We’ve reached the middle of May, now, and my life is settling into a routine of avoiding work of any kind. Well, not really, but it sometimes seems that way.

I’ve found a few deep rabbit holes on YouTube that can eat hours if I let them. The latest is The Lockpicking Lawyer — really! — which sounds strange, but is a soothing set of videos about a topic I know nothing about. He approaches lock picking in a way that reminds a lot of people of dentistry, as you’ll see if you watch a few of his videos.

All I know about this subject I’ve learned from his channel, and it’s fascinating. There’s a new vocabulary, niche skills to understand, a whole realm of unfamiliar product design, and the fact that locks are designed to keep bad people out adds complexity. As a result, at some level you start thinking about locks like the bad guys do. It’s fun to spend some time on a useless skill like this, and I might get a set of picks and try it myself, just for fun. My hand eye coordination stinks, though, and my fine motor skills are — shall we say — poor. But it could be fun to pick a Master lock anyway, just to do it. (Master locks seem to be very badly designed as a rule. Watch enough LPL videos about them and you’ll figure that out.)

Anyway, that isn’t all I’ve done this past week, thankfully. If it was, even I would be embarrassed about my total lack of productivity. Here’s the rest of the scoop.

Studio Cleanup Is Nearly Done

As you might recall from last week, I was building some shelving for the studio, so there was a space to stand and work. The shelving is done, and I only have a couple of nits left to do to get the space ready for use. The biggest remaining task is to put up some lights and get power more readily available at the workbench. Here are some photos to show the progression from mess to nearly done:

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As you can see in those bottom two photos, things are organized, you can see the floor once again, and the bench is readilly accessible. Once I get the lights and clock put up, I should be pretty much good to go, and that means I’ll have a space to get back to some art creation.

Plastic Recycling Project

I spent two full days on campus with my design instructor, continuing the work on the plastic shredder. It’s not done yet, but it’s getting closer:

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That shows a bunch of my work, though it might be obvious. I built the hopper and pusher (centre back) that will funnel plastic bits into the shredder itself (which is in the back on the right, partially assembled) and a couple of safety covers for things that rotate and could catch clothing or skin if not protected. I also refined a bunch of other stuff. Now we know how to mount the shredder box on the frame (which is on the very left) and so on. My welds are not pretty, but they are sturdy and they will hold. (Remember the comment above about my poor hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills? That explains my poor weld quality too. I need a LOT more practice to get good at that.)

VAG Visit

I also visited the Vancouver Art Gallery with my wife and some friends. The VAG is currently showing an exhibit featuring French Modern artists, which was the big draw on Mother’s Day. But those who know me know I am not much of a painter, so my eye was drawn to more of the sculpture. Yes, a couple of paintings were interesting as well, but sculpture is my thing. Happily there was also an exhibit of work by the sculptor Mowry Baden, who is one of the people my sculpture instructor studied with. His work, however, is more experiential than viewable, if you will. Pictures don’t make as much sense when the objects are designed to be manipulated, and as a result I totally failed to take any from that show.

But I did take a few photos of some other things:

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I wish I had more control over photo layout, but nonetheless here’s what’s shown above, from left to right and top to bottom:

Row 1:

  • The Ray, Alexander Archipenko, 1920’s. Bronze.
  • Dress of the Morning, Yves Tanguy, 1946. Oil on canvas. Sure looks like a Dali, doesn’t it?
  • The Musician, Marc Chagall, 1912. Oil on canvas. This little tiny painting feels like it was painted yesterday. It screams “busker in downtown Chicago” to me for some reason.

Row 2:

  • Two views of Danaid, August Rodin, c. 1903. Marble. This was the only stone work in the exhibit, and I studied it closely. It’s a beautiful piece, but I have to admit to doing a bit of nitpicking. The finish isn’t as good as I would expect, and the hand — visible in the first view — is too large for the figure. It seems Rodin regularly enlarged hands and feet as part of his practice, but in this case it feels wrong to me. The curious can read the Myth of the Danaides, upon which this sculpture is based.
  • She Who Was the Helmet Maker’s Once-Beautiful Wife, 1885–87, cast 1969. Bronze. Auguste Rodin. Sorry about the reflections in the photo. This work — and a couple of others — were displayed under glass. This was cast well after Rodin’s death, and I suspect it was a study, rather than a deliberately finished work. But there’s lovely movement and a certain physicality to the pose and composition. Quite nice.

Row 3:

  • Balzac in a Monk’s Habit, August Rodin,c. 1893, cast 1971. Bronze. Rodin was commissioned to create a monument to Honoré de Balzac — a French writer — and I suspect this is a cast of one of his studies for that work. It’s not the same as his choice for the final monument, and honestly, I prefer this one. His choice feels too comical to me. Regardless, the final version wasn’t actually accepted, and complications ensued, as you can read about that in the Wikipedia article linked above if you’re interested.
  • The Age of Bronze, August Rodin,1876, cast 1967. Bronze. This is a smaller than life sized bronze that I think is cast from a study he did for the larger, final version. According to the accompanying text, Rodin got a lot of flack for the larger work because it was too lifelike. People thought he’d cast it from a model, and that was cheating. To me, however, this piece lacks any real movement. I included it in the photos I took because there weren’t that many sculptures, and Rodin is one of the big names. There’s probably lots to learn from it, but for me it feels kind of “meh.”
  • Woman of African Descent, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, 1868. Plaster with patina. This is a study for part of Fontaine de l’Observatoire, a famous sculpture by Carpeaux. Apparently it is alternatively titled The Negress, Why Born a Slave, and Why Be Born a Slave. I know I have seen it before, somewhere. It is quite striking. A beautiful work. The subject feels very much alive and powerful.

Row 4:

  • Dancer at Rest, Hands Behind Her Back, Right Leg Forward, Edgar Degas, modelled 1882–95, cast 1919–32. Bronze. This is the only Degas in the exhibit, I believe, and it’s interesting to me because from the accompanying text I learned that Degas never showed his sculptures. Apparently he viewed them only as studies. As a result, casts like this were made only after his death. To me, the most striking thing about this work is the texture of the dancer’s skin. This isn’t a refined work — as we should expect from a study — and as a result I am guessing that Degas was really concerned with her posture and where the muscles really are. Even the face is unrefined, leaving me wondering just how old the model he worked with was. An interesting piece, to be sure.
  • Puk’mis Mask, Tim Paul, 1998. Wood, hair, leather, paint. This is from another exhibit, obviously, but I really like it. Puk-Mis is the keeper of lost human souls who died by drowning. Masks like this have important roles in potlatch ceremonies, where they confirm the duties and status of their owners. I can’t claim to know much about the cultures that produce items like this, but I admire the work immensely. It’s quite beautiful. I should point out that a google search for [ “Puk-mis” ] came up with almost nothing that was related, and certainly no details. There is a lot for me to learn here, somehow.

Harbour News

You know it’s a rare week without this section, don’t you?

First off, it’s very clear that cruise season is upon us. The town is full of people with luggage who don’t know how to use the transit system. Many of them come from (or are going to) behemoths like this one:

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These ships come and go quite a bit during the season, and dock at Canada Place, right next to the SeaBus.

The other interesting thing in the harbour this past week was this:

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A lousy photo, I know, but I didn’t have time to get a better one and she was gone before I could get back to take a better picture. But I did learn more regardless. She’s the BAP Union, from Peru. A steel hulled, four masted sailing ship used for training and as an ambassador from Peru to other countries. Her crew were wandering about in Vancouver this day. I saw a few women sailors in their dress whites, riding the SeaBus back to the north shore. I hope they had a good time in town.

Apparently the BAP Union was the largest sailing vessel in Latin America as of 2016, when she was commissioned. She’s over 115 metres long — that’s a big ship. I wish I’d seen her with her sails unfurled. She’d be a truly impressive sight.

So that’s my week. Next week I should have the studio done and might even have some photos of work in progress again. No promises — who knows what YouTube might serve up in the interim — but I have some wood working stuff I want to get back to, and I am almost able to get to it again.

I think I’ve left enough tidbits and links above to keep you entertained, and since I lack anything funny to end this, I will just close. TTFN.

Written by

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

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