SACI offers new course for Fall 2014: Observational Painting

Observational Painting

SACI offers a new course beginning in the Fall 2014 term, Observational Painting, taught by SACI 2-D instructor, Gary Lissa. And what a better place to study it than in Florence, Tuscany!

ARTS(OP)400 Observational Painting

Credits: 3
Offered: Fall, Spring
Prerequisite: Intermediate Painting or its equivalent

This course is based on the study and use of methods for painting from direct observation. Classical and contemporary approaches are taught as a means of painting the figure, portraits, and landscapes.  Students learn “sight-size” techniques, explore Cezanne’s creation of “flat depth” from empirical observation, and study the direct painting approaches of William Coldstream’s “Euston Road School” and more recent painters such as Euan Uglow.  Observational painting is approached not only in terms of technique, skill, and visual clarity, but as a means of “thinking with the senses” in ways that reveal how content, vision, and process are inextricably complementary.  Perception of the observed world is explored as a source of abstraction.  The course also addresses the use of digital and photographic imagery in picture-making.  Students learn how direct perceptual experience can provide artists with the editing tools and sensibility needed for them to utilize effectively photographic and digital information.

Course Syllabus Fall 2014 (Gary Lissa)

Landscape by Gary Lissa

Landscape by Gary Lissa

Gary Lissa: Teaching Philosophy

I feel that it is a privilege to be teaching students who have chosen to broaden their educational experience by studying abroad. I likewise chose to do so both as an undergraduate (two years at Wimbledon School of Art in England), and as a graduate student (Rosary College Graduate Program in Florence, Italy). When I am working with students my own memories and experiences of those very important and fruitful years constantly come to mind. This undoubtedly influences my notions about teaching.

The student who comes abroad is searching for something, something that so far he/she hasn’t found within the conventional boundaries of education. To say this is not to subvert what came before but rather to realize that evaluating experience in a different context is sometimes necessary. I guess the best example to use could be likening the student’s experience abroad to that of learning and using another language (which in most cases is literally occurring along with the student’s studying of painting, drawing, art history, etc).

The studying of a new language causes one to re-examine one’s mother tongue. Habitual, repetitive ways of conveying concepts are questioned. A clearer path between meaning and it’s communication is established.

The underlying philosophy of my teaching of studio art is to examine the equilibrium between idea, vision, and process. I attempt to help the student create a reciprocal relationship between the concepts that are to be conveyed, the cultivation and scrutiny of his/her vision, and the skills and systems that are brought to call to make the artworks.

I attempt to do this by talking about the complexity of creativity in simple terms, using analogies, metaphor, and commonplace language comprehended by all I also strive to retain the fascination and magical quality of the creative act which makes it such a unique human activity.


Gary Lissa: BFA, Minneapolis College of Art and Design; MA, University of Iowa; MFA, Rosary College Graduate School, Florence (Villa Schifanoia); studied at Wimbledon School of Art, England and Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris, France. Worked as technical consultant and edition printer for “Il Bisonte” print shop in Florence and later served as Teaching Assistant in Color Etching at “Il Bisonte” International School of Printmaking. Taught at Gonzaga University’s study-abroad program in Florence. Began teaching at SACI in 1984. Has been regularly exhibiting his work in group and one-person exhibitions since 1975.

SACI logo

About SACI

SACI is a US non-profit College of Art and Design in Florence, Italy, for undergraduate and graduate students seeking accredited instruction in studio art, design, conservation, art history, and Italian language and culture. Founded in 1975, SACI offers the following programs: Academic Semester/Year Abroad, Summer Studies, Venice Summer Program, Post-Bac in Conservation, MFA in Studio Art, MA in Art History.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: