Understanding Sculpture

  • Sculptural works can be broken down into two primary categories: relief and in the round.
  • Relief sculptures are those that only extend a short distance from the base, and typically adhere to a single plane while sculptures ‘in the round’ are three dimensional and can be viewed from various angles.
  • Sculpture involves four basic techniques: carving, modelling, casting and assembling.


  • Carving involves reducing a material to the final desired sculpture.
  • Carving materials include stone such as limestone or marble, wood and bone.
  • The subtractive process results from removing material directly from the solid block.
  • Tools used for carving include mallets, chisels, knife, saws and rasps.


  • Modelling requires the artist to build up the form, often using soft and pliable material.
  • This process is additive, adding more and more material slowly while shaping the figure.
  • Materials in this scenario can include clay, wax, paper or textiles.
  • Tools include hands, coil, pinch and slab methods.


  • Casting deals with making a mould from a model and pouring liquid material into this mould till it solidifies.
  • Among the popular casting materials are bronze, resin, metal and plaster.
  • The process involves duplication as multiple copies of a single design can be made.
  • Techniques include lost-wax method, sand casting, investment casting and die casting.


  • Assemblage involves using other preformed items to create a larger structure; it may include different materials.
  • This is a composition technique as it involves arranging or rearranging materials.
  • Collage, montage and construction are types of assemblage.
  • In terms of materials, it could include anything from metal and wood to found objects.

Moving from 2D to 3D

  • Sculpture requires a deeper understanding of forms and shapes compared to 2D art.
  • Artists must consider elements such as mass, volume, space and texture.
  • Principles of balance and proportion are particularly crucial in sculpture.

Consideration of the Environment

  • The design and placement of a sculpture can greatly impact the viewer’s interaction.
  • Points of interaction between the sculpture and surrounding environment should be considered, including lighting, space and positioning.

Contemporary Sculpture

  • Contemporary sculpture has evolved significantly from traditional forms and techniques.
  • Artists today utilise media such as light, shadows, sound, and digital imagery alongside traditional materials in sculpture.
  • Site-specific installations, earthworks and kinetic sculptures are all examples of contemporary, innovative uses of the medium.
  • All these elements must be considered when exploring and understanding the technical aspects of sculpture in fine art.