Introduction: Concrete Memorial Relief Sculpture of My Pup

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

If you've ever lost a beloved pet you know the pain... Just like with people (or maybe worse) you want to make a great memorial. I love the longevity of concrete, and have pushed the limits more and more. I love how this turned out and it's completely my own design process.


To Finish:

Step 1: Make the 'Master' Sculpture

Plasticine Sculpture Original:

First I sculpted my sweet Pup in plasticine. Actually, I like Plasticine even though it seems like a juvenile media. It doesn’t dry out, it’s smooth and forgiving. You can keep working on it and it holds it’s shape pretty well. The sculpting tools are great, rubber tips and some ball tips make it pretty easy. If you need to outline the shape from your picture it helps to get the proportions right.

The details are scraped into the clay and it is really not too deep so that it will be a nice plaque.

Step 2: Set the Shape for the Mold

Another great thing about plasticine is that it can be used to stabilize your mold shape. I used some strips of plastic that I scored and snapped from cheap dollar-store frames. They are sturdy and I don't need special tools to saw them. Plexiglas will snap along a well scored line made with an xacto knife.

To figure out the size and use the plasticine to hold pieces in shape long enough to make mold. Make sure there's no holes for leakage. Also make sure everything is level.

Step 3: Mix and Pour the Mold

Once you have the sculpture and 'box' ready, it's time for the mold making. If you are nervous, you can always try a really small test run. Not all plasticine is the same so I tested a bit on mine to make sure the plasticine cures.

Oomoo is easy to mix, equal amounts of each bottle, mix until the pink and blue make purple.The amount of Oomoo 30 should be enough to cover the shape (square in my case) and allow all the depth to be covered. If it is thicker it does not matter. The Oomoo completely sets in hours but has about 30 minutes of working/poring time. I used the leftover in the container to see when it is ready. It is very rubbery!

Step 4: Using the Mold

To make the vessel for casting easy, I used the plastic strips again for the concrete casting. Once the flat silicone mold is made it can now be used in a similar shape to pour the concrete mix. My preference is Rapidset Cementall as it is quite dense & strong; setting up in 1 hour.

Use the plasticine to make the box shape and fill in all the corners etc nice & tight. Again make sure it is level. To hang the final plaque make a loop of some wire so that it can be set in the concrete.

Important: Place a sheet of paper under the mold to make sure it can be lifted after curing.

Step 5: The Concrete Pouring

Rapidset Cementall flows quite well and has no aggregate. It uses less water and add just enough to make able to level out. If you need some info on concrete see my helpful post here

Mix enough to cover well. It will depend on how you want to use the plaque, and it can be thicker if using in a garden as a head-stone.

After pouring make sure to tap/vibrate to push out air bubbles. It will also level itself. Embed a loop of wire to imbed into the back for hanging. Turn over the tile with the mold and peel the mold off. I am so impressed to see the amount of detail that is now translated into the concrete. “And I can make as many as I like"! If only I could make the real one again! 😢

Step 6: Finishing the Plaque

Generally speaking I like the look of concrete that is 'naked'! It can weather well but if you want to add some subtle colour/details it can enhance the textures.

The paints I use are mid quality acrylic paints. Try to buy artist quality rather than dollar store paint; it does make a difference. I especially like Liquitex; their metallics are amazing.

I mostly used white and black since my Pup was a black and white dog but needed the other colours for the browns of his eyes. The Concrete tile is well cured and bone dry.

The reason relief works so well is that the work is already done. I figured this out many many years ago when my family used to paint ceramic greenware beer steins. This is the same concept. I had scratched so much of the texture into the sculpture that would make finishing crazy simple.

Bringing out details:

To make the first layer pick up the details of depth the paint needs to be thinned quite a bit. It’s better to be too thin than too thick. It can be thinned with matt medium if you want extra longevity but I like using water more as then it has a better chance of sinking into the rough texture of the concrete. The more it sinks in the better it will last if outdoors. The paint flows naturally into the deep crevices and makes those darker.

It already looks so much more defined in just 2 minutes; like a 3D drawing! The depth of the eyes has also come out since they were deeply sculpted. It’s perfectly fine to just leave as is. Sometimes simple is best!

Adding a bit more:

Ok, so I tend to never want to stop… the curse of being an illustrator! If you want more contrasts now you can add highlights; that will make the ‘peaks’ even lighter. Use a soft brush and only very small amounts of undiluted paint to just wisp over the top texture. I like to have a paper towel to take some of the extra paint off. This is called ‘dry brushing’ – another important technique for relief painting. See also antiquing technique here.

No drawing or fancy painting talents were needed to get these details. They just ‘happen’ by themselves. The rough concrete comes through and makes me think of the permanence of rock… It’s something you can actually touch… compared to a computer screen! We need a bit more of that these days!

Sweet Boy! Forever cast in concrete… and in my heart! Thanks for coming along my journey.

If you want to see more... more concrete projects, more of my Pup, or just more making

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