Art School, Week 10

The past week has been both long and interesting. In addition to the usual art school update, this post will meander through some other topics. You have been warned.

For me, the week began on Saturday with snow. It snowed all day with no accumulation. It was pretty but not a hazard. I enjoyed it quite a bit, as it hadn’t snowed at our old home in quite a while. (And yes, for the pedantic reader, I know the week doesn’t usually begin on a Saturday, but it feels that way to me, thanks to it being a day without classes. And since I am writing this, that’s what counts.)

The local ski resorts have opened. Apparently it’s quite early for that to have happened, but it did. We can see their illuminated ski runs in the mountains just to the north while walking the dogs in the evenings.

An important event this weekend is Remembrance Day. The actual holiday is today — Saturday, Nov 11 — but it’s observed on Monday Nov 13th, so campus will be closed that day too. It basically coincides with Veteran’s Day in the US, but the way the holiday is observed feels different. It’s much more present here, and it appears to be about remembering the dead, rather than celebrating all soldiers. I’m not aware of any parades, and there’s not a lot of flag waving, but there are a lot of poppy pins — even among students at school — and the coverage on the CBC is sombre. I took this picture in the cafeteria at school:

The Missing Man — Lest We Forget

Even while commuting, you feel it. The buses all have lighted signs on them that normally announce the route number and indicate which direction they are going. This week they’ve been alternating that with “Lest We Forget”.

As I say, it’s a solemn thing, and seems to be taken more seriously than the US takes Veteran’s Day, though I know for many Veteran’s Day matters a lot. For me, what’s happening here makes more of an impression. Today — the actual holiday — it’s overcast and we’re supposed to get some rain. Even the weather feels appropriate.

If you want to read something I found interesting and moving about Veteran’s Day, I suggest this post by Stonekettle.

With that as the backdrop for the week, it’s been the usual blizzard of classes and homework, though I think the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to show. As usual, I’ll go through the classes in the order I encounter them during the week.


We’re winding up the semester here. Next week is the last week anyone can work with wet clay, as there needs to be adequate time to dry everything and fire it all, twice. In class, I worked with my thrown cylinders, adding feet to two of them (one actually added, one carving them out), some relief to the side of one, and attaching the remaining three together just for the fun of it. Here’s a photo of the results:

Thrown Cylinders, Munged

I know the ones in the back are rough and not all that pretty. That’s why they are the ones I put together. They may blow up in the kiln for all I know, but I am trying new things.

During the same class where I finalized the cylinders, I also applied glaze to the slab built project. That goes into the kiln this coming Tuesday, or so we are told. There might be space issues, of course, and a second firing later.

This coming week, in addition to the kiln load, I am going to figure out if I want to apply black or white slip to any of the cylinders, and ponder glaze choices as well. I expect it will be a pretty light class on Tuesday with not much to do, but time will tell.

Art History

We got our papers back, and I got one of the highest grades in the class. I’m pleased with that, actually. It’s nice to get some affirmation once in a while. Other than that we continued with lecture, this time she covered how art moves between cultures with various examples, trying to show how art influences culture and how culture influences art as it migrates between cultures.

An interesting and oddly related development is that several articles came out documenting a newly discovered stone carving, one that upsets a number of things we know about art history. Here’s the best article I have seen about it so far. The carving shows details in human representation that are amazingly accurate, and weren’t seen again for another 1000 years. How such tiny details were carved in agate — a hard stone — is also uncertain. This bowled me over, and I hope to read the paper that gets published about this.


We’re beginning the end of this class, if you will. Previous posts have described some of the preparation the instructor has had us go through, and now we’re working on the end of it. The goal is a series of three paintings, all of identical size, that will be presented and critiqued on the last day of class. Ideally they are related to each other in some way, though exactly how they are related can be invisible. The instructor’s goal is to have us painting things we want to paint.

I have one idea so far that I have started. What the others are and how they might be related is still up in the air. No photos yet, as nothing is done, but I am working on it. Continuing to figure this out is part of this weekend’s homework.


We are coming to the end of design class as well. The final assignment is working with form (as opposed to lines and planes, as we did in the previous assignment). First we identified a company — it could be any company we like — and research their design language. Then we we are creating an art object based on that design language, something that could sit on a boardroom table. We’re using Styrofoam insulation to make the object, since that is a common material used by design shops in mocking up objects.

I’ve selected the Marantz Reference Series as my inspiration. (Note that webpage has already changed since I first found it, and one item has dropped off it, I think. It is possible that line of components is being phased out or updated, and with those changes the design language could change as well.) Why that product line? If you look at it, they make a strong statement visually (for stereo component boxes, anyway) and they are consistent. There are several elements that come together in them to make that statement, and I thought I could create something that followed those ideas:

The front faces on those foam objects are about 10" wide, and about 3.5" tall. I finished it up yesterday (Friday) afternoon, and I am pretty happy with it.

Presentation and critique of these happens on Thursday. I have a couple of documents to review and be sure I like before I get them printed, and then I am ready to go for that.

After that, we do some simple CAD work, and that isn’t even graded. We’re going to make a CAD model of the object we started out drawing at the beginning of the semester, just so we’ve all had some experience with CAD software. That should be a simple thing, and the instructor has suggested that we can probably get it done in just one class session if we work at it.


Drawing class runs hot & cold for me these days. On the hot side, we turned in our two point perspective drawings, and this time around I had good pens that worked well with a ruler, so ink didn’t get everywhere:

That got me a good score, and it’s done. But the next drawing was much more of a struggle. We went to the Bloedel Conservatory to make field drawings that we then brought back and worked into an urban sketch. I really didn’t like this assignment. The instructor gave us some ideas of what we could do, but when I looked up urban sketching online things seemed very different. I tried but couldn’t synthesize anything I was comfortable with. In the end I turned in this, but I wasn’t happy with it:

It’s pretty bad, really. I got an OK grade on it, but the composition needs a lot of help. I know that, and seeing what other students did with their work was good, but I doubt I am an urban sketcher. My drawing talents are more on the technical and information conveying side, not on the artistic side of things.

Interestingly, the work by the other students was all over the map in terms of what they did. No two were even remotely similar.

In any case, now we have another assignment I am probably going to have trouble with: draw your own self portrait as reflected in a spoon. I think this is another classic drawing assignment, so you may have heard of the idea before. The instructor had examples drawn in charcoal and white chalk on brown paper, and she suggested that, but we get to choose any drawing medium we like, and any paper as well.

In class we did some practice drawing portraits, and while I got better, I am still terrible at it. So I don’t have much hope for this assignment. Still, I’ll do my best.

That ends the week in school, but of course there are some other thoughts to share.

I continue to be amused by the local weather reporting. On the Friday that we went to the conservatory, it also snowed. The clock radio gave us a weather report as we were getting up that made it sound like the snow was going to end the world, but it hadn’t accumulated much at all, and life went on as normal. They do the same thing with rain forecasts — 30 mm will flood us all out! — when all that is going to happen is we’re going to get damp.

The weekend has me working on the paintings and the drawing. Next week I register for me second semester classes. Today we’re having a neighbour over to join us for dinner — that means cleaning the house — which is nice. And tomorrow Anne is going to see a concert with some friends while I stay home and do homework. And of course there is the overhead of life that always waits for the weekends when there is more time.

And for my dog loving friends, here’s a picture of Tinkerbelle and Cruzer, snoozing behind my chair the other day:

Tinkerbelle and Cruzer, Sleeping Behind Dad

Finally, I want to link to two things I’ve read in the last week by people I know. These are interesting reading — at least to me — that I want to share:

If you have something else I should read — and potentially link to next week — please email it to me!

I’ve probably forgotten something, but that probably does it for this time. Cheers!




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

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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

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

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