ARTS301 Intermediate Sculpture, John Taylor, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS301 Intermediate Sculpture, John Taylor, Fall 2019

The aim of this class is to provide an opportunity to approach three-dimensional art from the aesthetic idea to the finished state. The context of the Italian art available in Florence aids in encouraging students to find their own preferences and sensibilities. Despite the difficulties of technical work in sculpture courses, the expression of your personal aesthetics will be one of our priorities. We will be exploring the two fundamental methods in sculpture: additive and subtractive. These will be approached through basic sculpture materials, such as plaster, clay and stone. In addition, innovative three-dimensional techniques will be investigated in close relationship to your own research.

Please note: During the first half of the semester there will be a field trip to the marble studios in Pietrasanta and to the quarries of Carrara, date to be announced.

Intermediate students, in order to pass the class, are asked to complete a course proposal of a minimum of two sculptures of above-average standard with large drawings of each project. Maquettes or models are not to be considered finished pieces.

All Intermediate students are requested to write an artist's statement.

A series of short slide shows will be given by the instructor during the first half of the semester. Topics will include: the instructors own work; workshop practice at the time of Canova; modern figurative sculpture; modern abstract sculpture.

Course Assignments

1st project: Low bas-relief in clay (including a one-piece waste mold in plaster).

2nd project: Carving soft stone or (optional) The portrait in clay (including a two-piece waste mold in plaster).

During museum field trips, students are asked to make sketches and write a formal analysis of a sculpture piece of their choice.


Attendance is required, absences will affect your grade: two unexcused absences result in a lowering of the grade by 1/3 of a letter; two late arrivals to class are considered the equivalent of one unexcused absence. Refer to SACI Student Handbook.


1) Your grade will be affected by two unexplained absences.
2) Be on time for class: the assignment will often be explained at the beginning.
3) If you know that you will be absent on a given date you should notify the instructor ahead of time.

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

Click here for a pdf of SACI's General Safety & Emergency Instructions.

Additional Studio & Safety Rules

It is essential that you leave your work space clean and functional for the next class. STORE your work on the shelves, NOT ON WORK TABLES. DO NOT POUR PLASTER DOWN THE DRAIN IN THE SINK OR DOWN THE TOILET. This will clog the plumbing.

Only sculpture students are allowed in the sculpture facilities. Tools are not allowed out of the studio without special permission. Return all tools to their appropriate place in the tool cabinets.

The sculpture studios have two air-exchange systems—one for ventilation of dust from plaster and the other for ventilation of dust from marble and stone. When working in the studios the air-exchange systems must be utilized for maintaining proper ventilation and extraction of undesirable fumes and odors. The control panels are located on the walls of the studios. Once the ventilation is turned on, it will run for 30 minutes. A timer will then shut it down.

You are NOT permitted to use machinery unless you have been instructed in its use by the instructor of this course.

It is important to obey safety rules when working with power tools. When using these tools, you are required to wear dust masks, safety glasses, gloves, and smocks provided by SACI. When dealing with jobs that create dust (sanding, grinding, mixing powder-based materials), you will be required to wear a dust mask and to put back in the appropriate containers and/or cabinets all powders, clays, cements, glues, etc.

  • Wear the smocks provided by SACI at all times.
  • Do not wear jewelry and be sure to tie long hair tied and close to your head when working with or near the grinding wheel, operating other machinery, or using open flames
  • Wear eye protection and gloves when working with hand tools or power tools that produce flying chips or airborne particles
  • Wear safety shoes provided by SACI when working with heavy materials (20 kilos or more)
  • Always use the appropriate ventilation system when working indoors to avoid excessive smoke or dust
  • If necessary, use the shower in the sculpture studio to wash off dust or other substances
  • Do not use Walkman Personal Stereos or listen to loud music while operating machinery or power tools
  • Visitors are not allowed into the sculpture studio
  • Smoking is not permitted indoors

Click here for a pdf of a more comprehensive list of Sculpture Studio Rules.

Evaluation & Grading

Evaluation is determined by the commitment to quality, completion of course assignments, in-class activities, fieldwork assignments, attendance and your sketchbook.

Graduate Students
Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.


Please bring portfolios or CDs to the first class session

Week 1

Monday, September 9
Wednesday, September 11 

Introduction to syllabus
Introduction to studio practice
Start first project:
Figures in bas-relief clay
Demo: Modeling with clay; modeling tools; slab construction

Week 2

Monday, September 16
Wednesday, September 18

Work in progress
Mold making demo:
The waste mold in plaster
Mixing molding plaster; Plaster tools; making the mold; removing the clay model from the mold

Starting to think about producing a visual diary that will show the evolution of a semester of sculptural creation and research in Florence. This book must have a beginning, middle and an end. The book should include photos, drawings, artist’s statements, progress reports and any other memorabilia and artistic influences.

Related field trip

Week 3

Monday, September 23
Wednesday, September 25

Mold making demo:
Casting the waste mold
The mold releaser; casting with a reinforced structure the bas-relief; removing the mold from the cast; Re-finishing the sculpture
Related field trip

Week 4

Monday, September 30
Wednesday, October 2 

Start thinking about the 2nd project:
Carving marble or a soft cement block
Related field trip

Week 5

Monday, October 7
Wednesday, October 9 

Work in progress
The history of marble and carving tools
Carving marble or a soft cement block
Related field trip

Week 6

Monday, October 14
Wednesday, October 16

Marble carving demo: hand tools, power tools, finishing and polishing
Related field trip

Week 7

Monday, October 21
October 23
Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block



Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK (October 26 – November 3)


Week 9

Monday, November 4
November 6
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 10

Monday, November 11
Wednesday, November 13

Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 11

Monday, November 18
Wednesday, November 20

Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 12

Monday, November 25
Wednesday, November 27

Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 13

Monday, December 2
Wednesday, December 4

Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 14

Monday, December 9
Wednesday, December 11

Work in progress
Carving marble or a soft cement block

Week 15

Monday, December 16
Wednesday, December 18 

EXAM WEEK Critiques and studio clean up


Related Field Trips

The following is a list of related field trips to be decided every Monday or Wednesday, depending on the weather, and the state of work in progress:

The doors of the Baptistry
The Opera del Duomo

The Donatello pulpit in San Lorenzo
The Bargello (the national museum of quattrocento sculpture in Florence)
Casa Buonarroti (Michelangelo's bas relief)
The Accademia (the David and the unfinished Prisoners)
La Specola (the wax anatomical museum)

Recommended Reading

In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading. Note: It is not necessary to purchase the books below. They are available for loan or consultation in the SACI Worthington Library.

Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw, Mariner Books, 1990.
ISBN: 9780395530078 (Retail price: $16.95)

Adrian Stokes, The Stones of Rimini, Schocken, 1988.
ISBN: 978-0805202199 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

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