Sculpting has been one of the most prolific visual art forms practiced across millennia by almost every civilization that has ever existed.
Sculptures and sculptors have shaped generations and civilizations, touching all aspects of art, culture, culinary art, politics and more. It is the innate expression of the inner self on materials which do not possess life to convey human emotions, meaning and beauty.
Sculpting transforms dead stone, marble or other materials into statues or other beautiful creations breathing with life. It transforms simple sundry things into objects of wonder, beauty and joy.
Sculpting beautifies the architecture and landscaping of any city or residence with installations of statutes or just any abstract creation which was made by sculpting.
Sculpting defines spaces, volumes and shapes of modern metropolis architecture.
History Of Sculpting
Earliest sculpting works can be found in prehistoric reliefs and motifs found in ancient dwellings, altars and mounds of the dead. The art of sculpting gave the modern coin its widely accepted form of embossed monetary value, the seal and the insignia.
One prominent figure that immediately pops into anyone`s mind at the very mention of sculpting is the great Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or just “Michelangelo” as he is commonly known.
Of course the history and mastery of sculpting precedes the High Renaissance greats, but the very subject can’t be left without mentioning the splendid fine marble sculpting works of the Florencial prodigy. Pieta and David, his masterpieces are works of wonder which he sculpted before he was even thirty.
Among modern sculptors, Auguste Rodin features prominently since he is well known for his magnifique “Thinking Man” or also called “The Thinker” which is a timeless bronze sculpture located in Paris.
The major types of sculpting forms or techniques are subtractive, which is carving, chipping or in some way removing material to create and form a piece of sculpture, along with additive (also called modelling), casting (or molding a creation from melted material) and mixed technique (constructing, joining or assembling different materials).
Stone Carving or Stone Sculpting
Stone carving as the name suggest is sculpture practiced in stone, carving the rugged edges of different types of stones, churning out a finished product that seems surreal for the stone to have become.
Stone sculpting is also one of the earliest form of sculpting and can be seen in countless Temples, Buddha Viharas, Tombs, Mounds and Archaeological artefacts from across many civilizations throughout history around the entire world.
Wood Carving or Wood Sculpting
Wood carving is amongst the most popular techniques or forms of sculpting. There are sub genres of wood sculpting techniques that range from methodologies to varying forms of wood work.
The most ancient form of wood carving can be found in the form of Totems and Poles carved out for divination purposes. Wood is a material which gives a beginning art amateur a good scope for learning the titbits of techniques like chiselling, carving, etc, and help in learning the basics like blocking and volume, among other skills.
Marble carving is one the best known forms of the sculpting art and the most appreciated owing to the complexity of the process and the rather challenging learning curve that needs years and years of practice. Marble is derived from limestone and offers a good base to carve a curve off the intricate calcite that forms the large marble stones.
Ivory Carving or Sculpting
Ivory carving is an illegal art form as it needs carving out of animal tusks or teeth which are primarily obtained from Elephants, Walruses and Rhinoceros.
The Venus of Brassempouy which is thousands of year old is one of the famous prehistoric ivory sculptures that depicts (along with the Islamic Ivory) how widely prevalent the art form was and how large swaths of animals were poached for the purpose of obtaining ivory to create sculptures.
The art of modelling sand into an original and interesting creation is called “sand art” or “sand sculpting” and has become increasingly popular over the past couple of decades. Since the only 2 materials required for this particular type of sculpting are sand and water, this is probably the best sculpting activity for anyone with limited funds. The only tools you will need are your own 2 hands, or if you prefer, you can also use buckets and shovels of any size you choose.
The pic above is of a sand sculpture (of a dolphin in case you were wondering) which I created with my own 2 hands 🙂
Bronze is another widely practiced and proliferated form of sculpting art. Bronze cast is done with bronze alloys and uses techniques like the lost-wax casting to attain the desirable shapes and figurines. This particular type of sculpting pre-dates marble carving.
Some other popular sculpting forms which can be practiced by kids and adults alike for passion, profession or mere hobby are :
Semi Precious Stone Sculpting and Shell Carving
This is done by carving or sculpting semi-precious stones like rubies, opals, sapphires, etc. They are widely used to craft fashion accessories like rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.
Conches and shells are carved and sold along beaches and in boutiques. They are usually in great demand in tourists spots. They also boost cottage industries and can be an excellent source of income for skilled artisans who traditionally practice this ancient form of sculpting.
Clay Sculpting or Modelling
Clay modelling is almost too much fun. Anyone can enjoy hours and hours of sculpting pleasure with this material.
Clay modelling is also used in Claymation which is actually animation done using clay models and figurines that are animated step by step using a plethora of techniques creating surreal imagery that is fascinating and entertaining to watch.
Sculpting As A Career
Sculpture as a vocation or career option should only be pursued by someone whose only pursuit is sculpture as means of creative expression.
This art form needs much devotion, dedication and perseverance in order to earn a living from it. The skills honed in the process of learning will pay dividends and give other forms of commercial visual art and communication a run for the money. Look for a good school or university with acclaimed mentors.
A mere YouTube video or two which demonstrate sculpting methods wouldn’t be nearly enough to learn the intricacies of becoming a fine sculptor.
As Pablo Picasso rightly inferred, “Sculpture is the art of the Intelligence”.
The art form is best appreciated by developing a keen insight and passion into the various facets of creating sculpture from scratch.
If you are a beginner or just trying to get hands on experience with different types of sculpting techniques, then start with very basic clay modelling. With much practice and determination it may be possible that one day you will create a sculpted masterpiece of your own.