Sculpting is the creating three-dimensional objects by carving, forming, and modifying clay, wax, or other pliable materials. In this blog we want to share with you about what are the main techniques of sculpture.
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What are the main techniques of sculpture?
Sculpture is a three-dimensional art form that utilises the space surrounding it, by incorporating itself or interacting with it. When beginning a new sculpture, artists have to make a variety of different decisions regarding its height, width and length, and then, based on these decisions and the result they are hoping to achieve, decide which technique or techniques they are going to use.
Techniques for producing a sculpture
This is one of the sculpture techniques that is most familiar to everyone, including those who are fairly unfamiliar with this art form. This technique involves working from a solid block, chipping away pieces until the sculptor achieves the shape that they had in mind. Throughout history the most commonly used materials were marble in Italy, alabaster stone in Germany, England and Spain, and limestone throughout Europe.
For this technique, artists use roughing tools to create deep and uneven grooves, or flat chisels as finishing tools, on surfaces such as limestone, sandstone or marble.
Carving is a technique that is used primarily for working with marble and wood. It is a process that involves removing material by wearing it away and smoothing it, working from the outside in.
When carving with wood, the artist will need to consider the type of wood they are using, as this is very important. Cedar or pine wood are softer and easier to carve than oak or walnut, for example. However, these harder woods are more durable and allow the artist to create more intricate detail. Precisely for this reason, in-depth knowledge regarding materials and techniques is always highly important for a sculptor.
As for carving in ivory, it is important to bear in mind that it is a highly expensive material and difficult to get hold of, as it is obtained from the tusks of an elephant or the horns of a rhinoceros, for example. It is for this reason that it has been traditionally used for carving religious objects.
Modelling, as the name suggests, is a technique that involves giving shape to a soft and pliable material, using a mould. One of the materials that is most commonly used for this kind of technique is clay, although there are others. Clay is a very cheap material, easy to get hold of and is also very easy to mould. One of the benefits of this technique is that you can make several copies of a sculpture.
Surely most of you, if not all of you, will be familiar with the famous waxwork museums. Well, the celebrities portrayed in these museums are produced with this same technique, using wax. If they are done well, they can even look real from a certain distance. Incredible, right?
Similar to modelling, this technique also requires the use of a mould. The main difference with casting is that the resulting sculptures are generally made from combinations of metals. Bronze, for example, is an alloy of tin and copper, and is commonly used in sculptures as it is strong and durable. In fact, in the Middle Ages it was commonly used for producing weapons, tools and other sculptures.
Polishing is a technique used by artists who want to improve the final finish of a sculpture that they've created, by improving its visual appearance and texture. It involves performing a mechanical operation on the surface of the material. The polishing technique for wood is also known as sanding and may be done using a sander, or by hand. For other materials, such as copper, silver or gold, polishing is usually done purely for decorative reasons, in order to make them more shiny or clean, or to improve their texture as previously mentioned.
Other sculpture techniques
Of course, there are other sculpture techniques in use, such as chiseling, embossing, engraving, stamping and die-casting, but we wanted to focus on the most well-known and commonly used techniques.