Interview with Hannah, model at The Florence Classical Arts Academy
Hannah is one of the models at our Academy. She's been working with us since the beginning of September. Together with one of our creative writing interns, Barbara Niemczyk, they sat down to talk about Hannah's experience in the Academy. They discussed behind the scenes of modelling for art students, realities of nude figure modelling, how it feels to be involved in the art scene in Florence and differences between students and their approach to the art.
We welcome you to read the interview to experience a bit of atmosphere at our Academy.
Barbara Niemczyk: How do you feel like when posing for art students from the Academy?
Hannah: Really comfortable. At first, it was obviously nerve-wracking because I've never done anything like that before. But the students are really respectful and lovely and kind. The teachers also make you feel comfortable. So just comfortable, really.
BN: If it's your first time posing what motivated you to do it? Why did you choose this Academy to pose in?
Hannah: First of all, the location of Florence was amazing. But also, I like art anyway. So, I used to visit many art galleries at home in England. I used to work in an art gallery on cruise ships too. It just kind of made sense for me to go along with what I was already interested in. But also, Florence is a perfect place to study and discover more about art.
BN: Do you feel like your face or how you handle yourself is changing when you are posing? Are you altering your behaviour in any way while posing?
Hannah: Not really. You have to stay really still for the whole time…
BN: Is it hard?
Hannah: Yes, it is (laughing). It's easier if you sit down but even if you are sitting down your back or neck will get really stiff. So, you don't really have to change your behaviour or your movements really because you just have to stay still.
BN: So, you don't behave more adult or more serious while posing? Or you don't change your facial expression?
Hannah: No, because it's hard to smile for a long time. Professors usually just advice to do whatever is comfortable for me, which is usually just a neutral expression.
BN: Is it interesting to you to see how people, as an artist, see you as a model?
Hannah: Yes, very much so. At first, I didn't realize how much variation there will be between the students. So, one student will paint me in one way that will seem very flattering for me, and the other student might pain in a not so flattering way. Or they might use different colours. Some of them use much darker colours with brighter highlights, and then others might just go for much less contrasted pallet. It is interesting to see how widely varying the paintings are.
BN: It's interesting what you are saying. As I understood, you do notice how different students are when it comes to creating art or presenting a certain subject?
Hannah: Yes, for sure.
BN: How do you feel when looking at yourself through the eyes of the students?
Hannah: Excited to see what they come up with. Because obviously during the session you can't see what they are doing and then after 45 minutes usually they've done so much.
BN: In 45 minutes only?
Hannah: Yes. The first part of the session lasts 45 minutes, then there's a break and another 45 minutes and a break and so on. So just to see how much they've done in the intervals is amazing, they work so quickly. I feel like I'm always quite shocked to see how much they've completed in the time that they have.
BN: Would you say that they actually progress very fast?
Hannah: I think so, yes. For sure.
BN: How do you feel when you see your portrait or painting on a canvas? Is it kind of strange or bizarre to you?
Hannah: Yes, it's quite surreal but also quite exciting at the same time. I think that it helps your confidence as well. Because it's obviously nice if you look good on a canvas (laughing).
BN: More often, do you feel like you look nice on the canvas or not? Are you usually happy with the outcome?
Hannah: More often than not. Of course, sometimes I'm not entirely happy with the outcome, but at the end of the day, it's what the students see, right? But more often than not, I'm pleased with what they've painted.
BN: Did being a model inspired you to be more involved in the art world? Did it inspire you to create your own art?
Hannah: To be honest with you, I managed art galleries in my previous job, so I feel like I was already quite involved in the art world. Sadly, I'm not a painter or a drawer. I'm not very good at it…
BN: Would you like to become one, now that you've seen what the students in the Academy can do?
Hannah: Hm... I don't know. I've done a lot of art education already. I already did a college and foundation diploma in art and then went on to manage art galleries. So, now with posing in the Academy, it's been kind of nice to be submerged in the artistic environment after coronavirus. Because obviously during the beginning of the pandemic I haven't had a chance to do it, to really be involved in the art world. Now it just feels good to tip the toe back in.
BN: I see. Is it inspiring to you in the sense that you feel more connected to the art world again?
Hannah: Surely. Especially after being taken away from it for ages.
BN: Okay. So, Hannah, you've been a model at the Academy for two months now, right?
Hannah: This is the third one now.
BN: Third one, okay. Let's talk about your experience so far. Did you see the students progressing in the past two or three months when you were posing for them?
Hannah: Yes, for sure. It's fascinating to see how they work, starting from colour sketching or colour studies to pencil drawings and then the first bit of painting and then the final outcome. It is exciting to see, even piece by piece, how much they can vary and how much they can progress. But also, with the students in the first year, it's been interesting to see how their technique and style has developed.
BN: How are the students from first-year different from students from the second or third year? Do you see any difference between them?
Hannah: Yes, for sure. Obviously, students in the third year have got more experience, so their work is a lot more realistic. However, students in the first year, their work is still incredible, and they are very, very talented. I just feel like students from the first-year paint in a more impressionistic style with loosely dots of paintings, making it very finely detailed. But you know, they are still very talented.
BN: Do you feel like the first-year students are more open to experimenting or not really?
Hannah: I feel like third-year students are.
Hannah: Yeah, I'm not sure why. I feel like when I was posing for first-year students, I had to stay very still, like stone still. Literally almost not human-like. With the third-year students, you can move a little bit, and they will try on different colours. Today, for example, I've modelled in two different traditional Russian outfits, the other day I was doing nude modelling, then the other day we were doing portraiture… There's just much more room for experimentation.
BN: Which is good, right?
Hannah: Of course. I think so too.
BN: Did you notice any differences between how you see yourself and how students see you?
Hannah: Umm… yes. Because obviously when I look at myself, I only see one part of my body, like I'm looking especially at something as oppose to a whole. So just to see the whole view, like completely relaxed as opposed to me looking intensely at something or just smiling or putting makeup on… It was interesting to see sort of like the natural side.
BN: Is the change positive?
Hannah: Yes, I think so. It's always good to see a different viewpoint.
BN: Did it make you feel more confident?
Hannah: Yes, for sure. Very much so. Especially with the nude figure modelling, to be honest with you. Before I've never even been to a nudist beach alone like posing myself… (laughing).
BN: This brings me to my next question. How was the nude modelling for you?
Hannah: I was very nervous the first time. Before I modelled, I was even doing ridiculous breathing exercises. Bur honestly, Svetlana was amazing, she was so…
BN: Svetlana, one of the professors of the Academy, right?
Hannah: Yes, exactly. She was lovely. She made me feel very relaxed and calm. The students, I could really tell, were really respectful as well.
BN: Did they behave professionally?
Hannah: Yes, one hundred per cent. Not once I felt uncomfortable or disrespect or anything like this.
BN: Would you like to add anything from yourself?
Hannah: Hm... I'm thinking, but no, I don't think so. I feel like we've talked about everything already.
BN: Perfect, thank you very much for your time.
Hannah: Thank you.
Student's works picturing Hannah
Anatomy and nude figure work
One of our students during his art process
Hannah in a costume, posing for a drawing