Objective Art: private studio sculpture instruction                        Fall, 2015


Medium: forged metal

Instructor: James Garvey                                                               

Schedule: to be arranged

Contact: James  (212) 531-1081



Objective Art: SYLLABUS

James Garvey, September 29, 2015


This studio is intent upon the realization of an objective impression that is instantly recognized by everyone in the community. The instructor shall invite an applicant who is motivated to conceive an unprecedented form-idea and they are asked to make a personal commitment to pursue that aim in accordance with Visual Forensics; the terms and methods are defined in the ‘Glossary’. Forging is the medium used to interpret their idea. Using the Class Policies as a guideline, the students rapidly acquire hand-forging skills at an open-air forging set up. Insight is called upon to sketch form-ideas that occur since starting. These ideas are sorted and momentum is held in check until there is a consensus among the class that their idea has Visceral Cognition. The instructor applies intuition and experience to impart specific expertise for the student to make an interpretation of the idea. As it gets underway, the students learn to manage design decisions with Visual Forensics. A student may request a ‘Challenge Task’ from the instructor; “These tasks are determined by the instructor; they are intended to address obstacles that are particular for that individual such as: “use a much larger scale”, or “shorten the forging time in half”, or “make a series of eleven”.   If the instructor agrees to give a task, then, the student is expected to pursue it, or go on hiatus. At the close of each session, their work will be positioned to be viewed. He or she will add to their Journal of Conception and participate in dialog among fellow students about in-process work and their performance on the forge platform.  Through auto-evaluation of his or her own work, he or she will learn to perceive visceral cognition as it relates to work in-process. Confidence comes; it is an emergence of the artist's psyche; they will develop intuition to measure collective impact; they become familiar with objective impressions that have a profound affect that is welcome by the audience. A confidence grows in the artist's psyche as they become reassured that their process does touch an audience.  The artist becomes confident to rely on 'dead reckoning' as the most effective means to reach their destination.

LIMITED ENROLLMENT    The approach is far from exploration and conversation. An applicant is expected to be familiar with Visual Forensics: Glossary; and, they intend to practice hand-forging expertise based upon the Course Policies. The applicant needs to provide references that confirm that they have the capacity to handle an approach that requires discipline. The instructor introduces an applicant to basic forging skills. He or she is invited to join the class based upon the following: they have a deep respect for their creative ability; they have the maturity to accept instruction; they can visualize a form idea; their aptitude for mechanical expertise is high; and, they welcome an opportunity to render evaluation of any work being done in the class based upon the Visual Forensics: Glossary. Metalworking experience is not required; the instructor’s assistant shall perform technical tasks such as arc welding and torch cutting. The students understand, when there is a breach of respect with the policies, the invitation may be put on hiatus.  

EXPERTISE     Each student starts by developing skills used to make eight “JG Hooks.” He or she is engaged to train their self; they watch the instructor; they try the skill; they watch again; and they refine the process. The instructor will demonstrate and comment until the student asks for the hammer so they can try on their own. Like hitting a baseball, the student is establishing muscle memory to carry out precise action free from mental deliberation. The assignment is to make eight hooks in one session; there is no functional expectation. They learn to bring the bar up to an appropriate ‘heat’, by reading the radiant glow: dark red for bending, orange for rounding, yellow for tapering or cutting, white for flattening. They will learn to form a heated bar: tapering, flattening, rounding, bending on the anvil, and cutting on the hardie. This is all“freehand’ expertise”; it is done without the use of a drawing or a jig. Very little explanation is used as the instructor performs the expertise, the subtlety of hammering and positioning can be understood beyond a verbal description of how to do it.  The skills are understood as a combination of moving, feeling and thinking. The student grasps the ’magic’ of this medium, the material is plastic, the forming process is flowing. The student understands that by acquiring expertise is like texting or typing without looking at the keyboard, he or she will be relieved of the awkward delay caused by mental decision making process. The student is witness to a finely tuned sensitivity as the physiognomy of this object is being realized. As each ‘heat is brought to the anvil, there is an active visualization of the work in-process that is determining precise forming actions with finesse. To make these eight JG Hooks means a student, will understand the huge advantage that free hand forming imparts to achieve visceral cognition; also, they will learn how to handle tongs, take a heat, share the fire and the anvil, use the vice, and maintain a safe work environment. 

PROSPECTING COMMITMENT- upon accepting an invitation to join–

“This class is my invitation to conceive a new work. I must refrain from looking at existing sculpture in this medium.  Using visualization, I commit my imagination to conceive an unprecedented form; I am prospecting to find a form-idea. Every recorded memory is receiving the attention of my current interest.  A potential impression is being fused that is so appropriate and so refreshing that it will be regarded with a sense of ‘wonder’. A wonderfully intelligent dialog proceeds, especially when I sleep. Any form-idea that I visualize is significant. I go ahead and sketch it without consideration of how it will be made. As I reflect upon my potential contribution in the class, I sort out the weak ideas. I am acquiring respect for the potential impression; I select a single idea for interpretation. There is strict scrutiny in respect for an original idea; it needs to be confirmed by unanimous consensus of all the individuals in the class. Participation in the dialogue is the crux of Visual forensic method; it becomes a shared understanding. As I proceed, my work in-process needs to continue to resonate with the original form-idea that hovers in my mind. From this point forward, my psyche shall be attentive to the innate response of an object in my presence.”


IN-PROCESS WORK     To realize a vital impression of their form-idea, there is a threshold of inertia to overcome. The student will develop a rendering to initiate work in process. In counsel with the instructor, he or she works to reach an agreement upon a way to proceed. The instructor is applying intuition to sort out goals that could compromise the development.  The instructor shall impart specific expertise to interpret the idea and the student practices. As soon as they develop innate confidence with this expertise, then, they proceed with the interpretation. At the end of each session of work, the piece is placed on view in its’ place-in-process, PIP, where it remains until the student returns.  During this recess, the piece receives intimate, subconscious attention of the student and, details of refinement are determined.  The vitality available in anticipation of this transformation is called upon to realize the practical upgrade, to devise the tooling and practice the expertise that is needed to continue.

JOURNAL OF CONCEPTION      At the end of each session of work in-process, the instructor and student will review several seconds of “expertise in action”; this is recorded during class; it enables the individual to comprehend the remarks about their skill. Their work in-process is positioned for viewing in a place free from visual chaos. They record at least ten seconds in their video file as they respond to these questions: “How is the expertise appropriate for the interpretation?“ … “What are the elements of composition that are in flux?” … “Considering the work, today, does it continue to resonate with the intensity of the original form-idea?”  This is a personal journal for the student and their descendants.

MATRICULATION     Students are encouraged to move on as soon as the ideas of Visual Forensics have been incorporated and self-evaluation becomes reliable. It is understood that this study is a ‘seed’.  Any expectation to realize an impression that is perceived as an objective artwork may take decades; it may not happen. It is certain that each student shall be able to offer credible respect for an original idea, and project the significance it will have in regard to the cutting edge of understanding within our community.



Visual Forensics:  Glossary 

To be applied during forensic discourse. The terms are used as students evaluate each other’s works. The methods are used to avoid compromise for their own work.

visceral cognition (def. by JG)  an art work that demonstrates a profound anonymity has visceral cognition, an aesthetic affect that we all share, an active dialog with collective unconscious.  It produces a physiological effect, a distinct sensation, and a barrage of impulses that fire across the synapses. I stood beside Tilted Arc, by Richard Serra, I experienced a cognitive sensation of wonder. I suspect that a functional MRI machine could verify the physiological effect for anyone in the presence of this piece for the first time.” More examples according to myself: the Sagrata Familia by Gaudi, Water Lilies by Matisse, The Wall by Mia Lynn, Attention Star by myself, James Garvey.

form-idea     def. by JG an internal image akin to an object that I picture in a dream; I can call it up during waking state; I can examine all the surfaces; and I can zoom in on details. It can be an unrealized form; it can be a visualization of a work in-process; or it can be a visualization of an object I made decades before.

prospecting (def. by JG)  my interest is ignited by a challenge, I concentrate my attention in order to conceive something that resonates with appropriateness. I am groping through my subconscious, sorting through every impression since birth. I am informed by my total experience in this medium. I am seeking an idea that transcends every interpretation of form leading up to this point in time. The hooks exercise is a vehicle for prospecting; the new expertise gives me means to go ‘off campus’ and visit the “cutting edge” that Kandinsky refers to in the world of new work. I can let an impulse billow in my mind. I can formulate and then make an aesthetic impact that is unprecedented. I can conceive a vein of objective art works, a series that has vitality that is readily understood to be as valuable as gold nuggets from a prospectors pan. Note, the last nine terms in this list can be useful to sort out weak form-ideas.

     using visualization, I commit my attention to imagine an unprecedented form, a form-idea. Every recorded memory is receiving the attention of my current interest.

sketching (def. by JG)  a conversation with a unique attention inside me, visual impressions are going through a digestive process. Each new form-idea that I sketch is a time sensitive opportunity to respect my current interest.

primal observation     I can learn precise expertise with a single glance of an experienced smith in motion. I use intense focus to flesh out the choreography of physical action. In my mind, there is brief action visualization: I use the ‘vitality of not knowing’ to move beyond awkwardness as the task is underway; I practice and repeat, repeat, repeat. I invite this visualization to be continually refined ahead of the action.

in-process      I am applying expertise to interpret my form-idea. I continually measure visceral cognition. I take a reading of my interest level. I can “taste” either confirmation or, compromise; I do not hesitate to use ingenuity to refine the approach in order to keep from diluting visceral cognition

freehand forming     I devise the most rudimentary conditions that enable me to have manual control as the material is being shaped; I avoid devices or positioning approach that compromises my ability to anticipate the affect of thethe transformation.

taking a heat      a component may take as many as forty heats. During each heat, a visualization of incremental change is being continually updated as I work to hammer out my form-idea.

by-eye       I only use measurement tools to set the boundary; my attention can instantly determine proportions and alignment. I am continually measuring resonance within the composition.

full-scale      I only use a full scale mock-up to study potential changes. I consider affect of physical presence that I infer from the work.

negative space     I lay out existing components and sketch the negative space area to understand weakness in the composition.

anti-overwrought     when the canary stops singing, then it is a gamble to proceed.

Medieval poise there is no arc in the trajectory of the hammer swing. On the face of anvil, I let gravity pull the hammer straight down. If it is an angle, I visualize a straight line of impact that my body conforms to. When the action is smooth, I accelerate the force from the muscles in the small of my back. I have upright spine; my lips are touching; and my jaw is relaxed.

place in-process      I position the work at its’  PIP, a place free from visual chaos where it can be seen and where it can remain until I return. I take a snapshot and review quality of expertise; then, I formulate and record my response,  “Considering my work today, does it continue to resonate with the visualization of the original form-idea? stalled     I do nothing if the impression has become weak; I do not inflate visceral cognition.

osmosis       my current understanding is being informed by every related task in my history. I am an active participant being observed by this history. I cannot avoid the effect that it has; my active interest is generating unprecedented insight.

apparitions     when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea, I only use new form-ideas arising from a current interest; I remain passive to the insidious form-idea interruptions that haunt me.

existing work   when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea, I do not look at images or existing forms in this medium because renowned form is like flirting with an interloper.

“happenings”      when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea,  if I wish to move on instantly, I can move to California and pursue form-ideas that use pure process art such as, twisting a bar until it breaks. 

morphing       Often I become inclined to redefine the form-idea; this indicates that my choice was premature.

self therapy      when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea, I identify subjective therapeutic form-ideas such as: anger/power objects;  carnal angst objects. I consider discretion before sharing these ideas because they are a personal disclosure.

hysterical/religious    when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea,  I ignore the impulse to realize form-ideas that are symbols for spiritual, esoteric, enchanted experiences such as: wreath of thorns, or lotus blossom of clairvoyance.

technical struggle      when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea,  I avoid unreasonable form-ideas that oblige me to learn complex expertise such as heat treatment or forge welding.

multiple components      when I am prospecting for an unprecedented form-idea,  I am cautious of form-ideas that have moving parts; these tend to absorb enormous design development.

‘me too’ free      I remain an outsider to form-ideas that represent trends or graphic cliché: hearts, smiling faces, treble clef…



Visual Forensics: Policies


tools     forging tools, tongs, and hammers are stored in canvas bags; laid out on a long wooden plank for each session; regular handling keeps the tools from becoming rusty and it reinforces the vocabulary for my expertise.

forge attire     students are urged to wear safety glasses and heat resistant garments: gloves, hat, and footwear. Appropriate fabrics include: leather, wool, cotton, Kevlar, or carbon fiber. Warnings: open cuff boots catch hot embers; synthetic fabric melts and causes burns; loose hair tends to be singed by the end of class.

instructor’s assistant     a staff member employed to lead the task during two-man forging, and to perform technical expertise such as welding, and cutting.

forging materials     mild steel, titanium, stainless steel, or silicon bronze. No galvanized metal, aluminum, or recycled industrial metal.

finish      forged patina,  ‘hand filing’, or plating by others.

tongs     firm positive grip, never pivoting. Please ask the instructor to re-forge the jaws to fit the work.

hammers    new handles when they split, face of hammer has burrs trimmed; no taping allowed.

anvils     are secured with chain onto JG Anvil Stand

two man forging       for each individual, the instructor shall assign a specific partner for two man forging who is obliged to stop and assist as needed. 

foresight       know what you plan to do when you reach the anvil.

three at a forge    never more than three. 

working heat    If there is not enough heat, do not start hammering.

torch      never put the torch down on the forge or table.  Lines are stored in a specific place that is off the floor; hoses and cords do not get stepped on. All during the class, turn off the valves at the Oxy-Acetylene tanks whenever the torch is not in use.

extinguishers      are available; use is understood by all. Buckets of sand are always at the ready.

canteen     is available any time: drinking water and snacks: popcorn, dried fruit, and nuts, a place to wash hands, a first aid kit with burn cream, bandages, aspirin, eye wash flushing system, hand cleaner, Neosporin, and a blanket. Gloves and face shields are always available.

injuries     stop working; have someone examine the injury; always formulate why it occurred.

bad air    is not allowed: paint spray, sandblasting, acid or base surface treatment, galvanized steel, brass with zinc, recycled metal with synthetic coatings such as: Teflon, epoxy, cadmium, lead, or any coating that has toxic fumes that will vaporize and be ingested.

no power tools     no welders, no grinding, and no drilling.

make it go away      maintain a scene that is free from visual clutter. Return inactive tools to the plank with the other tools. The litter stand has a designated place outside the area of activity. The visual scene of the entire forge platform needs to always be free from the eyesore of packaging or refuse.

chores    leaves and burnable material are cleared up to 25 feet out from the edge of the steel platform; clinker buckets emptied; quench water is fresh; service the litter stand; sweep the platform.

demonstration    expertise is best introduced by the instructor, not by fellow students.

ingenuity       please,  resist the impulse to be a volunteer; do not compromise the opportunity for another

interruptions     email, texting, conversations…please attend to these when you are off the platform.

rapport      please, respect the focus that fellow students apply to their work;  if someone likes to chat, be sure to start a dialog and leave them hanging in mid-sentence. 

endorphins    can be dangerous. If I become aware that I am ‘in your way’, it is time for you to take a break!

let it fall      if something slips, let it fall; never try to catch it.


       An invitation may be withdrawn. The instructor is on the lookout for tension that compromises the rapport in the class. The tension may be due to an existing attitude such as:

prospecting paused    student’s interest is stalled, they repeatedly express resistance to bring an unprecedented form-idea.

accident prone       student is apparently predetermined to have physical accidents, and/or to embrace unnecessary risk.

self-fulfilling mentality        student is locked into a creative bent of their own, irrespective of the instructor’s direction or the effect that it has on the class.

‘leavies’        student is unable to focus on their own work; they burn things up in the fire because they are too often available to solve problems and assist fellow students

social barriers      performance is compromised: they get nervous; they are unable to ask for assistance; they have a mental block that prevents learning a new skill; or, they are unable to share the fire and the tools.

anti-humble ego     student acts upon an impulse to usurp instruction; conflict is imminent.  This will stymie the class. The student applies for and inserts their self into a situation that has policies which they can not adhere to; sooner or later they argue; they take offense at criticism; they are seething with disrespect for the instructor. This is a statement by a 2014 student during week six in class, “My former teacher’s were much more liberal about the way I work in class; we would have conversations.  I am not being nourished. I am disgusted by the way that you bully all the students.”


see also:

Making HOOKS: 23 Sketches with descriptions

Medieval Poise Sketches: ‘hammering on the anvil’, ‘hammering on an angle’

Inventory: TOOLS, EQUIPMENT 4 Sketches

Forge Attire Sketch with practical descriptions