I spent all day Sunday at a stone carving workshop … carving stone. All a lot of fun until the head fell off! Due to a fault in the Hebel block, apparently, so I came home with a headless statue AND a brand new Hebel block to try again.
She doesn’t look TOO bad .. until I give you this link… I was aiming for the statue of Geertruyt van der Oosten who stands near a canal in Delft in the Netherlands. I snapped an image that I used as my screensaver for years. She is so lovely a rotund and smooth, and looks up with such optimism.
My little stone carving is not and does not.
She looks like the Nailed It! version.
I felt far better when my classmates turned out “Nailed It!” ducks and penguins and dogs too. We all laughed with each other as the stone took on a mind of its own. All of us had a great workout for the arms, and I think spent six or so hours in a “flow” state as we attempted something new.
While I was trying to copy the lines of the original from some photographs, I was reminded of the book of Degas Dancers I bought when I was learning pastel drawing. My teacher had us copy a lot of other drawings in our sessions – and for good reason. Trying to deconstruct how a drawing has been made, which colour was layered where and in which stage, how the lines fit together – teaches you to draw better than either step-by-step drawing-by-numbers or trying to just draw without a guide.
Today I was taught about stone carving by a Dutch stonemason called Arie Teeuwisse, who completed the original statue in 1358.
Unlike drawing, where you may create a couple of good guiding lines first and then use them to get your bearings for the rest of the sketch, it seems that with sculpting you need to pick out the dimensions that are the most extreme, ensure you have them right, then build from there. This is why the lovely tummy on the original Geertruyt (which to me looks maybe pregnant ?), on my version looks as though she was sliced down the front. I didn’t allow for this curve before I started on the rest.
I was chatting with a fellow-lecturer during the week, as we have been marking work. Every so often we receive work that looks kind of, sort of right, but with wobbly bits that indicate that the student probably is trying to mimic scholarly writing, rather than has spent enough time working out what constitutes scholarly writing. I really feel for them, because I suspect that when they read academic articles, they find them so impenetrable they think THIS is how one should write…one should aim to use vague sounding language, with huge run-on sentences that really seem to go nowhere near a point.
I always wonder “what did someone do to have them feel this kind of panic when they come to write?”, and “what are we still doing to scare them so much that they do not understand that scholarly writing is above all about communicating a clear message?”.
I have my postgraduate students share their writing on discussion boards, all about different topics, but giving the topic the same treatment. I think that seeing each other’s writing lets students learn from each other. They are asked to read each other’s pieces, and I hope that by doing so, they get a better idea of where they can improve, and what they are doing well.
I don’t, however, provide model answers. Unfortunately, I find that these encourage students who get by through mimicry to give me a piece of writing that is almost a blow-by-blow copy of what is in the example.
But, I am left wondering, given my experience today of learning a lot about sculpting through mimicry, how can I use the good parts of this to help my students learn ?