Friday, November 12, 2010

The Angel Academy of Art

The three great domes of Florence were shining in the morning light yesterday.


On the left of the picture is Jay Blums and on the right is Martinho Isidro Correia. Both instructors are originally from Canada. We're standing in the Angel Academy of Art, one of the world’s leading centers for academic training.


The school was founded by Michael John Angel, known as “Il Maestro” by his students. Mr. Angel was a student of portrait painter and muralist Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988).


The school consists of two buildings near the center of Florence, where 60 students from 29 countries follow a focused curriculum. The method is based on traditional realistic painting methods that Mr. Angel has painstakingly researched.

Students begin by carefully copying plates from Charles Bargue’s 19th-century drawing course. Then they proceed to portraying the plaster cast under artificial light, using "sight-size" procedures, first in charcoal, and then in oil.

They graduate to working from still life subjects and to drawing and painting the living figure.

The entire regimen has taken as little as two years for a few very precocious students. More typically it takes three or four years. A single oil or charcoal can take several months. People move to succeeding steps in the curriculum depending purely on their readiness.
-------------
Angel Academy of Art
Michael John Angel
Cast drawing at left is by Dorian Iten
Charles Bargue Painting Course (Book from Amazon)
Pietro Annigoni on Wikipedia
Wikipedia on the Atelier Method & Sight-Size Drawing
Related GurneyJourney posts:
    Academy of Realist Art, Toronto
    Grand Central Academy, New York
   En Loge (Prix de Rome) Competition

30 comments:

Off the Coast of Utopia said...

Have you ever seen three more beautiful heads in one place at a time? Thanks for the visit James!

Greg Newbold said...

I think this type of study has some validity from an observational training standpoint, but in my experience, students emerging from this environment (not all, but a great many) tend to create immaculately crafted, but lifelessly boring works. I much prefer to see work that has some flaws but engages the viewer and breathes life into the canvas.Mix the two and then you might create the perfect artist.

Richard said...

Does one also learn there, in an academical way, how to paint a pond's surface?

In a way that the water looks liquid?

Kunst Kommt Von Können said...

Greg, I couldn't have said it better myself. There is a teacher missing - Mr. Gurney, do you need a job? :-) -, who knows how to create interesting multifigured compositions

Lucas1000 said...

I just finished my first Bargue drawing over at Angel’s neighboring (/rival?) school, the Florence Academy of Art. It’s a tough exercise! Took me six weeks to complete, but it was worth it. I’m seeing so many more subtle movements and gestures in the model room.

Bargue was a master of form and construction. I definitely recommend that artists should try to copy at least one of his lithographs. Though I will admit, it’s a lot easier when you can have the daily critiques from skilled mentors like the ones found at FAA and Angel.

Lucas1000 said...

Greg, you're post made me chuckle because the first year drawing students at FAA just had this conversation at lunch. “Lifelessness” is becoming quite a concern and discussion topic between the student's and faculty here (I can't speak for Angel, but I'm sure the situation is similar).

Since the modern atelier system is still (relatively) new, its still evolving quite a lot from year to year. It appears to me that they are trying to solve that problem, but are in debate of how to go about it, since “perfect observation of nature” is one of the keystones of their teaching philosophy.

Personally, I'm an illustration major who is only studying in the FAA for one trimester. I agree wholeheartedly with you’re aesthetic preference of, “work that has some flaws but engages the viewer and breathes life into the canvas.” That’s exactly how I approach most of my own work. But, since I've learned quite a lot about figurative construction and modeling shadows at FAA, I’d say the program has its benefits. Basically it’s taught me a new way to make educated rendering decisions that I can now apply to my own subjects and aesthetic philosophy.

Lucas1000 said...

BUUUUT to your point, Greg... I don't know how many other students at the moment are "getting that" out of the program, haha.

Greg Newbold said...

Glad to hear it's not just my observation. I am intrigued to try the process, because I expect it would force me to observe in a more structured way, but I am with Kunst- I think the modern atelier system could learn a lot from a teacher like James.

Max said...

I know that for a long time, this progression method of teaching (copying, cast drawing, painting, working from nature, etc.) was the standard. Some of these comments though seem to confirm criticisms I've heard that this process of learning is much too mechanical.

jetsonjoe said...

Okay...good to see the obvious that study and more study leads to improvement. However having participated in many of these courses here in Canada, drawing copies, casts, painting casts, drawing and painting the figure with formulic methodology...produces...well...emotionally dead art.
BUT...technically excellent products. ( I call them products as I feel this rigid approach is the ford approach of producing an excellent and consistent product...but not much else). I have seen some of this great masters artwork in Toronto at their Toronto academy (new and old versions of itself on Dupont street) and really not much that gets the excitment meter going. So this is not a direction I have followed after all of this study. I got so much more out of my University B.F.A. compared to this study. And actually it was at times more of a hindrance than asset. Really.
However those of you who want to persue...great...and you can find the ENGLISH version of Charles Bargue's book only at Dahesh Museum of Art...here is the bookstore link.....
http://www.daheshmuseum.org/museumshop/index.php?categoryID=2

I truly have to say...yes there is much to learn...but to take a rather didactic approach and blindly apply it today...after all that has happened since then is ...well...just so backward. This is only my opinion based on years of study using this method and classes with some of these masters...of disguise.

jetsonjoe said...

If anyone out there really wants to learn how to paint or draw...follow David Kassen and Richard Schmid....these are amazing artists...there are many more greater artists today than any at the time or of the period that any of these artists of this style existed....okay...i know this is a flippant comment...but it was meant to stir up some honesty...technique is structure...but you have to break the rules sometimes...or use them with more aplomb...than this way to make visually interesting art...read some James Elkins essays...and paint and paint and paint and paint and paint..and take some classes too and just feel good about what you are doing...and always keep asking yourself...what is this works purpose...and be ready to change and loose and then find again...but get to work...and do something in a way that you see it...take lots of risks...now go out and get paint on the floor.

My Pen Name said...

I think there is a difference between technical achievement and 'art' - i think what these academies do best is get artists to the highest technical degree possible-
once they have this degree of technical ability they can express themselves in any way they see fit - where a student without these skills cannot.

and for those criticizing these ateliers - are any accredited art schools in the US doing any better? at least students from these ateliers have some skill -they could for example produce more than competent portraits.. and they aren't bilked out of 100,000 in tuition fees like Pratt or SVA.

My Pen Name said...

ps wasnt' angel going to publish a book at one point? on his methods??

Johan Derycke said...

My Pen Name,
3000EUR per trimester isn't exactly what I call cheap either. But that is a whole different story.

I do agree with you that training to increase the technical abilities will increase the artist's possibilities to express themselves, but even if they didn't, they will still be able to express themselves, only not at such high technical level.

It is up to the viewer to decide if the achieved level meets the expectations.

Personally, I'd love to study at Angel or FAA.

Greg,
where exactly do you see the boring lifelessness in such works? What is it that makes these works so lifeless? Please elaborate?

cheripoffs said...

At Jetsonjoe,

Having finished the Angel course recently I agree with you that the work produced is lifeless. However it seems just as blinkered to me to name two very specific artists (Kassan and Schmid) and say this is who people should learn from.

I think people need to realise that to develop really meaningful art of any sort takes time. If you look back over the history of art and look at the ages that artists entered their great phases it will invariably be around middle age. Which means a lot of years work given how young they general began their apprenticeship. It takes experience (not just technical) in order to imbue work with true depth.

I was happy to recieve a technical grounding a particular set of methods for crafting a technically well structured painting. It has given me a point of reference when I experiment which is invaluable. Of course its not easy to break out of the system you were taught in (this applies to any system) but it shouldn't be easy. Innovation isn't as much of an inherent part of human nature as imitation so you can finish the Angel course in two years but to fully explore your own artistic vision will probably take half a century.

I don't think we will see the results of these young schools for at least another decade or two and as with the history of art the vast majority of art produced by its graduates will still be average :P But it will be interesting to see what happens to the graduates when they are free from their closed off classically obsessed enclaves. Even if you are trained classically, if you move to somewhere like London, New York or Berlin you are bound to experience a lot of contemporary art and that will inevitably influence your art.

DavidStill said...

I think it's wrong to say that meticulous technique and rigorous study produces dead work. It's the lack of something else that does. Like Greg said, the combination of these two factors make for 'the perfect artist'. I can't speak for the schools in Florence, but I went to Atelier Stockholm for one year, where the teaching is based on that of the Florence schools, and the teachers there said at a number of times that the three year drawing and painting program there isn't all it takes. Things like art history and anatomy were things they encouraged us to study on our own, but felt they didn't have time for in their busy schedule of bargue-cast-model.

Even though we didn't strictly use sight-size, the method we learned is very focused on seeing two-dimensional shapes and copying them onto the paper. This is a method that is fairly easy to learn and that really opened my eyes to values, edges, proportions etc. What it taught me was what I needed to do to the paper to make it look like reality, and that's a great thing. But it doesn't help you construct figures from your imagination. A constructive approach to figure drawing, where you use both observation and a knowledge of anatomy to see the underlying three-dimensional form and translate that to the paper is something that is much harder, but that I think is very necessary to make a truly great figure drawer. Again, the combination of these two opposite approaches is something that I believe would give a result greater than the sum of its parts.

On a side note, one of the teachers that was at Atelier Stockholm at the time I was there, Cesar Santos, was himself a student at Angel's, and lives in New York now. The world is small after all.

JonInFrance said...

You would think, that as far as "eye training" goes, someone would put out a computerized equivalent of the Bargue drawing course for use with a wacom - your drawn line would be color coded to show the type of error (length, angle) and you could try again until you got it right - it would be so much faster than erasing on paper. You could have a value scale on every page too. Oh well, just a thought

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

NOTHING beats a thorough art training around the classics, especially drawing. As a teacher myself, I see a lack of drawing skills all too often and a lack of commitment to really learn how to draw because it takes considerable effort to learn to draw really well.

There are no rules in art, just tools. Get the tools, put them permanently in your art tool kit, then shut the lid and focus on your own art point of view.

David Gluck said...

I have often heard this quarrel over whether or not academic training will sacrifice ones ambitions to create more challenging works. Well, not every one who gets a bachelors degree in Science is going to push the envelope of the field right away or even at all, just as not every graduate from an academy is going to instantly create masterful art. Time is needed for an artist to develop their voice after training. After completion of any program, a student knows only one facet of making art, the objective element. The individuals in academies now know this, and many of us are trying to move in the direction of more ambitious work. Remember, it was only about 20 years ago that this information was rediscovered by artists like Angel, Graves, Shanks, etc (the list goes on) so it is fairly new and there are not that many graduates yet from these programs. Bottom line, cut us some slack and give us a chance.

On a side note, I teach at one of these academies and after Gurney came to visit I never shutup about how vital his way of thinking is to the students. I tell them his blog should be required reading, and that the school is only the beginning in their learning process.

jetsonjoe said...

Cheripoffs says,

Yes I did throw out two artists names who are totally different...it was a random and not though out jerk reply...but yes I do believe that believe the classics can assist much in producing good artists...it is a rigid adherence to techniques that were at the time valid, but now I find a rather blind and mindless...as in not referencing the history that has happened since...and I am sorry to say in all of the courses I took...there was rarely a reference to contextualizing technique to the art world today. I was a rather isolated methodology and extremely rigid. I think if one strives for classic training (whatever that means today) one would be far better served studying one of the excellent illustrator programs and then the fine art world...as they will learn far more useable and relevant techniques (yes, anatomy, shadows, values, etc)...that will enhance their artwork more than anything I have ever received from the academy in toronto or any other similar methodology.
I would have to champion the "James Gurney" method, his books, his web site as being many times more applicable than the outdate...yes outdated, academy way. And this is certainly the stance I take with my students...but I present this in a more toned downed less emotional way...and that is why i mentioned Kassen and Schmid...as they both have relevant classical training...but so much more alive and relevant to painting today...Kassen with his excellent education from the Syracuse University...and it is still excellent...and Schmid and his two amazingly excellent (but expensive) books...
Another excellent role model in the "classical way" is Tony Ryder...and yes there are many many others out there...but he is exceptional in his ability to consistently teach it well...get his book and study his methods and go to his classes...this is a far better way of studying than bargue.

jetsonjoe said...

Cheripoffs says,

Firstly I would like to state...this is only my opinion based on my experience and conclusions that work for me...Everyone has to come to their own conclusions about this one....Experience and lots of painting and drawing will make it easier...LOTS.

Yes I did throw out two artists names who are totally different...it was a random and not though out jerk reply...but yes I do believe that believe the classics can assist much in producing good artists...it is a rigid adherence to techniques that were at the time valid, but now I find a rather blind and mindless...as in not referencing the history that has happened since...and I am sorry to say in all of the courses I took...there was rarely a reference to contextualizing technique to the art world today. I was a rather isolated methodology and extremely rigid. I think if one strives for classic training (whatever that means today) one would be far better served studying one of the excellent illustrator programs and then the fine art world...as they will learn far more useable and relevant techniques (yes, anatomy, shadows, values, etc)...that will enhance their artwork more than anything I have ever received from the academy in toronto or any other similar methodology.
I would have to champion the "James Gurney" method, his books, his web site as being many times more applicable than the outdate...yes outdated, academy way. And this is certainly the stance I take with my students...but I present this in a more toned downed less emotional way...and that is why i mentioned Kassen and Schmid...as they both have relevant classical training...but so much more alive and relevant to painting today...Kassen with his excellent education from the Syracuse University...and it is still excellent...and Schmid and his two amazingly excellent (but expensive) books...
Another excellent role model in the "classical way" is Tony Ryder...and yes there are many many others out there...but he is exceptional in his ability to consistently teach it well...get his book and study his methods and go to his classes...this is a far better way of studying than bargue.

jetsonjoe said...

And....if anyone really wants an invaluable education...read this Blog, and get his books (soon to be two) and apply his suggestions...
James Gurney tells it from his experience. and for that THANK yOU for sharing to the world...You are totally awesome and a gentleman....great.

Torbjörn Källström said...

I think this kind of training is extremely relevant to the art world today, because it's a skill that has been lost for so long. And yes, I can agree that observational art that's purely a perfect copy of what's in front of the artist can be a bit lifeless and boring. But the point of the training isn't to promote creativity. It's supposed to give the students the skills and tools to follow their own artistic endeavors. If you go to an atelier school and expect the teachings there to be all you'll ever need then you will never go beyond this. But if you use what you learn as a tool I'm sure it will help your work greatly.

And isn't it the other art educations that don't consider what has happened in art history? After all they're the ones to call techniques that has been developed over a hundred years earlier irrelevant.

jetsonjoe said...

Okay...firstly Angel did not rediscover anything, he was taught a methodology that at the time conflicted with the agreed upon norm. His teachings of this method assisted people (they were not artists yet) to get to a finished product in a straight line...meaning...follow these applied steps and your results will produce said resulting product...yes he "came along" at a time people...were becoming discouraged with what had evolved. Many saw this as the nirvana of creating art reborn...NOT...it is a highly refined effort to create a product of results appreciated by others as being immediately recognizable...but not art...that is for others to esteem to that position (and pay for). Now I will not go into a discussion of when an art directed product becomes art...some philosophy required.
Anyways...It is a VERY restricted methodology...the Angel..method..that is ..well...lacking ...as it was when it was first formed in the 19th century...As one
individual contributed that much additional study was required...Okay what is the point of all this...Well it demonstrates one thing only...that many of us react differently to different work...and to work of our own making with different workflows. If one gets off spending 964 hours painting with a 00000 brush consisting of one badger hair shave to a nanometer of its life and painting all 890987 billion little lines to create a painting...go for it...you will be dead before you even stretch the canvas of your second painting...but congratulations on doing one painting. I have told many students...worry less about completing every single painting you start as a finished piece and enjoy more on just creating and figuring out what works and feels good and right to your hand and eye and what you like to look at...then in due time through much much work..you will come to a point that completion is a natural step for you. Assist your learning with others in groups...learning something from someone else or all painting the same still life...you will learn more together looking over each others shoulder..sharing information and comparing each others progress than squirreled away alone than you could ever imagine...and there are times to be alone...but never EVER take some pedantic instructors teachings as the nirvana to creating art...creating art is your own process...be your own individual always..always...and assert yourself to be your unique self..always...and also share what you have learned to every one...and in that revere you become more of an artist than you could ever imagine. Enough said.

jetsonjoe said...

Okay...firstly Angel did not rediscover anything, he was taught a methodology that at the time conflicted with the agreed upon norm. His teachings of this method assisted people (they were not artists yet) to get to a finished product in a straight line...meaning...follow these applied steps and your results will produce said resulting product...yes he "came along" at a time people...were becoming discouraged with what had evolved.
Anyways...It is a VERY restricted methodology...the Angel..method..that is ..well...lacking ...as it was when it was first formed in the 19th century...As one
individual contributed that much additional study was required...Okay what is the point of all this...Well it demonstrates one thing only...that many of us react differently to different work...and to work of our own making with different workflows. If one gets off spending 964 hours painting with a 00000 brush consisting of one badger hair shave to a nanometer of its life and painting all 890987 billion little lines to create a painting...go for it...you will be dead before you even stretch the canvas of your second painting...but congratulations on doing one painting. I have told many students...worry less about completing every single painting you start as a finished piece and enjoy more on just creating and figuring out what works and feels good and right to your hand and eye and what you like to look at...then in due time through much much work..you will come to a point that completion is a natural step for you. Assist your learning with others in groups...learning something from someone else or all painting the same still life...you will learn more together looking over each others shoulder..sharing information and comparing each others progress than squirreled away alone than you could ever imagine...and there are times to be alone...but never EVER take some pedantic instructors teachings as the nirvana to creating art...creating art is your own process...be your own individual always..always...and assert yourself to be your unique self..always...and also share what you have learned to every one...and in that revere you become more of an artist than you could ever imagine. Enough said.

David Gluck said...

Level with me JetsonJoe, did a group of rowdy academites beat you up and take your lunch money at some point in your life, because you really have it in for academies? I promise to be nice to you if we ever meet.

Richard said...

Art has so many facets. Some people treat painting like they would a marathon. They train with coaches or friends. They cross train or lift weights. All so that they can have a couple of tremendous performances each year.

Some people treat painting like taking a daily walk. They don't have any performance goals, it is just something they do each day. Sometimes other people join in and help dictate the direction, other times not.

Those two approaches both provide physical and mental health benefits, but each individual adds meaning/purpose to the activities based on their personal desires.

My rambling point is... if art is personal, regardless of the intended purpose, it will be personally successful. It seems to me that assigning another purpose to art other than the one intended by the creator is pointless. Perhaps that is why the personal technical achievements of academic artists don't always appeal to those looking for a story or expecting some other emotional response.

As an aside, Mr Gurney's book http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Guide-Sketching-James-Gurney/dp/0823003329 is the most inspiring book about using art to interact with your life that I have had the privilege to read.

Sandy said...

as a current amateur art student.... it doesn't hurt to learn the skills. anyone who says differently just doesn't want to put in the immense amount of time and effort it takes to master drawing.

The standards for what qualifies as a working drawing have gone down...

Anonymous said...

For sure, all those contemporary artists, deep inside their hearts, would LOVE to be able to make a competent drawing or painting, because we were all kids one day, and the first kind of art a kid do (and admire) is the one of drawing.

Even if you are a cook or a medic, being able to draw will improve your life whatever you do. Is a way of communicating things, just as writing!

Virginia said...

Well I am saving all my pennies to apply to either the FAA or AAA in 2014...I am an archaeologist and self-taught artist and part of my everyday struggle is that whilst I can produce good drawings, I lack the fundamental principles of draughtsmanship and technique. I understand there is rigidity in these school curriculums, but I am also aware that if I can nail down the technical side of things, I can hopefully approach my future creative works without so much anxiety over how to achieve a particular replication of the colour, texture, or shape of the object/figure in front of me. Just wish these courses weren't so darn expensive...I may have to sell a kidney to attend the full three years! Virginia.