Isaac Dell is proof that being a part of the Hillsdale community doesn’t end when the cap and gown come off. But instead of sitting at a desk, Dell is at the front of the classroom teaching students.
Dell has taught several sculpture classes for the college in the past but this time he is instructing a plaster casting class. The course will run for four weeks.
“It’s not the most glamorous of the art classes, but a necessary one,” Dell said.“It’s an essential aspect of sculpture, just as stretching the canvas for oil painting. The sculpture is not applicable until you get it into a form that will last.”
Casting involves creating an inverse mold of a sculpture that was originally molded from clay or another malleable material. This can then be filled with a stronger material like metal or plastic to reproduce the original design. Dell explained that he hopes his students will understand the basic idea of casting through his class.
“Plaster cast is sometimes called the practical art,” Dell said. “It takes a certain level of craft and knowledge, and hard work but, there’s one basic objective, which is to copy your sculpture and get it over into a different medium that is not as malleable.”
Dell enjoys that people from all different backgrounds and majors take his class.
“It is a wide variety of students that are learning how to communicate the importance of how to look at form and sculpture,” Dell said. It is a great challenge, but it is a lot of fun to figure out.”
Dell’s current class comes with more challenges.
“Just like with any field like there are the fun aspects of it and there are the parts you enjoy, but there’s also the nitty-gritty tasks that you just have to put your nose to the grindstone and work through.”
Dell didn’t always know he wanted to make his living off art. During his freshman year at Hillsdale, Dell, like many students, had doubts about what career he wanted to follow.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Dell said. “But I knew I always liked creating things. With that understanding of myself, I came [to Hillsdale] thinking that I would go into engineering, so I took a lot of math and physics classes.”
Dell’s plans began to change during his sophomore year when he signed up for his first sculpture class at the college.
“That experience showed me that I liked the more artistic side of design rather than the mathematical or physics side,” Dell said. “That’s when I decided that I wanted to pursue something more in the visual arts.”
In 2018 Dell graduated from Hillsdale College with an art degree.
“2017 was going to be the end of my four years, but I was able to get a scholarship to stay for a fifth year where I pretty much took only art classes for an entire year,” Dell said. “From [that] experience I was able to just have that much stronger of a footing in the arts for when I leave.”
Assistant Professor of Art Julio Suarez, said it was Dell’s work ethic that stood out to him.
“It was clear to me that he had the qualities that we would like our students to have, which is number one, just being a hard worker,” Suarez said.
And, Dell was a curious student.
‘He had a very good attitude about learning,” Suarez said. “The type of drawing I teach is closely related to painting. And that’s a very specific way of approaching drawing. Even though he was a sculptor, he was very open to learning new things and seeing things maybe a little bit different.”
Only a year after graduating, Dell transitioned from being a student at the college to the one teaching in the front of the classroom.
Dell shadowed Professor of art Anthony Frudakis’ classes, but when Frudakis went on sabbatical, Dell took on the role of professor for the first time in the spring of 2019.
“I do not doubt that he’s doing a good job,” Suarez said. “He’s just a very good personality and very friendly and relatable. I can imagine that the students would react very well, to him and from his work.”
Outside of the classroom, Dell is finding the balance between commissioned work and building his personal portfolio.
“Commissioned sculpture is for the most part someone else’s idea,” he said. “I put it into form, so it’s more of a collaborative effort in a commission. Whereas when I’m just building up my portfolio is my own work. That’s more my originality.”
Dell said his inspiration comes from nature. From plants to the human figure, Dell said that there are “ different forms that lend themselves to different meanings or different ideas.”
But the biggest challenge of a new artist is creating his own original style — and meeting financial needs, Dell said.
“I find myself constantly bouncing ideas around about how I can create a business that [encompasses] my skills and interests,” Dell said.
Junior and art major Ashton Mills praises Dell’s passion.
“Seeing people like Isaac and his success helps solidify my decision to major in art,” said Mills. “It’s awesome to see him continue to pursue his passions.”