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Sculpture 1

Written by:
Chris Sacker

Level HE4 - 40 CATS

This course has been written and illustrated by Chris Sacker.

Open College of the Arts

Unit 1B, Redbrook Business Park
Wilthorpe Road
S75 1JN

Telephone: 0800 731 2116

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registered in England under number 2125674

Copyright OCA 2008

Document control number: m1_scm.doc
Cover image: Lindsay Harris, ‘Coming of Age 1’, plaster, cane and string 2008

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or

transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy,
recording or otherwise - without prior permission of the publisher
(Open College of the Arts)
About the author

Chris Sacker is a professional practicing and exhibiting Fine Artist, who since
1976 been a visiting lecturer in Fine Art and Sculpture in art schools and
universities in Great Britain and Europe. Amongst these, include Edinburgh
School of Art, Dartington College, University of Hull, Academy of Fine Arts,
Vienna and the Accaademia di Belle Arti, Perugia, Italy.

During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s he was Assistant Sculpture
Consultant, Education Co-ordinator and Lecturer for the Henry Moore Sculpture
Studio in Halifax, where major International Sculptors where invited to make
new innovative works for the Henry Moore Foundation. In this capacity he
lectured to B.A. M.A. and PhD students from the majority of art colleges in
Britain on the projects of the invited artists.

Over the past 20 years, he has been interviewed on many occasions on radio and
television in relation to his own practice as an artist and that of International
Contemporary Sculptors, including Radio 4 ‘ Kaleidoscope’, Radio 3
‘Nightwaves’, The Arts Channel, and Yorkshire Television.
Chris has also taken part in a number of International sculpture conferences in
Italy on ‘Contemporary British Sculpture’ ‘Old Age and Creativity’ and
‘Transformations of Art at the Turn of the 20th Century’. Chris was co-designer
and editor of the book ‘Sculpture on the Page’ [drawings and text] by Tony
Cragg, published by the Whitechapel Gallery and the Henry Moore Trust.

With his own practice, since graduating in 1973, Chris has exhibited his work in
galleries and museums, nationally and internationally including Britain, France,
Germany, Italy, Israel and the Ukraine.

Recent major exhibitions include; the Biennale of Florence and the X11 Biennale
of Sculpture in Cararra, Italy.

Chris’s work is held in a number of major museums and collections which

Include; Museo Luigi Pecci, Prato and Museo di Scultura, Cararra, Italy.

Course overview
Course outcomes
Health & Safety considerations
Project and assignment plan

1: Construction Relief
Project 1: Shallow geometric relief sculpture
Project 2: Open space relief sculpture
Assignment 1: A relief sculpture

2: Stacked construction
Project 3: Building 3 dimensional structures
Project 4: Large drawings from maquettes
Assignment 2: Large stacked sculptures

3: Modelling in clay and plaster

Project 5: Still life drawing and modelling in clay
Project 6: Modelling in plaster
Assignment 3: A modelled sculpture in clay or plaster

4: Casting
Project 7: Casting internal space/ external form
Project 8: Bas-relief
Assignment 4: Cast works and bas-relief in plaster

5: Carved sculpture
Project 9: Drawing/ model in clay and cast block for carved
Project 10: A carved sculpture
Assignment 5: Two carved sculptures

Appendix A: when you submit your work for final

Appendix B: suggested reading

Course overview
Welcome to the Open College of the Arts course in sculpture. Sculpture1 is
designed to introduce you to the art of sculpture in all its aspects and as the
course progresses through Sculpture 2 and 3 you will be well equipped to
becoming a motivated, independent sculptor.

You may have chosen to follow the OCA course in sculpture by already
completing the Art and Design course that included a section on sculpture. You
may have a private desire to try your hand at sculpture or possibly have been
inspired by visits to museums, galleries or sculpture parks and have an interest
in the history and development of sculpture and wish to experience the
practicalities of this unique art form.

It is not expected that you have a previous knowledge or experience of sculptural

techniques but if you have done some construction, basic DIY, clay modelling,
carving or casting so much the better. Some of you may have knowledge of
woodworking techniques and skills and be able to cut and construct various
joints. You may have experience in woodcarving or stone carving. Some of you
may have worked with metal and be adept in brazing and welding. Others may
be skilled at sewing. All these skills are invaluable and extremely useful in your
armoury as a sculptor, and if you wish to utilize your skills within the projects,
don’t be afraid to do so.

During Sculpture 1 you will be introduced to a series of projects and assignments

that utilise various techniques for making and producing sculptural works.

There are four main ways of making sculpture, construction, modelling, casting
and carving each of which will be covered in Sculpture1.
The course consists of a series of projects and assignments each of which includes
art historical references, health and safety issues in relation to tasks you will
experience and the materials and tools you require for each of the projects.

As the course progresses and you gain in confidence, the course is designed to
empower you to be a self-motivated student.
In the series of projects and assignments, you will be predominantly dealing with
the ‘hows’ of producing sculptural form.

The projects in the course are designed to give you an insight into sculptural
practice and methodology by giving you the opportunity to develop your ideas
and skills in an individual manner.

The assignments are aimed at enabling you to develop an individual sculptural

language, linked with the acquisition of skills and techniques experienced in the

Linked with your practical sculptural practice, it is of major importance that, as a

student of sculpture, you have an insight and acquire knowledge of the history
of the subject. This knowledge can be gained by visiting art galleries, museums
and sculpture parks as well as individual reading and Internet research.

The set book Herbert Reads’ ‘Concise History of Modern Sculpture’ is referred to
throughout the course and it is important that you purchase a copy so that you
continually have it has a reference in your studio.

Within the course book you will find a historical time line of 20th century art
movements that were influential in the development of sculpture. This includes a
description of the major movements and sculptors of that genre, which will be
referred to within the set projects and assignments. There is also a reading list
that includes books and publications that will be a help to you in your
understanding and research into artists and movements that dealt with sculpture
during the 20th century.
1: Construction reliefs

At the beginning of the 20th century, a radical departure took place in

sculptural practice. Artists began to
use new materials and move into
new aesthetic domains. Previously,
throughout history, sculptors used
materials that were either modelled,
carved or cast in metal, giving them
a timeless permanence, but now,
with the development of new
materials, available to them,
sculptors were now technically able
to construct things which were not
possible in earlier years. Until the Ben Nicholson,
Relief 1935
20th century, sculpture had been
‘solid’, it stood permanent and timeless, made from materials such as carved
marble and stone or in cast bronze. Sculptors began to question its physical basis
and a change occurred in the evolution of sculptural form. By the beginning of
the 1920s sculptors were using new materials and techniques of construction,
some of which were becoming commonplace, for example plastics had become
readily available and the process of welding had developed giving the artists an
opening into a new language of three-dimensional form.

If we look at the photographic illustrations in Concise History of Modern

Sculpture: Picasso’s ‘Construction in Wire’ 1930 (plate 66), Gabo’s ‘Monument for
a Physics Observatory’ 1922 (plate 102) and Tatlin’s ‘Monument to the Third
International’ 1919-1920 (plate 96), sculpture had become like drawing in space.
The major sculptural art form of this period was termed ‘Constructivism’ and is
used to define a type of totally abstract (non-representational) art which included
relief constructions and sculpture. The works produced were ordered, rational,
minimal, geometric and special. The works produced were extremely
experimental in the use of the industrial materials of the time.

It is suggested that you look at the works of:

• Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
• Antoine Pevsner (1884-1962)
• Laslo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
• Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953)
• Kasimir Malevich (1878-1953)
• Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)
• Victor Pasmore (1908-1998)
• Pablo Picasso (1881 -1973)

Your first project is to research into constructed sculpture through books and the
internet if it is available to you. Look into the movements and sculptors who you
think produced work in this manner. Examples can be found in Herbert Read’s
Concise History of Modern Sculpture. Make notes and drawings of the ones you
find most inspiring, note what materials were used and the methods of
construction etc.

We would like you to collect as many different materials as possible for this and
later projects. The more materials you can obtain the better as a diverse selection
will enable you to make choices and alternative decisions. So collect far more
than you immediately need.

These should include various lengths thicknesses and blocks of wood in various
sizes, plywood and block board of various thicknesses, wooden mouldings,
pieces of metal sheet – plain and perforated, dowel of different diameters,
cardboard, flexible plastics, pieces of carpet, polystyrene packaging, plastic
objects and bottles etc.
Health & Safety
Your personal safety as a sculptor is paramount and certain common sense rules
should be observed when working in your studio or workspace for your own
personal protection.

In this set of projects your personal protection equipment (PPE) is quite minimal
in relation to the tasks you will be performing.
From the outset of the course it is highly recommended that when you are
working on the projects that you always wear safety boots – even a dropped
hammer can break a toe!

When using power tools such as an electric jigsaw, always wear eye protection in
the form of safety glasses or goggles.
When handling timber, especially unplanned or old, safety gloves are

With all adhesives read the manufacturer’s instructions in relation to cleaning

your hands etc.


Project 1: Shallow geometric relief sculpture

Once you have purchased and collected your materials and have them in
your workspace we would like you to start with your first constructed project, a
geometric relief sculpture.

A relief sculpture is an intermediate between a painting and a sculpture and

usually hangs on a wall.

For this project you will need:

• base board of plywood or block board 600x300 mm approximately. The
size and dimensions are your choice, you could even use a square or
triangular format
• a number of pieces of plywood, cut to different lengths and shapes e.g.
squares, triangles and circles. If you want thicker pieces these can be
laminated together with adhesive.
• tenon or cross-cut saw, a jigsaw for circles and irregular or organic shapes.
• sandpaper of various grades.
• adhesives such as Evo-stik.
• undercoat paint, matt emulsion paint (white).
• one-inch paintbrush.
• small screwdriver.
• mirror plates and appropriate screws.

Once you have decided on the size and proportions of your base board, begin by
selecting and arranging your low-relief block forms within the confines of the
edge of your board, looking for pleasing arrangements of the forms (the

Do not accept your first arrangements. Take time to look, arrange and re-arrange.
Make drawings of the different arrangements that you have made in your
sketchbook. It is all part of the decision-making process.

When you have made the final decision for your composition, glue the pieces to
your base board using your adhesives. The use of these adhesives will give you
time to ‘fine tune’ your composition. When the adhesive is dry, sandpaper the
work to remove rough edges and give the surface a ‘key’. Paint all surfaces with
undercoat and finish with matt white paint. Stand or fix your completed relief to
your studio wall with screwed mirror plates. Now appraise your work in your
learning log. Did you achieve the composition you intended?

If you have a work light, such as an angle-poise lamp, light the relief
construction from different angles to see the effect of light on your finished relief
sculpture and make a series of tonal drawings.

Sue Goode(Student)
‘Facial Relief’, Wood