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Shadow Play


South Carolina State University



Course Level


Conversation points for instructors

Many students are very used to drawing or most of their art experiences are 2D. This project connects students to a shared experience of playing with light and making shadows. This also combines their 2D skills with 3D objects to interpret perspective and image creation in ways they may not have considered. Students create a 2D shadow from a 3D assemblage they construct using a wide variety of materials.


One big advantage to this project is that absolutely any materials may be used. Everything from trash to organic materials to metal sheets or found objects. It is adaptable for whatever materials students can access. This can easily work in a face-to-face setting or online, or even a hybrid course, if the work is built for transport. 

Questions to ask:

  • What is the relationship between perspective and the light source?

  • How do light and shadow appear through different materials?

  • What conditions are needed for the work to be viewed properly?

  • How does the distance between the 3D composition, the light source, and the wall affect the 2D image/shadow?

  • How many different planes or layers exist in your 3D composition?

  • If the work needs to be moved or is portable, what are helpful things to consider?

  • How do you document as the work is created?

  • Can motion be used?

  • How strong does your light source need to be?

  • Do your chosen materials connect to your idea/message?

3d Foundations or Sculpture I



Project Prompt / Challenge

Each student will create a 3D assemblage using materials of their choice to cast an unexpected shadow, which then becomes a drawing. 


When we talk about line, shape, and form, we often separate these characteristics when we move from 2-Dimensional to  3-Dimensional work. Building on the skills students learned in Drawing and Design Fundamentals I, students will create both a 3-D assemblage and a 2-D drawing that work together. The 3-D component may be made from any available items. The shadow from the assemblage will then create a drawing on a flat surface (ex: the wall, the floor, or other site).  


Artists like Kumi Yamashita, Rashad Alakbarov, Diet Wiegman, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Fabrizio Corneli, and Larry Kagan, address this “problem” through both simple and complex “solutions”. As a class, students will research these artists and borrow their processes. Different ways of using shadow should be explored. Students need a directional light source, like a flashlight, clamp/work light, or consistent sunlight to complete the assignment. Learning to document this project is also key to preserving the integrity of the work for future reference.



You (the student) will create a 2-D image/drawing (on the wall, floor, or other surface) using a strong light source to cast shadows of assembled objects. Begin by gathering materials and playing with and exploring their relationships with light and shadow. Test out how different distances, angles, light brightness, and compositions affect the shadows you make when objects are in front of your light source. After trying multiple things out, choose how you want to work and the direction of your light source. Use the example artists as influences.


  • Flashlight, work light, clamp light, or other consistent, directional light source

  • Various materials of your choice to create shadows or disperse light


This project can be completed in 1-2 weeks depending on meeting time and availability of space to create the work.


Student Examples:

Online / Video Resources:



Kumi Yamashita, Rashad Alakbarov, Diet Wiegman,

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Fabrizio Corneli, & Larry Kagan

Additional Tips: 

As a beginning exercise, have students play with the shadows and the materials. 


A good, quick exercise is to have students draw any shape on a piece of paper and try to use shadow to fill in the shape. 


Other things to consider: 

  • How strong is your light source?

  • From what direction is your light source illuminating your work?

  • How will the viewer see the work? From what perspective or vantage point?

  • Does your assemblage look different from your shadow, except from one angle?

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