All About The Art Of Lawn Sculpture

There's an art to decorating your lawn with sculpture, so that the overall effect is pleasing to you.

There's an art to decorating your lawn with sculpture, so that the overall effect is pleasing to you. It helps to think of your lawn as a canvas. Your plants provide color, shape and texture. The sculptures you select provide the main center of interest. You can even frame your "canvas" so that your center of interest becomes more dramatic. When sculpture is incorporated into your yard, your lawn and plantings become the supporting cast.

Before creating your work of art and selecting your sculpture, you'll need to look at the materials you already have and those you'll need to get. You'll need to consider the overall effect you want to achieve. Will your landscape canvas depict formal, fine art? Or will it be organic and whimsical in nature? When selecting your sculpture, you'll need to consider style, shape, color, where to go for inspiration, where to shop, types of sculpture, outdoor sculpture materials, sculpture care and placement. Fine art sculpture may not be to your liking. You may prefer to consider practical lawn sculptures or whimsical ones. Whatever sculptures you choose, you may highlight them with outdoor lighting.

Use the organizational style that works best for you in preparing your canvas. Perhaps you'll make lists of what you have and need, perhaps you'll diagram on graph paper, or maybe you'll take photos of what your grounds currently look like and collect magazine photos of what you want to achieve.

Landscape Materials Inventory

Location of property:

* coastal

* woodland

* suburban

* mountain

* prairie

* city plot

Terrain and size of property:

* small flat lawn

* partly wooded corner lot

* fields with small yard around the house

* rocky seaside yard

* lots of acreage with slopes and hollows

Specific trees, bushes and flowers you have:

* all-white tulips and dogwoods

* azaleas, rhododendrons and firs

* wildflowers and oaks

The style of your home:

* formal

* country

* modern

* charming and unique

The desired effect you want your lawn area to have:

* cool, calm and peaceful

* cozy and playful

* elegant, formal and simplified

* organic and whimsical

Shape and Color

Consider the forms and shapes of the bushes and trees on your property, then decide if you want your sculpture to echo these shapes or contrast with them. For instance, maybe all your bushes have soft, rounded shapes. You may feel that a linear, angled, stone sculpture is what is needed. Or, your lawn area may have one rounded tree and one rounded bush. So you may feel that a rounded sculpture of a figure would tie everything together.

Look at the colors in your lawn area and consider whether you want your sculpture to blend in, or stand out. Perhaps white flowering plants surround your lawn. You may decide that a white, marble nude will help the grass area tie in with the plantings. Or perhaps your plants are all green, but you have two purplish-red bushes. You may decide that a bronze casting of an animal will coordinate better than a marble one.


When you take the above factors into consideration, you'll have a better idea of the type of sculpture that will work well for your lawn. Then you'll need places to look for inspiration. Museums and art galleries are the best places to start. Try to find museums that have sculptures outside. Some may just have sculptures in a small courtyard. Storm King Art Center, in upstate New York, has huge sculptures on 500 acres of fields, woodlands and manicured lawns.

Where to Shop

You may not be able to afford to purchase the stabiles by Alexander Calder, or the abstract, organic, reclining, stone figures by Henry Moore, or the complex assemblages of Louise Nevelson. However, some museum gift shops carry small sculpture reproductions.

Your local art gallery or craft show may be the most economical place to buy outdoor fine-art sculptures. You could even consider commissioning an artist to create sculpture specifically for your site (installation work). The Internet offers many sites where contemporary sculptors' work is shown, as well as reproductions of pieces by well-known sculptors. This can be a good place to learn about some of the types of sculpture that are available.

Types of Sculpture

* additive - sculpture that is formed by adding material such as clay

* assemblage - arranging unrelated materials to create a sculptural collage

* bust - a sculptural portrait of the head and shoulders

* classical - sculpture inspired by Greek or Roman forms

* free-standing - sculpture that is meant to be viewed from all angles

* geometric - sculpture that has classical forms of balance and symmetry

* installation work - sculpture that was designed for a certain site and incorporates its environment into the piece

* mobile - suspended objects that move freely

* naturalistic - sculpture that looks as close to realistic as possible

* nonrepresentational - the sculptural form does not represent anything outside of itself

* organic - curving, natural, sculptural forms

* relief - the design pops up from the surface from which it was carved

* stabile - an abstract construction that is stationary or the opposite of mobile

* subtractive - sculpture that is formed by chiseling away the material


Not all sculptures can stand up to outside weather conditions. You will need to check with the artist or gallery to be sure, but here is a list of some materials that outdoor sculptures could be made of:


* aluminum (In polished form, it reflects the earth and sky.)

* bronze, cast bronze (Bronze is ideal for casting. It flows into all the mold crevices and provides great detail.)

* cast iron (the rusting is considered part of the design)

* copper

* lead

* steel


* beach stone

* granite, black granite, wood-grain granite (Rain and other materials may stain granite. The stains can be washed off, but staining can enhance the sculpture, too.)

* marble

* sandstone


* carved tree trunks (these may check over time)

* cedar

* treated lumber


* clay (not all clays can withstand outdoor temperatures like terra-cotta can)

* fiberglass

* glass, slumped glass (Site glass work in an area where it can't be damaged by being struck.)

* living plants (topiaries)

* plastic (prone to scratching)

Care of Sculpture

Outdoor sculptures can be affected by pollution (including bird droppings), vandals, heat expansion, temperature, humidity, vibration, lichen growth, and poor air circulation. There are some steps you can take to keep your sculpture looking attractive:

1. Ask the artist what he or she recommends for keeping the sculpture in good shape.

2. Take photographs of the front, back and sides of your sculpture when it is new. Also, take detailed, close-up shots.

3. Be sure you know what the sculpture is made of and how it was made. Is it all bronze or a composite? Is it welded or riveted together?

4. If the sculpture is valuable, consider having a skilled conservator restore its luster. He or she may treat the surface and then apply a protective coating. They could also repair structural damage such as cracks, corrosion or missing parts.

Sculpture Placement

If formal designs appeal to you, you'll want to incorporate symmetry with evenly-spaced objects and plantings. Living, green sculpture or topiary, works well in this format. A walkway could divide your lawn evenly in half. Each half could have a huge stone urn sculpture in the center. Alongside the walkway could be evenly-spaced topiary spheres. In the distance, the view could be framed with a topiary arch. Visible through the arch could be the metal sculpture of an armillary sphere on a pedestal. The curves of the arch and urns are similar, the topiaries and armillary are spheres. This gives your yard a well-planned formal look.

If more organic, natural settings appeal to you, consider having a winding, old-brick path cut through your lawn. Small bushes and flowering plants could jut irregularly from the path edges. The path could pass a shallow pond with a verdigris heron fishing among the cattails. Then it could meander past a wooded area where a life-sized, bronze doe stands.

Practical Lawn Sculpture

Practical lawn sculptures can be made from kits, purchased at your home improvement center of from a craft vendor at the fair. Here are some ideas for practical sculptures:

* A weather vane on a pole.

* A bird-feeder or birdhouse on a post.

* A white-wooden pavilion rising from your lawn, could have flowers at the base, a two-tiered roof with a weather-vane top and a topiary on either side of the steps.

* Tiny rock garden plants can be show-cased in antique, stone troughs. Lay these on your lawn in geometric patterns.

* Place a charming, white-painted, wrought-iron bench under a honeysuckle covered arch. This resting area can provide a spot on your lawn for observing a view. The curve in the arch could be echoed in the half-circle arm rests.

* Learn to espalier your young apple tree into a heart shape, where the trunk is split and the branches are trained on horizontal wires.

* A child's slide and swing set can be made sculpturally esthetic.

* The children's playhouse can be a miniature work of art that makes your backyard lawn magical.

* Rabbit hutches or dog houses can be creative additions to your yard.

* A sturdy, but dead, tree can be pruned in a sculptural shape. Then you can hang arty birdhouses from all the branches.

* Put a huge, shiny dinner bell on a post. Call in the kids in style.

* Transform an ordinary mailbox into a swan with layers of wood and paint.

* Hang a collection of antique watering cans on a section of white-picket fence that has flowers at its base.

* Fill an antique wagon with flowers

* Put a fountain in the middle of your lawn. If the sides are deep and straight enough, raccoons won't chase your goldfish.

Whimsical Lawn Sculptures

If you have a sense of humor and want your lawn area to contain surprises, then some of these ideas may work for you:

* A jolly cement gnome could be popping out of the foliage at your lawn's edge.

* Cast-stone or cement fountains, that recirculate water, can calm the whole backyard or be a focal point in a small, side-yard lawn.

* If your home has a cabin-look to it, bears that are chain-saw carved can sit near a tree on your lawn.

* Stone cherubs can perch on wall edges that surround your lawn.

* A colorful, six-foot totem pole can greet your guests.

* Paint that old, balloon-tire bike of yours entirely white. Then park it on your lawn under a tree or against a light post. Plant flowers in its basket.

* A stone bunny could sit on its haunches on your lawn near your vegetable garden, eating a carrot.

* Clever resin or wooden signs could rise from the vines near your lawn's edge.


Outdoor lighting can lend night-time focus to your lawn sculpture. This can be particularly effective in winter, when the landscape is stark. It can also serve as a deterrent to vandals, who would rather remove or vandalize your sculpture in the dark. Be sure that the angle of your lighting does not annoy your neighbors. You can find many lighting choices on the Internet. There are many different kinds of outdoor lights:

* Lights can be set in composite-stone shapes that blend into your scenery.

* Solar lights can be for signs and pathways (shine one on your gnome).

* Vandal-proof lighting means that not only won't your sculpture be stolen, but your light won't be either.

* An accent light can make a sculpture out of leafless, red branches in winter.

* The landscape lighting fixture itself can be a form of sculpture.

* There are even lighted birdbaths and lighted garden lighthouses.

Using these ideas will help you complete your landscape canvas. This masterpiece will contain a sculptural focal point, cohesive shapes, colors and highlights. Your sense of style will show through in each section of your lawn. This work of art will even be framed by an interesting structure. Your masterpiece will celebrate the relationship between art and nature.

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