A true art form Sculpting


Sculpting is an analogue art form that allows you to reach into a lump of clay and ‘feel’ the shapes, forms and textures as if they were real. It can be quite tactile, but it also involves observation and imagination as you will need to rely on your senses (rather than sight) as any marks or lines on your hands or arms will be transferred onto your work.

Sculpting can be quite messy – at its most pure, sculptors use only their fingers and tools such as knives, chisels, sponges and rasps to obtain a three-dimensional effect. Wire wool is used to refine surfaces before the application of paints which simulate surface textures such as stone, metal or wood finishes.

At its most complex, sculpting can involve the use of a machine-powered armature or ‘skeleton’ to build up layers and masses – this is particularly popular in film and TV, allowing props such as alien creatures and monsters to be built quite quickly.

The main materials used for sculpting are clay, wax and resin although the mediums vary depending on the intended final product. For bronzes you will need plaster or clay; the wax is suited well to producing jewellery; polymer clay (non-hardening modelling clay) would be suitable if creating sculptures out of children’s play-dough! Sculptors may create maquettes using paper, wire wool or wood before starting work on their preferred material.

Most sculpting work is traditionally 2D, but increasingly sculptors are creating 3D computer-generated images that can be printed in 3D.

Sculpting and the Earliest Days

A sign on the side of a tree

Sculpting has been around since the earliest days of artistry. It involves changing materials from their original form into something different. The largest example in history was Michelangelo’s David, which required months to complete and had no practical use other than to exist in its own right. As a child, he worked on tombs before moving on to more successful pieces such as Pieta. He never expected his statues to make him money, however, they would make him famous forever after his death with many regarding him as one of the greatest artists ever to have lived. Sculptures were treasured not only for their artistic ability but also for the skill and time that was taken to create them. This is not a common phenomenon in this day and age where people are looking for art pieces they can keep on their mantelpieces for years to come.

Requirement of sculpting

A sculpture of a person

– Plaster or clay

– Wire wool

– Paintbrush/s

– Gloves (optional)

– Decorative effects such as sandpaper, textured rubber matting etc. For example, one sculptor uses an old shower curtain liner under his fingernails while he works to give texture and form to his work without marking it with grease from his skin. A number of dirt types can be used to add e.g.: wet soil to add mud effects, sand can be used to rub in and create specific textures.

– Tools such as chisels, rasps and knives (polymer clay sculptors use a craft knife)

– Balls of putty (for moulding etc.)

– Knife/s (for cutting out linework after shaping has been completed; for example when carving shapes into the body to indicate fingers and toes)

The use of gloves is optional but useful for your hands and clothes. If you do not wish to make a mess everywhere then simply cover your clothes with an old sheet before commencing work. Cover everything you do not want to be covered in plaster! Keep water nearby if you need it – sometimes wetting your hands or tools can help when working with clay etc.

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter