Wait, I’m here to study? Posted on October 4th, 2010 by

Now, I know a very good reason to study abroad is to simply get the cultural experience and do something you’ll never have a chance to ever do again in your life. For me, that was just one small reason to study abroad. The main overlying factor that influenced my decision was the all the knowledge i’d gain in the art world. Basically, I came here acadmically (although it may not seem like it so far from my blogs). With that, I was really excited for classes to start and the experience I have been looking forward to to finally begin!

As I signed up for classes last May, with the help of Bruce, I strategically chose classes I felt like I’d learn more about by taking them in Italy, or ones not offered at Gustavus. After much deliberation I ended up choosing Intro to Pastels, Basic Printmaking, Intermediate Analytical figure and Object drawing, Art History 101 and (had to take this…) Italian. As the first week of classes drew closer, the more excited I became.

The first week of classes was very similar to classes back in the states. Each class was a new syllabus added to the list and basically the professor ranting about what was to come in the semester. However, one class stuck out from the rest as both terrifying and exhilarating: Intermediate fig. and obj. drawing! It was my last class of the week, and I was (to begin) the most excited for this particular course. I’ve never studied the human body from a physical point of view (oh I know all about the digestive system and the makeup of macromolecules and such…). Therefor I went into the first session of this class with a positive mindset. We all sat down and the professor handed out the usual form where we list our past classes/experience, our inspiration, and mediums of choice.

After filling the forms out and handing them back in, something I never expected happened. She calmly explained that we would be taking an “entrance exam.” To quote my professor, “you have 1 hour and 15 minutes to draw that still life. I have provided you with an easel, paper, and either pencil or charcoal, whichever you prefer. After the time is up, you will present to me your composition and we will discuss whether this class if for you or above you. Good luck, time begins.” Needless to say we were all speechless! I had never encountered an “entrance exam” to prove our worthiness to take the course! haha however, I was simultaneously excited. This was my chance to prove that Florence was the right choice.

So I began. Of course I chose charcoal (only losers voluntarily choose graphite) and began. After the hour and 15 minutes were up she called us up individually and alphabetically to talk to her. Some kids’ meetings took 5 minutes and included phrases from our prof such as “what was your experience again?” or “are you sure you want to take this class?” It was rather intimidating. However, when my name was finally called, I handed her my drawing, she looked an it and said “oh honey, I already saw your’s. Go sit down!” Literally my most proud moment ever! So, I took heed to her word and sat down happier then ever :)

After the first week of classes (which ended on quite the high note!) things began to definitely look up. Pastels (my least favorite class so far), consists of an elementary still life class in which we use a intuitive/layering approach to pastels. Basically we draw what we see rashly in monotones and then add layers slowly. It’s monotonous, messy, and NOT accurate. However, it’s outside of my comfort zone, and I have created a few drawings I’m proud of. I’m super interested to see where this class takes me.

As for printmaking, things are a bit better than pastels. Lucy, our professor, is super understanding but somehow pushes all of us to our limit. Our first print utilizes the woodblock technique. Basically you carve into wood and anything carved shows up white and everything that was not carved transfers the ink and shows up solid black. Our next project will cover the etching technique and use of chemicals. My first woodblock is finished and I am pretty satisfied.

Drawing is continuing to be my favorite class. We have had a different model both weeks thus far in which we spend the 2 hours sketching her face. The point of the lessons was proportions and basically recreating her face. I have noticed definite progress in all of mine and my classmates’ work! Our prof knows what she is doing for sure! Next week we will have our first nude model in. I am quite anxious for this lesson! Gustavus has neither the budget nor resources to have nude models, so this is definitely something I’ve looked forward to!

Art history is boring, but I expected that. My prof for the class is fine, but she can drag on. I do enjoy the subject, but a 2 1/2 hour lecture can (by default) drag on. However, this next week we’re taking our first of 6 field trips to a museum in Florence! I am very excited for the change of pace and firmly believe this will change the direction of this class. As for Italian, I am slowly learning the essentials of the language. Spanish definitely helps. Actually, if you know how to do conjugations in any language, you are already 5 steps ahead of someone who only knows English. My prof for the class is super bubbly and passionate about Italian, which helps a ton.

Overall, classes are amazing and I could not be any happier! I am drawing, sketching, etching, and loving every second of it! Best. Semester. Ever.



  1. jill Fischer, CICE says:

    Hi Sam, great post. I LOVE reading about your classes and how much you are (generally) enjoying them – and great story about the figure drawing class! I guess you made the right choice indeed!!

  2. Jim Bernhardt says:

    A very interesting post! Does being in Florence make a difference in terms of your classes? I understand that the art history class could be very special because you are in Florence. But does it make a difference for the classes where you produce your own work?