Sculptor works on trade, has big plans

By Jeff Smith

Fritz Hoppe, a Nebraska Native, at Sculpture in the Hills 2017. He has been out of college for a little over a year and pursues when he’s not at his day job.

Fritz Hoppe, who resides outsides of Rapid City, is an artist and manager of the Dinosaur Museum which is close to where he lives.

His focus is creating bronze sculptures which he said is a very long process with many steps.

He outsources the casting work for the sculptures but he is looking into casting his smaller pieces at home.

He is looking to go to Texas this winter so his friend he met through his Youtube channel can show him how to cast.

“I really want to do every step of the process myself,” Hoppe said.

When casting is outsourced it can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to be complete.

There are many steps just to make a mold for a foundry.

He has six pieces that have been cast in bronze.

There is usually about 10-50 sculptures in an edition. All of his sculptures have been limited edition

“Every time you cast a sculpture each one is going to be different just because of the process,” Hoppe said.

Sculpture in the Hills last June was the only art show that he went to this year.

“It was a very classy show,” Hoppe said about Sculpture in the Hills.

He said Hill City has a strong arts community. He was impressed at how the organizers invited the right crowd out.

“They really invited a lot of people out who are interested in the subject,” Hoppe said. “I was impressed at how talented and innovative the other artists were.”

According to Hoppe, Sculpture in the Hills is a lot different than bigger trade shows because the show is very focused on sculptures.

Hoppe sold one of his new pieces at the show. The person who bought it is letting Hoppe keep it is as a show piece for now and Hoppe will deliver it next year.

He hopes to come back to Sculpture in the Hills next year and also plans to go to an outdoor sculpture show.

Hoppe also plans to create more large outdoor pieces in the future.

“I have in mind what I’m going to create this winter,” Hoppe said.

The end goal is to produce large public monuments.

Hoppe  has been sculpting since he was about 3.

“I’ve been working with clay since I’ve been able to walk pretty much,” Hoppe said.

In college he took art history classes and a printmaking class. He learned more valuable information from art history class than he did actually learning how to create art.

“They’re actually great entrepreneurs and had a way of being original but learning from the people before them,” Hoppe said about famous artists he learned about.

His favorite person to learn about was printmaker and painter Albrecht Dürer.

“His father was a craftsman or a metalworker and he was kind of like Borglum. He was very good at creating an image for himself,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe said he has spent a lot of time creating Youtube videos. He plans on getting a hard drive with a good editing program soon.

Hoppe also loves painting and ink drawing. Each one of his passions is time consuming. He said it’s important to use time wisely and stay focused on a piece to complete it.

“A lot of artists have trouble completing pieces. You’ll see unfinished work all over their studio,” Hoppe said.

This is untrue of Hoppe as most of his studio has his finished works. On Oct. 20, his place is tidy except for a watercolor painting he was working on.

Oct. 21 and 22 were the last days the Dinosaur Museum was open for the year. He will open it again sometime in April.

This was his second year he was managed the museum but the first year he is on his own managing it. He said being the manager is a fun job. The plan is to do more landscaping outside of the museum and carpentry projects to improve areas around the museum.

“We’re pretty excited for what the future holds,” Hoppe said.

Once in awhile at the Dinosaur Museum he will use his expert sculpture skills to fix a broken dinosaur.

“Those things aren’t very easy to fix,” Hoppe said.

He said they will be put together with epoxy and pieces of metal then blend in the cracks with epoxy clay. Painting the broken area is the final touch.

Hoppe said the most important part for any artist is to explain the process. Explaining the process lets people know how they achieved their results.

“The process itself is the most interesting aspect of art for people who enjoy learning about art,” Hoppe said.

He said more time is put into creating an idea than actually doing the work.

“I put a lot of time and energy into simply finding a good idea and obtaining the reference,” Hoppe said.

He has spent a lot of hours trying to get photos of wildlife or looking at different people.

One of his series focuses on primitive men. In this series there are men from prehistoric eras in different poses with hunting weapons.

Hoppe will work on bigger sculpture pieces this winter.