Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.
What Is Sculpture?
Artists work with many kinds of materials. Some paint or draw, but others create artwork that is dimensional. Such works are called sculpture.
Sculpture is art that's three-dimensional and protrudes into space. Unlike two-dimensional art, many sculptures have height, width, and length. Sculpture is a very old art form that's been made by cultures around the world for centuries. The ancient Egyptians created massive stone sculptures like the Sphinx, which stands several stories high, and the classical Greeks were known for their spectacular carved stone figures.
Sculpture can be made of many materials. It can be realistic or abstract, which means it doesn't resemble anything in the natural world. Some sculptures are reliefs, or dimensional forms that protrude from a surface but are still connected to it. If you have a coin in your pocket, look carefully at its surface designs. They are examples of shallow relief sculptures.
Other sculptural works are freestanding, which means they can be walked around and stand alone apart from any background. The word statue is often used to describe fully freestanding sculptures. The Statue of Liberty is a very large example of a freestanding sculpture. Can you imagine planning and making a sculpture that big?
Artists use many processes to create sculptures. Let's learn more about some of them.
Carving, Modeling, and Assembly
Two of the most traditional sculptural processes are carving and modeling. Carving is a method of making a sculpture using a solid block of material, like wood or stone. The artist removes areas to create the desired shape, cutting away the excess material from the solid mass. Carvers use tools like chisels, which have straight cutting blades, and gouges, which have convex cutting blades. Carving is considered a subtractive process because the excess material is removed in the process of creating a finished work.
The opposite of carving is modeling, a method in which a sculpture is created by adding pliable material to create a form. Artists who sculpt build up a form in layers of substances like wax or clay. Artwork that's modeled is sometimes supported by a hidden armature, or an underlying form made of wire or wood. Think of an armature like a skeleton that supports the sculpture from the inside. Armatures are helpful for large or complex works that can become heavy as layers of clay are added.
Assembly is a newer method of making sculptures, where artists use pre-made objects, like large pieces of metal, and put them together to make a sculpture. Sometimes they might also use found objects, or cast-off materials repurposed for art. The discarded items are assembled into a work of sculpture. Such works are often connected by processes like gluing or welding.
Casting is a more complex process of making a sculpture. Unlike carving or modeling, casting requires several steps. First, a full-size model is made of the sculpture subject. If the sculpture is very large, the model might be made of several pieces. Then a mold, or hollow cavity formed around the model, is made by covering it with a substance like wax or plaster. After the model is removed, an impression of it remains inside the mold. Molten or liquid material like metal or plaster is then poured into the mold. When the material hardens, the mold is removed and the sculpture is freed from it, then cleaned and finished.
Sometimes, as a preliminary step, an artist might make a maquette of a sculpture before beginning to create the final work. A maquette is a small scale model of a much larger work. It provides an idea of what a finished work might look like and allows the artist to figure out what materials, and methods, might work to make the sculpture. Maquettes can be very helpful to visualize sculptures made by a method such as casting, which takes considerable time and money.
Now you know more about several sculptural processes. You're probably not going to go out and try your hand at bronze casting, but perhaps get some modeling clay or a block of wood and carving tools, and try some of these methods to express your own creativity.
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork. Some sculptures are reliefs that protrude from a surface but are still attached to it. Others are freestanding, in the round and apart from any background.
Sculptural processes include many methods, such as carving, modeling, assembly, and casting:
Carving is a subtractive method in which excess material is removed from a solid block of a substance like wood or stone. Carvers use tools like chisels and gouges.
Modeling is an additive sculptural process, in which a form is made by building up a shape with pliable material like clay. Sometimes sculptors use a hidden armature to help support their sculpture.
Assembly is a newer sculpture-making method where remade materials like large pieces of metal and found objects are attached to each other to make a work of art.
Casting is a more complex method with several steps, including making a model, then making a mold of the model, and then pouring a molten substance into the mold, which results in a final version of the sculpture. Sometimes artists will make a maquette, or small preliminary scale model, to work out ideas before the final sculpture is made.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack