Sunday, January 28, 2018

Student Solid Portraits

student work in progress, cat

My winter hand-building class started their solid-built sculptures last week. This quarter's flipped structure means that they are watching the demos on their own time and using class time almost exclusively for work time.

student work in progress, lady

This also means that I can structure their class time a little more efficiently. For instance, during this multi-week project, I am asking that the students all be at basically the same place in the progress of building the sculpture each class day. In the past, I have let the students have a little more flexibility with regards to how long they plan and build and how long they take to cut the sculpture apart.

student work in progress, gnome

Last week, the students were required to come to class on Wednesday with three photos of their subject. Naturally they also were required to have watched the solid-building video playlist and have read the requirements for the project.

student work in progress, fox

At the start of class, I asked students to make a maquette of their planned sculpture, while I went around the room talking to each student about his or her plans and photographs. During this time some students needed to revise their original plans, decide how much of their subject could be included, or choose from several poses. Some students were asked to find more photographs or alternate views before the next class.

student work in progress, batman

I asked the students to take only 20-30 minutes on their maquettes, about 1/4 of the class period. Once they had started their maquettes, we were able to discuss issues of balance and proportion so as to have them building sculptures that are physically stable and visually expressive.

student work in progress, back of woman with hijab

Every student who attended that class arrived with an idea for their sculpture and at least some images of their plans, which made for a successful beginning. Each of these students was able to spend roughly 3/4 of the first day setting up their armature and beginning to build their sculpture. 

student work in progress, fictional creature from a video game (I was told the name, but I forgot)

I asked the students to come to class on Friday with all of their armature covered and essentially all of the clay in place for the form they would be creating. Our focus during class on Friday was to adjust proportions of the form and begin to place important features. I think this day is one of the most important in a project like this because students who take the time to get the proportions right end up with portraits that are more realistic and more convincing than those who rush through this part of the process.

the cat has such a dynamic position that it encourages multiple view points. go sculpture!

I haven't always taken the time to emphasize proportions like I did this quarter and I admit that has sometimes led to students rushing through to get to the surface details, like adding in the eyelids, the hair texture, etc. I think this last Friday was very successful and the sculptures are coming along well. I wish I could go back and spend more time with students in previous quarters.

student work in progress, lady in a hijab from the side

I really enjoyed this day too, because I was able to see how each student was working through issues of proportion. It is complicated and tricky to move from two-dimensions to three-. When drawing a face, students only need to figure out where the features are in relationship to the top and sides of the face (and each other), but with sculpting, one needs to think of where the are with regards to top and sides, but also how far back one part is in relation to the others. Students generally have a hard time with this and often start with a flat face and/or flat features, which they then need to carve back or bring forward to give a sense of accurate depth

student work in progress, troll

Helping students see all three dimensions always makes me thing of the rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. They feuded about which medium was better, painting or sculpture and mostly I think it is amusing to think of the two geniuses fighting, but I'll have to side with Michelangelo who seemed more chill about the whole debate. According to Gardner's Art Through The Ages, he said "I believe that painting is considered excellent in proportion as it approaches the effect of relief, while relief is considered bad in proportion as it approaches the effect of painting." ...before he goes on to suggest his "serving-maid would have written better [than Leonardo]" (Kleiner). 

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)

On Monday the students should be working on features, like eyes and eyelids, lips and expression, and textures for the hair, fur, clothing, skin wrinkles, or scales as the case may be. The forms should be essentially built by the end of the day on Tuesday so that the surfaces can dry for Wednesday. They will then cut apart the forms, hollow them out, remove the armatures, and put them back together. The forms should all be done being put back together by the next week.

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)

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