The week has now passed into, well, the past. One more week of general classes remains, then a single ceramics class in the week after, and a final exam in art history. Then we’ll all have a few weeks without classes before it begins again in January.

Saturday saw friends visiting, who needed a dog fix. They came and wore out the puppies, which we — and the dogs — much appreciated. And we went out to dinner as well, so it was a good day. On Sunday the half Great Pyrenees, half Saint Bernard puppy went to school for the first time, in the pouring rain. By the time she came back all she wanted to do was sleep, which, again, was good.

I spent the rest of the weekend painting and drawing, getting that homework done.

Also in there somewhere was a long email discussion about Duchamp’s famous “Fountain” — the urinal he submitted to an exhibit in 1917. If it really was by him — and there is reason to wonder if it really was or not — and was/is it really art? And for that matter, what is art? I didn’t come to any conclusions, but Ducky and I admired the problem from a number of angles. And of course, if the answers were simple, there wouldn’t have been a conversation to have in the first place.

Monday I went to class to get an overview of some software, and so I was on the train and happened to overhear three college students discussing Americans. They did not seem impressed. One was surprised to be asked how Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving, but his answer was oddly revealing: “the same way you do.” American cultural imperialism, which I suspect these kids would hate when it is called out in that way, lead him to give a disparaging answer based on… cultural imperialism. I stifled a chuckle.

Another said she’d been told that Canadians say “sorry” too much. And of course went on to describe how she had immediately apologized for doing so, only to be told “you’re doing it again”. I find the Canadian “sorry” to be a simple — almost delightful — way to grease the skids and avoid confrontation. As it happens, even the buses say it:

Canadian buses at the UBC bus terminal. Photo by Anne Powell.

Finally, one said they’d been told Canadian insults are lame, giving the implication that statement in and of itself had been an insult. That strikes me as a very American attitude: you’re so lame you can’t even insult someone properly. And of course Americans are very good at insulting everyone, often inadvertently.

At that point the conversation shifted to some other topic and I lost interest in listening in. But it was interesting to hear how Canadians feel about their very powerful — and sometimes very stupid — neighbour to the south. I am still experimenting with that at some level. If I am a bit cautious about what I say — and sometimes even when I am not — I can be mistaken for a Canadian. My accent must not be too out of place, I guess. In those times I can get some interesting perspectives on the view of the US that I might not hear if I admit my homeland is south of the 49th parallel. But sometimes admitting the circumstances of my birth also results in interesting discussion, with people asking me what on earth is going on down there. I’ve spent a large amount of time apologizing for the US since I arrived here.

Anyway, on to art school.


Class was on Monday this week, moved from Thursday because the computer lab wasn’t available on Thursdays. We spent a few hours with RhinoCAD, a 3D modelling package. It’s an impressive piece of software, at least at a glance. We didn’t get to push it to its limits, but we did a number of things, and I am amazed at how far a Mac and some software can actually go these days.

Nothing we did here was graded, or even saved. I suspect the point was two fold: we all got a hint at what future design classes (and a career in product design) will actually look like when the computer comes into place, and we all got an introduction that will save time for those of us who take an advanced design class.

I’d like to play with RhinoCAD some more, and I hope to in my second year at Langara.


Ceramics class was critique of our slab building projects and loading the kiln with our wheel thrown pots.

As with all my classes, the kinds of work each student produces varies wildly and interestingly. Here are some pictures from the crit. Everyone’s work that was done is shown, but I am avoiding naming names. I know some of these folks don’t want their names on the net, so this is just an example of how a class full of art students responds to a set of instructions that amounts to “build something from clay slabs, and it must have a lid.”

Critique… slab built projects (and one coil built project)

And yes, those are mine on the bottom right. Here are a couple of (sadly blurry) close ups:

My slab built projects. Title is “E.M and J.B Early Efforts”. No one has figured that out yet.

As with all new efforts, I learned a lot from this project. First of all I learned that very interesting sculptural things can be done with clay, if your kiln is large enough. I like the medium, and want to do more of it. If I was to try this exact project again I could definitely do a better job, and there are things I would change, but overall it’s pretty good IMHO.

I’ve been asked how I got the black lines so straight. The answer is simple, and yet surprising. Masking tape is all I used. I coated the work in 4 layers of white slip, then put down masking tape to mask off the black lines. But you can’t just paint it with black slip or it will sneak under the tape and give you a rough edge. (This is true of paint as well, as anyone who has tried to use tape to paint a straight line knows.) The trick, however, is simple: once the tape is down, paint over the area with the underlying colour again — white in this case. That fills the voids under the tape and seals it up. Then paint on the accent colour — black above. As with the white, I painted several layers of black to be sure it was nice and opaque. And the trick worked, giving me nice straight lines.

I learned this technique from Sue Toorans. Try it next time you’re want to paint a straight line on something. If you have the background colour available it will definitely make your life easier.

Art History

We had a guest lecturer on Wednesday morning: Rick Ouellet, the director of aboriginal education at Langara College. He talked for a while about some of the past in the area, and some of the horrific things that happened to the first peoples here. I didn’t know, for example, that European diseases came over the mountains and via trading boats before contact actually happened. By the time contact occurred the population was reduced by about 90% thanks to those diseases. I can’t imaging the impact of such a large and rapid event.

Also, Langara College stands on the site of a former Musqueam settlement. We were told there is some argument over how large it was, but apparently it numbered between 40,000 and 100,000 people before disease and contact changed all that.

But it wasn’t all horror. There was also discussion about reconciliation and how to move forward, and art plays a role in that. There is so much to learn about the the first nations — both current events and history. It seems Canadians are far ahead of Americans in coming to terms with this sort of thing. It’s far from a solved issue, of course, but it isn’t ignored, as it largely is in the US. I am impressed, and hope to see it continue.

Since there was a fair amount of interest in indigenous art and history, our instructor mentioned a talk at UBC on Thursday evening, which I attended. More on that in a bit.

Then we had our regular lecture, this time on art, dreams and visions.

One lecture remains — on the nice, cheery topic of art & death — and then we’re done except for the final exam.


Another work session this week, as we approach the final presentation and critique of our class. My paintings are coming together, with one done, one almost done, and the third finally getting worked out and started in class. I have photos of the first two, but I think I’ll hold them back for next week, when the third is done, so they can all be presented together.

UBC Talk

I decided to attend this talk, which was about a 1927 Papal exhibit of indigenous art objects. Anne joined me, and off we went. We had no idea what we were walking into, but it was interesting in several ways.

The presenter is working on her PhD in art history at UBC, and had just returned from Rome where she’d been researching this topic. What she presented were a few chapters from what I suspect will eventually become her dissertation. The audience was tiny, and most attendees were either her fellow grad students or professors in the department who were there to keep track of how she’s doing on her research. (The others were my art history instructor — a friend of the speaker — my wife, and me.) It was an intimate window onto part of academia that I hadn’t previously seen.

And of course her research covered the ground you’d expect, with the kinds of issues you might or might not. The Vatican doesn’t grant access to researchers for the entire collection from the exhibit, for reasons they won’t state. But she had found some interesting things and learned much about some objects that she could observe by discussing them with others outside the Vatican.

As it was Thanksgiving night in the US, we went out for dinner afterwards and even ate at a place called the American Grill. It wasn’t a classic Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked for us.

Also, it was on the way home that Anne took the picture of the Canadian buses shared above.


This week we turned in our feature creatures, and I got full marks. Here’s a photo of the drawing:

I’m not sure what this is called, or its gender, but that eye patch has to screw up its stereo vision.

And yes, that really was done on white paper. The background is really black pastel over sharpie, and smudged out. White pastel lightly smudged around the edges gives it that glowing effect. As far as I know, only the eyebrows are actually taken from my own self portrait.

We had a model again in class, and worked on figure drawing and then drawing the skeleton within the figure. I saved no pictures of anything I drew, as none were worth saving.

This week’s assignment is to draw a skeleton (or partial skeleton) as part of a display or sculpture for one of several possible scenarios. I am not at all sure what I am going to do about this, and am letting it settle in my head.

That ended the week. This weekend I am working on my paintings, trying to consider the drawing options, and writing this post. I am going to a studio sale held by my ceramics instructor, and hope to meet at least a couple of my classmates there. Not a lot else happening, but there is plenty of homework, I assure you.

Interesting Links

I’ve read many things this week, but nothing else stuck out as being worth linking here. I am always interested in good sites and information, though, so please forward anything you like my way for possible inclusion here.

Obligatory Dog Picture

Tinkerbelle, sleeping on the floor behind me in the room I paint in.

As usual, a picture for Nicki. Tink’s a very demure dog, isn’t she?

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

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