Did you know that sculpting has been around since 32.000 BC? It’s a form of self-expression people used for so long to emphasize their love for certain things like gods, idols, rulers, to show their admiration, care and sometimes even their dislike and protest about something. It’s a piece of three-dimensional art that we can see and feel. The most common sculpted form is the human body; from gothic art, through Greek and Roman naturalism to modern and contemporary sculptures, it was the go-to form for expression.
Artists use bronze, stone, marble, wood and clay to create their sculptures. Modern sculptors drifted away from naturalism and focused on phycological realism. They create simpler forms and experiment with materials. Often, they use scraps of metal and other leftovers to develop their pieces, or even paper, lighting, projectors and sound to make it a whole sensory experience. It takes time and patience to create it. As Ruth Asawa said, “Sculpture is like farming – if you just keep at it, you can get quite a lot done.”
Sculpting and Modelling Art Supplies
If you’ve ever been to an art museum, you probably got the desire to sculpt something yourself. Modelling and sculpting are great hobbies, even if you won’t be a professional sculptor and have your works displayed. You can quickly get all the supplies and even take on a beginner’s course to get you started.
Clay is a type of earth with a soft consistency, and it hardens with fire to create sturdy objects. You can use knives, brushes, and your fingers to shape it and combine materials such as metal, minerals, and salts to add colours and textures. For the clay to be suitable for sculpting, it should be smooth and easy to bend, resist the shock of heat and have the needed stiffness for sculptures. There are five main types of clay.
- Water-Based Clay – this clay is cheap and easy to work with. It can be smooth, and it’s pretty flexible. If you keep it in a sealed bag a spray a bit of water once in a while, it will be workable for a long time. It’s suitable for small projects that don’t require much time.
- Oil-Based Clay – this clay mixes oil, wax and clay minerals. It’s used to sculpt fine details and create small sculptures. It doesn’t dry out in the air and doesn’t stick. It’s good for longer projects, but it can be expensive.
- Dough Clay – dough clay is popular among kids and least expensive. Used only for temporary sculptures because it will crack when dried. You can also make it at home with some water, flour, oil, cornstarch and cream of tartar.
- Ceramic Clay – there is earthenware, stoneware, ball, fire and kaolin type of ceramic clay. They are all a combination of clay and other materials like iron and mineral impurities. All of them require baking at certain temperatures and are easily workable.
- Paper Clay – this is a combination of clay and cellulose fibre. It’s very light, and you can add details after it’s dried.
Clay is one of the most accessible materials to work with. You can use it to create anything you can imagine – buy good-quality paint and art supplies and breathe life into it with colours and textures.
Plaster combines water, gypsum, lime, sand and sometimes even animal hair to make a robust, sturdy material. You can use it as a cast, or when it’s dried, you can carve it to get the desired pattern. It was used in Roman and Islamic architecture to create frescoes and reliefs and produce moulds, casts, sculptures, and preliminary models. It’s easy to work with and becomes hard and inert in a short time. You can pour plaster as a liquid and add other materials to make it heat-resistant, more sustainable and durable.
You can buy it in all the art supply stores, and it doesn’t cost much. Because of its plastic nature, plaster allows easy moulding and manipulating. You can also make it at home with just water and school glue. Or if you use store-bought plaster, two parts plaster and 1 part water. If you want to paint it and add a dash of colour, you’ll need polyurethane, sandpaper, acrylic paint and a sponge.
Basic Sculpting and Modeling Tools
No matter what clay or plaster you’re working with, everyone has a tool. They will help you shape, size, and add details to your sculpture. They’re made from different materials and have various endings that will add smoothness, texture and movement.
- Colour Shaping Tools – these will help shape clay, paint, paper clay, and other softer materials. Primarily used for repairing and carving miniatures, they can move and shape the material. They come in different sizes, shapes and firmness depending on your needs.
- Dental Tools – these tools work best on hard materials, and we use them for carving and creating fine lines on all types of clay and wax.
- Clay Cleaning Tools and Knives – good for working with harder materials such as epoxy putty, paper clay and polymer clay. One side is for carving and the other one has a knife-like ending to cut off some excess material.
- Loop Tools – these tools have narrow metal loops that will add smoothness and curves, create patterns and textures. They can have different sizes and circular and triangular endings.
- Clay Modeling Tools – these are responsible for straight smooth lines that define the shape of the sculpture and can work with any material.
- Flexible Blade Knives – these are great if you use polymer clay. They can cut deep and are good for scoring lines.
- Acrylic Rolling Pin – this is a small tool that’s easy to use and clean. It will roll out thin layers of paper clay or polymer clay for you to add to your creation.
- Clay Extruding Gun – this is one of the most exciting paint and art supplies. If you work with softer clays, you can use it to extract specific long and stringy shapes, like stars, circles, squares and some abstractly shaped ones. It’s a similar process as using a cookie press.
- Rubber Stamps – when combined with talcum powder, rubber stamps can create unique textures and designs. You can add ink if you want to add a more intense result.
It’s not uncommon for artists to use paints to liven up the piece of art. Colour has its purpose and can make the sculpture even more authentic, visually appealing and expressive. The most widely used is acrylic paint because it’s waterproof and dries quickly.
To Sum Up
Sculpting and modelling have been around for a long time. People have created some fantastic art that will stand the test of time and be a reminder that human creativity is endless and will never cease to amaze us. If you decide to take sculpting and modelling as a hobby, or even something more serious, do it with all your heart, be bold and try something new.