Relief Sculpture

Production and Criticism Assignment


1. Take another look at the architectural model you made in the previous lesson. Look for a site in or on that model where you think a relief sculpture would best be placed. If your sculpture is going to have a powerful impact on those who see it, what size should it be made to represent it properly in/on the model?

2. Plan a design to express an idea that you respect or believe in, and which you think many of those who visit this site will enjoy.

3. Create a relief sculpture which reflects your design. (See the list of materials below.) Sketch several ideas on unlined paper.Then, having chosen the most promising idea, cut a piece of cardboard in the largest shape needed for the base of the relief (in a size you can place in your model to show how it would appear if made to its full size.) On this cardboard base create a collage* using pieces of material no thicker than a quarter-- such materials as pieces cut from a manila folder, scraps of string and fabric. You will be covering this collage with aluminum* foil*, and the raised parts are important for an effective design.

Here's a list of materials to get together:

  • architectural model from the previous lesson
  • cardboard
  • scissors
  • white glue
  • a quarter of a manila file folder
  • scraps of string and fabric
  • heavy-duty aluminum foil (the size determined in number 1 above)
  • glue mixed with water to a brushable consistency
  • brushes
  • pencils with blunt tips
  • newspapers for desks (optional)
  • damp paper towels (optional)
  • shoe polish
    (optional-- a great means of adding color [patina
    *] to a foil relief. Wipe on enough to color the deepest parts of the design, then wipe it off of the highest parts of the design)
  • any other materials that will improve the relief sculpture


4. When you have finished gluing on the parts of the collage, evenly brush its entire surface with diluted glue. Then place a piece of aluminum foil over the collage which is slightly larger than the size of the cardboard base. Press the foil down working from the center outward. Gently press the foil around the edges of shapes, using the pads of your fingers, trying to keep the foil from tearing. If the foil tears, you may patch holes with small pieces of foil. Fold the edges of the foil onto the back of the cardboard. Using a blunt pencil, trace the design so you can see the outlines of shapes on the foil. Develop some areas with strong patterns. This will help to make the smooth areas easier to see. You may choose to add color to your sculpture. Shoe polishes can be great for this, but experiment with several types of media (colored waxes, oil paints, acrylic paints, permanent markers, etc.) on some scraps of foil. Rubbing these surfaces can add further variation since color will tend to be removed from higher surfaces. Save these experiments to show later.

5. Place your relief sculpture into its position on your architectural model.

6. Discuss your responses to the following questions with the other members of the class; and then write your own response in the space that follows each question.

  1. Considering the scale of your architectural model, what would be the dimensions of the relief sculpture if you produced a version for the actual site? What differences would there be between this model of your sculpture and a full sized version; and between viewers' experiences of them?

  2. What factors in the designs of the site and of the sculpture make the sculpture well suited to this placement? . . . and to this time in history?

  3. How would you explain your design to a public concerned about spending their tax dollars for the production of this work?

  4. If you were commissioned to make the sculpture for which this foil relief is a model, what materials would you use in the full size version? (Consider wood, stone, plastic, metal, etc.) What might influence your choice of materials?

  5. What contemporary art issues and/or influences effected your work on this piece? Analyze their effect on your work. (Hint: You may need to read a list of some contemporary art issues.)

  6. What works of public art* are there in your community? How has your work on this lesson affected your thinking about public art? (Hint: Have you seen a mural, sculpture, or creatively designed furniture in your local park, library, fire or police station, post office, or other public facility? If not, can you imagine how public art could improve the experience of such environments?)




Return to the lesson on Relief Sculpture or go on to the second relief sculpture assignment: Making a Time Line.