Art School, Week 8

Another “week in review” post. I wonder if the format of these is getting stale. Still, I don’t think I have enough to break things up into per-class posts this time around. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting but there are no promises.

First off, ceramics:

We bisque fired our slab built projects, and though I have seen mine, but I didn’t get photos of it yet. I am pleased with the slip application, at least. The white is opaque — not showing the terracotta through it — and the black stripe looks good too. The wonky angles still bug me, but I am certain if I was making more things like this I would get better at it. Two clay projects do not an expert make.

We also started throwing on the wheel. We’re using 1.5 to 2 pounds of a white clay. I think I tried it 4 or 5 times last Tuesday and had reasonable success for someone who has never done it. Getting the clay centred is a pain. And there are many other ways to mess up a simple cylinder. Today (Sunday) I went in and did some more practising. I tried several times and had a few disasters, two that didn’t fail but were not great, and one that was barely “meh”. Or that’s how I recall it anyway. Here’s a picture of the one the best one, cut open so I can examine wall thickness:

Not too bad, really. Still a long way to go, but I am willing to put in the effort. Also note that we are not yet saving anything. It’s throw a cylinder, then recycle the clay and try again. There will be more practising on Tuesday, I believe, and we’re going to glaze our slab projects so they are ready to fire at some point soon.

Then came art history on Wednesday, in which we took the mid term exam. I don’t have results from that yet, nor a grade on my paper. The instructor has a huge stack of stuff to grade, so perhaps I will get it back this week.

Painting — also on Wednesday — saw us doing life painting again. I think I did a bit better this time around. Some of the stuff I produced was awful, but some was ok(ish). Here’s the best of the day:

That’s not terrible, even if her nose is way too big. Next week we start in on some long term painting project that takes us to the end of the semester. No clue what it involves yet. Also, for those who are really interested, a question I posed to Giselle Lawson turned into a very interesting discussion over on Facebook about painting and how to evaluate the quality of such. Quite enlightening. If you know Giselle, check out her posts there to find it.

Also on the painting class, I give you pictures of the Buffalo Lounge, which is a central open area in the middle of all the fine and performing arts classrooms. This week the painting instructor has a huge selection of paintings up from his various classes. I am astounded to admit that there are four from me in there. Two definitely should not be there, one of which I have never published a picture of because it is so bad. My intent was to gesso over it but the instructor grabbed it from my storage space without telling me. Maybe it’s intended as an example to others: don’t do this. I dunno. But it’s on the wall, and I am not pointing it out. Anyway, here are some shots of the exhibit overall:

At least one of those is a bit blurry. Sorry. Didn’t note that when I took the picture yesterday.

Thursday’s design class had us all working on our “bug based” pavilion models. After all of class plus a bit of time after, and four more hours today, I’m done. Here’s what the table I was working at today looked like:

Quite a mess, and what can’t be pictured is my phone playing a constant stream of songs by the Dresden Dolls to keep me moving. Here’s a picture of the stuff I’ve made for the assignment before it gets turned in:

The presentation for this will be fun, actually. I might have mentioned before that I was planning to do something relating to fireflies for this assignment, but in the end I gave up on that idea. Everything I was thinking was too complicated or didn’t work at all. The new concept is wings. The idea is that the pavilion is a set of large sculptures (four shown above) that detail the differences between the many kinds of insect wings, giving the garden a chance to explain the evolution of insect wings, and show their differences in great detail. I also added an entrance marker (the thing in the front, centre) and some people for scale. (Yes, these are really big, as proposed.) Of course this is just a project, and the local gardens won’t build anything for anyone, but it’s kind of fun. Next we we get to present these things to the class as if we’re presenting to the garden staff. Should be entertaining.

And finally there was drawing class on Friday, were we turned in an interior drawing in 1 point perspective. Here’s mine:

I didn’t get a perfect score on it because my line quality sucks. We were told to finish it with a sharpie, and I did that. But sharpie and ruler is a lousy combination, so I used it freehand, and the resulting lines have some wiggle because I couldn’t bear down on them without turning things into a huge blort of ink. Still, an OK grade, and life goes on. Next we we’re doing in interior 2 point perspective and I have some pens now that will work with a ruler, so that should be better. I hope. The ocean map on the floor is the “something weird” we were supposed to add to the drawing. And yes, this is a bit of the interior of the house we are renting. It’s not as big as that image would suggest, though. We were instructed to leave out the furniture if it didn’t line up with the same vanishing point, and you can’t see the mountain of boxes behind the viewpoint from which that image was drawn.

In addition to all of that, I took a big English test on Saturday, which kept me busy for several hours. It is part of proving to the Canadian Government that I am fluent in English. It was pretty funny, really, and a huge waste of time in a number of ways, but it had to get done.

Amusingly, while waiting to register to take the test, I found this:

By way of explanation, I took the test in Richmond, which has a huge Chinese population. There are all kinds of businesses in town that have no English on their signs at all, just Chinese characters. The test was given in a set of rooms that belongs to a tutoring/teaching business that caters to parents wanting to get their kids into elite colleges. It’s in an odd mall in town, full of Chinese only businesses, including several tutoring schools. (I wonder if the trinket shop and the book shop I saw on the 6th floor are really legit, or instead are fronts for something else. I can’t imagine a lot of customers take the elevator to that floor to buy Chinese trinkets. But I digress.)

Anyway, I took that photo while pacing around. I found it funny to see the obviously stock photo of the white student — too old to be a high school student, but maybe a late college student? — on an ad covered in Chinese. As you can see, the only non-English on there are 2 URLs and the string “VIP” in the middle of something in Chinese. I tried to translate it with my phone, but I didn’t have the Chinese translation dictionary installed and didn’t want to download it over the air. I did check out the QR code, though, and found it was a link to a Chinese chat app’s entry in the Google Play store. Maybe if I had the app installed it would have taken me to something deeper, but I didn’t, so that’s what came up.

I admit to being amused by little things, but that ad did make me chuckle. And I need it they didn’t start registering us until 30 minutes after the appointed time.

All of the above — class & test — was accomplished after being flat-on-my-back sick last Monday. Not fun, and I am still recovering from the cold. Mostly now all I have is a sporadically runny nose and occasional cough. Energy levels are creeping back up towards normal.

Finally, I’ve had requests for more dog photos, and there are those in California who might wonder what the weather is like up here vs. down there. On the latter, it’s pretty cool. I think we were down to 2° C this morning. It’s sunny right now, but rains regularly — perhaps every three or four days. The locals all tell me that a time will come when it rains for a month, but so far I have my doubts. There was a prediction of mixed precipitation that would include snow for a couple of days from now, but that’s dropped back to just rain, last I checked. So nothing like California weather, and it makes me very happy.

Oh, and it’s Fall, so the trees are turning colours and dropping their leaves. Back at our old place in CA that happened in about August. OK, I exaggerate a bit, but the buckeyes did that, and the maple started then. The fruit trees waited a bit longer. Nothing else changed, though. The oaks & redwoods keep their leaves all year round, so Fall doesn’t mean much, at least not visually.

As for dog pictures, I don’t have anything new this month, but I’ll try to get some next time around, assuming I remember. Being at school so much I don’t take a lot of pictures of them. But maybe Anne will have some.

Originally published at on November 6, 2017.



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Jeff Powell

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