Morgan Lyons is a Lillstreet student and Chicago native. She is currently a senior at Lane Tech High School and is a talented drawing and painting artist. Her work is inspired by Classical realism, and she recently spent her summer abroad studying at Florence Academy of Art. One of a handful of young students to receive a scholarship to this program, we took a moment to learn about her current practice and how it will be influenced by her experience in Italy.
When and where did you start painting? How did this medium speak to you?
I first began painting in my art class in high school. Oil paints were the medium that spoke to me most because they can do amazing things once you know how to control them.
What teachers and artists have most influenced you?
While I am inspired by artists like Leonardo Di Vinci and Sargent, the artists that inspire me the most I have met myself. There are a few in my mind that stand out especially. Last summer, I took Bob Horn’s figure drawing class at Lillstreet, where I learned how to use unfamiliar mediums and strengthen my drawing ability. My high school art teacher, Mr. Ceh, and my instructor at Florence Academy of Art, Simone Moritz, have both strongly influenced and continue to inspire me.
What do you most like to paint and why?
I most like to paint people. There is something human about painting hair, skin, eyes, and so on, that isn’t there while painting clothes or objects, as enjoyable as that is too.
What is the most important step of your painting process?
The most important step in my painting process is the moment when accuracy is reached. I believe that underneath every good painting is a great drawing, and without it off proportions serve as a distraction from the overall painting. I push myself every time I pick up a paintbrush to pay close attention to accuracy before I get to the fun parts like details and adding color.
I heard you were abroad this summer? How exciting! Tell us about the program and your experience.
I applied for and was accepted to a program that the Florence Academy of Art holds every summer. It’s a month of a class or classes of the student’s choice. The classes are ones that anyone of any age and from anywhere could choose to go to. I was lucky enough to be one of six all-age and international people to receive scholarship to go study Academy for a month. Classes were weekdays, nine to five, for the month of July.
Apart from having the opportunity to live in the beautiful city of Florence and interact with a new culture, my time at the Academy was what made it such a wonderful experience . I was amazed with how much I learned in just a few short weeks. The students and teachers were all such engaged, skilled, and generally kind people. There was something to be learned from all of them.
What did you learn in Italy that you don’t feel you could have learned here in the US?
While I think there are many very skilled artists and teachers here in the US, I believe the Academy takes painting and drawing to a much more technical, serious level than many places here in the US do. Lessons in Italy on art are concrete, straight forward in the way they are taught. They believe that creativity and individuality is something that comes after you have learned a good foundational skillset, and that is what I believe the Academy can give.
What are your goals for painting in the future?
Right now, I am working on a still life. The skills I’m trying to strengthen while doing this are my hand-eye coordination and my ability to create light in a painting. My goal is to keep improving. If my experience this summer taught me anything it is that there is always, always, more to be learned. I hope to do just that in the future.
What is your best advice to anyone just starting out in painting?
My advice would be to be patient with yourself. All artists make errors, but it’s those who are patient enough to correct instead of give up that become the greatest.