Posted in Coursework, Part 4

Project 7 Bas-relief

Making a start

The first step was to build a frame and fill it with clay to a reasonable depth. I also tried to ensure that the clay surface started out fairly level:

As an aside: I tried an experimental way to build a frame that was adjustable in size. This is based on some mold making frames that I have previously purchased for a different purpose. The idea didn’t work well, however, and so I will go to just screwing the pieces together in future.

Looking at this I was having trouble working out how best to start. To get going, therefore, I decided to return to a familiar theme for me: A sailing boat on the water. This is a form I have visited a number of times, and so I at least had a mental starting place. I added some wave and sky details to see how well the process picked it up, and similarly a burgee at the top of the mast.

I found the process of working out how to build the form inverted and in the negative quite challenging. I will consider making a simple maquette in the future to help the process.

When I was adding the plaster I also made it thicker than would probably be ideal, as I was less pouring it and more spooning it into the mold. I was slightly concerned that the case wouldn’t pick up detail for it – but shouldn’t have been. The de-mold went fairly well, although the plaster was still fairly damp and soft. After the plaster dried out slightly I cleaned the whole with a water jet:

At the moment it is ready for finishing if needed, and either a bronze paint and verdigris finish or simple toned polish approach would work fairly well. From the exercise I have various learning points:

  • The amount of pressure put on the wooden supports from the clay was higher than expected, so the fixing mechanism needs to be more robust than I originally expected.
  • The process picks up detail and some undercutting fairly well, though it is hard to get the correct curves and surface qualities.
  • Working flipped over and in the negative is fairly challenging, and so I need to work out approaches to simplification of the process.
  • The clay dries significantly during the process, and so may need to be reconstituted in some way before it can be reused.

In the end I decided not to take the piece further. It would have needed some significant work on the plaster to remodel it into something worth finishing. At that point I would have had more of a carving than a cast piece.

Sea rocks #1

This work was based on some sketches that I started looking at. The rocks are on the shores near Silverdale. The shapes and forms of the eroded rocks are very engaging. I was particularly drawn to the eroded forms of the rock with smaller rocks and debris collecting at the bottom of the rocks. I decided that this might make for an interesting work, especially if I could manage to convey the complexity of the eroded forms.

In considering this work I did look for similar works to the feel I wanted, but was relatively unsuccessful. Some of the work of Eduardo Paolozzi has similarities, but that didn’t help too much in working out my way forwards. I decided to simply experiment. (Howard, 2020a)

This was a mixed result to my mind. I really like some aspects of it, but others are less impressive. The idea of the texturing of the pebbles and pieces at the bottom of the rocks has partially worked, but some of the taller rocks look more like small pieces of seaweed than rocks. I like the deep hole in the rock, bit it was particularly hard to clean out. In both cases I decided that the size of the textured bottom section was too small.

I considered for a while how to finish this piece. In the end I decided to add a a layer of white Gesso primary and then paint it with Acrylics:

I also added a wire to the back to allow it to be hung on a wall. The work is at best partially successful. The painting conveys the complexity of the patterning on the eroded rock well – but the piece is overly heavy.

Sea rocks #2

My tutor proposed the idea of working on a series (Thompson, 2020) and I decided that this was a good opportunity to follow this advice. As such, I decided to extend the same concept and try to work on some of the issues of the previous effort.

The first change I decided to make was to reduce the depth of the overall piece, and the second was to provide a larger area for the gravel base. When it came to the gravel I put more focus on creating the larger rocks, as well as trying to improve the overall texture. Lastly, I decided that I would like to add a reference to the grass that I saw in some of the rocks. This tended to be embedded in the rocks and showed a sense of direction in the piece. This is presumably because of the flow of water on the rocks.

I prefer the way that the new version has turned out, especially the new gravel base. One of the ideas I tried was the addition of the impression of a shell in the base by pushing it into the clay. This worked very well, and I may try more of that in the future. One challenge in the design is that there is an almost visible strip around part of the shapes, which I will try to avoid when working with clay in the future.

To finish the piece I decided to use a bronzed effect:

The approach uses a primer, which protects the work, followed by a layer of paint which contains very fine bronze powder. This is then treated with a patination acid (in this case green) and a final touch of bronzed wax. The end result is a work with the look of a bronze work based on the plaster original, and has had a back-cord added to allow it to be hung on the wall:

Lighthouse scene

The last work in this project was based on an image of a lighthouse in Chania, Crete.

A2 sketch of the intended scene
Fig. 1 Hamish Mackie work

I selected this scene as it followed on from the sea theme in the previous works, but allowed a level of perspective to be introduced. As can be seen from the image above my original idea is based on a sunset scene .

The sculpture in Fig. 1 shows the sort of relief that I was aiming for. Although the subject is very different, this is is a contemporary sculpture that shows a strong use of a bas-relief scene. The hope was to do something similar with the lighthouse scene. This scene was also created by making a positive from clay rather than a negative – which I feel is an easier, if longer, approach.

The following shows the process of making the work:

The work as it came out of the mold:

The final lighthouse scene (Unfinished)

On reflection, I decided that the best approach for this work was to paint it with acrylics:

I thought that the use of acrylic paint over a bronzed effect would allow me to pull out the sunset part of the original idea. To try to get the glowing effect of the sunset, however, I used the same gold acrylic paint that I used for the Trapped Value work in Project 8 (Howard,2020). This work significantly pre-dates the painting of the Lighthouse scene. I added a slightly deeper coloured metallic paint to this, a red gold, so as to get a level of graduation in the sky. I then painted the result of the scene with acrylic paint to try to get the feel of the original pastel-on-paper work.

Overall, the work was fairly successful, but is somewhat heavy in terms of the depth of the bas-relief. This was deliberate, but maybe somewhat misguided. The result has a physical presence and good sense of depth, but the overall effect might actually have been more effective in a less deep relief.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Hamish Mackie, H. (2020) [Photograph] of Hamish Mackie, H. (2020) MODEL IN STUDIO, RELIEF. At: (accessed 20/10/2020)


Howard, D. (2020) Project 8 Casting, internal space/ external form. At: (accessed 17/11/2020)

Howard, D. (2020a) Research point: Bas-relief. At: (accessed 17/11/2020)

Thompson, A. (2020) Formative feedback [Attachment to email Assignment 3 feedback sent to Howard, D. 20/07/2020 ]

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