Magazine article School Arts

Sculptural Paintings

Magazine article School Arts

Sculptural Paintings

Article excerpt

After having my interest piqued while playing with a new product created to cut Styrofoam, I bought several. They cut foam like butter and let you create shapes that would he almost impossible to create with a razor knife. The next question was, "How can my middle school students use these tools?" I immediately thought of the sculpture-like paintings of Frank Stella. After searching for strong, smooth, and fairly thin foam, I found the perfect insulation supply at a home-improvement store. This cheap Styrofoam comes in huge sheets that can be cut to fit into your vehicle.

Using Stella's work as an inspiration was a great starting point for the project. This activity equally appeals to the class sculptor, as well as students who enjoy painting. It is a great activity for learning art elements and principles through formalist art. Through the constantly changing experimental process, the creation becomes almost alive. The final outcome is not revealed until the end and students love the results.

Time Needed

Two to three weeks at forty-five minutes a day.


1. Students study the formalist art of Frank Stella.

2. Students use sculpture techniques to create three-dimensional paintings using the art elements and principles of line, shape, space, form, color, value, balance, pattern, and emphasis.

3. Students critique and display their work.


1. After discussing Frank Stella's creative process and showing slides of his work, explain the class project.

2. Have students remove the plastic sheet covering on both sides of their foam piece.

3. While half of the class cuts geometric shapes of different sizes with X-Acto blades, the other half uses the Styrofoam cutters (outside due to fumes) to cut organic shapes like spirals and waves.

4. Switch tools. Remember that a good base will be needed so cut some strong larger pieces. Use both the positive and negative shapes created for design. …

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