Bas-relief may seem like an unfamiliar term, but you are likely carrying around a tiny bas-relief sculpture in your pocket right now – our coins are all miniature bas-relief sculptures. The term ‘relief’ stems from the Italian word relievare, meaning “to raise,” and refers to any sculpture in which the figure projects from a supporting background. Its use dates back 20,000 years.
Sculptor Mike Leckie uses the technique of bas-relief to show athletes in motion and capture moments of victory. Without the need to focus on background details, Mike is able to portray the athletes’ movement and, in a sense, stop time in the middle of a race or as an athlete clears the high bar. It’s almost as if a three-dimensional photo was taken at that exact moment.
Mike begins by sketching his design onto a hard surface, typically wood, then building upon that with clay. With each layer he makes sure to pay special attention to fine details and ensure that the piece has proper depth. Once he has completed the clay form, he uses silicon to create a negative. Once the silicon negative is completely set, he removes the clay portrait and adds a plaster/cement mixture to the mold, which will then be the final product. After some finishing touches, the sculpture is complete.