanted my work to speak that way.  This is why I chose to come to PAFA as my place of study.  PAFA seemed to be steeped in tradition as well as open to the ever-changing needs of modern growth.

So what happens when The Florence Academy (FAA) meets The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)?  Well one answer is to look at the work of such incredible painters as Carolyn Pyfrom and Peter Van Dyck, who happened to attend FAA and now teach at PAFA.   Peter and Carolyn hosted the workshop offering the students insight into many of the techniques taught at FAA, such as the sight-size method.

For those who are unfamiliar with this method, ” Simply stated, the sight-size method positions the model (subject matter) and the artist’s drawing board next to each other so that they can be viewed side-by-side, while the artist stands at a specific distance from them.  It is extremely important that the position of the model and the artist’s drawing board (or canvas) always remain exactly the same, as well as the position from which the artist observes them.  Therefore, those positions are usually carefully marked using tape or chalk.  This exactness is so important, that even the shoes of the artist must be consistent because a difference in the height of the heel can throw off the accuracy of the measuring process.  From the artist’s set position, or vantage point, the model and the drawing of the model appear exactly the same size (hence, “sight-size”).” Hans-Peter Szameit 

It is a very rigorous method but it can be very useful under very specific conditions.  It was such an intense week, thank God Peter and Carolyn have such a great energy about them. Each day the class would meet for a lecture and then break into two groups, one to work from the model and one to work from casts.  After lunch the groups would swap.

For me, the best part of the whole experience was having the opportunity to explore some of the methods of The Florence Academy, but still be able to push the boundaries of paint application and color.

Carolyn’s Demo.

Peter getting his paint on.

This is one of my paintings from the workshop.  “study”, 12 x 30″, oil on canvas.


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