Relief Sculpture Art Activity

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Updated on Sep 5, 2013

Are your kids fascinated by griffins, dragons, unicorns, basilisks and other medieval mythical beasts? Explore these cool creatures through sculpture by making your own bas relief beast out of modeling clay and paint. For kids who love all things fantasy, this is the perfect art project; it's sure to spark their imaginations and get their creativity going.

Bas relief, or low relief, is a classic art form in which the image is upraised against a flat plane and has an overall shallow depth. Coins are an example of bas relief.

What You Need:

  • Cardboard reused from an empty cereal or cracker box
  • Modeling clay
  • Craft sticks
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Tempera paint
  • Paint brush

What You Do:

  1. Start by researching mythical creatures of the Middle Ages. Help your child choose one to use for this project or invent one of his own.
  2. Have him draw the basic shape of his creature on the cardboard with a pencil. Don't worry about adding too much detail, since the drawing will be covered with clay.
  3. Now begin building up the relief sculpture. Have him tear off small amounts of clay and mold them into the body parts of his creature (head, body, tail, legs, etc.), then press and flatten them onto the cardboard. If the clay doesn't stick try dabbing a small amount of glue under it. Help him experiment with texture and pattern by layering the clay pieces to create a three-dimensional look.
  4. Carve out facial features and other details to the creature using craft sticks or clay tools.
  5. Now add some color. Have him paint his mythical beast with the tempera paint in any color palette he likes; encourage him to be creative! Don't forget to paint the cardboard background, too.
  6. Once he is done painting, set the sculpture aside to dry.

Jump into imaginative play by creating a story to go along with your new mythical beast relief.

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.

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