Interview with Michela Mansuino
Q: You love to teach both adults and young people; how did you get started teaching kids?
A: I started teaching middle and high school art in 2000 at the American school of Recife, in Brazil. I was responsible for the ceramics department, and I realized that children between the ages of seven and 14 make great leaps in their learning, aren’t afraid to try all sorts of things and enjoy being instructed. I suppose I would like to be the teacher I would have wanted when I was younger.
Q: Let’s talk about what an Atelier system of learning is. The word ateliers literally translates as workshop, but the atelier system of learning dates back centuries. You attended one of these programs the very famous Studio Incamminati. What are the benefits of this type of system of learning art?
A: The atelier system introduces technical art skills in a layered way that builds slowly, teaching the student what they need to learn in the order they need to learn it in. The method is similar to music; where students must learn to play notes before they play a song. The atelier system is strongly rooted in the human figure and painting/drawing from life. The benefits of working from life are numerous. First of all, when one is drawing from a real live model, one is completely engaged in the process of Employing one’s highest skills of observation. The speeds up the drawing and learning process. That intense kind of looking and searching, that ability to articulate such beautiful, strange and difficult forms, train the mind. That training is carried into all the other genres. The study of the human figure will, in fact, improve one’s drawing ability Rapidly.
Q: How does the Incamminati process normally work and how have you model the GFA Youth program on it?
A: Nelson Shanks designed all of the exercises in the Studio Incamminati professional program. One starts at level one and works one’s way up to level four. Each level builds on the preceding level. All of the emphasis is on drawing at Studio Incamminati, however, We spend a lot of time doing color studies. The goal is to be equally proficient in form and color. I have modeled the GFS youth program on the Studio Incamminati levels. We start with simple shapes in the still life genre working in charcoal with a strong light source. This is the fundamental skill, being able to separate light from shadow. This carries through to full color, long studies in oil, through the figure and the Portrait model sessions.
Q: What kind of progress do you see with students who come through your program? Have any of your students gone onto art school?
A: I see my students learning the skills one by one the same way we were taught at Studio Incamminati. As each skill builds on the last skill, my students are able to do form studies and color studies with a degree of ease Because they have not been taught any other process. The process they learn is streamlined to produce the best technique. My students have gone off to Great Art schools on the east and west coast to name a few, Parsons, Pratt, Virginia, Commonwealth University, Savannah College of Art and design, Princeton, Brown College and even MIT. I’m very proud of them.
Q: Picasso once said you have to learn the rules in order to understand how to break them “do you agree? Does the system you teach help abstract or more contemporary artists as well as those students who are interested in Classical and Realism?
A: Icompletely agree with Picasso. There has to be an “it” before you can get rid of it. The skills I am teaching are skills that apply to realism or abstraction, the materials that we use apply to traditional drawing and painting, but one can use the steps in the process any Creative way that one dreams up, in fact, I hope that my students have the skills to express themselves in the many ways that they imagine their creativity can go.
Q: How did you become an artist?
A: From a very early age, I was looking for an activity that didn’t make a whole lot of noise. Both my parents were classical musicians, and they practiced eight hours a day and the din coming from the violin and the piano was just too much for me. I sat down and started to draw and I thought this is a quiet activity that I can do .Q: Who are your main influences or sources of inspiration?A: I feel deeply connected to the renaissance because I lived in Florence for about four years. I felt so inspired every day. Walking past figure sculptures and renaissance architecture; I studied it deeply. From there, I began to explore the baroque period and then the neo classical period. I find myself inspired by great painters like Artemisia Gentileschi, and Elizabeth Vigee LeBrun. I look to my contemporaries who focus on contemporary, humanistic realism; they are my new sources of inspiration.
Q: What paintings are you currently working on?
A: I like to work on all three genres at the same time. That is, I like to work on portraits and landscapes and figure paintings, and still life all through the week. I’m working on a large figure painting, which I intend to enter in an ARC Salon coming up. I’ve worked on it for many years and I think I’m finally going to finish it this year. At the same time, I have a series of Tuscan landscape paintings that I started in September of this year, en plein aire. I also complete a Portrait every three weeks in order to keep up my skill level.
Q: What advice would you give to Artist who want to improve their skills quickly?
A: My advice to artists who want to improve their skills quickly is to focus on the human figure. Go to open studio. Take a class which has a live model, whether it’s figure or portrait. Open up those anatomy books and copy the diagrams. It’s fun to start with the bones and then go with the muscles. Also, Copy a masterpiece from art history and let yourself be influenced by that particular artists process. Remember that how it is made is what it looks like! Lastly, study with the artists whose paintings you enjoy.
Young artists in Northern Virginia are extremely lucky to have Michela Mansuino as our Youth Program instructor for The Arts of Great Falls. Michela is an exceptional artist and instructor. She currently teaches at the Human Realist Program for the highly acclaimed Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, where she studied and earned a diploma of achievement. In addition to youth classes at The Arts of Great Falls, Michela also teaches several adult classes in portraiture, still life, color study and master copies. Michela has won numerous awards, including two honorable mentions from the Portrait Society of America, first prize in the Strictly Painting Competition, and was a finalist in the ARC International Salon. Additionally, her plein air painting, “Still Life with Raffaello,” was featured in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine in July 2022.