Art School: Semester 2, Week 9

Have you ever noticed how fast time actually goes by? It’s interesting. It’s not a new observation, but it is true that as a child it always seemed to drag out, and now I feel like a slug as it whisks by.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
— Douglas Adams

In truth, I haven’t missed any deadlines — at least not yet — but every day it feels more likely.

In addition to school, this week has seen a lot of other stuff. Some of the annual tax preparation mess, a vague start to worrying about where we’ll live when our lease ends, planning for my next few semesters at school, and I took an English test.

On that last point, I took the test last weekend and got my score the following Friday (yesterday as I write this). I got a 5. What’s that mean? Well, 5 is the best you can get, so I can take any English class I want to. And I have to, since I discussed “testing out” of English with my department chair and she’d never heard of the concept. Perhaps they don’t do that up here, or maybe they call it something different and I didn’t explain it clearly, but it seems I’ll be taking an English class this Summer.

As for the test itself, it was, well, timely. As in recently written. There were two sections. The first had a chunk of about six paragraphs of text and asked us to summarize it in about 100 words. The second offered up three questions and asked us to write a 400 word essay in response to one of the questions. One of the questions said something like: “There was a recent school shooting in the US. What laws might be put in place to reduce school violence, and would they work? Discuss.” Well now… just wind me up, why don’t you. I have no idea how many words I wrote. Probably something like 400–600. But it was easy to do, and I’m glad I wrote them up here, rather than in the US. I do not have nice things to say about US political leaders.

On school planning, the college asks students entering their second year in the program what classes they think they want to take in the following two terms, so they can do their best to actually offer what the students want to take. It’s an interesting approach, and not something you’d see in a big program. In response to their request I have been doing some research. And in addition to figuring out my choices, I am convinced there is no way to complete this diploma in just two years if I want to do it justice. My intent is to learn as much as I can, and if I rush through the advanced studios because I have limited time, I won’t be happy with the results.

So it seems I will be taking classes for five or six regular semesters, plus at least one summer semester. Some students I have talked with are taking four or five years to complete the program. They’re working as well, and probably have other constraints, but it’s not that uncommon. So, long term student status appears to be my future. I’m good with that, I think.

As for taxes, it’s just that time. We have an accountant, and all we’re doing is assembling the stack of docs needed to file. It will be expensive and we might get audited — in two countries — due to the massive changes in our situation, but such is life. We’ll get by if that happens.

Art History

Last week was the mid term exam. We did a little study session first and then wrote the exam itself. I don’t have it back yet, but I probably did well. As I was leaving the instructor whispered in my ear that I didn’t seem as stressed this time as I did for the mid term in her class last semester. I laughed, but later realized that the mid term exam I took in her previous class was the first college exam I’d taken in something over 30 years. So there was some stress then, because I hadn’t done it in a very long time. I won’t claim it’s old hat now, but it’s more familiar again.

The other thing going on in this class is another writing assignment. We’re to visit the Museum Of Anthropology at UBC and pick two objects on display — from two different cultures — and write a compare & contrast essay of 1100 words or so. I write emails that long without thinking about it, so that’s not going to be too hard for me. Today I went to the museum and photographed a bunch of things I might write about. Here’s one of my favourites:

Bill Reid Sculpture at MOA

That’s Raven cajoling the first humans out of a clam shell on the beach where the Haida people live here. The sculpture is inside the MOA placed on top of an old gun turret from WWII. The museum was built around it because it was going to be too difficult or expensive to get rid of it. Instead they made it a feature, building a rotunda around the old turret, and put this wonderful sculpture on it. I think it is fitting… a creation story embodied in a sculpture where an instrument of death and destruction used to be.

I might write about that sculpture, but I have other choices. I’ll figure that out soonish and get cracking on it. Next week I’ll tell you what I am writing about, at least.


Before I get into this week’s printmaking update, I need to address a question. Last week I was asked what “proofing at plate” means by a reader. My long winded answer is…

Printmaking is an indirect art form. You create a thing — called a plate — that is then used in the creation of the final artwork — the prints. There are many possible techniques, but they all have that much in common.

So, you first create the plate, and doing so does not directly show you what the final prints will look like. For example, the technique we’re currently using — an variant of something called “intaglio” — involves scratching an image into a piece of Plexiglas. That creates the plate. The final images are created by putting ink onto the plate in a specific way, putting wet paper on top of the plate, and running them both through a press. The ink on the plate gets pushed into the paper, and the image results.

As you might guess, since you can’t necessarily examine at a plate and know how the final print will look, you might make a test print or two (or seven, so far) to help you see how things are going. Those test prints are called “proofs”, and “proofing a plate” is the act of creating such a test print. They are not part of the “edition,” which is the set of prints made from the plate once it is finalized. You may see proofs for sale in some cases — called “artist’s proofs” — and you might see notes like “this is print 5 of an edition of 50 and 3 artist proofs.” The edition prints are numbered and signed. The APs aren’t usually numbered, and are technically not part of the edition.

OK, so that’s what goes on with printmakers who know what they are doing. With me, well… things are more difficult. I’ve been working on this intaglio print for some time now, and it’s been a struggle. Thus far I’ve made seven proofs, one after the initial creation and the all but one of the rest after changes to the plate to try and improve it. As of this morning — and proof seven — the image is still not right. My last consultation with the instructor lead me to believe the thing I needed to do was darken the background… a lot. So I set out to do that, and I worked at it for some time last night. And when I printed it again this morning it looked only slightly darker. Not nearly dark enough.

This evening I went at it again with a new technique. There is no going back now. If this doesn’t work I am in trouble, but I am doing it. I’ll probably print again tomorrow to see how it goes.

Here’s the most recent AP:

Proof # 7 of my intaglio print

The subject there may look familiar, though it is left right reversed. It’s the same sculpture I drew for my last drawing assignment. It was out and I needed something, so I did it again.

Time will tell, but the instructor says I should make that background really — really! — dark. Much darker than it appears there. As I say, I’ve done the work again in a new way, and I’ll see if it works as soon as I print again, possibly tomorrow.


Sculpture class continues to be working on the wood sculpture. I think we have less than three weeks left before it is due. I haven’t managed to get many photos of late because I’ve been working right up until the shop closes, then I have to clean up and do other things. The best I have is from about a week ago:

The sculpture project in process

As you may recall, I am creating a semi-accurate replica of a virus, about 1,000,000 times actual size. The oddly shaped structure made of triangles is the head of the beastie in question, in which the DNA payload is kept. The spiral cut cylinder is another portion of it, and it’s the guts of a naturally occurring drilling rig, through which the DNA will eventually flow into the bacteria being attacked by the virus.

Time has passed since those pictures were taken. The head portion is all glued together now and is ready for finishing. The spiral has been sanded more and is in better shape , and I am working on the base plate and the legs now. It’s all very complicated, and there is a huge amount left to get done, but it’s happening.

I hope there will be more pictures next week.


What to say about drawing class.

Well, first off, you’ll recall that my last assignment was to draw drapery and something of a different texture. Last week I shared a picture of the drawing and the setup I was working from. Here’s the crit wall from class this week, so you can see what the submissions for that assignment looked like, rather than just my own work:

Drapery drawings

If you read last week’s post you’ll see my own as third from the top left, and you’ll note the similarity — and mirror reversal — from the print proof above.

I don’t have a better picture of that drawing because the instructor kept it and a couple of others to put up on display. That makes two of mine she’s done that with this term. It gives me warm fuzzies, even if the kids in the program need their egos stroked far more than I do. (And I later told the instructor exactly that.) I’ll have to get a good picture of it when I get it back from her.

This week’s assignment is a bit complicated:

  • Last week we sketched things on a field trip to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on the UBC campus
  • In class we did some initial work with water colour, and then painted one of our sketches in water colour
  • The homework is to draw the water colour, in pencil, concentrating on showing the intrinsic tone of the colours used in the painting.

I’m not happy with my water colour painting, though, so I may redo it first. If there is time given the pile of homework I have.


This week we were given our next assignment, and next week we need to have some inputs to get started on it. We’re going to create a one minute video presentation, played in a loop. Actually we’re to create two videos to be played on two different screens (orientations to be selected by the artist… opposite walls, overlapping, vertically arranged, side by side, in a corner, whatever) and there will be sound as well.

We can do this with still images if we want, but working with movies is OK too, and though those wishing to push the envelope have been told that animation is fine as well. And next week we’ll be given an intro to Adobe Illustrator, which can help with that. Production will be in Adobe Premier again.

The theory is that our projects will in some way be inspired by one of our first efforts, either the digital collage or the sound project. And the inspiration can be very subtle, so it’s not much of a limitation.

So far I have no clue what I will do. I have some ideas but they are all way too much work, so I am still struggling to figure it out and limit things so that I don’t kill myself with the effort needed here.

Oh, we got marks back on our sound projects as well. I did very well again, another A grade, so I seem to be OK at this media stuff, at least in the eyes of this instructor.

And that ends the week in review.


  • Only one link this week, and it’s a sad one to share, but it feels right. It goes with my English test essay.
  • The usual index of art school posts and other things here on Medium, because Medium’s display isn’t chronological, as far as I can tell.

Dog Pictures

Nicki, if you’re still reading this, there are dog pictures this week!

Anne, photographing Tinkerbelle in the show

Tink loves the snow. Seriously loves it. Laying down in it is just the beginning.

And as you can see we had a fair bit. That’s about 15 cm (6 inches, give or take) that fell. It was quite pretty, and stuck around just long enough to really mess things up. Vancouver doesn’t deal with snow well, and that much snow more or less shut the city down. School was cancelled on that day a bit after noon.

Here’s the prissy footed dog getting some extra water. Skookie was out too, but all the shots I have of her came out blurry.

Cruzer, who is not a snow dog, but who likes to eat it.

Finally, we have this, which is neither dogs nor snow, but, well…

Yup. We’re definitely in Vancouver.

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