Assignment 4: Cast works and bas-relief in plaster


We had a two week pose at my life drawing class, so I did figure sketches of the model at the first class and then tried modelling the figure at the second. This is currently still incomplete:

JoSC015 JoSC014 JoSC013JoSC012 JoSC011 JoSC010

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I didn’t pursue this model further as I thought the pose would make it very difficult to mould and cast in wax.

After this, there was the opportunity of a full day life drawing, so I decided to go along to that and model from life – not the easiest thing to do as I found out! It might have been easier to concentrate on sketching and produce the model afterwards, but I came out of the day with a reasonable likeness of the figure:

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This was made in super-sculpey, a soft modelling clay which can be fired in the oven to harden it. I did this and then took a mould of the base and figure separately.

Life sculpture

This is where I learnt that I needed the thixotropic thickener to use with the silicone rubber as my first attempt was a disaster and only resulted in breaking the arm off. The second attempt was more successful, but took about a month to mould as I did each section separately with three coats of rubber and then plaster.


Finally, I had replaced my super-sculpey model in wax – it would have been far quicker to just do it again in wax, but it was a good learning process none the less!

The waxes needed work to tidy them up, then they were sprued, shelled up and then cast:

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They were then sandblasted and the sprues cut off and tidied up. They were both given a smooth finish and patinated. I considered drilling holes through the base and into the figure and attaching together with a bolt, but as they didn’t meet completely, you would be able to see this from some angles, so I left them separate.

Esther 1 Esther 2 Esther 3 Esther 4Esther 5 Esther 6 Esther 7

27 x 15 x 14cm

Map Tile

I quite fancied the idea of a 3D map tile. I visualised it being cast in resin or glass and balanced over a metal grid structure, or maybe cast in ice and filmed as it melted? Similarly, a wax version with multiple candle wicks inserted in could be lit and filmed burning, like the news images of the Kuwait oil fields alight?

S4 Sketchbook p5

This idea could be a goer, so I started constructing a tile to play with. This started out as pieces of foamboard, cut out to form a contour map and then added to with oil based clay. I then added a clay base ready to pour over plaster:

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I tried painting on wax to form a hollow shape first and it was a good job I did, it was very hard to get the wax out, so I suspect I have undercuts which would prevent other materials from being extracted.

So, I then needed a mould of the wax. I first added the road lines to the wax, before making a mould of this in rubber this time, followed by plaster.


The first cast was made using a clear wax. The aim was to have a burning landscape, although it may well all go up in flames once I light it – who knows!

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Once the tile was cast in wax (not as clear as it should have been, but it still looks OK), I then drilled holes through it to insert three taper like red candles, so they could be seen running down through the wax as an oil well would be bored down into a landscape. I sealed these in with the wax drilled out of the holes.


The next cast was made using a crystal clear resin – a substitute for glass which is what I originally imagined it to be made of:


I had some air bubbles in this which I think is a common issue with resin casting (I think a vacuum is needed to avoid this), it also made my workshop a no-go area with the smell for about a week! Apart from that, it seemed to work reasonably well.


Finally (as I thought the expansion of ice might end up breaking the mould), I produced a cast in ice.


The plan for this was a metal grid with the metal rods at various angles. To do this I constructed some supports to be able to arrange them as I went along. The grid gradually took shape and I then welded it all together:


Joining the pieces

Landscape 1a Landscape 1b Landscape 1c Landscape 1d

‘Landscape 1’
26 x 26 x 15cm
Resin, steel

Landscape 2a Landscape 2bLandscape 2c Landscape 2d Landscape 2e

‘Landscape 2’
26 x 26 x 15cm
Wax, string, steel

Landscape 3a Landscape 3b Landscape 3c Landscape 3d

‘Landscape 3’
26 x 26 x 15cm
Ice, steel


It then occurred to me to combine these pieces together in a video – the ‘perfect’ landscape (crystal clear resin), followed by the landscape melting (ice) and burning (wax) as we try our best as a species to destroy it. Maybe I’m deviating too far into mixed-media here, but I thought I would give it a go.

Unfortunately this video is too large to upload to my blog site! However, if I’ve done it right, it should appear here from utube:



Inspired by what looked like a lightning struck tree, I produced some sketches:

S4 Sketchbook p23

What with the growing number of tree diseases around and ash dieback recently coming to our area, I thought a sculpture titled “monument to the last tree” might work and set about trying to create one.

I needed a base to work on as I was going to work on the outer bark of the tree only, so it would be thin and probably not structurally sound in anything other than metal. So I started out with the inner shape of the tree in super-sculpey. I then made a mould of this in plaster:

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Very involved to get a simple shape, but all good moulding experience!

I then worked on this plaster base adding super-sculpey ‘bark’ and then moulding this in rubber and plaster, before casting in wax:

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This could have been done along with the base in retrospect which would have been far quicker and easier.

I then cut the gaps back in, worked on the edges and then sprued it up in a fashion which I hoped would work:


This was shelled up and cast:


Finally, it was patinated and waxed:

Monument to the last tree 1 Monument to the last tree 2 Monument to the last tree 3 Monument to the last tree 4

‘Monument to the last tree’
25 x 25 x 16cm


I have been continuing work on my residency idea (see the 2 large acrylic paintings which I have added to the end of my stage 3 assignment blog). My next idea on this theme was to have a residency ‘under construction’, i.e. the framework of the shape, without the outer shell.

S4 Sketchbook additional 1

I tried to construct this out of wax sprues. This wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, mainly because the temperature was too low for the sprues to be in a very malleable state and they tended to snap rather than bend very much. Doing this in summer should be much more successful.

I constructed the shape I was after, then cut it in half and spued it up. Again, I am using a lot of guesswork and blind hope that this will actually cast!


After shelling and casting, amazingly it all worked out just fine:


This was then reconstructed and placed around a similar shelf as used with my previous sculptures, then patinated.

Residency under construction 1 Residency under construction 2 Residency under construction 3Residency under construction 4 Residency under construction 5

‘Residency under construction’
40 x 18 x 10cm
Bronze, steel

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One Response to Assignment 4: Cast works and bas-relief in plaster

  1. Pingback: Assignment 5: Residencies | Chasing Sparrows

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