When Sculpture Meets Painting

Updated: Mar 30

Get the best of both worlds by having a painting that pops out at you with sculpted elements.


I've always enjoyed doing art, but throughout my life painting was something that I picked up off and on. I've been getting more into acrylics, but as I worked with them I wondered if there was anything else I could add to the painting. It felt nice painting a scene, or creatures, but I felt a little frustrated, like sometimes it would be missing something. I also enjoy sculpting, and one of these times while I was sculpting I wondered if there was some way I could bring these two mediums together. Come to find out, yes you can mix them together, and people have made sculpted paintings before.


Since I was just figuring out how to go this, I decided to start out simple. I sculpted a little hummingbird to start with. The design was fairly simple to work with and had only three parts. The body and the two wings. It was really nice working with air dry clay for this. When I wanted to imprint textures into the bird I would just add some water, and adjust the stiffness of the surface to whatever I needed. When the clay hardened I glued it to the canvas. I also sketched out my plans for the background of the painting.


I decided to start with the base colors across all across the sculpture. These colors may seem a bit strong right now, and may look a bit strange. It's ok. I put some of the darkest colors first, with plans to work my way up to the highlights from there.


See? It's already looking much better. I went through a lighter green, followed by a yellow green to get the color, and highlights I wanted. (The lightest of which I only lightly brushed on top to allow the details to stand out.)


I did the same for the other parts of the bird, but white works a little differently. There is only so bright your highlights can get, and you have to be careful how you tint your lights and shadows. Stray too far from white, and you have an object that looks like it's a different color. Stick too close, and the effect looks flat. I brushed over the top with white on the selected parts, but allowed some of my original cream to peek through. In addition I got a little cyan, and watered it down. I tinted some of the recesses in the sculpture where I thought some of the shadows would congregate, creating a bit of cooler shadows.


I added gold leaf with glue. I used a brush to place the adhesive, then lightly placed the foil on top.


When you first put the gold leaf on it's important to cover all of the pattern you want to appear. this may cause come overspill of the gold leaf, but you just get a soft brush, and sweep the excess away when it's dry.


And my first 3D painting was done! I'd consider this a win for me. I got to play with clay (which is always a plus), and bring it to a medium I can hang on my wall relatively easily. Next time you want to make a painting, but feel like something different, or that your project could use something to make it a little more 3D, I would recommend trying it.

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