Lesson Plan: Relief Sculpture - Face Shadow Box

Shadow Box Mask

Submitted by: Selkie Whitebear, Doll artist/figure sculptor
Unit: Sculpture, Casting and/or Modeling, Nature
Lesson Plan: Mask form - Shadow box framed mixed media collage relief.
Grade Level: Middle school and up



Present this unit along with Native American Art - showing reverence for nature or African Art. Study works of art showing man and his environment. Study a variety of masks and discuss meaning. This unit could be interdisciplinary with science - or done in conjunction with a stream clean up - community service project. Students would collect natural objects along the way for a nature hike. Send out a wish list at the beginning of the year for shells, feathers, colorful stones, seed pods and other natural objects.


Select a theme: "God/Goddess of the Woods"...."Trees are our brothers"....."Cycles of Life"

Demonstrate steps for making the box and steps to make a mask. Show some different painting techniques.


1 Objectives: Students will

* Create a work of around around a theme of natures - or identity (using personal items)
* create a relief sculpted face or mask (choice of mediums)
* work with surface textures for interest
* Select colors for unity - develop center of interest
* Demonstrate craftsmanship
* Write about and critique works of art



E6000 Glue. (Goop - or Hot Glue Gun. and Hot Glue Sticks.)
Cardboard - Gesso.
Plaster Gauze., Plaster Gauze., Spatulas. or Popsicle sticks.
Air-Dry Clay. (or Plaster Gauze.)
Assorted Acrylic Paint. - Gesso. - Brushes. - Shoe Polish (asst.)
Natural findings - dry moss, twigs, bark, shells, leaves, nuts, dry floral, etc. Twine and rope many be used, raffia and hemp


Optional: Frame with Styrofoam strips (easy to cut and available for free as packing materials. May be covered with Tissue paper. and Mod Podge. - then textured and painted.

Another Option: Flexwax. or Moulage. and Plaster of Paris. - Shoe Polish for patina. For life face casts

Students may wish to bring personal objects from home to represent family or self. Students could collect items on a nature hike.



Cut corrugated cardboard to size - suggested 11 x 14 (28 x 35.5 cm) for middle school students. Masonite or Dow board may be used if available. Cut Styrofoam strips for framing (easily cut on a table saw) - 1" x 2" (2.5 x 5 cm) would be maximum size. Send out an all call for nature objects at the beginning of the year so you will have plenty on hand.



1. Optional: Glue Styrofoam strips on to cardboard to make frame - Tape into place with masking tape. Cover strips with tissue paper using Mod-Podge. (May use plaster gauze to cover strips).
2. Paint inside of box and strips with Gesso or white latex paint allow to dry.
3. When dry - spatula some plaster into the box (using regular plaster of Paris) - Spread - not too thick - give a nice texture over the entire board. Add some texture to the frame strips as well. Experiment with different ways to texture - dabbing with a towel - spreading with grooved cardboard - any way that gives an interesting result. Allow to dry.
4. When plaster is dry - paint with acrylic. Experiment with some faux looks - sponging or dabbing colors with a cloth. Colors should enhance natural objects.
5. While waiting for plaster and or paint to dry - the making of the mask can begin. Slab of air dry clay can be shaped over a newspaper hump the desired size of the mask. Work on facial proportions. Eyes can be closed to show reverence for ancestors - or reverence for nature. Smooth the surface of the mask. Firing clay may be used and bisque fired.
OR- Make a plaster life cast of student's face. Student could work in pairs. Parent volunteers would be helpful for younger students.
OR - use Flexwax to make a mold for student face. Cast face in plaster and give shoe polish patina.
6. Paint the face with acrylics when completely cured - OR stain with shoe polishes to give a rich patina. Think of overall color plan.
7. Plan the arrangement of objects. When placing the masks onto the board, try not to put it right in the center. Develop a center of interest. You will want to create a scene of natural findings for the mask to be presented in. Glue into place with e600 (Goop) glue or hot glue.
8. After glue has dried - have a class critique and discuss mood and emotions presented in choice of colors with objects. Write about the personal meaning of the shadow box and experiences making it.

Note from Selkie:

No matter what age a person is, this project can be one that is easily adapted. I have even used it with disabled patients in a nursing home. The mask is the important part as it helps the creator interpret whatever is going on in their life into a face symbol. The more the hands are used in the project, the more the person creating it will get involved. (The photo is one that Selkie make - It is 16" x 20" / 40.6 x 51 cm)



1. Does student show understanding a facial proportions in forming the relief face or show mood or feeling with mask?
2. Does work show an interesting variety of textures?
3. Does work have unity through color selection? Is there a center of interest?
4. Does student exhibit craftsmanship in handling media?
5. Did student write about moods expressed - feeling - meaning of relief sculpture?



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