My First Week at the New York Academy of Art

By Ian Factor (MFA 2014)

Steven Assael Drawing Demo : Drawing I, First Day of Class, 2012

I've been trying to come up with catchy and witty metaphores and analogies to describe my first week here at the NYAA, and for a week I haven't come up with anything that comes close to describing this immense experience. Perhaps beginning a novel would be the only way to aptly describe everything that's transpired since Orientation on September 10th...but that won't happen at this late hour with more painting to complete for tomorrow, so...
I'll try here to briefly describe and express the my overall impressions over the last 10 days or so,
doing my best to keep from exagerating and sounding too cliche or romantic.

Remember the first time you fell in love...REALLY in love?
Time stopped when you were with that person, together all day, staying up all night, night after night, eagerly and passionately anticipating the next day, re-energized by the newness, the amazement, the total absorption in the experience, you were learning, sharing, laughing, maybe crying, you coudn't stop thinking of this person, all day long, you fell asleep with them in your mind (if not your arms) and woke to the same, night after night, day after day, you ignored your freinds, your family didn't hear from you, you were lost in bliss, exhausting yourself as if you were a starving castaway on a deserted island suddenly plopped in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet...trying to devour and savor every moment,  and every moment was like a thousand years of experience, you felt so alive, so connected, so empowered so impassioned. Drained and full at the same time.

This is sort of what this week has been like.

Then it's also like the first time I traveled to Italy, I thought I knew good deal of the Italian language but when I arrived I realized I was basically iliterate, didn't speak a word of the "real" language, was mostly just making it up as I went along, "Street Italian" as they called it. I was not an infant but felt like one in many ways. My eyes were wide open, sensing everything as if it was for the first time, incredible beauty everwhere I looked, magic, power, grace, demonstrations of the intense potential of human creativity and willpower, every conversation tore open my mind and launched me into a new realm of thinking and understanding, it was as if I was seeing the world brand new again, as a child. The inspiration rushed through me, pulsed in my veins and physically dropped me to my knees in awe more than one time.

This is also sort of what this week has been like.

The first week convinced me that the New York Academy Of Art is the most important, magical and powerful institutions and communities in the world for the study of contemporary figurative painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking...there is no equal.

I am surrounded by and studying with just over 100 of the most dedicated, talented, disciplined, focused and driven figurative artists I have ever known. Every one of my instructors is so brilliant, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do that it's almost surreal.

Considering the intense level of talent, drive and desire to do and make greatness, the overall community here is like a giant family. There is naturally competition amongst all of us, but it's focused, healthy and channeled in positive, productive and supportive ways.

I'm am beyond honored to be a part of this incredible place.

I'll be putting together some more specifics of what the first week was like, composing an example of a typical (14 hour) day here at the Academy, and will be posting it next, but this is just a primer.
My next blog will have some more photos too.
In the meantime, here's a quick and dirty sketch from Steven Assael's Drawing Class, pictured above.
It's 14" x 11" Graphite on Clay Coat paper.

Graphite Sketch on Clay Coat Paper, 14" x 11"  ©Ian Factor 2012

Now, back to the studio.

Till next time...

Ian Factor (MFA 2014) will be blogging here throughout the year about his first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  You can also follow more of Ian's experiences on his blog: Ian Factor's New York Academy of Art Experience.

Arriving at the Academy

By Madeleine Hines (MFA 2014)

I'm a couple weeks into my first semester at the New York Academy of Art and since I've started my excitement for the two years ahead has only grown. Every morning I'm increasingly proud to walk into our building at 111 Franklin Street in Tribeca. Before I even enter the classroom, there is artistic inspiration at every turn - from weekly artist lectures and studio critiques to the students chatting outside the building or gathering to depart for a gallery opening or museum show.

Academy Facade at Night

There is so much that makes this school a truly special, but the student body is what struck me most during my first week. My classmates are brimming with talent, energy and ambition. Last Friday night, the school assembled for a gathering called "My Work and I." Each student stood up alongside three images of their work and had a minute to discuss their background and art. The superb talent blew me away! I've been so impressed to learn about the diverse trajectories that led my classmates to this school. Some of them have already been showing at galleries and establishing themselves as artists in their native cities across the country and world, while others, including myself, are arriving here from drastically different careers outside the art world. While I look forward to the competitive atmosphere that I expect will arise out of such a driven and talented student body, for now I feel nothing but support and open arms. 

Such an accomplished student body would not be the reality without the amazing faculty that attracted us here. My roster of instructors this semester - Steven Assael, John Jacobsmeyer, Randy McIver, J.P. Roy, and John Zinsser - span a wide range of artistic types. I'll describe each of them more at length in my posts to follow, but for now, just know that each of them has their own unique perspective and expertise and I'm thrilled to be learning from each them.

Here's a glimpse at what I'm most looking forward to in the week ahead: 

1) Alex Kanevsky is visiting this Wednesday! There's so much I love about is painting style - his loose brushwork rich color, light, and texture. Not only do I get to listen to him give a lecture, but I was also lucky enough to sign up for a 20 minute critique with him! 

2) Next Friday, our painting instructor J.P. Roy is bringing our class to his studio in Williamsburg. His work is incredible and I learned in class today that it's all from his imagination. Crazy! Can't wait to see it in person.

To conclude this first post, I'd like to bring up an exhibition I viewed this week at The Met, Regarding Warhol: Fifty Artists, Sixty Years.  I greatly enjoyed the show and found it very fitting to have seen a Warhol show during my first weeks here, since Andy Warhol founded the New York Academy of Art in 1982. Thanks Andy!!


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

Carrara Part II: Initiation into an Ancient Tradition

June 18 - July 3, 2012, recent Academy graduate Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012) lived and worked in Carrara, Italy as part of a two-week Artist in Residence Program sponsored by ABC Stone and The Oriano Galloni Foundation, and coordinated by artist Stephen Shaheen (MFA 2005).

The Apuan Alps, where white marble has been quarried for thousands of years
By Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012)
Upon arriving in Pisa, Steve Shaheen was there to greet me and drive me to Carrara. From the highway I could see the Apuan Alps, with large passages of white where the mountains had been stripped bare from thousands of years of marble quarrying. 

Looming above the Italian landscape with a kind of scarred majesty, the sight seemed to strike a chord deep within me.  The swathes of white marble appeared in the distance as patches of snow, reminding me of the mountains in my home state of Utah.  But there was something further, faint yet familiar, that I felt tugging at my roots.  These white scars on the mountain face seemed to whisper me a welcome, the ageless echo of a common cause, an ancient vestige of a shared passion.  I’d come to the heartland of a people who for countless generations had shared my deep and unique love for this material called white marble.  In a peculiar way, I felt I’d come home.

After ditching my luggage at Villa Acero, we went straight to Studio Corsanini, where I'd spend the next two weeks carving my piece in marble. The workshop owned by Luigi Corsanini is well known in the marble carving world of Tuscany, Luigi himself being recognized for his knowledge of the classical tradition, as well as the quality of his workmanship.

Three generations of Corsanini stone carvers

In this modern age of power tools and technology, very few learn the old ways of working with marble. But the craft lives on in the Corsanini family, a way of life and a family tradition.  It's a beautiful thing to see: a rare and difficult skill that just seems to be in the blood, unifying generations and preserving the mastery of an ancient method. Such a flame is easily quenched, and in the world at large it nearly has been, but it yet burns brightly in this little pocket of Tuscany, undisturbed by the changes all about.

Young Niccolo Corsanini at work

Among the dozens of marble workshops in the area, Studio Corsanini is unique in many ways, one being the way international artists work together with homegrown artisans.  Blood, sweat, and tears are not just metaphorical terms here, but the real ingredients of comradery.  Add marble dust to the mix, and you have a motley group of rare individuals becoming tangibly bound together, from being one percenters in the world to being 100 percenters in the workshop.  How fortunate that I'd landed here of all places!

Kuetani and Steve working at Studio Corsanini

Sculptor Itto Kuetani finishing his latest marble

Master craftsman Massimo at work

After selecting the stone of my choice, it was cut down to size.  This block of marble would become the island of my new adventure, the prison of my new labor, the field of my new battle.  Everything outside of it only existed to serve my life within it.  On it I would stake my claim in a tradition that makes the laborer noble, dirty work honorable, every move immortal, and—come to think of it—every failure famous!  I felt I had entered a marathon on a tightrope.

measuring the model

establishing cardinal points

Massimo blurring the divide between speed & precision

marking the marble block

marking the mastic on the model

finding point on the marble

Massimo measuring depth

the first cuts into the block

The marble block after the first stages

Check back here for more of Joseph's reflections on his residency and first experience working with stone.

Did you miss Joseph's other posts on his experience in Carrara? Read Carrara: The Impossible Dream and Carrara Part III: Reduced to the Dust by Marble.

Tomorrow: Academy Orientation and First Day of Class

By Ian Factor (MFA 2014)

My arrival in NYC about a week ago was interesting to say the least...when I finally found the apartment I had rented and went to open the door with the keys I had been given, none of them worked...locked out with a full bladder, double parked with a full truck. Good start, but the positive news was that my truck made it in one piece.

About 2 hours later and 3 generations of family members coming to let the "new tenant" in, they finally got the key thing straightened out, and I entered. I unloaded (the truck and my bladder) and at 10pm got in the Q-train and headed for Manhattan.

I stayed with a good friend who has a gorgeous apartment just behind the World Trade Center with great private rooftop terrace overlooking the Hudson River and NJ. 

Sunset Sails over the Hudson River from Battery Park Terrace

Sunset view over the Hudson River from Battery Park Terrace
For a few days while I searched for a bed and some basic furnishings my host of hosts allowed me to stay in his extra bedroom overlooking Battery Park City and the Promenade there. 

Here's a quick sketch from day one:

Quick sketch from Battery Park Promenade. Statue Of Liberty in Background
Here's a good, and disturbing story; On my LAST visit to the Sleazy's (I mean. Sleepy's) while I was getting the heavy handed bait-and-switch, I literally saw a bedbug crawling over the top of one of the "New" mattresses! (FYI, this was at the Sleepy's in Sheapshead Brooklyn). I naturally and immediately pointed it out to the salesman and he quickly slapped the mattress next to the bug as it went flying into the air to land most likely on another unsuspecting sample bed. His slick and frighteningly nonchalant comment was, "It's not like it's the first time I've seen that..."The difficulty in finding a bed in the city, without getting ripped off or having to drive out to some suburb of New Jersey, was profound. I was still exhausted from packing up everything in Boston and moving here, and the fatigue continued while I drove around from one end of Brooklyn to the other and took the train in and out of Manhattan, dealing with the sleaziest of sleazy bed salesmen at more than one "Sleepy's" (Dont EVER shop there!!)

I left without saying a word. True story.

Onto IKEA, the weekend of Labor Day, probably the busiest bed and furniture shopping day of the year for students and proud (and exhausted) parents of new students heading off to school.

Chaos doesn't describe the scene at the Brooklyn Store, the lines at checkout reminding me of my first visit to Disney World as an 8 year old...minus the rides and Mickey Mouse. IKEA Brooklyn, which is the main warehouse, the size of most large city's airports, is daunting and overwhelming, regardless of the packs of frantic shoppers. 

Needless to say, I could write a novel about the few days spent there. 

Instead, here's a sketch of a sleeping man on the Q-Train that sums up how the shopping left me feeling:

Man Sleeping on Q-Train - Brooklyn

Finally, as of two days ago I have a new bed. 

So today, Sunday I woke early, rode my bike down to Manhattan Beach, about a 7 minute ride from my apartment, just on the other side of Sheapshead Bay, and then rode over to Brighton Beach and down the length of the Coney Island Boardwalk, along the beach to the far end, actually the end closer to NYC. It was my first time there, Coney Island...

like another country. It was a beautiful, perfect sunny day with large gorgeous cumulus   and cumulonimbus clouds after yesterday's double tornado touching down in Brooklyn and Queens. The language I most commonly heard was Russian, with a smattering of Spanish and a few random English words thrown in. There's a huge Russian population here in this part of Brooklyn, a language I love to hear and not understand. Just the sound and intonation is intriguing. 

Here are a couple shots of the first riders of the day at Coney Island:

Coney Island - First Ride Of The Day

Coney Island - Wonder Wheel and The Strange Evil Cat Ride

And then on my way home I stopped here at Brighton Beach to take this one more shot:

Brighton Beach - Under The 'Stares'

Now sitting in Starbucks, for the free internet and not-so-free cup of tea, I enter this Blog...and watch the middle school kids violently threaten the other middle school kids. Maybe we should be giving them Vodka to drink at that age instead of Coffee drinks.

Orientation at the Aca
demy is tomorrow, studio move in is 8:30am. 

Time for a good meal and a good night sleep. 

Much more soon...



Ian Factor (MFA 2014) will be blogging here throughout the year about his first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  You can also follow more of Ian's experiences on his blog: Ian Factor's New York Academy of Art Experience.

Carrara: The Impossible Dream

June 18 - July 3, 2012, recent Academy graduate Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012) lived and worked in Carrara, Italy as part of a two-week Artist in Residence Program coordinated by ABC Stone and The Oriano Galloni Foundation.

By way of introduction, I've always felt I could do anything an artist aught to be able to do.  Can I draw? Sure. Give me a pencil, and I can move it in any direction. What about paint? Oh, you mean that soft, creamy stuff that comes in nice little tubes? Sure. I even know where to get special brushes so you can rub it around without getting any on your fingers. Can I sculpt? Well, I grew up playing in the mud. That's a material I understand.

But what about stone carving, you ask? What?? Did you say stone?? You mean that material that shooting stars are made of, that sinks ships, divides the oceans, forms mountains, turns aside rivers, crushes whatever stands between it and the center of the earth?  This is the material upon which all the world stands for support. A wise man might build upon it, but what fool would try to carve it?  Even Mother Nature herself only carves by the minuscule per millennium.

That's right, I know about stone. I've had my own experiences with it. I've climbed it, kicked it, smacked it, and stubbed my toes on it. Throughout my entire life, anytime I've come up against stone, it always wins. It's just instinctive now: when we cross paths, stone always has the right of way. It's simple, really. I'm made from the dust, the stuff smashed between the rocks, the stuff that is washed away by the wind and the rain, while the stone, well, it isn't. 

So if you ask me about stone carving, I'm thinking you must mean the stone doing the carving on me.  What then? Into a stone box I go, unto the dust I return, six feet under a stone marker that warns the world: "This man thought stone carving was a good idea."

So that's where I'm coming from. At least until the opportunity came to go to Carrara.

Hence it shouldn't seem so strange that stone carving--most certainly humanity's first dip into the arts--feels to me more like my final frontier as an artist.  But unwittingly my creative impulse had always been carrying me closer. All along it was a natural fit for my artistic identity, the eventuality of all of my efforts and interests. But aspiration cannot live without expectation, and marble carving was on the same list as cloud surfing and comet riding. 

I had thought that turning to sculpture a couple of years ago completed my ambitions. I had used drawing materials, painting materials, and now sculpting materials. But marble was an entirely different thing. In the court of the great masters, I had tried out every seat in the house, but I had never considered actually taking the throne. Not that I don't think big. I'm a guy who has considered planting a garden on Mount Everest, camping on the dark side of the moon, crab walking to the edge of the earth, and then rappelling down. But carving a marble sculpture?! It seemed so far fetched, so foreign, so unfathomable, that even to man prone to ambition, it remained the impossible dream.

Then came the generosity of Jonathon Tibett of ABC Stone, the groundwork of SteveShaheen (MFA 2005), and the great resource that is the New York Academy of Art. When the news came that I had received the marble carving residency, I was suddenly cloud hugging and comet kissing. Mount Everest could melt, the edge of the earth could go drop off itself---I was going to Carrara!!!

Part of my preparation was to decide on a subject and create a model to work from while there. I felt I should do something that would test me with the technique, something with nuance and detail, subtle shifts in form, demanding precise proportion and surface treatment. In short, something that would be a good test for future carving possibilities, for I felt that if the honeymoon went well, so would the marriage.

Michelangelos Maquette
There was no doubt that I wanted to do something figurative, but with forms conceived for the material of stone. This was new for me and my mind immediately sought answers from the great Michelangelo. I looked not only to his final sculptures but also to those sketches and preliminary works that demonstrated earlier conceptual phases.  Among his surviving works that were preparatory for his marble sculptures is a terra cotta maquette of a male torso done for his Awakening Slave.
Pen & Ink of Male Torso

Toned Drawing of Male Torso
This point of reference seemed to fit my native impulse, and as I began to work out my own interpretation, I felt a sort of dialogue develop, consulting the great master at every turn (and occasionally bickering with his counsel). It became a process where I either had to justify my own path or come to understand the reason for his. In the end, whether my model was a tribute or an insult to his wisdom, I’d made my case and was ready to stand by it.
Model of Male Torso
Now I simply had to go to Italy to make the same argument to some block of marble… and I was unbelievably excited!!!

Check back here for more of Joseph's reflections on his residency and first experience working with stone.