Last summer, I spent a month and a half in Italy. One month was in Florence since I took an art class. I signed up for painting the human figure at the Florence Academy of Art. I had always been interested in the arts but taking a business course was more practical than being an artist. (Note: Interest is different from ability.) I had always been apprehensive about drawing or painting the human body or portraits. It wasn’t something that I was sure I could be good at so I didn’t do it at all. I decided to push myself and try with this class.
My classmates were mostly seasoned artists who were there to improve their skills. Whereas, I, had neither done a face nor a human body. I was a fish out of water and totally unused to being in this environment. I’ve done some oil painting in the past but mostly stills and landscapes. This was something totally new and challenging for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could.
Classes were in the mornings and we had the afternoons off to do whatever we wanted. Some went to the museums to sketch the statues, while others went around the area to sight-see. I was one of the latter ones and used the afternoons to explore the city and the Tuscan countryside.
Week 1 – I was a bit late coming in to class so I got the back part of the female nude model. I was somewhat disappointed because most of my figure was in the shadow and I didn’t have more fleshy tones to practice with. The first week was spent making sure the body’s angles and proportions right as well as marking the light and dark parts of the body.
Week 2 – This week was all about differentiating between the light and dark shades. We had to do tones and shades for the skin and the shadows. It didn’t need to be perfect but we just needed to mark the areas with the correct shades before we proceed with adding tints to the skin.
Week 3 – For the better part of the third week, we had had to put in more details and fix the lights and the darks. My light source came from the left topmost area so I had to make sure that the body parts that were illuminated corresponded with it. This week was all about mixing different shades of tones and lights and applying it to the different parts of the body to make it look realistic and life-like. As you can see, I had trouble with the face, even if it was just the back part. I was quite satisfied with the body, though.
Week 4 – The final week was all about finishing touches. The lighting is a bit off on this picture so the colors don’t come across as vibrant. I worked out the shadow and the lighting on the feet area as well as making the most of the face. I had the hardest time working on the face.
I learned a lot about techniques and accomplished a lot within this course. I never thought I would be able to paint a human figure and it turned out decent enough. I was so worried that mine would be the worst in class. I ended up being thankful that I got the back part of the model. The view was more sensual and less in-your-face nude. It’s now by the side of the wall in my room since I don’t really know what to do with it yet.
Aside from the painting class, I made new friends and spent weeks in one of my favorite places on earth, Florence. I would love to go back and stay there for weeks at a time again and enjoy the Tuscan countryside, the friendly people and the food. It was indeed a summer to remember.