I have been inspired to make sculptures of historical, sports and military themes because of my interest in people and ideas that are, what I consider, “larger than life”- those that go out of their way for a greater cause. This interest is partially due to my move to Northern Colorado in 2005 where many monumental sculptors and art foundries operate. But also, I was inspired by my dad David Betti whom I consulted with while creating military monuments. A former U.S. Marine during the Vietnam war, my dad worked tirelessly with helping service members and their families in receiving Veteran benefits. He was larger than life himself and I began focusing on military and historical sculptures because it was a great way to connect with my dad and share a common bond with honoring our veterans and remembering our past. But also it was about doing something with my talents other than solely as self expression.
It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up. -George Armstrong Custer
In 2015, my dad passed away suddenly. Without his presence, I had to pick up the pieces and find a way to move forward. Sometimes life challenges can bring on a renewed sense of purpose as they force us to reevaluate things. For me, this meant a change of approach in how I created sculpture. Sculpting has become more intuitive through visualization techniques where I visualize as much of the sculpture as I can before sculpting it; the details, anatomy, negative space are imagined in my head from different angles. This allows me to be more confident in how I lay on the clay. I also no longer make clay studies (aka maquettes) before sculpting the monument (unless specifically asked to do so). Instead I go from drawings to full scale bronze. The sculptures, in turn, become fresh and full of life, as if recently pulled from an oven and placed on the table. This new approach combined with my interest in collaborating with clients as a commissioned sculptor is how I get satisfaction as an artist.
Since he can remember, Betti has always had a pencil in his hand drawing the things of childhood imagination and imitating his uncle’s caricatures and fairy tale drawings. This early training prepared him for the time he spent at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University studying classical painting, drawing, sculpture and human anatomy. For a period of three years in the late 1990’s, Betti devoted his time to the Academy all the while with one goal on his mind; to be hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, Inc. At the end of his third year his portfolio was critiqued in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida by Disney. But after several months of waiting he got the call that out of the 63 finalists worldwide that had the same hopes and dreams as him, Betti didn’t make the cut.
Discouraged, Betti left the Academy and found work in a small animation studio in the North San Francisco Bay Area where he became a “cleanup artist”. His job was to take loose pencil sketches and do final pen drawings that would then be used as the final artwork for a CD-Rom game. Day after day, week after week, he created hundreds of drawings until digital technology in the animation business began replacing traditional methods, forcing Betti to either go digital or look for other work.
In 1998, Betti worked for Illusive Concepts and Paper Magic Group, a California mask making business sculpting halloween masks and he also began creating large scale sculptures for hotels and casinos in Las Vegas under the sculptor Mario Chiodo. He worked in the halloween mask making business when the industry was growing and he found a niche sculpting halloween masks of famous people and politicians. Masks such as Elvira as well as demons, monsters and aliens were some of his creations. He learned techniques for creating wrinkles, hair and skin textures that carried over well throughout all of the mold making and casting processes. Some of his masks are still being sold in various locations throughout the US. The artistic growth he experienced influenced him to pursue sculpture as a business.
During a summer trip to Italy to study Michelangelo in 1998, Betti was inspired to follow in the path of traditional art. For a period of 5 years immediately afterwards the artist lived modestly in a small garage with no plumbing and focused his energies on technique and produced over 100 sculptures. Most of them have since been destroyed (or consumed) to give life to a future piece.
Betti worked for seven years sculpting realistic and proprietary mannequins, working closely with clients such as Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Athleta, Armani, Target as well as Disney. The experience of sculpting life size athletic and fashion mannequin forms under tight deadlines helped to create a thorough knowledge of the human body.
During the summer of 2004, Sutton was sponsored by the sculptor Danielle Anjou to study stone carving in Pietrasanta, Italy. The artist’s second trip to Italy captivated his attention with more study and hard work, carving statuary marble and learning stone carving techniques used for centuries by master Italian craftsmen. Some of the techniques taught were the last of their kind as many of the old stone carvers were retiring so the lessons from the greats that were passed down since Michelangelo’s time were fading out due to modern abstract art techniques and a lack of interest in traditional figurative stone carving. The lessons learned during this critical time of growth hold tremendous value to the artist many years later.
After moving to Colorado in 2005, Betti worked for the bronze sculptor Dee Clements creating fine art bronze sculptures for galleries and public art memorials. It was here that Betti learned all of the techniques used in the bronze business and soon had all of the skills necessary to run his own sculpture business.
In 2009, he permanently installed his first large scale public art sculpture honoring the workers of Hoover Dam in Boulder City, Nevada. The sculpture “Puddler’s Break” helped to launch his career into creating large scale bronze monuments and memorials. He has since built large scale figurative bronze monuments in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Louisiana, California and Ohio.