Recounting the Final Weeks of First Semester

By Ian Factor (MFA 2014)

Tomorrow is New Years Eve 2013...We're Still Here...Ready For More!

Hard to believe the first semester at the New York Academy of Art has come and gone already. It's been a wild ride since my last post with this month being a super-human push to get everything done, scrambling to catch up after the week away from school due to Hurricane Sandy. Since it's been a while, I've included almost 60 images here from the end of the semester, which is still just a tiny fraction of all the experiences in the last few weeks.

I spent about 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week at the Academy, about half that time in class and the other half in studio. Here's a shot of my studio by the end of November:

My Studio, working on "Self Portrait #4".

I was told by many current second year students as well as many graduates of the NYAA that "It's incredible how fast the time goes here, soak up every second."  It's true. I can't believe how fast it all went.

Another thing commonly mentioned is, "It's an unbelievable amount of work and the first semester is the toughest and most demanding." I thought I was prepared for anything thrown at me...I can now say without hesitation that it has been one of the most intense and challenging experiences I have ever had. The sheer amount of information passed has been overwhelming, frankly impossible to absorb all of it, it'll take years to fully digest even a small fraction. In the first month of class I felt I had learned more than I had in the last 12 years of my own personal studies, research and painting full time. Towards the end of the semester, just the classroom information alone was so dense and deep that I literally felt that my brain would explode.

Aside from the immense growth from class-time and homework, the experiences and knowledge gained during the countless conversations with other students has been just as enlightening, educational and inspiring. The community here constantly amazes me and never ceases to energize and motivate. It is an honor to be a part of this magical and surreal place. 

Tearing it up at the NYAA...
Now, a week into winter break, and a bit caught up on my sleep, I can't wait to be back. I miss the energy, passion, stimulation and constant push of creativity and ideas. 

Before I get into the main body of this blog, first thing I'd like to do is to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to all my Teachers and Teacher Assistants (TAs) for everything that you've imparted to me this semester. I have so much gratitude for the time, energy and passion you put into your work and in turn your students. With the almost impossible expectations I had coming into the program, though I tried not to have any, it's easy to say without a doubt that I never expected it to be this good, this fulfilling, this humbling, this intense and this immediately life altering. I am moved beyond description by what I've learned in such a short time. Only time will tell how I'm able to manifest it into my work and life. I am thrilled to have 3 more semesters to dig deeper and go farther...

Il Maestro Wade Schuman Critiquing our fourth Self Portraits, Painting I.
Randy McIver, the Anatomy Genius working with
our Ecorches in Constructive Anatomy I.
Randy with his amazing Ecorche.
Steven Assael, Master Draftsman pointing out the
"Shadow Shapes" in one of his sketches, Drawing I.
Another one of Steven's remarkable drawings.
I'm just at the very beginning of the process, the treasure hunt, still wandering though a forrest, I have a map but can't quite read it all, or understand it all, but I know treasure awaits, and as I struggle to understand the directions and work my way through the heavy undergrowth to break free (from my own ego?), I am acutely aware of every step, every scent, every sound and every beautiful moment of light streaming between the tall trees, dappled against the wet leaves through the steam rising from the softly wet mossy forrest floor. I am not lost, I am wide awake, and I know that the true treasure lies not in some buried cave but within the process, the way and experience unfolds into truth and growth. This is the real gold.

My Anatomy Class with Randy McIver at the helm on the last day,
our Ecorches displayed.

Below are some moments and memories from the last month of the Fall Semester 2012. Some images have captions, some are grouped into similar events with the titles and descriptions above. For those reading this who are not now, or have not ever been a student at the New York Academy f Art, feel free to contact me with any questions about my experiences thus far or leave questions in the blog comments area, there's only so much I can put here in the blog.

Spring semester starts January 22. Come visit the Academy!

In the meantime, wishing everyone a healthy, happy, creative and successful 2013!

Process Images of "Self Portrait #3" Using the "Dead Palette", 3 Colors:
Cool Black, Flesh Ochre and Yellow Ochre.
Oil on Canvas 40" x 30" ©Ian Factor 2013

Stage One
Stage Two
Stage Three
Stage Four

Aleah Chapin (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013), my studio neighbor
Aleah's Workspace

Deck the Walls 2012

Dean Peter Drake
Alonsa Guevara (MFA 2014) working the welcome desk
Gaetanne Lavoie (MFA 2013) preps her work while the models break
Shannon Kenny (MFA 2013) in the spirit

NYAA Marathon Drawing Night: 9 Hours and 4 models!

A few of us enjoyed the dedication of the old "Sargent Room" to my dear friend and mentor Everett Raymond Kinstler and the unveiling of his portrait of Christopher Plummer at the Players Club on Gramercy Park. That's Sargent's painting of Edwin Booth, the founder of The Club.

Ray accepts the honor of the new "Kinstler Room".
Christopher Plummer speaking about sitting for Ray.
Kathleen Marie Skirvan (MFA 2014) and Kerry Roy Thompson (MFA 2014)
in the "Booth Bedroom" at the Players Club.

A few priceless moments during my journeys around the Academy...
Sometimes a power nap on the studio floor is in order.

Guno Park (MFA 2011), setting up the projector for a lecture.

Dan Thompson drawing demo.

Cozy in the Library - 
Madeleine Hines (MFA 2014) and Bill Logan (MFA 2014).
Alexis Hilliard (MFA 2014) in the front lobby.
Sarah Elise Hall at the front desk
practicing with her new "Commuting Hipster" look.

And in the midst of the semester I moved to a new apartment in the East Village.
LOVING the neighborhood and proximity to school! (Thank you WS!!!)

Wade Schuman gives a three hour tour through The Met, 
a completely awesome experience. His knowledge is unfathomable
and his passion and enthusiasm for teaching is unmatched.

Mid-Year Crits for the second year students...Incredible showing of some spectacular works and some very intense critiques. Two full days, Damn! (No pressure...)

A few of the studies I did for my "History and Theory Of Composition And Design Class:

"Edge Resolution" assignment - 6"x6" Monochromatic study, oil on panel.
Copy of Ruben's "Study of a Head" from the MET.

Detail of imprimatura stage from a Baroque Modality
assignment, final piece is 18" x 24" Oil (Still in progress).
Another Detail of imprimatura stage, Baroque Modality.

Here's a selection of some of my "final" works for Painting I.

I completed 17 paintings for this one class alone.

Final Crit Day.
Here's my final Self Portrait Assignment, Painting I.
We had to do a self portrait without a literal
physical representation of our current selves.
This is me as an old chess player in
Washington Square Park, NYC.
48" x 36" Oil on Canvas (Still in Progress).

Self Portrait #4 - Oil On Canvas - 60" x 36"
For those who know the area, this is right in front of the Academy,
looking West on Franklin St, the Academy flag flying overhead.

...and last but not least, studying for my Anatomy Final Exam,
Coffee and Bones. 

Ian Factor (MFA 2014) will be blogging here throughout the academic year about his first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  Check the label "First Year Experience" or "Ian Factor" for more posts about his first year at the Academy.


  1. WOW it's SO refreshing to read and see such a wonderful blog, chronicling your fabulous educationally rich experience.
    I blogged about my educational experience as a mature student completing my BFA, which I started and continued all through the 70s at NSCAD many years ago when Eric Fischl was a teacher.
    NSCAD used to have a great loft in the Bowery and I got to go in the 70s.
    I again returned to NYC on a University trip in 2011. I was so sorry I never got the chance to stop by the NYC Academy! :( I hope I will have an opportunity in the near future!
    I am inteneding to return to NSCAD in 2014 to take my MFA!

    Keep up the wonderful blog!


  2. Thanks so much for your nice comments Catherine, I appreciate you spending the time reading and responding to the blog and am glad you find it refreshing. I'll be continuing with the blog all year so please do keep checking in. Hope you get a chance to visit the Academy this coming spring.
    Best wishes to you in the new year.
    Ian Factor

  3. I am currently applying to NYAA and it is so exciting to read your blog! Thank you for taking the time to chronicle your experience at the Academy. I have a question: when did you feel personally 'ready' for the challenges of NYAA in your career? I feel as though, even if I don't feel 'ready' I should do my best to dive right in to such a positive, educational working environment. Thank you so much! Keep up the incredible work!

  4. Hi Casey,

    Thanks so much for your note, for your kind words about my work and for reading the blog.
    You have asked a GREAT question! I'm glad the blog has been exciting for you and has inspired you to consider more closely the timing of your readiness to pursue further education.

    For me personally, I had been working as a full time painter and teacher for years, and I was convinced that I would never pursue an MFA. I had been teaching in BFA programs here in the States and In Italy, had taught workshops and seminars, had opened 3 schools of my own and was showing in galleries regularly with commissions and studio sales as well. I really had no interest at all in investing the time and money into Grad School at this point in my life...

    That opinion changed immediately upon seeing the Academy website and calling the school to speak with Elvin Freytes in the Admissions office. He urged me to come to an open house, which was the last one of the season...THAT weekend, and so I cleared my calendar and made the trip to NYC two days later. The experience at the open house was unforgettable, I had a portfolio review with Peter Drake, the Dean of the school and toured the studios. I was completely blown away and decided that weekend that I would apply and do whatever it took to attend the school if I was accepted.

    It was the best decision I could have made. I felt it to my core, the timing was right. I was ready.

    The school has continued to blow me away, and FAR surpassed any expectations I had, as I mentioned in my last blog. I truly believe it's the best school in this country, and for that mater dare I say the world, for what I am interested in and where I want to take my work and career.

    As far as your own personal timing goes, you need to do what feels right to you, listen your gut. Often times we are only truly ready for an experience once we begin to walk down that path and make the commitment. The fact that you are already in the process of applying to the Academy and that my blog excited you says to me that you're on the right path.

    The Academy is an incredibly intense place, the talent is mind boggling and the instructors are demanding and critical. The amount of work you're expected to produce in the first semester will seem overwhelming and then all of a sudden the semester is over, you're on break and you can't WAIT to get back to class! It's an environment of completely dedicated and passionate, driven artists and this is contagious.

    Even in the moments when I was feeling terrible about what I was painting, when I was so exhausted I could barely remember my own name and I was so overwhelmed with what I needed to produce for my next crit, I wasn't alone. There were always other students going through the same things, and we bonded through these difficult times. We inspired and motivated each other through the conversations and the work and it gave me the energy and drive to continue to push further and go deeper.

    If you are looking for this level of training and this type of development and are passionate and driven to improve your work and life with an open mind and self critical eye, you're ready!

    I hope this long reply is of some help to you, I'm sure you'll make the right decision, and if you have a chance come to the Open House tomorrow, Jan. 19th. I'll be there giving tours and it'll be great to meet you.

    In the meantime, let me know if you have any other questions.

    Wising you all the best,

    ian factor

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Haitham, hope you can come visit!