Objects: Policies and Info

AR3160 Foundations of Sculpture: Objects and Ideas 

Professor Phil Lonergan
Office: #116 Draper & Maynard
Email: plonergan@plymouth.edu  
Office Phone: x5-2549
Office Hours: TTh 8-9:15, & by appointment

This introduction to studio sculpture focuses on the artistic possibilities of objects; in particular, we will consider a range of aesthetic approaches to form, including abstract, representational, non-representational, and postmodern. The course will focus on traditional, modern, and contemporary theories and techniques, and cover such topics as: competing definitions of and processes for generating “form”; transforming “real” objects into abstract “art” objects; context, site, and viewer-art object- Artist relationships. Through the use of varying media, students will explore issues in sculpture and begin to develop their own sculptural vocabularies.

Several projects that combine various aspects of sculpture will provide students with experience in working with different materials and with different conceptual approaches to working with “form.” Upon completion of each project, there will be a group critique—the equivalent of a test—to discuss the issues and methods involved in the project. These should not be missed, and active participation is expected. There will also be one paper on a contemporary sculptor whose work reflects a dialogue between the formal object and the connotative levels of meaning.

This sculpture course counts as Quantitative Reasoning in the Discipline in the General Education program (QRCO). Mathematics finds application in all fields of scholarship. All disciplines make use of quantitative reasoning in some way and to some extent. This course teaches quantitative techniques that are used as secondary tools within the discipline of art, and helps art students come to deepen their appreciation of the relevance of quantitative reasoning.   Artists are always faced with time and money constraints in realizing their conceptual goals. Using mathematical skills to predict the structural forces within a sculpture and using geometry to calculate the shape and quantity of a material are just two significant ways that quantitative reasoning skills eliminate the trial and error process which is both costly and time consuming. This sculpture class covers mathematical and physics-related topics such as shear force, bending moment, compression, wind resistance, gear ratios, and basic kinetics. Calculations such as dead load, live load and wind loading are discussed. A substantial amount of geometry is used in every project to lay out and predict material and fabrication needs for complex three dimensional forms, and we will spend time working with scale and proportion as major sculptural elements.


The Art Education program endorses the Plymouth State University conceptual framework for teacher education: CHECK. The experiences required for this program are Commitment and Holism and are based on Experience, Collaboration and Knowledge of the disciplines of the Fine Arts. The course objectives and assignments in this course reflect and reinforce the conceptual framework of teacher education at Plymouth State University. Throughout this learning experience, students will have the opportunities to:


  • C COLLABORATE with other students and professionals and develop partnerships which are essential to the teaching/learning process.
  • H Develop a HOLISTIC perspective on teaching and learning by considering the needs and interests of the whole learner, as an individual and as a member of the learning community.
  • E Experience the connections between subject, events, and life.
  • C Develop a sense of COMMITMENT to personal growth and development as artists and professionals and understand how the teaching/learning process plays a role in the formation of personal and social values throughout our lives.
  • K Enhance and share their KNOWLEDGE through the cultivation of mastery, self-reflection, critical discussion, and inquiry.

NH State Certification Standards addressed in this course:

ED 612 Standards: A1-b-c, 2, 4, 5, 6; C 1, 2, 3, 4 and D1

ED 610 Standards: B1, 2 Diversity A

Prerequisites:    AR1050: Form in 3D


  • to use quantitative techniques as tools to work through sculptural ideas to enhance the creative process;
  • to become familiar with tools and techniques relating to woodshop power- and hand-tools, wood joinery, and basic construction;
  • to become familiar with tools and techniques relating to, working with wood, plaster, and a variety of other (including mixed) media;
  • to gain knowledge of both the technical and theoretical developments in sculpture from traditional through contemporary periods;
  • to explore the “connotative” as it functions in sculpture;
  • to use movement and time as significant elements of sculpture;
  • to be able to clearly articulate—verbally and visually—the intention behind each sculpture, and to understand the complex interplay between a work, an artist, and a viewer;
  • to build a vocabulary for discussing both the qualities of specific traditional and contemporary sculptural works and broader current issues in contemporary sculpture;
  • to begin to use the sketch book and maquette as a means for developing and working through ideas;
  • to learn to manage time appropriately in order to complete projects efficiently.


  • Attendance: At the end of the semester you will be awarded full Attendance points if you have 3 or fewer absences.  If you have from 4-6 absences, you will be awarded 1/2 credit for Attendance.  If you have more than 6 absences, you will receive no credit for Attendance.  (Two late arrivals or early departures will count as one absence.) There is no need to inform me about the reason for your absences since you receive those 3 free absences to use for reasons such as illness, death in the family, school travel, sports, and other serious matters.  If you have a devastating emergency which will cause you to miss two weeks or more of school, you should contact Undergraduate Studies so that they may advise you on the best course of action.



Each project will be graded according to the Project Rubrics. The breakdown for your final grade will be as follows:

  • 60%     Projects: All projects will be graded on your ePorts and be graded on overall quality; complexity of idea; craft of execution; late assignments will be penalized one full letter grade for every day they are late. Missing a critique will lower your project grade by 10%. You will be required to keep a sketch book which will be a significant portion of each project grade.  All projects will be due on the critique day and the following components will be due on your ePort by the next class.  These are the components you should have for each project on your ePort. Each project will have ONE POST, which should contain all of the following elements:


  • Project Description/assignment:  You can summarize the project description or cut and paste.  Describe the “intent” (what the viewer will get) and what you think are the interesting parts that you were excited to do.   Also describe the challenges you see for yourself.  Perhaps it was a material you had never used or a concept you had not thought about before. With all your comments try to list at least one or two specifics.
  • Lateral thinking:  Explain what you are trying to do at this stage and then show examples.  These are your “lists” (or other brainstorming strategies) that you made when generating ideas.  You might take a digital image and then mark it up digitally with notes and arrows or use sticky notes before taking an image.  It could also be a written statement.  It is up to you.   However you decide to do this, it should explain your thoughts and give insight to the decisions you made about your ideas and which ones to move forward.
  • Sketchbook/Drawings:  Take pictures of your sketch book drawings with your phone or SLR camera  and add comments about what you were thinking.Maquettes:  Photograph your maquettes and include them. Explain why you did these and how they were helpful.  How could you have done things differently to improve the finished work?  Could you have made them differently or used a different material?  Bigger? Smaller? Etc.

    Material Studies: Photograph your material studies. Explain what you thought you might learn from doing this and then what you actually learned.  This might be trying out a new material on a small scale to see what it does, it might be doing a full scale drawing to get a sense of scale or it might be trying out a painting style on a scrap before you commit to the actual piece.  The material study gives you a way to test out an aspect of the piece without committing to it only to find out it did not work.  Although this may take time it ultimately saves you time and gives the ability to find the element that works best with the overall intent.

    Finished Piece:  This is where you have a few pictures (probably at the top of your post) and write a longer formal “artist” statement that talks about the intent or idea you started out with and how the piece changed over the process.  Then evaluate the finished piece using the project description and the elements of design.  Also talk about the things you learned that you will take forward into other art making.  It is valid to have a piece fail or come out in unexpected ways but still have learned a great deal!  As artists we are constantly venturing into unknown territories (ideas/materials/styles/etc) and should be comfortable with a process that is rich in experimenting and play the pushes the limits (maybe even to failure). It is fine to put this at the top of your post even though it is the final step.


  • 20%  Participation and Attitude: attend all classes; active in class discussions and          critiques; use of Moodle; open-mindedness; willingness to push past your own           personal limits; (Attendance=75%; Attitude=25%).
  • 10%   Paper: research; organization; originality;
  • 5%    Quizzes: performance on quizzes.
  • 5%     ePort; Stock photos replaced and WordPress language changed; You have an about page; You have a menu on your ePort that directs to your Blog and to your About/Home Page; a blog post for each project; No weird formatting issues that make your site look messy



Required Materials


  • 12’ Tape Measure
  • Chicken Wire
  • Scissors/utility knife
  • Wooden chair
  • Sketch pad
  • Articles available from instructor
  • There are no textbooks for this course, but there is a lab fee of $60.
  • Additional materials TBA ($60-$80)



Other Policies



  • ADA Policy: Plymouth State University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you should immediately contact the Disability Services Office (DSO) in Plymouth Academic Support Services located in the Lamson Learning Commons (535-2270) to determine whether you are eligible for such accommodations. Academic accommodations will only be considered for students who have registered with DSO. If you have a Letter of Accommodation for this course from DSO, please provide the instructor with that information privately so that you and the instructor can review those accommodations.Academic Integrity Policy: see PSU policies here.


  • Art Department Policy on Use of Visual Recording Devices in all Classes , Workshops, or Open Studio Sessions using live models:


It is our mutual responsibility, as faculty and students, to ensure the privacy and safety of our models at all times. In order to uphold our commitment to privacy and safety, no visual recording devices will be allowed to be used in Figure classes, workshops, open studio sessions, or any class with a live model posing. If any individual is seen holding or using a visual recording device, they will be asked to leave the class and an unexcused absence will be credited for that day. In the case of cell phones, cell phones must be turned to vibrate mode before entering class. Emergency and/or special calls will be answered outside of the classroom. Any use of visual recording devices for class purposes must be pre-approved by the instructor and can only be used when the model is not posing.


  • Art Department Policy on Unclaimed Artwork


Any student participating in a studio course in the Art Department at PSU is responsible for removing from the premises the artwork he/she creates in that class at the end of the course. Any artwork left behind by a student from a course at the end of the semester will be saved or disposed of at the discretion of the instructor or Program Coordinator. The Art Department cannot ensure safety, conservation, or appropriate storage of work. If the artwork is saved, it will be used as a teaching resource for future classes.


Any artwork that is in a departmentally endorsed or sponsored exhibit and which is unclaimed by the artist at the end of that exhibit will be retained by the department for a period of 6 months. However, during this time, the Art Department cannot ensure safety, conservation, or appropriate storage of work. At the end of 30 days, the work will be reviewed by a departmental vetting committee to determine if the artwork will be retained or discarded. If the artwork is retained, it will be used as a teaching resource and Images of that artwork will be used for any public relations purposes as the Department and University see fit.




Project 1: Form Development and The Theory of Significant Form


Students begin with drawings of a non-representational form. Working with an armature, they develop a form that is then covered with a burlap and plaster “skin.”


  • To develop a series of forms in order to explore process-directed sculpture;
  • To learn to use an armature to generate a general form;
  • To learn to refine the form by adding a skin;
  • To learn to work through ideas by using a hands-on method;
  • QRCO: to learn to calculate plaster-mixing ratios based on weight;
  • QRCO: to use ratios to scale up maquettes and drawings to larger-scale sculptures;
  • QRCO: to learn to calculate compressive strength of chemically curing gypsum cement products and structures
  • Artists Covered: TBA


Project 2: “Vessel, Basket, Boat, Blimp, Nest”

For this sculpture, students work to create a wood laminated sculpture. Students design this work so it is made as much as possible in the sculpture studio but due to the large size it must be able to fit out the door and be installed in another location. They work with a fastening system that allows them to do this (perhaps forms that are modular or made in parts that fit together). The structure is then selectively covered by industrial plastic shrink wrap

  • To explore the importance of scale and materials;
  • To develop the ability to make an accurate 3D form from a 2D rendering;
  • To understand the properties of wood and the benefits and limitations of lamination;
  • To learn to create work in modular sections in the studio that can be transported and installed efficiently (to explore issues of cost and labor);
  • To explore the instability of meaning as produced by a site, materials, etc;
  • QRCO: to improve measuring skills and ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals.
  • Artists Covered: TBA


Project 3: Chair Transformation

Webster’s dictionary defines a “transformation” as “the act or operation of changing the form or external appearance; the state of being transformed; a change in form, appearance, nature, disposition, condition, character, etc.” For this assignment, students find an old (or new) full-sized chair and transform the chair. They go through the idea development process in their sketchbooks, and include a minimum of three drawings of possible transformations.


  • To learn safe operation of woodshop tools;
  • To learn about joinery and fastening systems;
  • To revisit principles of structure learned in 3D;
  • To explore issues in modern sculpture related to the ready-made and the investigation of new/nontraditional materials;
  • To explore how to create a believable transformation (how an object can contain two or more dissimilar connotations, yet still remain credible and integrated);
  • QRCO: to improve measuring skills and ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals;
  • QRCO: to learn the Moment Principle and apply it in the making of the piece;
  • QRCO: to understand how triangulation works and to use triangulation and other principles (shear force, torsion, tension) to stabilize the sculpture.
  • Artists Covered: TBA


Project 4: “The Log”

Students take an object ”The Log” and working through the idea development process “mine” both the formal and conceptual elements while working in both traditional and post-modern methods and materials.


  • To begin to develop a personal system of ideation
  • To understand and work with cultural systems of meaning;
  • To try out alternative materials, image creation and media including digital video/image;
  • To learn to navigate technical obstacles while maintaining conceptual focus;
  • To explore issues in contemporary art across multiple media by investigating new/nontraditional materials;
  • QRCO: to improve measuring skills and ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals;
  • Artists Covered: TBA