Lorenzo and I have been doing lessons for a few months now. Our first five lessons were a birthday gift from his wife...what a great idea!...and we have continued from there for at least two months now. The first day we met I was impressed with Lorenzo's talent and the passion and energy he puts into his very imaginative artwork. He had done a series of humorous drawings, for friends and relatives for various occasions.

He wanted to take his drawing technique to a much higher level, and in the weeks since we've been working together he's done just that. He's now taken on the project of creating a comic book, which features his family members in the roles of the Little Red Riding Hood story.

Each week Lorenzo shows me the prolific amount of work he's done (even more impressive given that he works full-tiime as an engineer and has two children!), and I give him my opinions and suggestions for modifications. Each of our meetings is an adventure and also brings up new topics, such as composition, character design, using Photoshop for painting, techniques for solid, 3-dimensional drawing, and more.

It's been a great pleasure and honor to work with Lorenzo, and I have learned a lot from this talented man in each of our meetings...I look forward to our Saturday afternoons greatly. Thanks Lorenzo.

Lorenzo has offered this very kind feedback about our lessons together... “I have been drawing since I was 4 years old. I remember all those afternoons spent with my brothers drawing comics for my parents, relatives and then for friends and colleagues. Everybody always told me I was very talented, that my drawings were wonderful and that I had chosen the wrong work, since my future was as an artist and not as an engineer.
This I think was the reason for which last November my wife, as a birthday present, booked Mike for five lessons (she found his flyer posted somewhere in a restaurant): after the first one I understood what drawing really was! That lesson opened my mind such that after the five lessons expired I asked Mike to carry on with the sixth, the seventh and I’m still there after 4 months!
Mike is very patient, teaches very well and most important is really clever. Although he paints and draws how I have always dreamed, he shows you all his best when he animates. And all the concepts I have learned moving my first steps into the animation world are reflected in every still picture I do. As Mike always says, even from a still frame you can express movement: and Mike knows very well how to do that.
Believe me, unless you are a professional drawer contact Mike and benefit from his big experience in Disney. It is not just a matter of drawing better, but you will learn how to design your composition, to choose color strategies, to define the right staging, character design and everything you need to make your picture look like you have never imagined.”


Recently I've been instructing a group of students who are studying figure drawing at the Accademia delle Belli Arti. The composition of the group changes weekly, but consists mostly of American exchange students, and a few local Florentines. We have been talking about the importance of gesture and proportion, and constructing the figure with simple shapes such as boxes and cylinders. The Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza Signoria affords us great opportunities to study from the masters of sculpture. The group seems happy with the results of our sessions and we plan to continue meeting regularly!


Penn and I have been doing weekly two-hour lessons together since November. In our first meeting I explained a basic set of tools, or principles for strong, three-dimensional drawing. Penn absorbed these ideas immediately and his drawing level took off in the subsequent weeks, and he just keeps getting better. Each week we try different things...drawing from some of his books, from some of my Disney animation drawings, from objects in his house, and from our imaginations. I have been very impressed with this talented eleven year-old from Seattle. Penn is one of the most focused people that I've ever met. I'm confident that he'll go far with his determination and talent.

Here are some of the beautiful drawings and paintings Penn has done during our lessons...


Recently I've begun a collaboration with the luxury membership residence Palazzo Tornabuoni, located on Via Tornabuoni in Florence, one of the most chic shopping streets in Europe. Members purchase the right to the use of an apartment at any time they like, for a lifetime. This is one of the most beautiful and meticulously renovated palaces you will ever see.

The group I did a lesson with recently was composed of two families, one from New York and the other from Paris. There were two adults and seven children.

First we visited and sketched in Piazza Signoria, and then for the remainder of our three hours next to the caroussel in Piazza della Repubblica.

We had a great time and the kids as well as the adults were very excited about their experience and said they were looking forward to the next time!

The event coordinator at Palazzo Tornabuoni had this feedback to give me about the lesson: 'Dear Mike, I really want to thank you for making our members so happy. The kids were blown away by your class. I am sure their publicity will give you A LOT of work!!!!!!!'


I've recently started teaching plein-air painting to an already experienced oil painter from Seattle. This week we painted two times on the Arno, looking toward the city from Parco Cascine, and will continue there next week. After that, who knows? So many great places to paint in town and in surrounding Tuscany! Here is a comment from the student:
"My three weeks of painting with Mike along the Arno were some of the best hours spent in italy. Mike saw how far I had reached in my painting, the blocks and the limitations. We reorganized, did a quick course from the beginning, and produced one of my best paintings yet, with a much more comprehensive view on my part, pulling together a lot of information, in a way that was just right for me. I feel I moved ahead both in my painting and in appreciation of painting in general. Thanks, Mike."

I have had the pleasure in the last few months to have three new young students who are living in Florence from January to June of this year. Two are sisters from Napa Valley, CA who have come here with their mother to live and experience Florence for these months. The other is the friend of one of the sisters. We have had some great drawing sessions, and occasionally the drawing breaks into full-color with watercolors being shared by all of us. What better way to dress up a drawing than with the most versatile medium of watercolor?! I am very proud of my young students and share with you here some of their amazing work (and some of mine, too)! Enjoy!


The theme for this lesson with students from the Accademia delle Belli Arti comes from this fantastic Italian word, which in English translates to 'scribble'. While drawing from the statuary in the courtyard between the two wings of the Uffizi Museum, I gave the students a limited amount of time to make each drawing (between one and two minutes).

By doing this I forced them to forget about details and to try to capture the essence, the most important information about the pose and attitude of the figure. This kind of training was handed down to me during my time at the Walt Disney studios, as animators work this way in the initial stage of their work...capturing (or in this case inventing) the attitude of the character, saving the refinement of the drawing for later.

As I explained to the students (in my slowly-improving Italian), when drawing the figure there are two parts to the process--an initial one that is more free, loose, intuitive (some would say right-brained), and a second part which is more rational or 'left-brained', in which the figure is constructed from simple volumetric shapes (boxes, cylinders, spheres), and then further refined.

But without this initial 'right-brained', intuitive stage, the drawing will remain a stiff, lifeless academic study which has missed the 'story' or the play-acting of the pose and of the figure.

Thank you to my mentors at Disney such as Glenn Vilppu and Walt Stanchfield (and their mentors such as legendary animator Frank Thomas) who passed this accumulated wisdom to me, so that I have been able to share it with my students in these last fourteen years of teaching. are a few of the great student drawings...

Pierluca Arena, pencil on paper

Pierluca Arena, pencil on paper

...and a few of mine...


Continuing at La Specola natural history museum with my devoted group of students from the Accademia delle Belli Arti, we spent our two hours doing a watercolor study of a two hundred year old llama. We started by doing a light pencil sketch, then adding layers of watercolor washes to get the final effect. For this first session of painting I purposefully had the students
paint a virtually monochromatic subject, so as to focus on value relationships, which are the most important in any
painting. In our coming sessions we will work on gradually more colorful subjects. Here are the students and their
beautiful works...


Chiara, pencil and watercolor on paper


Francesca, pencil and watercolor on paper


Eleonora, pencil and watercolor on paper


Pierluca, pencil and watercolor on paper

...and one of mine...


This week we were back at La Specola...a great place to go during the winter to sketch, although it's pretty cold inside, too! Here are some more beautiful watercolor studies done by my students...enjoy...
Pierluca...who makes this comment about our courses together... 'Lessons are simply great. It's the first time I'm really learning something in this field. I really like the way you fallow us in every moment of the drawings, sketches or paintings, giving us a lot of advices about lines, gesture and whatever. I like you teach us to plan every drawing from the begining to the end. With these lessons I learned to use the right part of the brain to scribble and often to draw relaxed without thinking to the unuseful details =D.
I learned to plan every figure I draw by using geometrical shapes and to focus on the gesture and these things really helped me for every drawing that I do every day. Finally I really like your friendly behaviours that makes the lesson very nice, relaxing and intresting.'

Pierluca, pencil and watercolor on paper


Francesca, pencil and watercolor on paper


Chiara, pencil and watercolor on paper



I've been doing lessons for a few weeks now with brother and sister duo Eric and Abby from Vermont. For the first lesson we met at their home and did watercolor sketches from an image by Masacciocalled 'The Tribute Money' that is part of the cycle of frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel.
I was really impressed with both Eric's and Abby's interpretations of this early Renaissance masterpiece.

The following two sessions we've been in the galleries of Palazzo Pitti,
both the Galeria Palatina and the Galeria d'Arte Moderna.
Abby's drawing
Eric's drawing

At our last lesson Eric and Abby showed me these great drawings that they did during a recent trip to San Gimignano...beautiful!



Great sketching, great company, and great food...we had a wonderful time! Alexandra and Judy from California were my sketching students for one week during last summer.
We visited several areas of Florence and other Tuscan towns. Alexandra is the eduction coordinator at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
where we collaborated to present several drawing and sculpture courses there, and Judy, her mother, was a student in one of the drawings classes I did there at The Huntington.