Art School: Semester 4, Week 4

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of “Wow! Where is All the Time Going?”

Four weeks into the semester and I am still on a rocket ride. Seriously.

This past week has been a blur, and though I know there’s been important stuff happening in the US — supreme court justice hearings, for example — I cannot claim to be as informed about it as I might otherwise be. Partly that’s because I’ve stopped using FB and Twitter, which means my news consumption is more regulated (and sane), but also it’s because I’m really, really busy. In addition, I am (still) sick, and thus lacking a bit of my usual, boundless energy. I am definitely getting better, and I did go to a doctor, but it’s just a bug (bacterial or viral… who knows) and it will pass.

Some of you will recall earlier posts in which I mentioned a luxury yacht named the Attessa IV. It turns out it’s owned by Dennis Washington, about whom Wikipedia has an entry. It tells me Forbes thinks he is the 76th richest American. He owns several things, but among them is a large collection of companies called Seaspan Marine Corporation, which — as far as I can tell — provides tugs and services of many kinds to the ships in the harbour here. In short, he’s a really rich dude who seems to like rebuilding yachts, and this is the fourth one he’s done named Attessa. (Thus “IV”.)

Anyway, Attessa IV is still moored here, but now I see evidence of rework going on. Plastic tubes out the side for the removal of drywall and debris, I’d guess. So it seems she’s here for some minor retrofit work. (I say minor because she’s not in the nearby drydock, but is simply docked at a pier next to a Seaspan building. Of course I have no clue where her owner is — I think he lives in Montana — but he could be around, checking on things. Who knows. If you want to some pictures of the inside of this monster, check this out:

Anyway, enough rambling for today. Here’s the week in review, which I am sure you’re all just dying to read, right?

Professional Practice

This week I turned in the first assignment: cover letter, CV, image list, and images. Now we are assigned a five minute presentation based on researching some aspect of the arts community here in Vancouver, to be given in two weeks. I spent time looking around and pondering, and tried to contact several different places, but none of them got back to me. Instead, today I went to a local stone supplier and talked with him for a while. Now I have my notes, and I’ll prep something based on that.

As far as I know the fancy lighting kit they’ve ordered for students to use photographing their work still hasn’t turned up. Here’s a quick shot of what I was doing in the downstairs off the house we’re renting to get that part of the assignment done:

That’s while I was photographing 2D art. I added a 3rd light and a backdrop over a table for photographing 3D work. All in all, it was amusing, but took many hours longer than I wanted thanks to trying to make the camera do what was needed. If I am going to do a lot of this there is justification for a good digital camera body with all the bells and whistles, along with a good lens.

But since the images we turned in were 1024x768 at 72 DPI — designed to be viewed on a screen — and since that seems to be the standard, a 42 megapixel monster is hard to justify.

Still, I’ll keep it in the back of my mind. Someday, perhaps.

Homework for this class is preparing the above mentioned presentation, practising it, and writing our artist statement. All to be worked on this weekend if I can manage it.

Design

We continue to sketch and (somewhat) iterate on our ideas. The instructor wasn’t happy with the sketching we were doing, though. We were all too tight with our sketches, not fluid and gestural. We did a couple of exercises in class to work on that, and were sent home to re-do the sketching and try to improve what we’d done. That’s on the docket for this weekend’s homework. Also, we were to read an article (which I’ve already done) and be prepared to discuss it in class next week. I’ve included a link to it below, as it was interesting.

Aboriginal Carving

In this class, if nowhere else, I am at least caught up.

First off, I ordered and received a set of waterstones to sharpen my knife with. I specifically ordered a set that included a large stone intended to flatten the waterstones as they wear, but when it arrived, that flattening stone wasn’t found. I complained about that and they refunded my money and told me to keep the kit, which is not at all what I expected. Their explanation said they’d been trying to get this issue fixed with Amazon for a long time. Weird.

So I took those to class and spent time with them, and got the blade close(ish) to sharp. Then the instructor took a pass at it with 1000 grit sandpaper followed by a honing compound on leather strop, and it was pretty good. I have hope, as a result, though I am sure becoming good at sharpening wood carving tools is a lifetime occupation.

Next I followed instructions and squared up one end of the dowel I’d made, working around the weird grain in the wood that I mentioned last week. That went reasonably well, it seems.

Now we are beginning the canoe project. In this, we trace the simple outline of a canoe onto a piece of Cedar, approximately 6" x 3" x 0.75", and cut it out. The intent is that our cuts are perpendicular to the flat surfaces, and that we leave the traced outline in place. I was getting started on that towards the end of class when my knife went dull again. Clearly I have more sharpening ahead of me this coming Wednesday.

While discussing this class, it seems apropos to mention that Langara College has a new piece of art on its grounds:

And rather than describe it myself, here’s the accompanying plaque:

Interestingly, what the plaque doesn’t say is that female welcome figures are a new(ish) thing. Traditionally they were only male figures, but this is a woman, and our carving instructor tells us that’s really important, as the women of the First Nations have been doing a lot of the work of keeping their cultures together. Paraphrasing him: it’s about time this sort of thing happened. (As an aside, he had to go before his elders to ask permission to teach wood carving to women, since that wasn’t traditionally done. He told the story saying it was the first time he’d had to do such a thing and was thus a bit intimidating, but all of the elders supported what he wanted to do. Win!)

I think the college takes this seriously as well, though I don’t have a lot of personal knowledge of that. The Musqueam name you see above — pronounced roughly as “snoweth laylem” — is regularly heard, and people take a bit of pride in it. I hope the college is doing well for its aboriginal students, and continues to work for reconciliation between the First Nations and the rest of us. I’d like to think that by participating and trying to learn more about these ancient and gifted people, I am making a tiny contribution on that front.

Sculpture

Here’s were most of my time has gone this past week. Last Sunday, the stone looked like this when I arrived on campus to get to work:

As you can see, still some chisel marks in it, and more than a bit chunky, but starting to take shape.

When I left on Sunday, it looked like this:

At this point it’s a bit more refined. I worked with the angle grinder and chisels to get it to the general place I wanted. I filed it down in places too, so I could better see what it really looks like.

On Wednesday morning I continued the refinement, and got it to look like this:

It may not be obvious, but it lost more weight, and is generally cleaned up. That surface is all files and then rinsed off. I think it’s still slightly wet in this photo, which helps some of the detail show more clearly.

Finally, Thursday arrived. Thursday is the actual day of sculpture class, and my plan was to start sanding. I spent something like 5 hours working with 100 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and I’m still not quite done with that grit yet. (After that there are a lot more grits getting a lot finer, but more about that next week.)

Anyway, after all that sanding and one or two little tweaks, it looks like this:

I know — it looks almost like the same picture — but trust me, it’s not. For example, on the lower right, about one quarter of the way up the sculpture, you can see what looks like a crack here. You can’t see that in the previous photo. That’s the difference between file marks on the surface (that hide that feature) and sanding at 100 grit (where it shows).

I have much more sanding still to do, as I mentioned, and I have to make a base. I’ve purchased a nice chunk of red oak to use for that. I need to square it up, sand it, and lacquer it black. Or at least that is my current plan.

And all of that has to be done in a bit less than two weeks. Crit is on Oct 11th. I am scrambling to get it all ready in time.

Links

An interesting article from the New Yorker. This was actually assigned by my design instructor — as mentioned above — and it is definitely interesting reading. To be honest, I have my doubts about Steven Pinker based on some things I’ve read elsewhere, and this article is heavily (but not entirely) built around his most recent book, which suffered some rather scathing reviews, particularly from historians. Still, this is good reading, and it raises a slew of valid questions. Definitely worth the time.

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.

Pictures

Here’s another picture of the wall behind the welcome figure, just because it’s Fall and it’s pretty. This is the North side of the library building:

Also, meet the Tyana:

If you look closely, you can see more of those ground in cross hatches on the front of her prow. I know I said I’d stop taking pictures of these and sharing them, but too bad. I still find them amusing.

And In Conclusion…

This sent me off on a bit of research. I hope you enjoy it.

Written by

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

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