Our guide to sculpture
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to sculpture

First published date January 30 2014 Amended date May 01 2015

Are you fascinated by the shape and outline of a sculpture fashioned from metal, stone, wood or even paper? And would you relish the opportunity to create your very own, one-off sculpture carved from a block of wood or bent and manipulated from metal wire? Whether you admire the controversial Verity by contemporary artist, Damien Hirst, or Rodin's marble masterpiece, The Kiss, why not try out one of sculpture courses taking place in a town near you – it might just be the first step you need to a flourishing new hobby. From complete beginners to the more experienced art student, this is your chance to create something beautiful, personal and everlasting from an unassuming raw material.


Different types of sculpture

Sculpting has been around for centuries. Many sculptures were created to honour or commemorate a certain person, god, goddess or place while others are simply an artist's own creative statement. A sculptor will usually specialise in a particular type of sculpture like a bust or commemorative statue.

In basic terms, a sculpture is made by either adding or removing something from the raw material. Carving, chiselling or filing a block of solid oak or marble for instance is one process of sculpting that 'takes away', while welding together metal pieces or adding lumps of clay to build up the work is a method of 'adding on'.

Other techniques such as casting, moulding or stamping (for example pouring liquid or molten raw material into a mould) allows the artist to produce several copies of the same piece. Alternative sculpting materials include paper, ice and sand whereby artists create truly striking works of art, even if they might be temporary. Modern and contemporary artists have pushed the boundaries even further with a number of non-traditional forms using unusual materials and abstract concepts such as sound and light, found objects and recycled items.


Sculpting for all

There is a sculpture course to suit everyone – whether you want to take up a new hobby in a fun, relaxed environment or develop and widen your artistic repertoire with a new skill. An intensive introductory class will not presume any previous knowledge and present you with a range of sculptural techniques on how to handle different materials from plaster to salvaged materials or found objects. Students may be asked to bring with them a basic set of hand tools (saw, hammer, pliers, wire cutters, scissors etc) and wear overalls or old clothing. Basic materials are usually included.

Get stuck into a series of short projects looking at carving, casting and construction, plaster modelling and working with wood, metal and clay. You might want to study the human form and sculpt people in clay working from a life model, focusing on hands, feet and heads.

There are courses on paper sculpture and experimental sculpture using recycled materials, as well as lessons in how to make a rubber mould and cast a small sculpture in clay. Why not make a sculptural object in steel by cutting, bending, welding and joining metal and create a striking, inspirational piece out of unused and ugly scrap metal!

A three-year undergraduate sculpture course is perfect for students wanting to explore every aspect of sculpture, especially the relationship between thinking and making.

Have a quick glance at the wide-ranging sculpture courses on offer as there is sure to be something to ignite your creative flame!


How about...?

...working as a sculptor in the film industry creating special features and props for TV and film such as an ancient Greek statue or giant polystyrene lollipop? Careers like these are tricky to break into so be prepared for masses of hard work before you reach your goal. You must have talent, creative flair and a great work ethic combined with a solid grounding in the art and design world. Many sculptors are self-employed and work in a freelance capacity for various production companies.


World famous sculptures

David is a Renaissance sculpture of a standing male nude carved from marble. This impressive and world-renowned statue is by Italian artist, Michelangelo and represents the Biblical hero David. Today it stands in the Accademia Gallery in Florence.


The Angel of the North is a striking contemporary steel sculpture of an angel by Antony Gormley and is one of the most talked-about pieces of public art in the UK. Located near the A1 in Gateshead, England, it stands 20m tall with an impressive 54-metre wingspan.


The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin dated around the 1900s. It shows a nude life-size male figure sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, deep in thought. The Thinker has been cast several times and can be found around the world.


Verity is a modern, controversial sculpture created by Damien Hirst in 2012. Standing on Ilfracombe Pier, it is a stainless steel and bronze statue of a pregnant woman, half of it revealing the internal anatomy of the woman and unborn baby. She is holding aloft a sword while carrying the scales of justice and standing on a pile of law books.


By Lara Sargent

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