AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Lucy MacDougall

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. This week we feature metalwork made by Lucy MacDougall from Balmoral Hall School for Girls in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature metalwork made by Lucy MacDougall from Balmoral Hall School for Girls in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

A suit of silver armor lit from below against a white wall

Here’s Lucy’s statement on the work:

“A visit to the armor floor of the New York Met Museum provided the inception of an idea for the Knight of Riverbend and he came to life this past year as my project for AP Art and Design.

"I spent a good portion of the year sketching out my designs on paper and figuring out which designs were to my liking and which were not. The most difficult area was coming up with designs that were realistic for me to create considering the limited tools and materials I had access to.

“To make the armor plates, I used scrap sheet metal that had been donated to my school. The sheet metal is thin, but it holds a bend, which was very helpful for making the limb pieces. The sheets are leftover metal from making circuit boards, which is why there are multiple little holes and designs imprinted in the metal. Some of the metal was shiny, and some of it was matte, and I worked these traits into my designs.

“Working in 3-D definitely had its challenges. For each armor piece, I had to figure out how to transfer my 2-D design on paper to a 3-D piece. To do this, I made templates with paper and duct tape in reference to my own body so I knew how to cut each part out of the metal. This step ensured that all the pieces would fit together. When I made my templates, I put them on my body and sketched out guide-lines on them so I could see what worked best with the curves of each limb. Many of the templates required adjustments before I could make the final metal pieces. In particular, the helmet, and the hands especially, required many modifications.

Sketches and planning drawings for the suit of armor

"A lot of people ask me what style of armor I was basing mine on, and the answer is that I did not have any style in mind. My designs were determined mostly by practicality; both for what I could actually make, with the material I had, and, as well, what would work with the curves of each body part being made.

“To avoid having to glue or weld the pieces together, I used brass paper brads as rivets. I spent some time working on the best way to utilize the rivets and figured out that first punching a hole through the metal with a hammer and a nail was the most effective way to proceed.

“One of the most time-consuming pieces of this project ended up being the stand on which it is displayed. I made it in lieu of using a mannequin, as finding a mannequin the size of the armor was not possible. I used pieces of scrap wood that I had at home, again, modeled after my own body proportions.

“Overall, it was a very long process, but I learned so much from working on it. I know I will never find the Knight of Riverbend displayed at the Met, but I am very pleased with the final result. And, if it is true that a knighthood is a prestigious title given to an honorable person for his bravery, then Sir Riverbend, who allowed me to build him, piece by piece, from scraps of metal, certainly deserves his title.”

Cloth pattern for the armor's gauntlet, above a photo of the gauntlet

A suit of silver armor, seen from the waist up, alongside photos of someone wearing the shoulder plating and arm plating

Here’s Lucy’s teacher Kristina Karlsson on Lucy’s work:

“Creating a project of this magnitude was no small feat, especially as Lucy did not have the use of the art room and needed to create ‘Knight of Riverbend’ primarily from home. Through this yearlong investigation, Lucy developed an impressive list of skills including inquiry and problem-solving, armor construction techniques, metal fabrication, armature-building, and pattern-making strategies needed to convert flat sheet metal into impressively articulated three-dimensional forms. It was particularly inspiring to observe Lucy figure out how to use tape and paper held up to her own body to trace made-to-order templates, steps which would be repeated throughout the year.

"We saw snippets of this epic figure coming together with occasional snapshots of Lucy’s home-based armor factory where classroom experiments and research were put to task. In class, drawing skills were honed with medieval knotwork studies and increasingly sophisticated explorations of fantastical creatures and human figures. Ongoing classroom critiques, both in-person and online, brought out much feedback, discussion, encouragement, and problem-solving to help encourage and push Lucy towards the final assembly of online slides, photo-documented and ready for submission.

"Lucy’s feat of excellence is amplified while looking at the array of obstacles presented by covid-19. For example, art classes this year took place in every imaginable space apart from our freshly built art facility, including interesting art room anomalies as the library, theatre, geography room, physics lab, and even our own homes. One might assume these space restrictions and obstacles would result in sub-standard art projects. Lucy’s project is a testament that this is not the case at all, that the freedom and individualized research nature of AP Drawing, AP 2D Art and Design, and AP 3D Art and Design courses made it easy for all students to adapt to a year of uncertainty. Throw in some additional victories, such as our very well subscribed virtual 24/7 critiquing board and I would say this year was a success, for Lucy and for all of us. And in a post-covid world, we will continue to keep some of these gems, including Lucy’s monumental artwork, for as long as Lucy will allow!”

And here’s a video of Lucy delivering her suit of armor to school:

Student and teacher statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.