From Fleisher to Full Ride
This winter, Fleisher student Abby Dudley applied to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and, with recommendations from Fleisher teaching artists Giovanni Casadei and Paul DuSold, received a full four-year scholarship. Abby has primarily focused on the figure and painting since she began her studies at Fleisher, and Paul last week said Abby is the most talented student he’s had in his 30-year teaching career and that she possesses the “’perfect storm’ of qualities an artist needs to succeed: exceptional talent and sensitivity combined with unusual intelligence and the discipline to work as hard as necessary to achieve her goals.”
Before she heads off to PAFA, we checked in with Abby to see how Fleisher has influenced her artistic journey, what she’s learned from Paul and Giovanni, and how art has transformed her life.
Above: Abby at work in Paul DuSold’s spring Portrait Drawing class.
How did you learn about Fleisher and how long have you been taking classes here? How has Fleisher – if at all – changed your life or viewpoints on art?
Initially, I found out about Fleisher Art Memorial while searching for a place where I could continue to develop my artistic abilities and interests. I was attracted to Fleisher for its teachers and the ability that it offered me to explore different mediums. I was particularly drawn to Fleisher after seeing paintings by Giovanni Casadei, Paul DuSold, and Stanley Bielen. I started taking classes at Fleisher in the fall of 2015 when I started my freshman year at a Junior College. I found Fleisher to be an encouraging artistic community that values exposing students to a vast array of teachers and ideas.
Being immersed in such a supportive environment that is alive with enthusiasm for the power art continually motivates me to learn and grow. I greatly appreciate having the opportunity to study with so many incredible teachers while working alongside such a diverse group of classmates. Coming to Fleisher was a paradigm shift in my life that exceeded my expectations. In addition to receiving quality instruction from artists with years of experience, I learned more about myself and gained the confidence to follow my heart and become an artist.
Attending Fleisher allowed me to see how art can transcend barriers and enrich many aspects of my life. My perspective on art has significantly broadened while at Fleisher. I see art as an integral aspect of my life. It is a love that nourishes and grows deeper as I grow on my artistic journey, and it is a joy that increases when shared with others.
Giovanni and Paul were a force in you receiving a scholarship to PAFA. Can you tell us how studying with them has affected you?
Giovanni and Paul are exceptional examples of how a high level of dedication and passion for art can flourish into work that inspires. Giovanni and Paul have always been tremendously generous with their time and knowledge. They invested their time and knowledge to help me advance my understanding of the visual language that is involved in the creation of a painting. They readily shared with me what it means to be an artist. They are great influences to me who encourage me to cultivate a spirit of learning that will last a lifetime.
Being in their classes catalyzed my curiosity and ambition which stimulated profound personal growth. They urged me to fully commit to the process of searching and discovery. I love how Giovanni always answers my questions in a manner that reveals how I can find the answers within me. Giovanni would often answer my question by asking me another question to illustrate the importance of asking questions and how curiosity can intrinsically lead to larger ideas. Giovanni likes to say it is “his job is to create problems for me to solve.” Paul helped me to develop a more sensitive heart. He emphasized the importance of understanding how I perceive the world and how to best translate that into my artwork. We worked on creating an awareness of the poetic potential of a painting and how that affects the quality of my artistic expression.
It was an extremely valuable experience to be in Giovanni and Paul’s classes at Fleisher. They were always challenging me to find the opportunities and possibilities within my paintings. I had a lot of fun in their classes and I feel fortunate to have met and worked with these two inspiring artists. The greatest gift I learned from them was to trust my intuition and enjoy being engaged in the process of painting.
We’re always very interested in learning about the artistic backgrounds of our students. Can you tell us a little bit about yours?
Since I was a child, I have always found immense freedom in art. As a young child, I experienced how art can transform my life. When I was young, I struggled to concentrate and pay attention in school. Through my love of art, I was able to develop concentration and focus by painting and drawing which subsequently helped me focus and excel in my school work. In high school, I attended PAFA’s After School Studio Art Program, where I first tried oil painting. I was able to study with Al Gury, David Wilson, Mike Manley, and many other inspiring teachers. This was where I was first exposed to a large community of artist who took learning about art seriously. They really supported me in my endeavors and I enjoyed their classes.