Styrofoam Sculpture – Floral Foam

Subtractive Non-objective Expressive SculptureStyrofoam Subtractive Sculpture out of Floral Foam

Cut. Chisel. Scrape. Saw. Sand. Creating subtractive sculptures out of Styrofoam floral is fun, easy, and inexpensive! This is a great project to explore abstract or non-objective design as well as leaning about positive and negative space. Student’s can be challenged to incorporate texture or other elements/objects into the sculptures as well as seen in this foam sculptures by a student at Nicolet High School.

 Original lesson by The smART teacher- Expressive Sculpture by Jodi Hurt. (Please give credit to Jodi Hurt for this lesson!) We followed Jodi’s directions closely with a few changes. Here’s how we did it…

***NEW Examples Below!


Floral Foam, Steel Rasps-Needles Glue, Acrylic Paint (Metallic adds awesomeness!), Wood Base & Hot Glue, Acrylic Metallic Paint

Objective: Learn and practice subtractive sculpting and modeling techniques used by sculptors (scraping, cutting, chiseling, sawing, sanding). Demonstrate good craftsmanship by creating a non-objective subtractive sculpture inspired by sculptors Isamu Noguchi & Henry Moore. Students will symbolize an emotion through form, line, shape and color. They will use subtractive sculpting techniques to define an abstract or non-objective form.

DAY 1 Delivery: Subtractive Sculpture & Space

  1. Subtractive sculpture involves the removal of material from a block through cutting, chiseling, chipping, or scraping away.
  2. Wood carving, stone or plaster sculpture are the main sculptural processes which are subtractive.
    • Other Subtractive Materials: Clay, Chalk, Plaster, Wood, Soft salt blocks, Artificial Sandstone, Soap, Wax, etc.
  3. Subtractive sculpture is the oldest form of sculpture.
  4. The greatest stone sculptor ever known, Michelangelo, created his works carving figures directly out of stone without the aid of a preliminary work (sculpting out of clay or plaster first) and pointing devices. (Show examples)
    1. “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it” Michelangelo
    2. “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo
    1. Space is the area above, below, between, within and around the main objects in a piece of art. Space is present in 2D & 3D works of art
    2. Positive Space-the shapes or forms (main objects) in an artwork
    3. Negative Space- the space that surrounds the main objects. It is the empty or non-interesting space between and around the main objects
  6. Introduce students to the sculptors Isamu Noguchi & Henry Moore. (As we look at these artists, observe how they used positive and negative space)
    1. Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture, and set designs. His work, at once subtle and bold, traditional and modern, set a new standard for the reintegration of the arts. (Show examples of his work.)
    2. Henry Moore (30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986) Henry Moore was an English sculptor and artist. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. Moore’s works are usually abstracted views of the female body, apart from a phase in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces showing negative space. (Show examples of his work.Video of Moore’s Sculptures)

Group Activity: As a group, brainstorm a list of emotions. Discuss how emotions can vary based on what types of lines and shapes an artist used (Ex. feeling happy vs. angry or sad). What types of lines express different emotions (curved & swirly are happy lines, Angular lines: zig-zag & diagonal are active and can have a feeling of tension, Vertical & horizontal lines are calming)

Go over project handoutNon-objective Expressive Sculpture

Project Objective: Create a non-objective sculpture using subtractive methods. Design a sense of movement by manipulating form, and expressing an emotion through the use of color.

  • Focus on creating:
    • Variety of Depths-Interesting Positive & Negative Space (at least 2 holes),
    • Visual Movement leading your eye around the sculpture
    • Show emotion through type of line/shape:
      1. rounded, curved lines & shapes= happy/pleasing emotions
      2. jagged, angular lines & shapes= angry/unhappy ones,


  1. In sketchbook, do at least 2 thumbnail sketches for a design for your sculpture. **MUST have at least 2 HOLES
  2. Use rasps to mold & shape your sculpture.
  3. Use sandpaper to get it really smooth.
  4. Coat entire sculpture with glue.
  5. Paint with acrylic paint a SOLID Color first.
  6. Use the Dry Brush technique to brush on a darker value or metallic color to help exaggerate the crevasses or metallic sheen.
  7. Paint base with acrylic paint.
  8. Attach sculpture to base with glue.

ACTIVTY Day 1: Sketchbook Sketches

In sketchbooks, students are to work on 2 thumbnail sketches for their Styrofoam Block sculpture design.

Day 2 Delivery/ACTIVTY: Practice & Teacher Guided Demo

Preparation: Pre-Cut 1×3” Styrofoam blocks-one per student

  1. Go Over Tools-Carving Tools:
    1. Steel Rasps: for carving larger spaces
    2. Needle Files: for small spaces and refining your design
    3. Knives (Optional): for cutting away larger blocks
    4. Sandpaper: for additional smoothing and refining
  2. Teacher Guided Demo:
    1. Lightly draw your design onto Styrofoam
    2. How to carve using various tools (scraping, cutting, chiseling, sawing, sanding)
    3. What to do with ALL THAT GREEN DUST: throw it in the trash-NEVER blow it in someone’s face!! Use a bristle brush to brush the green dust into your tray, then into the trash can.
    4. Remember to carve large areas in SMALL chunks! If you try to cut away a large block to quickly it will most likely break off!
    5. How to cut holes in the foam without breaking the design.
    6. If you accidentally break a large section off, DON”T THROW IT AWAY–use wire to attach it (may require some redesign of your idea).

Activity DAY 3-6: Subtractive Styrofoam Block Sculpture: Non-Objective Expressive Sculpture

**Finish sculpture by coating it with glue (let dry). Paint with black acrylic paint, then dry-brush paint over the black with metallic acrylic paint.

8th Grade 2016 Examples

Additional Examples of this type of project:

If you choose to use this lesson or to repost it (written info or photos), please link it back to my blog. Create Art with ME

  1. Melissa Maxwell
      • Abby Hoffman
  2. Cindy Watson

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