Florence’s modern masters

by Rebecca Bricker on February 15, 2013

In my wanderings around Florence, I’ve been seeking out the Renaissance City’s modern-day masters.

One is artist Gary Adcock – an American, ironically – who is the founder-director of the Florence Art Studio, where anyone who aspires to become a painter can make their dream happen.

“Realizing dreams and goals has always been a part of my life,” Gary says. After being a successful architect for nearly thirty years – traveling and passionately studying art and architecture all over the world – he decided to come to Florence to study at an art academy and become a painter. “I believe that with clear intention, passion and perseverance, anything you can dream, you can do.

Gary’s dreams are big. After completing his academic training, Gary began teaching in 2004. He opened The Florence Art Studio in 2010, following an extensive renovation of the historic Palazzo Martini-Bernardi at Via Ghibellina 121 (across the street from Palazzo Borghese where Napoleon used to visit his sister Pauline, who married a Borghese prince).

The renovation included the restoration of centuries-old frescoes that adorn the high ceilings of FAS’s three studios, lit by large north-facing windows and equipped with computer-controlled LED fixtures that can simulate daylight (without infared or UV radiation, making the workspace safe for both artists and the art). In addition, FAS has a small library, gallery, workroom and a kitchen/service area. And on the premises is a bathtub that Pauline once used. šŸ˜‰




The painting courses are customized to the needs and skill-level of participants and range from one week to a month or more.

“Since I started my art training relatively late in life, the sacrifices I have had to make and the challenges I have had to face in learning have helped me become a sympathetic teacher,” Gary says. “Each student is treated as a unique individual with specific needs and my teaching methods respond accordingly.”

For more about the program, visit the The Florence Art Studio website.





And you’ll love shopping for art supplies in Florence…

At a lovely FAS reception one evening, I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro Zecchi whose art supply store, at Via dello Studio 19R, is world-renown for reproducing paints and materials used by Renaissance artists.

On a recent tour of the Zecchi store, Alessandro showed me an Italian-made brush with red string wrapped around the wooden handle. “This is the same type of brush Michelangelo used,” he told me. (The red string is used instead of metal, which is easily corroded by lime.)

At Zecchi, there are brushes made of squirrel fur, sable and hog hair. You’ll find parchment skins, papyrus sheets handmade in Sicily, feather quill pens, and silver-point styluses like those used by Leonardo da Vinci.

One of the most exotic items in the shop is lapis lazuli pigment extracted from stones mined in Afghanistan – the same mines mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo. “Even with the war on there, it’s possible to get the stones on the black market,” Alessandro says. “They come from near the border, in the north, in a valley called Badakhshan. They go out easily – through China, Russia or Pakistan.”

In the Renaissance, lapis lazuli was used to paint the robe – the “mantle” – of the Virgin Mary. Today, as was true then, it is the most precious and expensive of all pigments.

Alessandro showed me a lapis lazuli stone. The trick is separating the blue pigment from the pyrite, he says. “It’s a difficult process. We have it done for us here in Florence by craftsmen who have a secret recipe.”

Many of the old “recipes” used by Zecchi for their art restoration products come from a 14th-century handbook, by Tuscan artist Cennino Cennini, called Il Libro dell’Arte, a comprehensive guide to the supplies and techniques of Renaissance artists. From this ancient recipe book, Zecchi has replicated the colors of egg tempera paints used in the 1300-1400s.


Even if you’re not an artist, the Zecchi store is worth a visit – if just to hold a Michelangelo paintbrush or a Leonardo stylus.



Photo credits: FAS – studio interiors, fresco detail and painting (a study by Gary Adcock of a portion of “The Three Ages of Man” by Giorgione)



Kathy February 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I just returned from a trip to Paso Robles and the Hearst Ranch, AKA the Castle to all but Wm Hearst.
It was so interesting to hear how a 18 month trip to Europe when he was 11 to 12 influenced his obsession with European art and architecture, hence the Castle he began when he was 56. It took 28 years to be complete… not unlike European building as well. Seeing his art on the main floor reminds me of the paintings and colors you show here. Pure and brilliant! This is a wonderful exploration of art in Florence and I love the education you always include.
Tasha and I went for a break and to explore and it reminded me of fall in ’08 looking over the beautiful water, boats, awesome meals and drinking superb wines. Only thing missing was you…. Grazie mille for the artistic revelation and intro to the classes.

Rebecca February 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Kathy – I hope you and Tasha will come back to Italy someday. I have so many happy memories of our time in Priano. šŸ˜€

Kathleen Pooler February 20, 2013 at 4:05 am

Rebecca, you have brought me to Florence in a most colorful way. This lovely tour whets my appetite for the real thing. Wayne and I are in the planning phases for an October visit. I’ll keep you posted xo

Rebecca Bricker February 23, 2013 at 5:25 am

Looking forward to seeing you in Florence – for real! šŸ˜€

Pat February 23, 2013 at 5:23 am

Fascinating read, Rebecca. I never imagined paintbrushes and paint being made of such things. And Gary’s drastic career change in midlife inspires everyone to pursue his/her dreams at any age.

Rebecca Bricker February 23, 2013 at 5:27 am

It’s fascinating to see what the Old World masters used to create their magnificent art. I, too, applaud Gary for going after his dream. The ripple effect is that he’s helping others do the same.

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