Class Connection: Alison Woolley
December 9, 2011
by Barbara Clark
Alison is a professional artist and decorator specializing in Italian painted furniture and the owner of Florenceart.net, a painting and decoration studio in Florence Italy. Alison graduated with honors after winning two scholarships from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Canada. She moved to Florence and worked for more than 15 years under the guidance of Florentine master artisans before opening her own bottega. Her bottega produces fine furniture finishes and decorative art for the interior design industry worldwide.
Who taught you?
A lot of people taught me, some directly, others I worked alongside, others I learned from through careful observation of their work (in this category I include the study of painters from the past. There is certainly a lot of great inspiration there.) As far as my formal studies go, I
studied at the Ontario College of Art, did a post graduate year in Florence Italy, and ended up finding work and staying here in this beautiful city of art. During my years of working as an apprentice I learned the traditional techniques of gilding, furniture painting and restoration. I think as you gain skill and experience it doesn’t necessarily diminish your desire to learn. Art is one of those fields that you can go on learning your whole lifetime.
Who inspires you?
I am lucky to be inspired by great colleagues, Marco Cavallini, Vieri Panerai, Roberto Passeri, Chiara Mignani, Lynne Rutter, Gary Lord, Melanie Royals, and various interior designers. I am inspired by their ability and knowledge, by their entrepreneurial and creative spirits, and by their generosity and enjoyment of what they do.
What do you get out of teaching (besides the money, of course)?
We have people come to study at our studio from all over the world. The people who come are usually really enthusiastic about art and sensitive to beauty and they share this, which in turn renews my own passion for art.
Lately we are getting people from different places, like Egypt, India and Lebanon, for example. The world is so connected now through internet. It’s funny how the connection through art is immediate, even with people from completely different backgrounds. The people who come are often working in some artistic field and they have specific ideas about what they want to learn. It gives me pleasure to be able to offer them instruction from teachers that I believe are really excellent, both in their craft and as instructors.
I also get to travel to teach, which is exciting. I am planning to teach in San Francisco in July 2012, and hope to teach at IDAL this year.
What is your favorite project or technique?
I love gilded surfaces and the combination of gilding and painting, You can view some of my latest works here. I am very familiar with these techniques, having worked with them for many years. Most of them are historically correct techniques dating back to the early renaissance, and involve the use of real gold leaf and water gilding. I find a richness and quality in these materials and techniques that I have not found anywhere else.
The next thing for me to explore thoroughly will be fresco I think. Right now I am totally inspired by true fresco techniques, can hardly wait to get into doing more. It has been a real discovery for me. I was thinking that these were outdated antique techniques requiring too much work and preparation for today’s world, but that’s not true. This medium is so exciting for painters, it has all the versatility and richness of oil painting and the freshness of water colour. The colours are delicious pure pigments that dry to a permanent surface that will last 500 years with no problems. That is quality.
How has your curriculum changed in the last 5 years?
I like to feel things are always evolving, I have worked on better projects (this past year I have worked on interesting projects on the French Riviera and in Paris) and I have produced higher quality work. The economy here in Italy is pretty bad and that has certainly impacted my business, but not my artistic focus. I have been forced to re-evaluate many things, as I think we all have. I have realized that I personally give art a high value and I love what I do.
Please describe your classes/schools including the practical applications to what you are teaching.
Chiaroscuro courses: This subject matter has a wide practical application, you learn to effectively create trompe l’oeil frames and ornament specifically, but the basics of mixing shades and working with light and shadow can be used generally throughout any type of decorative painting.
Painting Restoration: Learn professional, practical techniques for restoring oil paintings on canvas, very useful for anyone who wishes to buy and sell old paintings for additional income, or to work in the field of restoration.
Fresco and Sgraffito: Learn true fresco techniques with real lime plaster- useful to make high quality decorative panels or for the creation or restoration of decorative frescoes on site, indoors or outdoors. This course can be taken also for the pure pleasure of discovering this exciting medium.
Gilding: Italian water gilding techniques useful for making beautiful decorative panels, gilded furniture and frames, or for the restoration of antique frames.
Antique Furniture Painting Techniques: Learn the techniques and materials for the proper preparation of wooden objects, panels and furniture, casein paint techniques and wax finishes for creating Italian and French style ‘antiques’
Mural Painting: Learn techniques for creating full scale mural works, with focus on efficient use of time, colour harmony, perspective, and the imitation of surfaces.
Floral and Colour Ornament: This is a course with a lot of practical colour techniques, useful for honing colour, composition and brushwork skills.
Private lessons are also available.