Art School: Semester 5, Week 1

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to Jeff Goes To Art School: A Long Winded Story.

I love the fact that Langara College refers to this as the “Spring Semester” even though it started (this time) on Jan 2, and nearly entirely exists in the Winter. Maybe the name is aspirational? Despite it being Winter, we’ve yet to have any real snow. We’ve seen some things that looked a bit like mixed snow and rain, and some hail, but nothing has stuck around down here near sea level. There is snow in the mountains, though, which is lovely to see. We’ve mostly had cool (or cold) and very rainy weather near the ocean. There is a rare break in the rain today, but it will start up again this evening, it seems. It is Vancouver, after all.

As I think I mentioned last week, since class started on a Wednesday, I’ve only been to two classes so far: Carving and Sculpture. I’ll attend the first session of my Design class this coming Tuesday afternoon. Details where I have them below, as usual.

I don’t have anything else to discuss, so…


As mentioned above, this class hasn’t started yet. More news next week.

Aboriginal Carving

We’re off and running. We had the usual introduction and then got started with an exercise in carving with gouges. Nothing spectacular, just take a piece of 2x2 and curve one side. I am hitting issues with the wood fibres tearing as I move more and more directly across the grain, and I need to figure that out. I probably made my life harder by virtue of the way I oriented the grain, and I have to learn how to properly sharpen my gouges.

This weekend I will finish carving this test piece and sharpen my tools. Or at least that is the plan.

The syllabus isn’t quite finished up yet. He showed us a draft and it looked interesting, but I don’t have a copy yet so I can’t quote the plan and describe the projects at this point. I’ll learn more next week, I’m sure.


This class started with a bang. We have 3 assignments this term, not just 2 as I had expected. The first 2 assignments are to be done in parallel:

The first assignment is to create 2 moulds (a 2 part silicone mould and a blanket mould), each of a separate, small object. Each object will be cast in one of a couple of materials. Hydrocal is one option; a white, plaster-like compound. We will select one of the objects and moulds to create a series of copies from. Those copies will make up the final assignment in one of 3 ways:

  • As an edition, with each object standing on its own
  • Assembled together (actually connected somehow) as a single object
  • Presented together as a group, an installation of sorts.

The second assignment will be the creation of a 5"x5" bas relief image of some sort in cast aluminum.

The final assignment is “choose your own adventure.” That is, create a sculpture of some kind, with little or no limitation on materials or content.

As you might imagine, there is homework already. We’re to find (or make) objects to cast, and we’re to find (or make) an image to put into the aluminum casting. We’re also prepping mould containment devices and the like. I spent several hours in the shop working on a couple of possible items to cast:

possible objects to cast

The one on the left is a top inspired by those in the movie Inception, except that I turned it on the lathe myself out of a scrap of oak, and I drilled 3 holes in it that are off centre, so it clearly cannot spin forever. If I choose it for the first assignment’s final work, I will title it Deception as a result. The thing on the right is also made from scrap oak. It’s assembled from a couple of pieces that interlock. The brown areas are burning because oak does that when you sand it on a power sander for any length of time. I am pondering sealing up the corners a bit more and painting it, but I want to leave the grain visible to see how much the mould picks up.

I’m not sure about either of these things, though. I am still pondering and looking for other options, but at least these are my own creations. Unlike certain other artists — cough… cough… Koons… cough, cough — I don’t just want to directly copy the works of others. That’s not my thing.

I will have the homework done for this coming Thursday, and I think we’ll get rolling on making moulds at that point. Should be interesting!

By the way, if you’re curious, I am having a tough time figuring out if it’s “mold” or “mould” here in Canada. My instructor uses “mould,” and I am following her lead. But I think “mold” describes the fungus, and it is also an acceptable spelling for part of the casting process up here. If we were in the UK I think both would all be “mould.” Yet another example of American hegemony. Or something.


Once again only the Art School Post Index. So you can see these stories in order if you want to.

Maybe I should drop this section and just add the link at the end. Somehow I don’t think I will have many separate links in the coming weeks.


Only one other one this week:

Students take notes as Brian McGibney gives his very last lecture (on metal working for the introductory sculpture course) at Langara College. Brian has been the shop supervisor here for over 3 decades. He’s a gem: helpful, funny, smart, and talented, and yet not full of himself. His replacement has big shoes to fill. I am certain it will work out — I’ve met the new guy and he’s quite nice — but Brian’s departure is a milestone at the school, and he will definitely be missed.

And In Conclusion…

Last week I shared a video about the restoration of a painting. This time I have two that are in the sculptural realm.

This first one is about the creation of a new skirt for a famous sculpture. Quite interesting, but I suspect those who enjoy costuming or sewing will find it particularly fascinating. For me the real driving interest came from the considerations in how to do this job.

This next one is more directly related to my own art. It’s about the modern restoration of a marble sculpture, the breaking of which was an awful, accidental event. The amount of time and effort put into this job is amazing, and the restoration skills on display here are well beyond anything I’ve got. It highlights why I have no desire to restore anything of significance or value, but it also shows interesting ways in which the restoration field is changing in the area of stone sculpture.

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