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AdA evolves from Studio Simi

The creation of AdA evolved from the teachings of Signorina Nerina Simi, who continued the traditional fine art training of her father, Filadelfo Simi.

The uniqueness of Studio Simi

In 1976 Nerina Simi’s atelier school was the only place in Florence and probably in the whole of Italy, where skill based drawing and painting was taught. She was a direct connection with the art that was customary taught in the 19th century.

Nerina Simi gave her life to teaching, her greatest virtue was her infinite constancy.

The Teaching of
Signorina Nerina Simi

“Remember, I am your guide; nature is your teacher”

With this quote Nerina Simi shows the importance she attributed to studying drawing and painting from life. She wanted to be a guide for her students. Nerina Simi was an exceptional teacher, she knew how to encourage her students and she surprised many in discovering unimagined capacities. She dedicated her life above all to teaching .

Nude model

At Studio Simi in the big studio everybody was working on a study of the nude model in the morning from 9 – 12. The model was placed in a comfortable position so that the pose could be sustained for a long time. There was a break after the first hour and again after the second hour. The model remained in the same pose for 12 mornings, 6 mornings a week. Simi encouraged her students to do life size studies and to fill a whole sheet of paper.
Life size doesn’t fit a piece of paper so often just a part of the body was chosen.


Nerina Simi wanted us to draw with charcoal, because it is easy to make corrections, it gives a larger range of tonal values and it teaches the hand to develop a sensitive touch and we also used charcoal pencil. 

Method of comparative measurement

For setting up a drawing we used comparative measurement. First an accurate drawing in the the right proportions was made. It is called the construction. Other tools were used a rubber, a thin stick and a plumb line.

Drawing is a preparation for painting

Simi wanted us to do drawings covering the whole sheet of paper. This exercise including the background is a preparation for painting. With a painting you cannot leave your canvas uncovered, like in a drawing. Furthermore covering a whole sheet of paper is a lot of work and that is why it was an excellent practice to develop a sensitive hand.

Drawing is the basis for painting

Drawing is the basis for painting, Simi wanted us to have a profound knowledge of drawing before starting to paint. Sometimes it took years before a student was allowed to start painting, but for others painting came sooner. All students were advised individually by Nerina Simi. She had a good psychological insight on what people needed. One person needs encouragement, the other needs to be slowed down.

Clothed model

In the afternoons from 2 – 5 pm there was a clothed model. The model stayed in the same pose for two weeks, four afternoons a week. On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons there were no model sessions.

The little room or still-life room

There was also the little room or still-life room.
New students were taught the principles of comparative measurement with still lives and casts. When the student was ready for painting, his or her first attempt was made with a still life in the little room.

Painting for the first time

After getting to know the basic practices of painting, the student was promoted to painting the clothed model and the portrait. After sufficient results one could continue and start to paint the nude model.

Tonality and values

The biggest difficulty at the start of painting is finding the right tone (value) in colour. Nerina Simi taught her students to search for and observe this. Simi explained that the perception of colour is determined more individually than with black-and-white drawings and therefore there are more individual differences between painters when painting. She gave no ready-made recipes about how to mix the colours. The search for colour is important for everyone to discover for themselves.

Maintain personal touch in drawing and painting

Simi encouraged her students to stick to their personal handwriting and character. Our personality shows in the way we mix colour and how we apply the brushstrokes.


Nerina Simi also taught by showing how it was done, by simply drawing or painting a piece in the student’s work. These demonstrations were very enlightening.

Atelier Florence, Joke Frima 1980 – 1984

From a kitchen to a very stylish studio with a large window on the North.

From 1980 to 1984 I taught drawing and painting in Florence. The first year an Italian student hosted us in her kitchen. In the beginning it was a few afternoons a week, but soon it became every afternoon. In the following years, my atelier-school found a home at Circolo le Lame in via Gran Bretagna. In 1983 and 1984 we were welcomed at Ben Long’s studio in via della Robbia, a very stylish studio with a large window on the North. And, there was even a small garden.

I founded an association to give my activities a legal framework: “Associazione Culturale di Disegno e Pittura Realistica.”

These photos in the gallery are some examples of my students’ studies.

Atelier, every afternoon

The lessons were from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. every afternoon except Saturday and Sunday. Alternately there was a model for two weeks and the following two weeks a still life or plastercast was being worked on.