July 3, 2022

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Understanding the Basics of Sculpture

What is a sculpture, and what distinguishes it from other visual arts? Making a sculpture involves molding or otherwise manipulating different materials to create a three-dimensional figure. The figure can be representational, meaning that it re-creates the appearance of something found in the natural world, or it can be abstract, meaning that it consists of forms or shapes that do not represent anything specific or concrete. It is also possible to create a sculpture representing something that does not exist in the natural world but looks as though it could.

A sculpture is different from a painting, which exists in only two dimensions, although it is possible for a sculpture or other three-dimensional object to be painted. Sculptures may occasionally require the attention of an art conservation company due to damage or breakdown.

Sculpture Types

All sculptures have a three-dimensional element to them, but the degree of dimensionality can vary. For example, a relief sculpture is one that attaches to a background but projects outward from it. Such a sculpture can be either low-relief or high-relief depending on how much of the figure or object extends out from the background. A freestanding sculpture has no background and is finished on all sides. When a freestanding sculpture is out in the open, it can be viewed from 360 degrees. However, some freestanding sculptures reside in a niche, which is an indentation in a wall. These sculptures cannot be viewed from all sides, but they are still freestanding sculptures because they are separate from the wall. Another type of sculpture is a kinetic sculpture. This is a type that is made for motion. The artist constructs it so that air currents can move parts of it to create the full effect. The sculptor can then either install a device to keep the air circulating or rely on natural wind and air currents.

Sculpture Processes

A sculpture can be created in different ways. Almost any object or material can be made into a sculpture through a process of construction or assembly in which the sculptor combines objects and materials together. Modeling involves taking a plastic material such as clay and shaping it with tools and/or hands to make a sculpture. Carving involves taking a raw material, usually something hard such as stone or wood, and using tools to remove parts of it to shape it into a sculpture. Because carving involves taking something away during the creation process, it is sometimes referred to as subtractive sculpture, while modeling is sometimes known as additive sculpture.