Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art is a small, private four-year classical painting training/apprenticeship. It is modeled after the traditional European Atelier system. The focus of the Academy is to train individuals in Classical Impressionism.
The classical Atelier system is basically an apprenticeship-style program. The entire school will consist of about twenty full-time students. Traditionally, the costs to the students are kept as low as possible to avoid finances from prohibiting talented individuals from a formal education. The goal is to accept only the most talented, serious, and dedicated individuals and to keep the student to teacher ratio as small as possible.
Drawing, painting, and sculpture are the primary subjects, there are no classroom settings or written exams expected from the students. On day one the student starts with a pencil in hand, and over the course of the apprenticeship will systematically work their way through the program at their own pace, eight hours a day, five days a week. They will continually progress through more advanced and difficult assignments throughout the four to five year program. The exercises are just as much about training the eye to see accurately as it is about learning the actual craft of painting. The instructors, highly trained and working artists themselves, come in to teach four times a week, often working directly on the students work to show them their mistakes and demonstrate how to make corrections. They will see the students through the entire program, coaching them to a high level of craftsmanship so that they can have the tools necessary to grow into well equipped and competent visual artists.
Great Lakes Academy will follow the time tested methods of the 19th century Ateliers, as well as other accomplished academies and schools. beginning with copies, casts, and figure drawing progressing through still lives, portraiture, and landscape painting. What uniquely defines GLA is the focus on creating Classical Impressionists, the ability to render form within atmosphere while incorporating realistic color. This methodology is an extension of the tradition that came from the French Academies and was honed through the Boston School, which worked to integrate the development of French impressionistic color to an academic training.
After thirty-five years of working full time professionally in his studio, Jeffrey T. Larson (Head Instructor and founder of GLA) has learned that there are no “secrets of the old masters”. Rather, it is a continued refinement of the basics, tied to a solid understanding of the limitations of what is specifically involved with the translation of the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. The only “secret” and key to success is time spent and hard work. Copies, casts, and figure work are only the means to an end of training the eye to see shapes, keying of values and color relationships, and the training of the mind to understand form as explained through the logical flow of light. Each individual exercise at Great Lakes Academy is designed specifically to develop each of these skills progressively, and to bring them together as the student advances throughout the program.