There are things in life you have to experience at least once.
Going to Florence to study oil painting for a month is one of those. For me, that is. I had always dreamt of a summer under the Tuscan sun but my knowledge of the Italian language was limited to food names and greetings. With that in mind, I chose the Florence Academy of Art (FAA) since classes were taught in English.
Florence receives a huge number of student arrivals every year so searching for a one-month rental was relatively simple. My requirements were air-conditioning, lift and wireless internet. I decided on a cozy studio in the central part of town because I knew I wanted to pass by the Duomo every day. With my bags packed, I was ready to go.
Fast forward to arrival day, I was greeted with a sense of awe and wonder as I exited Santa Maria Novella Station. I could hardly contain my giddy excitement knowing that I will be here for a month. One whole month! The people were warm, friendly and helpful. I never once felt lost or alien in a city ten thousand kilometers away from home. I barely encountered any language difficulty since most people spoke basic English. When in doubt, Google Translate became my best friend. Simple Italian words and phrases were easy enough to pick up. By the time I left Florence, my Italian conversational skills improved dramatically from non-existent to minimal.
Classes were held at the studio every morning and we were a group of 11 students. There were artists, university students, art teacher, graphics designer among others. They flew in from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Israel, and the Netherlands. Some students were artists by profession who wanted to improve their technique. I, on the other hand, had taken beginner classes before but not human figures. Our teacher was a graduate of the FAA and is both very knowledgeable and helpful.
We had a female nude to paint and he showed us the techniques from start to finish. Considering my lack of practice in this area, I was surprisingly pleased with my finished work.
Afternoons and weekends were all about exploring the city either on my own or with new friends. We had museum tours weekly and made sketches of the statues by the Palazzo Vecchio. Trenitalia and the bus system were simple to understand and convenient. There were countless day trips to choose from and join. My biggest dilemma was in deciding where to go and what to do because it felt like there was never enough time. I went hiking in the Cinque Terre, toured through numerous cities and towns in Tuscany, ate my fill of delicious fresh pasta and indulged in retail therapy in the designer outlets.
Florence, painting, in the summer was uniquely extraordinary. It inspired the mind and invigorated the spirit. I left with a renewed appreciation for the arts and the classical techniques. It hardly mattered that I went by myself to a place not knowing anyone nor understanding the language. Florence welcomed me like one of its own and gave me one of the most unforgettable experiences ever.
Belinda Yap is a finance professional who is passionate about exploring her creative and artistic side. With a dose of healthy curiosity and firm resolve, she will try anything from fine art to literary art. Besides artistic pursuits, she finds working on arts and crafts projects a satisfying alternative.