Art School: Semester 2, Week 4

Jeff Powell
13 min readJan 28, 2018

Hello again everyone, and thanks to all who expressed concern in one way or another about the homework load I was experiencing. I seem to be OK, actually. The worst is over now, and this weekend and the coming week don’t look awful. After that, who knows.

There’s a lot to discuss this time, but I will note in passing that I’ve written two other things this week, in addition to this post. I’ve actually got the time, so I got them off my chest. They’re in the links section at the bottom if you’re interested. They’re not at all related to art school, but they were bugging me.

Anyway… on to the week in review:

Art History

Last weekend I spent most of a full day working on the writing assignment and prepping for a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery to let me get the information I need to finish it. I did get to the gallery, and I got that information. I should finish writing the assignment this weekend, but it’s not due for a while yet, so I am way ahead on this assignment.

The class lecture was on art as a vehicle for power and manipulation. Propaganda. Going all the way back to Augustus for an example of using art to take and keep power. Interesting and timely, in some ways. Not that Trump has much use for art. Trump clearly has no taste at all.


I have printed my linocut plate three times now. Each time I have printed an edition of at least three prints. The first was OK, but I decided to make some changes in consultation with my instructor. Then I spent time modifying the plate and printed again, but that second edition is not good. I’m not entirely clear on the reason, but it seems that there was either too much ink, or the ink was too thin. Some lines vanished, and other areas were splotchy, as if ink was in the wells in the plate. A couple of days later I went back and editioned again, this time taking care to watch the ink more closely, and I got something. It’s a tiny bit salty — that is, there isn’t quite enough ink in a few places — but it’s not too bad. I’ll talk with my instructor about it on Tuesday and see what she has to say. Clearly I’ve tried, so I will turn in one of these three editions in class.


I mentioned before that I had a maquette. Here is a picture of it:

A maquette (model) of my sculpture project. Paper and 1/16th inch welding rod.

The assignment requires that we use all of the metal in a 16" x 16" sheet — with no leftovers at all, and no spare parts — as well as at least three linear elements made from metal rod of one kind or another.

The thing I actually made is fairly similar to the maquette. I spent the entirety of the last class session and a fair number of other hours in the shop getting it finished. It’s now on the shelves in the sculpture studio, waiting for critique next week. I am happy with it overall, though there are things I would like to have done better. Getting rid of the marks left behind by the spot welder is a challenge, in particular. And there is one angle that is a bit off. But it should get me a reasonable grade.

I tried to get some pictures but we don’t have a great place to photograph things setup all the time at school. I grabbed a couple of pictures of it on a light table and have edited them to remove the annoying background. These are, therefore, really artificial, but they show what I made:

Two lousy photos of the final project

I realize those pictures aren’t great. I will get better ones soon, though I am not at all sure where or how just yet. The final piece is something like two feet tall, and probably fills a cube of about that size, give or take a bit. It’s constructed of eight triangular pieces of 22 gauge steel, bent in various ways and given a satin finish, along with 3 pieces of 3/16th inch steel rod, also bent in various ways. Everything is spot welded together because pop rivets are ugly and don’t last.

Those who look closely — probably to the point of driving themselves bonkers with those images — will note at least one minor difference from the maquette. One of the wires had been reversed. That was done for stability. All the other differences — and there are a few — are essentially cosmetic. Though it is the lack of symmetricity arising from those minor issues that caused me to have to reverse the direction of the rod.

Anyway, as I say I think I am happy with it. I’ll know more on Wednesday when I have presented it for critique and I get the response from the instructor.


This week we turned in a drawing of eggs, done only in very light tones. Clearly this semester we are being given exercises to have us work on specific aspects of drawing, and this was one. Here’s what I turned in:

Eggs, drawn in light values only

That drawing was done in willow stick charcoal only. Well, technically, I did lay it out in 2H pencil first, but everything else on that paper is willow stick charcoal, smeared with my finger and worked with a kneaded eraser.

This week’s work in class was to collect textures (by rubbing with pencil or graphite stick through paper on interesting surfaces) and then to create an abstract drawing using only those, but redrawing them rather than collecting them again. It was raining, so most of us didn’t leave the room to collect our textures. As a result we got pretty creative at finding interesting things to use.

The homework this week is to finish the in-class drawing, and to create a small collage (made from just about anything) and then draw it in pencil. I need to get the collage made this afternoon if I don’t spend the entire day writing posts for you, my dear reader. (Note: I’ve spent most of the day at this. *sigh*)

You may recall the cubist drawing I did a week or two back. I was asked a couple of questions about it by Carolyn. Specifically:

1. How did you keep the lines so straight between any two different shaded areas? I would think tape, but then it’d tear the paper to pull it off.

2. Did you draw the objects first (glass, bottle, plate, fork, knife) first before shading? In fact, what was the order in doing the drawing, e.g., divide the areas, then objects, then shading?

I promised her an answer here, so I will do that now.

The process for making that drawing was a bit complex. First, I found an original still life by Juan Gris that I liked — Bottles and Knife from 1912. Here is is again:

Bottles and Knife, Juan Gris, 1912

Once I had that, I setup an actual still life in response to the original, including the plates, bottles, and cutlery. Then I sketched it out. At first I ignored the cubist nature of things entirely. Here’s that first step:

First sketch

Next, I used the original to give me some hints about how to “cubify” my sketch in a similar style. I got out a ruler and drew in some lines that were just about parallel to those in the original, and tried to hold true to what he’d done. I also flattened the objects out in some ways, since that is part of the cubist aesthetic. This is the same paper as the one above, just reworked. Some of the original lines were erased as part of the change.

Next step in the sketch

The final step was to start thinking about shading. This wasn’t intended to be accurate, but rather just a check to be sure I could find a way to shade it out that would work in the end. Here’s that step, again done on the very same page in the sketch book:

Sketch complete

Now it was time to start the actual drawing. The final work was on larger paper, with a slightly different aspect ratio, but I did the best I could to transfer things. First I measured where the diagonal lines intersected the edges, doubled that, and started moving them over with a long ruler. I was careful to keep them all parallel — or at 90 degrees — and I freely admit the ruler and a drafting square were used for that.

Once that was done I sketched in the the various objects — bottles, plates, knife, fork, glass — as per the original sketch.

I tried to get pictures of these steps, but because everything was so faint they came out a blurry mess. Nothing useful to see. I should have gotten out a real camera, but I didn’t. My cell phone camera is pretty good, but it does have limits.

I did catch a photo of the next step, in which I had shaded the first object:

Starting to fill in the details

Now I can start to answer Carolyn’s questions. As you can see above, I shaded each bit completely before moving on to the next. Shading was done with charcoal (regular and willow stick), and white chalk. I used a smudge stick extensively, and a kneaded eraser as well.

I didn’t tape the lines. I had layout lines to guide me, and everything was drawn by hand after the layout was done. If you work with charcoal in the right way you can erase it pretty easily if needed, but a steady hand will let you get a good, straight line without too much trouble, so erasing large mistakes wasn’t needed.

Here’s another step in the process:

More objects being filled in

There was a bit of method to my madness here. Charcoal and chalk smear very easily, so I was using fixative regularly. But I also needed to manipulate the paper, so I was leaving things around the edges to fill in last, as best I could. I think I carried the drawing outside to spray at least six times before I was done with it.

Also note that I was trying to mimic Gris’ painting style with my drawing work. His brush strokes were mostly in one direction — diagonally from upper left to lower right or vice versa — but some parts differ from that a bit. I made heavy use of the smudge stick to work things in that direction, and keep it looking right.

All this work made a huge mess. The amount of chalk and charcoal dust in this room has to be enormous. Here’s what the table looked like when I was finally done:

The drawing is done, and so are my lungs

And here’s another look at the final work:

After The Party, a cubist drawing in the style of Jan Gris’ Bottles and Knife

I think that pretty much covers everything in drawing class of late, as well as the questions. So I can move on…


This was critique for our digital collages. Last week when I wrote up the post it wasn’t done, but it is now. To make sense of it, though, you need to see what I was basing it on. This is a repeat from an earlier post, I think, but what the heck.

You might recall I’d been assigned Marcel Duchamp as my artist, and I’d gone off and found a work by him to inspire my own. Here’s what I picked:

Tu m’, Marcel Duchamp, 1918

That is one weird painting, let me tell you. I am pretty sure no one knows everything about it, and probably no one ever will. It’s much larger than that images makes it look — over 119" wide and just about 27.5" tall. It was done as a commission for one of Duchamp’s French students (he taught the French language in the US for a time), and for a long time it was thought to be his very last painting. Turns out there was another — possibly stranger — one after this, but that doesn’t matter right now.

What does matter is that it’s a retrospective of his art work. We can see the large stack of paintings in the upper left and middle. The lower left is a reference to a work called Three Standard Stoppages. In the middle we see the canvas is cut or torn and held together with safety pins. A bolt sticks through the middle of the yellow painting, and a bottle brush sticks out through the rip. The painted hand may point to the shadow cast by the brush in the original installation location, though that is speculation to some degree. On the right we see some odd coloured structures; I have no idea what they are. The shadows — bicycle wheel, cork screw, and hat rack — are references to some of his readymade sculptures.

The title — Tu m’ — is French, and the part of a phrase like “You X me.” The experts on Duchamp suggest “You Bore Me” or “You Annoy Me” as the most likely choices, given he was pretty sick of painting — and possibly of being an artist at all — at the time he created this work. He was shortly to go off and do nothing but play chess for some time, if I have my chronology right, so he was clearly at a turning point in his life. It took a mistress to get him painting again, and that final painting took 20 years to complete. It only appeared after he died.

Anyway, given Tu m’ as my reference, I decided to create a retrospective of my own artwork in a fashion somewhat akin to Duchamp’s. I further decided to limit myself to work done at school, but to add shadows of some of my earlier sculptures. I’m hardly a Photoshop expert, but here’s what I turned in:

Digital Collage for Media Studio

As you can see, I toned down the colours a lot to let the shadows show, and kept things pretty abstract. Though, if you look closely you’ll figure out that the layout for the various areas is done in pattern of part of my cubist drawing.

Do I like it? I am honestly not sure. It’s not terrible, but there are things I’d probably change a bit if I’d had more time and was better versed in Photoshop. (An example: I’d like to have made the sculpture shadows have blurry edges, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that in the time I had.)

As for critique and how that went, it’s also hard to tell. The instructor wasn’t handing out grades on the spot, and she is one of those people who is always energetic and “up”. Her energy level is unreal. (And that’s coming from me, which might say something if you know me well enough.) That means she was positive and upbeat about every single project, and nothing negative was said at all. But she did spend a fair amount of time on my work, and seemed to appreciate the fact that I’d included my own work in it. (It was also nice that other students which whom I have shared classes recognized some of the work included.)

I don’t yet know how this will go in the end, though. Grades (“marks” in Canadian English) are an interesting thing, and I’ll have to wait to see what happens. As I say, unless she was lying — unlikely — the instructor was impressed with everything. Apparently in the past there was a program in which some student work was reproduced on cards that were sent as thank-you notes to donors to the college’s art program. That program has been down for a while thanks to a reshuffle of the curriculum, but the instructor said she was going to talk to others about starting it up again, specifically because the work of her media classes is so strong.

I guess that means there is hope for a good mark, but it’s also the case that there is more competition, and not everyone can get an A, or so it seems to me.

As I say, time will tell.

We were given no new homework or assignments. Next week we’re going to start working with sound, somehow. I think we’ll be using Adobe Premier for that.

And that brings us to the end of the week. I am so glad it’s over. And next week doesn’t look too bad right now. Two critiques, drawing, start the sound project, and art history. I can breathe again. For now.


  • This is a great read about “the memo” and the associated chaos in Washington DC. I think everyone should read it. It’s long, but it makes a number of serious points.
  • I wrote something about walking and cell phone use:
  • I also wrote something about The Last Jedi:

And finally, here’s the updated index, with everything listed:

Dog Pics

I am sorry to report that there are no new photos this week, Nicki. I’ve been way too busy to get any for you. The kids are all good, though.



Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.