Relief sculpture is three dimensional art that projects from a flat surface and it has been an important art form in civilizations throughout the world for many centuries. Often times, the natural world is used both as subject matter and as a space for sculpture relief. By allowing your child to use her environment as inspiration, this project will encourage her to develop keen observational skills and aesthetic awareness
This fun and engaging activity helps your child to explore new art processes and build her art and nature vocabulary skills, while allowing her to investigate the role of texture in art work. Go ahead and take the art making outside and create a clay relief sculpture of the garden. It's a great way for your child to spend some quality time outdoors during the warm summer months making art and gaining inspiration from the plants and flowers that she sees every day.
What You Do:
- Go outside! If you do not have a garden try taking the art making to a local park. This is also a project you can do yourself right along with her, so that each of you can share in the creative process!
- Ask your child to take some time and observe the natural surroundings. Ask her questions like, “What do you see?”, “What shapes and colors can you find in the flowers and plants?”, or “How do you think you could draw those plants?”. Ask her to think of different words to use to describe what she sees around her.
- When your child is ready, give her a pencil to sketch a garden landscape or even a single memorable flower if she prefers. Make sure the sketch is large enough so that she can use it as a guide to make her relief sculpture.
- Using the modeling clay, your child will create the relief portion of this project. Have her mold the clay into shapes that follow the lines of her garden sketch, making a three dimensional version of her drawing.
- Then help her firmly press the clay onto the drawing once she is satisfied with the shape she has made. The clay should stick to the surface of the paper. If it does not, or if it is too dry, try adding some glue underneath.
- Ask your child to add some different textures to her relief sculpture by using the clay tools to create some details (just as artists have done for centuries!) Encourage exploration and experimentation.
- Let the clay dry and then enjoy the homemade sculptural masterpiece!
When your child is done, she'll have made her very own sculpture of the world around her. With this project she'll be building her writing skills and fine motor skills through sketchwork and the manipulation of clay, while expanding her vocabulary and learning to observe and record the natural world. This is a great way to introduce your child to a different art form while getting some outdoor play time in. Try repeating this activity in different seasons. Ask your child to make some predictions about how the garden/outdoor surroundings will change from Spring to Summer to Fall, and then Winter.
Erica Loop has a MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education. She has many years of teaching experience working in early childhood education, and as an arts educator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.