|Eagle and Flag, waxes for bronze casting|
|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.
|portrait of an Australian Army Colonel, plaster, 14″ height, by Sutton Betti|
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|
|concept proposal for a kneeling soldier with battlefield cross by Sutton Betti|
|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.
|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.
|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.
|Bas relief portrait of a young man, 10inX9inX1/2in, clay for bronze|
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