Ami from HANDMAKERY is back today to share Part 2 of her Sculpture with Kids: Ugo Rondinone Artist Study series! This time, she and her kids study Ugo’s Human Nature installation that was at Rockefeller Center in New York City in 2013. Using a similar technique to Part One, Ami explores paper mâché and magnets, along with splatter painting, to create these mesmerizing pieces in her art studio in Carbondale, Colorado.
Please check out Part One for the full tutorial!
And be sure to scroll down and check out the video of the finished stacking sculptures in action.
Let’s find out more from Ami, in her own words…
For those of you who loved Part One of our Sculpture with kids series focused on Ugo Rondinone‘s Seven Magic Mountains, we bring you a similar process with a completely different outcome focused on his giant 3D sculpture project, Human Nature. Made up of nine colossal stone figures, ranging from 16 to 20 feet and weighing up to 30,000 lbs each, Rondinone sculpted each piece from rough-hewn slabs of bluestone.
Are you and your kids ready for a second project inspired by the ever-versatile, Swiss-born, New York-based artist who often creates larger than life installations? Follow us as we create our own version of these stylized, free-standing, figurative sculptures!
Once again, these sculptures will be magnetic. So not only are they a multifaceted and magnificent art project, but they are also a handmade toy built with elegance and solid strength.
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Supplies needed to make Ugo Rondinone inspired figures with kids:
~ Floral foam (wet version)
~ Simple tools or butter knife for carving
~ Work surface (if outside), like a plastic cutting board
~ Plastic bowls
~ Permanent marker
~ Magnets (you can also experiment with a variety of sizes)
~ Masking tape, 1-inch
~ Newsprint or newspaper
~ Paper mâche mix, or flour and water
~ Plastic, like a shower curtain, or dropcloth
~ Plastic egg carton (optional but fantastic way to allow air drying)
~ Magnetic base (optional) or anything steel (tabletop, pan or tray)
~ Tempera paints (black, white, neons)
~ Wooden sticks
How to make Ugo Rondinone inspired figures with kids:
1. Begin by viewing the full process of the Human Nature Installation to the day of its debut at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. This will give you visuals of this larger-than-life sculpture project and give young artists inspiration to reach new heights. Explore #ugorondinone on Instagram and on the wondrous web to get a strong visual sense of his solid, stone, soaring, yet sophisticated style!
2. Sketch a variety of simple shapes. Explore how simple 2D shapes can become 3D forms. With older artists, discuss proportion of the human form. Gather inspiration and key into Ugo’s figurative sculptures. Notice with his stacked and balanced bouldering forms, the figures don’t have arms. Prepare paper pieces as patterns so young artists have a guide as to the general sizing of the head, torso, and legs.
3. Prepare large foam pieces into smaller, more manageable pieces by cutting up into smaller blocks for the head and body while preparing longer, yet solid and stable blocks, for the legs. It’s ideal to keep figures at a max height of 10” or shorter so they have more stability and balance, less chance of tipping. The more accurate the prepared block sizes are to the anticipated outcome, the more utilized and less wasted the material. It’s ideal to have young artists begin with creating three main simple components: head, torso, and two legs so they don’t end up with too many complicated parts and pieces. Sculptures can advance with age and experience. Start simple and solid and short for sure success!
4. Children can simply and slowly subtract surface area to create their building blocks. Experiment with simple carving tools which may include pallet knives or simple household butter knives or flat edge kitchen utensils. It’s important to keep foam pieces small, and ideal for pieces to have both a flat top and bottom so pieces can simply stack with balance. Working with floral foam is messy so have a bowl for shavings, but it’s also a really affordable sculpting medium with endless possibilities.
5. When creating a variety of forms, really look at Ugo’s natural “bouldering forms” consisting of small jagged angles on the edges so they really take on the look of real rocks or boulders in nature. Floral foam cuts like butter, it can also be somewhat shaped and sculpted by squeezing. Using hands to squeeze forms is definitely a favorite technique we discovered. It’s very satisfying to cut foam but be sure to remind young artists with this subtractive method, cut a little at a time as you can’t “put back” what has been taken away. We loved how the subtractive method was a complete connection to carving stone, yet 1000x easier. Kids are natural sculptors with all materials, especially if you have a few example pieces to lead them into the process. Remember that with process art, it’s truly about the experience.
Important Note: There must be a natural or defined balance to make this project a success with an end goal of three to four small overall pieces so the overall stacked sculpture doesn’t get too weighted on top or tippy as the materials are extremely lightweight. Smaller/wide/flat pieces provide sturdier boulders rather than tall/narrow pieces. This is all part of the “experimental process” of learning balance and dabbling in sculpture.
6. Use a black permanent marker to pre-mark the positive and negative attraction of each magnet so you know which side of each magnet “faces up” and which side “faces down”. Once foam pieces have been sculpted into tiny boulders, use 1-inch masking tape to secure a neodymium magnet (small yet extra strong) on the top center and on the bottom center of the foam piece. Be sure to not implant the magnet too deep, keep all magnets flush with the surface. Tape doesn’t want to stick to the foam so you’ll need to take the tape completely around the foam piece to “tightly” reconnect to itself. For strength, create another tape loop around the middle of the foam piece. It’s important to only have one to two layers of lightweight masking tape on top of each magnet so the magnet doesn’t lose any strength as future paper-mâcheing will also add a few layers. It’s also important for the magnet to stay embedded on the surface in the center of each piece. This is the most technical part of the project so staying patient and having extra hands is very helpful while also remembering it’s so easy to restart with a fresh piece of tape.
Tip: Be sure to “test the magnet connection” between the two pieces you plan on partnering before taping the magnets in place.
7. Time to paper mâché. Cut a small handful of approximate 3x3” pieces of newsprint which can be cut into smaller pieces as needed with scissors.
8. Mix up a batch of paper-mâche which is basically a dry powder plus cold water combination which equals complete goodness. You can also use flour and water (equal parts) and mix with a whisk until you have a glue-like consistency.
8. Prepare a work surface by laying down plastic (or simply use a table that you don’t mind getting messy and that you can clean with a sponge and water). Apply a small amount of paper-mâche onto your hands and rub both sides of the paper so both sides become saturated and sticky. Be careful to apply no more than two layers to cover each foam boulder. Gently rub and smooth along the way. This is a very soothing and peaceful process most makers greatly enjoy.
9. Dry pieces by propping them up on plastic egg cartons with open airflow or bask pieces in the sun for 24 hours, usually overnight.
10. Once pieces are completely dry, experiment with stacking, arranging, and balancing. The process is simple, you can keep making more and more pieces to work with and/or make new and improved creative combos. The key is to stay flexible in your artful experimentation.
Tip: Placing sculptures on a magnetic surface is most ideal to strengthen the overall sculpture and allow them to stand solo, otherwise they can tip over as they’re incredibly light-weight. We were able to use our studio’s steel tables and a metal tray to proudly display these pieces in progress. Sculptures can easily be held but won’t stand solo without a magnetic surface beneath, something to consider depending on your end goal. Magnetic bases can be purchased for a modern/strong sculpture base to add weight and magnetic support to your final creations or you may find something better for your end-goal such as a table, pan, tray, or block with steel aka magnetic properties.
11. Paint each boulder a natural, stone-like color using tempera paint. We used black and white to mix a variety of grays, and then added some simple rough-n-rock-like texture.
12. Allow pieces to completely dry.
13. Figurative sculptures can remain as natural stone or you may add Ugo Rondinone’s signature pallet of neons for an exciting element of expressive color to create more of a statement. We splatter painted using a toothbrush and stick method for an eye-catching masterpiece.
14. Once dry, you now have an interchangeable, colorful, and child-friendly, stacking toy! For older artists, figures can be fantastic, festive, and fun for making and creating stop motion films!
Watch the video of these sculptures at play!
Be sure to check out our Part One of this series for more inspiration!
A little about Ami:
Ami is the owner, creative director, and lead educator at HANDMAKERY in Carbondale, Colorado. She was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado and lives as a 4th generation Carbondale native with her husband and two children. Ami’s passion for art began as a little girl. Highlights include her kindergarten teacher telling her she was going to be an artist when she grew up, winning a shopping spree for designing the most “glittered up holiday ornament” as a kinder, and winning first place, SEVEN years in a row as a child, in the “Color the Cover” contest hosted by Carbondale’s Valley Journal, today known as the Sopris Sun. Ami grew up sewing and crafting handmade goods with her mother and sisters, and when she had the opportunity to work with young children in a studio experience in high school, she knew she had found her passion: ART + CHILDREN + HANDS-ON CREATIVITY! She started HANDMAKERY in 2013 and has never looked back.
Follow Ami on her brilliant Instagram where she delights us every day with incredible art projects, gorgeous photos of Colorado, and her signature alliterations.
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