Art School: Semester 5, Week 14

I am writing this intro on Tuesday afternoon because this has already been an “interesting” week. Langara College wound up in the news, and not for a good reason:

Yeah. Monday was a bit exciting, in a way.

As it happened, I headed in a bit later than usual, to do the weekly plastics recycling meeting. As I got to campus I found a bunch of police and fire units parked around the T (for technology) building, and a ton of obviously evacuated people milling around the exterior. But, clearly, it was only that building, and none of the emergency responders I saw looked concerned. I figured I’d arrived after whatever had happened was contained, and as none of my classes are in the T building I pressed on to the A (for Ancient, former, Administration) building to do the meeting and see how my fellow students were doing.

Everything looked fine, and most everyone seemed unaware of the excitement in the T building. But a short while later we were told to evacuate all buildings on campus. Something about “a fire in the T building and now they are concerned about the possibility of things in other buildings as well,” or something like that. So we headed outside to wait for the all clear and maybe 30 minutes after that the announcement came that everyone was being sent home. Campus was closed.

I left with a friend. As we were walking out I noted that there was yellow police tape around the entire T building (and the attached library building) and the number of police present had gone way up from when I had come through before. In particular there was a heavily armed SWAT team, which never thrills me. As if guys dressed in black and carrying big guns are going to calm a situation down. (I know, I know. Maybe they are needed sometimes, and perhaps no one knew what they were facing, but did we really need them in this case? On a busy college campus full of kids? I dislike things like that. I am no fan of guns in general, and in particular I despise assault weapons. They usually feel like irresponsible escalation.)

Anyway, I left and made my way home without issue. That evening we got the news that the campus would be closed on Tuesday as well, as the VPD was sweeping all the buildings for other suspicious devices. Eventually we learned what is presented in the news article above: someone with a checkered past and obvious (in hindsight) issues of some kind had created incendiary devices and tried to burn down at least the T building. He was arrested a few hours later, and is being charged.

In summary, classes on Monday didn’t happen or were interrupted, and classes on Tuesday definitely didn’t happen, which means people who were working on their projects in the last week were out a lot of time. I was OK, but I know plenty of people who were not, and who counted on those days to get things done. Such a mess because of one deranged person.

Fast forward to Friday, and most everyone I know of was granted an extension of some kind if it was needed. I’ll discuss the specifics in my classes below, but overall I think people are OK on the time front now, and no one seems terribly wigged out due to the event itself. I am guessing there were some eye witnesses who are bothered, and there are a number of counselling options available on campus for any student who is out of sorts as a result of this, or just wants to talk about it. But the fine arts students like me are generally in the basement of the A building, which is on the other end of campus, and quite apart from Monday’s excitement. For most of us, at least as far as I can tell, this was just a blip.

If anything else happened this week I have no clue what it was. The harbour was nice and boring. No collisions, sinkings, or anything else that I have heard about. So I am going to skip right to the gist of this post because, frankly, I need to get this posted and go take a shower. At least one of my rabid fans doesn’t want to wait, though. Sigh.

Oh, I am still on the nasty keyboard. I might get a chance to do something about that late next week. Might.

Design

As stated above, this class didn’t happen on Tuesday thanks to the arson attempt on campus. But as you all know, my stool is done, and I think I have everything ready for the crit, though, so I am good to go. I did get a better coat of shellac on the top of the stool over the weekend, so that’s good. Here are two photos of the final thing:

I’ve gotta say that I do like the top of the stool. It was a pain to assemble, but the appearance is quite nice.

Anyway, the revised plan for this class is to put up the display and do the crit next Tuesday. The display may only be up for a couple of days, but that’s the result of events beyond our control, so life goes on.

Aboriginal Carving

This was the last formal class of the term. We had two things happening today: a “final quiz” and a roughing-in project.

The quiz was actually very interesting. It was a set of questions designed to help the instructor figure out how well his teaching had gone over. Rather than asking if we knew specific facts, he asked questions about how we had applied his teachings, and whether those teachings were, in fact, useful. It was refreshing to have no right answers even be possible, and instead be able to simply write about my experiences using his teaching directly. Fascinating stuff.

The roughing-in project was completed in class, and consisted of two small exercises to help us learn how to block out wood for a mask carving. We worked with very small pieces of amazing yellow cedar. I say “amazing” because this was the first time I’d carved a nice piece of that wood, and it was wonderful. It carves smoothly and evenly, and holds detail well. There isn’t much being harvested of late for some reason, so I probably can’t make a habit of carving this stuff, but it was really nice.

The project itself involved carving two blocks in different, simple ways. In the first we left a high ridge down the centre, which would wind up defining the tip of the nose, and the slope of the cheeks. In the second we carved a simplified profile, exposing the forehead and brow, nose, mouth, and chin. In both cases these basic outlines designed to remove wood that is in the way, rather than actually carve a mask. If they were combined, though, and the corners were rounded, you’d be surprisingly close to a simple, finished mask.

I didn’t take any pictures of these little projects, alas. I should get them back next week and I will try to include photos in the next post.

And next week is a catch up class for those who were a bit behind. I will be there to sharpen my hook knife, which didn’t happen this week due to time constraints.

Sculpture

As a result of the chaos in the beginning of the week, people lost work days on their final projects, and the instructor took pity on the class. Crit of the final sculptures has been moved out one week, to give people the time they lost.

My stone object — which is tentatively titled At least I Still Haven’t Become A Cockroach. Yet.— is done, I think. After a weekend of craziness I think it is ready for crit.

Craziness, you ask? Oh yes. Saturday morning I went in to campus to finish it. Literally finish it, I mean. It was time to wax it, as I had already sanded it to 3000 grit the previous day.

I got out the wax, applied some, and tried to buff it out. No dice. All I could get was sticky, awful, ugliness. The wonderful, smooth surface was ruined, and nothing I did seemed to make it better. I have waxed a lot of stones, in various environments and at various temperatures — including a chip taken from this stone to test it some time back — but I have never seen anything like this.

In the end I had to get rid of the wax and re-sand over half the stone from 100 grit back to 3000 to make it right again. It took hours I didn’t expect to use, and I was not happy about it, but I got it back to something like the finished (unwaxed) surface, and decided to leave it that way.

At this point I am supposed to insert a picture of the final stone, but I honestly don’t have one. Next week I will, from crit, when it isn’t sitting under an awful, orange awning. And anyway, you’ve seen lots of pictures of it before.

Then there is the “additional project” that the instructor didn’t know about. (Unless she’s been reading these posts, but if she is she hasn’t mentioned it yet.) On Sunday I started trying to use an epoxy putty to glue stones to the metal framework I created on Friday morning. (You saw a photo of that last week.)

I have used an epoxy putty before — and quite liked it — but this is a different product, and they call it an “epoxy dough” not a putty. It’s the strangest stuff I have ever encountered, at least as far as “adhesives” go. I use quotes there because I suspect they don’t actually classify it as an adhesive, despite saying it sticks to a lot of things, including stone.

Anyway, it’s weird. It’s “mass sensitive” meaning the working time varies with how much of it you mix up. The more you mix, and/or the thicker you keep it, the shorter the working time you have. My best guess is that the larger the mass or thickness the warmer it gets, and heat accelerates the curing time. But only once did I ever feel any heat from it, and that only happened over the weekend when I was working at home, on the driveway, in the direct sun.

And while it turns out to stick to stone, my first attempt at that didn’t exactly leave me full of confidence. It didn’t really seem to want to stick to much of anything, and though I could eventually to get it to stick a bit, it didn’t feel secure. Also, that first use on Sunday had a very long working time. It was still soft after over two hours, and that worried me because I needed to hang stones on vertical surfaces and had only a few working days left before it needed to be done. (Remember, this was before the arson related deadline extension.)

I also wrapped the welded steel with scrap foam from Jessica’s project and some wire, to give me more space to bond the stones to.

I decided to take the piece home, with a bucket full of rock chips and the epoxy, so I could work on it there on Monday. And you already know how Monday turned out. on Sunday evening I did find a way to lay the work down on its side to make it easier to adhere stone to a large area, and on Monday night I was able to turn it over and repeat that on the other side. That was a huge help, and when combined with a much shorter working time for the epoxy (maybe it was warmer?) I had more hope.

On Tuesday I managed to finish the work, even changing it a bit because I decided the original shape did not make me happy. (If you want to know why, let’s just say I decided it was a bit too Freudian, OK?) Here are a few shots of the work in progress, titled Metamorphosis.

Sorry that last one is upside down. As you might notice, I decided to close a loop where there was no steel, and the only way to make that happen was to turn the whole thing over and glue it in that position.

I expect you want a picture of the final thing, right side up, eh? Well, no such luck.

I thought I was done, and took it to school on Thursday, but the instructor wants me to do a bit more work around the bottom. I get why, and that will happen before crit next week. And you’ll get the photo(s) then.

The instructor likes it, by the way.

Other School(ish) Stuff

The plastics project is no further along. The meeting was interrupted by the arson related insanity, and we still need some of the metal pieces back from the water jet cutting place.

A quick update about the grad show. I have picked the pieces I will be submitting for jurying with the help of my sculpture instructor. They are:

  • Leo — the flamingo thing
  • At least I Still Haven’t Become A Cockroach. Yet. — the big stone (might need a different title)
  • Metamorphosis — the one built from rock chips
  • Echoes of Danno — the Italian Alabaster I carved last term
  • The light from design class (still needs a title)
  • The stool from design class (still needs a title)

My sculpture instructor really likes Tower 3 as well, and also the bas relief aluminum casting that you folks barely know exists yet. But I don’t feel like those works represent me as much, and we are limited to six total submissions and a maximum of four from any one studio. Thus, I had to draw the line somewhere.

If you’ve read all of this — and can recall everything — I invite you to submit suggested titles for the big stone, the light, and the stool.

Links

The only thing I found this week that I want to share is in the next section, so all you get is the usual Art School Post Index. Sorry.

Pictures

I have only one additional picture for you this time:

Image for post
Image for post

Friday found me on campus with a plan:

  • Finish the bottom of Metamorphosis
  • Finish the aluminum bas relief metal chasing
  • Find a plinth (funny word, that… they don’t tend to say “pedestal” here… not sure why that is) for the big stone.

And guess what. There are no plinths big enough for the big stone. So Friday became “build a plinth day”, and I did so. I used most of a full sheet of 3/4" plywood, and a ton of scrap wood as well. The end result is 2'x2'x3', and will support the weight.

And the white gunk you see all over my hand is wood filler that I “borrowed” from the design class to fill the screw holes and the other yuck in this ancient sheet of plywood.

I will sand it (again) and paint it over the weekend if all goes well. I need to have the stone on the plinth before crit starts on Thursday, and if it is accepted into the grad show it will be on that plinth there as well.

And In Conclusion…

This week has been weird (you read all of the above, right?) and as a direct result of some of that weirdness I had a chance to wander the internet a tiny bit. These days I enjoy that less and less, but there are still some good things on it, and this is one of those.

Tim Minchin is an Australian singer who creates some very funny stuff and wrote the musical Matilda too, which is based on something by Roald Dahl. I’ll link to one of his songs as well, but the first video is the important bit for the moment. It’s a graduation speech he gave at a university where he received an honorary doctorate. And I know lots of these kinds of speeches are crap, but his advice — particularly the last bit, about being kind— is critical in my mind. It’s worth the time to listen to him, have a laugh, and reflect a bit on how we’re doing as a society.

I promised a song as well, so here’s a live performance of Cheese. It might as well be my personal theme song. Really.

Written by

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

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