Friday, October 6, 2017

#138, details details details

The other day when I was putting on some small detail work my friend asked what in the heck was I doing? "Working on details" was my reply. "Everyone LOVES details." And this sculpture of a US Marine Honor Guard has a lot of them. There are Marine emblems of different sizes on the belt buckle, cap, buttons on the jacket and collar. In addition to all of the detail work that had to placed just right, there was symmetry to deal with, something that is always challenging on a sculpture. Feet together, shoulders square, eyes straight forward. It's all of these little things (as well as the big things like composition and the silhouette) that make a sculpture really good. If there is symmetry involved it needs to be done really well. If there is detail work such as emblems those also need to be nicely done. Details such as those help bring people closer to the sculpture and connect people allowing them to admire the sculpture for a longer period of time. And the goal is always to capture peoples attention for the longest period of time.


Honor Guard Presenting Arms (US Marine) by Sutton Betti, detail 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#137, Present Arms clay sculpture

Honor Guard Present Arms by Sutton Betti
This life size sculpture of a Marine Honor Guard will be cast in bronze and installed at the entrance to a veterans park, along with his twin brother of an Army Honor Guard. There is still more clay work to do, but it’s mostly there. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

#136, Kneeling soldier with folded flag


remembering with folded flag
Kneeling Soldier with Folded Flag, clay for bronze

remembering with folded flag
Kneeling Soldier with Folded Flag, clay for bronze

The kneeling soldier that I made a couple of years ago was designed to have his hand against a wall, head bowed as if remembering a fallen soldier, perhaps a friend. Recently a client asked if I could make one incorporating a folded flag and modifying the arms so he doesn't have to be placed against a vertical wall. I said no problem and cast a plaster of the torso and head (without the arms) so that I could resculpt the new changes. When finished the full figure bronze sculpture will be kneeling in front of a battlefield cross. The folded flag, I believe, will add a touching tribute to a soldier remembering a family member, perhaps his own father.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#135, waxes of Eagle and Flag sculpture

Eagle and Flag, waxes for bronze casting

Yesterday, I went to Art Castings of Colorado foundry to look over the waxes for my eagle and flag sculpture. The main purpose of such a visit is to make sure the quality of the waxes are good since casting in wax usually produces imperfections. I was very happy with how they came out, especially the talons on the eagle as those were of concern since the mold fit tight around them and I thought they might have broken off. The waxes are now off to the spruing room where they will get prepped for bronze casting.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

#134, Removal of old statues?

male nude Sistine Chapel ceiling
11.5 inches height X 8.5 inches wide, low relief study of a male nude (Sistine Chapel ceiling) after Michelangelo
With all of the recent attention on outdoor monuments I have somewhat mixed feelings about the removal of confederate statues. On the one hand, yeah they represent slavery and since the South lost the war slavery has been illegal. And if we can model ourselves after Germany there aren't any statues of Hitler in Berlin so it would make sense to remove them. Right? At the same time, the statues have been around for over 100 years with little to no attention given to them, or at least not compared with the attention they are getting in the last few months. The next thing we know Mt. Rushmore will be vandalized or threatened in some way. So why should we remove them now?

I feel as though by removing these statues (in todays political divide) it is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Both sides are so upset at each other that the removal of these statues, at this particular time of political unrest and protests, it is probably not the smartest thing to do. People are fighting hate with hate and we should know by now that hate never solves anything. I believe in tolerance and trying to understand both sides of an argument. In my mind, the way I see things playing out by removing the statues now (that maybe should have been removed a long time ago and a little more inconspicuously, if removed at all) is there will be more backlash and violence. But who really knows.

On the other side of things, is the fact that I make my living as a sculptor. I can appreciate the techniques employed in creating some of these monuments while looking beyond the meaning. When I go to Europe to admire a Michelangelo or Bernini, I don't get too caught up in the subject matter of the statue, but rather the techniques. After all, Michelangelo and Bernini are more known for their understanding of human anatomy, drapery, composition, etc. then they are for the statues they represent. When we study and draw from their sculptures, less emphasis is placed on who or what the subject is and more on how the drapery flows over the arm, etc. At least that is how it is for me. They were commissioned artists after all and who or what they sculpted would have been different had they lived in a different time. They wouldn't have received these wonderful commissions if it weren't for this beautiful understanding (granted they did live in the Renaissance and the Baroque, respectively, so great commissions were available). It's fair to say, though, that the quality of their works are more significant than the subject matter of the sculptures (there are other statues of "David" created by other known sculptors but it's Michelangelo's David that is supreme so we should study and appreciate his David, not so much on the subject matter, but on the quality of the carving, anatomical beauty, composition, etc). In my opinion the subject matter, in this instance, takes a back seat. Michelangelos David was commissioned to be the protector of Florence, ready to fight the enemies which has been long forgotten. So from the point of view that some of these Confederate sculptures are beautifully composed with strong understanding of human anatomy, they should still be standing. Whether standing in a museum or in their originally designed location is the question. If we could fast forward 1,000 years from now, I would think most people living in that time would be more than happy to see these statues.

Yesterday, I was inspired to create a relief study of one of my favorite drawings done by Michelangelo as I wonder how long some of the artwork we admire will be around. The drawing that he did was one of his many nude studies (called "Ignudi") designed for the Sistine Chapel ceiling. When I first saw the Sistine Chapel in person in 1998 I had a deep spiritual connection to it. I had studied it through books and drew from it many times, studying Michelangelo's unique understanding of human anatomy and twists and turns of the torso. I will never forget sitting under this masterpiece of art and seeing first hand this beautiful composition. Whether the artwork created unrest during Michelangelo's time or not it is still worth studying and appreciating today. At least that is my opinion.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#133, plaster cast of Australian Army Colonel

military bas relief
portrait of an Australian Army Colonel, plaster, 14" height, by Sutton Betti


Not a whole lot going on in the studio except lots and lots of mold making on three monuments that will be installed November of this year. Aside from all of the plaster dust and drips that seem to be everywhere, I managed to complete a bas relief portrait of an Australian Army Colonel. The 14 inch tall portrait, here shown in plaster, will be cast in bronze as part of a larger plaque. This is another of my commissioned relief work that is only 1/2" thick.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#132, welding bronze

One of the more important steps in the bronze casting process is tig welding. Tig welding is a delicate welding technique (compared with mig welding) that uses a long bronze welding rod held in one hand while you create an electric arc with the tungsten electrode torch held in the other hand. Argon gas is used as the shielding gas that helps to transfer the heat from the electrode to the bronze as well as protects the welded area from oxygen which can cause problems.

While there are many technical details that one can learn about welding, I don't think it is really necessary to know to be a good welder of ones own work. The main thing is that the welds are good and strong (especially for larger monumental works) and you use the right welding rod for the metal you are welding.

Below are some examples of my monuments being welded together:

Paganini by Sutton Betti


Master Swimmer by Sutton Betti


Master Swimmer by Sutton Betti

Visionary by Sutton Betti and Dan Glanz
Founding Father by Sutton Betti

Sunday, July 2, 2017

#131, Rodin Museum

On Sunday April 16, 2017 I visited the Musee Rodin in Paris for the first time as part of a 10 day trip where I visited parts of Germany and Paris with my mom, step dad and brother. In Paris, we were fortunate to be staying at an apartment/hotel along the river Seine that was walking distance to the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Rodin Museum as well as various other sites. My goal during my short 3 day stay in Paris was to visit 1) the Louvre and the 2) the Rodin museum to absorb as much art as I could possibly see. If there was time for anything else I would join my family. Because it was such a short stay I had to plan carefully so I wouldn't regret my time there since there is so much art to see in Paris. I ended up visiting the Musee Rodin for about 5 hours absorbing as much as I could at the 7 acre sculpture garden and the old sculpture studio of Rodin (aka the hotel Biron, as it was called in Rodins time). The 18th century mansion was where Rodin worked towards the last 9 years of his life and donated all of his sculptures to the government if they would agree to turn the hotel Biron and the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (where he lived outside of Paris) into a museum. The two museums opened in 1919, two years after his death.

 











Friday, June 30, 2017

#130, concept drawing for veterans park

battlefield cross kneeling soldier
concept proposal for a kneeling soldier with battlefield cross by Sutton Betti


Lately, I have been doing several concept sketches for a veteran park that I’m creating sculptures for. This one is based off of my existing sculpture Remembering. The client likes this bronze sculpture that I made in 2013, but because it was designed to have his raised hand against a column they wanted to modify it so he could be placed in the open with a battlefield cross. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

#129, military portrait relief

military bas relief
Donovan portrait bas-relief, 14 in x 12 in x 1/2 in thick, clay for bronze by Sutton Betti


There is something uniquely rewarding about successfully pulling off a bas relief portrait. I think it has something to do with the fact that not a lot of sculptors do relief work which makes it a rare form of art. After careful measuring and observation I am pleased with how this 14 inch x 12 inch x 1/2 inch thick bas relief portrait came out. The artwork will be cast as part of a larger scale bronze plaque.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#128, Freedom Wings-Composition techniques

WWII bronze statue memorial
Freedom Wings (in progress),  4'10" tall clay for bronze statue

This 58" tall sculpture is of a life size male bald eagle with the US flag and will be cast in bronze in the next couple of months. The 280 pound monument will be installed on top of an 8 foot tall black granite column that will be laser etched with images from WWII. The sculpture will be unveiled on Veterans Day 2017 along with two of my other sculptures.

The composition of this statue was really fun to work out. Although the idea of a bald eagle and United States flag is fairly common in sculpture, as well as paintings, what I think will stand out with this monument is the attention to detail and the strong composition. While making this sculpture I have been conscious of the different angles that people will be viewing the sculpture. Because the it will be sitting on top of an 8' tall column, viewers will be encouraged to walk around the monument looking at the laser etched images on the sides of the column as well as the statue itself. So, I had to think strongly about composition from ALL angles. The angle of view that people will be looking from will be from below looking up. In compositions, I usually use lines and curves that are meant to be seen from straight on. These lines and curves can follow an arm up to the eyes, dance around a little in the body and then out the other arm, for example. There is usually an entry and an exit point for the eye to follow, but within that composition are all kinds of angles and curves. I like to think of them being composed similarly to a musical composition. For example, for me, the Beatles were musical composition geniuses, as was Beethoven and Mozart. Studying musical composition is somewhat similar to sculptural composition, at least that is the way it is for me. So If I had a good entry and exit point in the composition (i.e. the flag pole and the tips of the eagles primary feathers) than the areas in between that can be controlled with curves and diagonals. The curves and diagonals, though, have to work from below (and also from above which is easier to see since I can't raise the clay sculpture to 8' in my studio very easily). As such, I positioned the flag pole catywonper to the plane of the eagles wings. The head is turned close to the direction of the flag pole but looking up slightly. The feet are positioned crossing the straight line of the pole (as seen in the photo). Then there is the curve of the tail feathers which when viewed from the rear you can see the curve of them. I also kept in mind the side view where you can see the rock underneath the flag. This rock area almost creates a focal point itself due to the different textures so it had to be designed well also. In short, I am making sure that all of the angles will read well from all directions. When Freedom Wings is completed I will post photos in the round to help illustrate my composition techniques.

Friday, May 19, 2017

#127, bald eagle sculpture, in progress

bald eagle statue with artist
life size bald eagle sculpture in progress


Since returning from Europe one month ago I have been working on two commissions simultaneously and today I put the finishing touches on one of the sculptures of a life size female bald eagle. The bronze bald eagle will be permanently installed cantilevered on a 20 foot tall granite column 17 feet above the ground. The sculpture will be one of many that I am working on as part of a large scale Veterans memorial.


Friday, March 24, 2017

#126, Greenberg bas relief portrait

Bas relief portrait of a young man, 10inX9inX1/2in, clay for bronze


This 10in X 9in X 1/2in depth bas-relief portrait was commissioned by a mental health facility in Los Angeles that will go on a larger 28 inch x 19 inch bronze plaque and installed on an outside wall of the facility sometime this spring or summer. I worked closely with the mother of the young man who passed away and although it has been a while since I've worked on a very low (flat) bas relief portrait this came out nicely. The mother, the commissioning agency and the plaque company all expressed satisfaction with the clay original and so all that is left now is for me to give myself a pat on the back.

Yesterday, I spoke with the client and he asked me how I learned how to do relief sculpture. It is a good question and I had to remember back to when I first tried sculpting in relief. When I was an art student there weren't any classes in relief sculpture (at least none that I can remember) and it seems I just learned it as I started sculpting more and more, making mistakes along the way but always learning from them. Some of my early private commissions were creating bas relief portraits of family members and kids. In fact, my very first commission was a bas-relief for St. Mary's College of California in Moraga back in 2001. So how did I learn how to sculpt in relief? There really is no substitute for hard work... and patience!

"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration."-Thomas Edison

"Patience is also a form of action."-Rodin

Sunday, February 19, 2017

#125, Hendrix bust

Hendrix sculpture
Jimi Hendrix sculpture bust by Sutton Betti



One of my favorite musicians for the past 25 years is Jimi Hendrix and this is sculpture clay bust I have wanted to make for many, many years. I made his likeness a few weeks ago using several beautiful photographs found in a recently published magazine and of course from the internet. The clay bust is 35 inches tall and is sculpted about 125% life-size. It was not created as a commissioned work of art, but rather as something that I will have in my collection for visitors to my gallery to see in person. I'm hoping to be able to sell a bronze casting to the Electric Lady Studios in New York, the recording studio that Hendrix built in 1970 and designed by John Storyk.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

#124, Gypsy relief

Gypsy Girl by Sutton Betti, 15in x 12in, shown in clay, 2017
Finished this 15x12 inch clay relief yesterday. It has been many months since I took the time to sculpt a new relief so I have to admit that I was a little rusty regarding the technique. However, it turned out better than I was expecting and I think my lack of control and uncertainty actually helped to make this a little more spontaneous than any of my previous relief works. Perhaps this adds to the movement and gesture. Normally I would spend a little more time on the clothing and hair, but struggled a little bit and decided to just leave it loose and somewhat undefined. I'll mold and cast this in aluminum and add it to my growing collection of aluminum relief sculptures that I hope to be showing this year or next when I make a return to showing at outdoor art festivals.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

#123, Jimi Hendrix bust, work in progress

Jimi Hendrix bust in progress, 35" height, shown in clay
There is still quite a bit of work left on this over life size bust of my favorite guitarist and musician Jimi Hendrix but I thought I would share the progress anyhow. The total height of the clay sculpture is 35 inches and it's sculpted at 125% life size.

I hope to be finishing him in the next two or three weeks, but I'm in the middle of several freelance sculpting projects that will be taking up much of my time. At this point I'm about 12 hours into the clay work and I guestimate that I've got another 20 hours to go to get him where I'd like him to be. I'll probably retain the looseness of the textures as that seems to fit the sculpture well, but the hair might take me some time.