Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bas Relief Stone Carving

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

“Bas-relief” is a phrase that describes a very particular type of sculpture. “Bas” is a French word that means, “low” and an example of a bas relief is the relatively flat design on a coin. Before I knew any better, I used to refer (a bit derogatorily) to bas-relief as “Puffy Painting.” I had no interest in this particular form of art.

However, many years ago, I took a workshop with famed sculptor Eugene Daub in Colorado. We sculpted “in the round” for three days and then studied relief sculpting techniques during the last two days. He laughed at my “Puffy Painting” comment and then proceeded to show me the error in my thinking. Relief, whether “bas” or a high relief (more 3-dimensional), is not simply ‘puffy.’ Relief sculpture is a compression of form. So the “puffiness” has a rather specific shape.

Part of the beauty of relief sculpture is that a sculptor has more opportunity to create an environment, as painters do. Many drawing elements are used, such as perspective and foreshortening. However, since reliefs are still sculpture, and not a truly 2-dimensional art, drawing skills are not enough. I find relief sculpting very challenging because of this compression of form. I have since created several reliefs in plastilina (oil- or water-based clay) for casting into bronze. See the bronze sculpture “Rehearsal” with a colored patina, included here.

But recently, I accepted a commission to create my first relief in stone. That “upped the ante” in that once removed, I will not get to add the material back. The commission is to create a Gable Stone, such as is made in Amsterdam for a private home in Houston, Texas, USA. Gable Stones are placed in an exterior wall of a home, typically near the entryway. They identify the occupants of the homes in some way, but are more personal than a Coat of Arms.

I have been quite active on Facebook lately and started a Fan Page to help me meet others who are interested in art. I will be showing the progress of this Gable Stone project on the Fan Page, so if you are interested in seeing this as live as I know how to make it, please consider becoming a FAN by clicking on the link below. (You must have a FREE Facebook account first, I think.)

I will not be posting any more images of this work-in-progress (like the one below) on this blog or on my Web site, until after the sculpture is complete.
Thank you for your interest!

And, of yes, this is a Texas limestone . . .

October is National Arts and Humanities Month


Andrew said...

This is is very interesting post.

I had never heard of gable stones. Interesting.

Also, it never occurred to me to compare bas relief sculpture to a painting, but it makes sense, both in terms of composition and techniques such as foreshortening.

Laura Grimes said...

I love bas relief. And this piece looks wonderful already!

Kelly Borsheim said...

thanks, you two! I am having a fun time with this, mostly hand work. But now, a bit of a break . . .

ahmed shalaby said...

Wall sculpturing art is a subject to fixed standards and measurements but here our artist has another imagination where he used thickness not exceed than one centimeter with different width and heights.
Here creativity appears because it transmits the viewer to a live wall sculpturing through the reflected light on work, so it gives unreal deepness (sight Illusion).
The artist used this new technique that was originated by nature since 1982 in his earliest shape until it reached spontaneously to what it is now.
To see my art work visits my website:

Jesus / m.d.f wood / 25*35*0.6 cm
Horses struggle / m.d.f wood /60*120*1 cm
Love and tender / m.d.f wood /90*100*1 cm

Byron said...

hey I am an Native Artist from Canada and I was wondering how is limestone to sculpt on...also where do you get it....

Kelly Borsheim said...

Hello Byron,
Limestone is very easy to carve in the respect that it is relatively soft. We have lots around here in central Texas. You up north may enjoy trying some "Indiana Limestone." I am not sure where to get it and have never carved it myself, but I am sure an Internet search would turn up the supplier.
I have no idea if Canada also has limestone.
Limestone is really great for outdoor sculptures - it is supposed to require little care. Good luck.

Byron said...

thank you ...I already used serpentine, alabaster, wonderstone and soapstone which are fairly soft. I find the harder the stone the better the finish.