Art School: Semester 4, Week 1

The new semester has started, and the first week is done, at least for me. (I have no class on Friday. Well, I have no class at all, but I also do not have a class to attend on Friday.) I’ll provide my initial impressions of the classes below, but first…

If anyone was wondering, I really did follow through and kill off my Facebook and Twitter accounts. It seems I can still read Bloom County on Facebook without an account, and that’s the most important thing on that site in my opinion. I wish Berkeley Breathed would publish it somewhere else, but it is what it is.

In any case, no more looking for me on FB or Twitter. That’s done.

As you might expect, there isn’t a lot of other news in the past week given that school has been the focus. There were two friends in town — one of whom I got to see — and that’s about it. The weather might be starting to turn, though. It rained this morning and the forecast calls for rain in varying amounts for the next six days. I am very happy about that, even as the locals probably hate it.

Anyway, enough banter. Here’s the school update, though there are no photos of work to share this week because things are barely getting started.

Professional Practice

This is a class in the non-art things that artists need to get by in the art world. How to write a cover letter and a CV, discussions about copyright, how to prepare photos of your work, and so on. As a practical matter, some of my fellow students may use it to prepare their application package for entry into a BFA program somewhere, or to apply for scholarships and grants.

My own case is less clear, as my goals are different. But the instructor and I are talking and working out the specifics. We’ll get it figured out. I don’t feel like this class will be a crippling amount of work, but time will tell.


I knew what I was getting into with this class, and so far it’s right on the money. The instructor has several assignments that chain together and result in our creating a light kit. We’ll be using very simple materials — millboard and paper, along with LED strips — and the end results will be laser cut. The intent is to create an accent light using these materials. It can be a table or wall lamp, or hung from the ceiling. We probably can’t create a floor lamp given the materials allowed, but who knows. As I say, the goal is a kit, so that it could be shipped in an envelope and someone else could assemble it.

Step one is to research lighting designers for inspiration. Next week we start ideating (sketching quick ideas to explore all kinds of possible lamps and structures). After that we’ll be making models and iterating on the design until we have something we like.

I already love this class.

Aboriginal Carving

If there is a surprise this term, this is it. The instructor is a Coast Sailish artist with a lot of experience, and his teaching style is very familiar. I see echoes of my own teaching style in what he’s done so far. He’s calmer than I am, of course (everyone is calmer than I am!) but his personal style is otherwise much like my own in the classroom.

The course will involve several smaller projects — the first of which is creating our own carving knife — and the last of which is a personal project to be determined. Those in the middle are exercises designed to teach us wood carving technique in the style of indigenous carvers. There will be lots of discussions about indigenous peoples and their carving styles, I suspect, but it seems the goal is not for us to carve as if we were indigenous ourselves, but rather to take stock of our own cultural heritage and figure out what our personal carving style should be. I think that is an excellent plan. I should definitely not be carving works that look like they were produced by an indigenous carver — that’s cultural appropriation, and it’s ethically and morally wrong, bordering on being evil in my opinion. But where indigenous people are willing to share some of their stories, I am happy to learn them, and their tool use and knowledge of how wood is worked in particular ways is probably fine to share.

What my final project will be I have no idea. My cultural heritage is so mixed and muddled that I am not even sure how to address that at this time. Perhaps some of our in class discussions with help with that issue.


Ah sculpture. Probably my favourite class last spring, and definitely looking like a good one once again.

This time we’re forging stone carving chisels, then carving stone. After that there is a larger project that seems to involve welding and/or casting. We’ll learn more about that latter project in the coming weeks, but first we get to sink our teeth into stone work and forging chisels.

Some of you are aware that I have carved stone for about two decades. Honestly, this part of the class is mostly going to be a re-exposure to be sure that I haven’t missed anything major, and it’s a chance to carve again, which I haven’t done in some time. I am looking forward to this!

Forging will be very interesting, and it is something I have toyed with doing at various times. The excuse of making our own stone carving chisels is an interesting one, and probably great for most people. I have a large collection of stone tools already, though, and they are far better than I am going to hand forge. Still, I am looking forward to the forge work next week as it is an entirely new process, one that might be useful for many things in the future.

This weekend I’ll buy a stone to carve. There are two stone yards in Vancouver, and one of the local art stores also sells some stone, so it seems there are some choices available. I’ll know more for next week’s post, but right now I am looking forward to getting going with stone carving.


Here’s A Story I Can Get Into. Humour, I know, but there is some science underlying it too. Mostly this is a parody of a science article in the main stream media. Read all the way to the end. But I will still be eating my fair share of cheese.

Art School Post Index. Because Medium didn’t get the ordering right when I imported posts from somewhere else, and I can’t figure out how to fix it.


Only one this week:

I visited the Bill Reid gallery in town, and saw this work: Raven and the First Men. I didn’t even know it existed. This carving tells the story of Raven finding the first men inside a clam shell along the ocean and coaxing them out to play. Eventually (in another story) he had to find women for them.

There are three other versions of this carving that I know of. The first is a very small wood carving that I’ve read was the original. The second is a huge wood copy of the original, on display in the UBC Museum of Anthropology. The third is a gold copy of the original wood version, but I have yet to see that one in person. This final instantiation in stone was a total surprise to me. It’s dated 1986, and I’ve read it’s carved from Onyx. Digging around it seems the original small, wood version was created in 1970. The giant version at MOA was commissioned in 1973 and finished in 1980. I haven’t yet found a date for the gold version.

An image of the sculpture appeared on the $20 Canadian note from 2001–2006, along with another famous Bill Reid carving, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii.

And In Conclusion…

Years ago we had a spate of people creating useless machines.

Then they got more advanced.

And weirder.

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