There are rewards from sculpting. The expressions about, comments of and of course purchases of my pieces can be fulfilling in so many ways. When an eagle sculpture or a wildlife statue, or any other bronze art I've created touches another its a joy. However, bearing your soul through sculpture has it's down side as well. Recently a city on the east coast contacted me to submit some sketches for a sculpture commission they wanted for a new development. I wasn't the only artist they contacted and I knew that going in. I invested lots of time, creative energy and effort into the design of some very unique sculpture sketches. Fast forward and I'm contacted that I didn't make the cut. As a sculptor, rejection is a part of life. People can't always afford what we do, some don't appreciate it, know what goes into the creation of a bronze sculpture and others just don't care. A tougher skin is needed to swallow some of these realities of an artists life. Even so, any rejection hurts to a degree but you just deal with it, keep going and appreciate those times that success was had and the other good times.
I'm familiar with sculpting bears. I've done 2 grizzly bear busts, a full bodied bronze grizzly bear titled "Stand Off", a black bear sculpture, and a whimsical "Mama Bear" sculpture depicting a mother patiently sitting with her two cubs climbing all over. You can see most of these in the Sculpture page of the site here. I like sculpting bears. They are round, fun, and people feel a connection with them. It may stem from having teddy bears as children, their "cute" factor or other numerous reasons. Well I've started another piece, more on the whimsical side. It's also larger than other pieces, standing about 16" right now. This story for it is one I've had for sometime. It's two cubs pushing against a larger, chubbier adult. Can you see it? The title will be "When Push Comes To Shove". Originally I intended the idea to depict children.
This picture is a humorous mesh of two large sculptures in Denver. The bear is outside a building downtown, literally pushing up against the wall and the horse is near the entrance to the airport. When I saw the picture it got me thinking about large public art, those public sculptures that are commissioned by cities and other government entities. Too often I don't like them. Many other people here in Denver question the "demon" horse and why it's there, stating that it's hideous and wonder why time and money was spent creating it. The bear is what it is. I'm not against contemporary art, as long as it's interesting and worthwhile. I've also seen plenty of representational public art that isn't executed well. It's been my experience that too often an artist knows someone with "power" and finds a leg in with projects. Sadly this helps some less-than-quality art to find it's way into our parks and open areas. I'm not arrogantly petitioning to be "the" sculptor for every project. I enjoy diversity and variance. However I do wish that GOOD art would be selected and installed. Yes, "good" is in the eye of the beholder, but too often there is clearly some bad sculpture being placed in public and it is a waste of funds. All of this bothers me as an artist, as a tax paying citizen and viewer.
I listened to those who voted in my last survey (on the home page) for what I should work on next and the winner was a bison sculpture. From what I've read, calling them "Buffalo" is incorrect. This design is a little heavier, more earthy with the animal emerging from the base. DISCLAIMER: I'm an artist and as you may notice from other posts this could change at any time. You know how that impulsive creative muse takes over and all of a sudden the piece entirely changes. For now, I'm digging the design. We'll see what happens from this point.
After this weekend's sculpture show, I saw many artists that have a clear identity. They sculpt certain subjects in a certain style, do them well and stick with that. Some do pure wildlife art, some do figurative sculpture or children statues. I don't know what I am yet, and I don't know if this is good or not. Other artists only had African wildlife, others had various mediums outside of bronze. I've touched many themes but have mostly kept to wildlife. However, I don't want to be classified as just a wildlife artist as much as I love it. I enjoy whimsical, I enjoy sculpting children, figures and western. I also like a bit more contemporary and not straight up representational art. So while I have this identity crisis, I'll hopefully continue to create beautiful art that will touch people.
These images are all of the "same" raven sculpture. During this weekend my wife suggested to be a little more free in my creativity and felt I was holding back. So I let it go. From the above pictures you can see the original idea of the bird on a stump, then on a more geometric shape. My idea now... a black raven on a crescent. The entire thing will be stainless steel and the the crescent will be high-polished. In my mind's-eye I can see it and hope it makes sense. It should be fun...
This weekend during the Loveland Sculpture Invitational, a lady and her daughter were moved to tears when then saw my bronze heron sculpture titled "Grace" on display. They explained that their husband and father had recently passed away and the mom had seen herons several times following his passing, so the bird has became somewhat of a symbol for them. After walking the show and seeing thousands of sculptures and lots of heron sculptures, and after lots of hugs and more crying, they purchased it. What a true honor. It made my day, weekend and helped me feel confident in what I do. Symbols are important to all of us in one way or another. We use them more than we might think. From stop signs, crosses, gestures and so on, symbols have meaning. For these ladies this sculpture of a heron became such. It had meaning to them and represented their husband and father. As an artist I create symbols or at least stories. They are captured in bronze. These can become memorials, something that will pay tribute to someone who has died or did something note worthy. This is not the first time a sculpture of mine (or my fathers) has been used to help others feel a connection to a loved on. It's humbling and truly a responsibility to create bronze sculpture of any theme that has such power for others.
With all the stress of preparing for our biggest show of the year, the Loveland Sculpture Invitational, which starts Friday, it was good to get a few pictures of my bronze elk sculpture finally complete and on it's way. "Mountain Monarch" was a commission from a client, but will be released as a small edition. It will premiere at the above mentioned show, assuming it ships and gets here from the foundry without hassle. I'm excited to finally see it in person and finished. Please review some of the experiences I had with elk to create this sculpture.
Where an artist lives can have a vital impact on their work. I know I've posted before about the wildlife that surrounds me, but I continue to find inspiration and appreciation of the life and beauty that is all around. The first picture is an amazing sunset after a needed rainstorm. Notice the Heron in the middle picture? It's at a lake behind my home. Then I also notice churning in that same pond and caught the last picture of just a few of the masses of large fish that were acting strange on the surface of the water. Maybe spawning? I will try to never take this beauty for granted.
This commissioned bronze sculpture monument that sits outside the Alabama Sport Hall was completed by my father, Mark Hopkins, around 1997. I helped sculpt it, which consisted mostly of spearing and smoothing clay, but I also became a huge part of it. I was used as the model for the kneeling football player between Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan, two of the states famous coaches. Does he look like me? Yes. Is it a portrait? No. There are facial features, the build, and other elements that are distinctly "Eli" according to my dad. Being immortalized in a bronze monument isn't something everyone can check off their bucket list. It wasn't actually on mine, but it's checked now either way.