Dennis Hoyt is up each day at 4.30 and in his studio and ready to go at 5.30 a.m. "If I get an early start and get going, my enthusiasm doesn’t drop off and I can carry on all through the day", Dennis says.
Is your Porsche 917 with the psychedelic colours, the only Porsche sculpture you have made Dennis?
No, over the years, I have done three or four Porsche pieces and in fact, my very first sculpture piece was a Porsche 911. After that I did a Porsche 956 and then a 917 and I’ve done a couple of others since. There are so many great designs and I have so many ideas but as fanatical as Porsche lovers are, a lot of them don’t seem to want to buy the artwork. Especially a large piece. But there are so many Porsches that are just classic, like the 906, 908 and the 956s. I could do so much with them and especially with this new style that I am developing. It could really be fun but it’s so difficult to sell them, so I have to be careful with my subject matter.
You do a lot of F1 and Ferrari. The Porsche 911 has the iconic design. Does having different designs, give you more flexibility as an artist?
Yeah it does but with the 911 you pretty much get locked into a format. The very first piece I did was the Porsche 911 Oblique. I got the idea to do this really abstract presentation of the Porsche 911. So I found an older porsche that I wanted and I layed down behind the rear wheel and photographed part of the rear tail light, the fender up towards the front of the car. I just did that section from a very low point of perspective. So when you look at the piece, it’s a very odd shape but a Porsche person looks at it and knows exactly what it is.
The third piece I did was the Porsche 956 at speed. I was depicting laminar flow over the top of the car. The car itself was white and the grooves that were carved into the background which the car was mounted on, were done in a dark wood. So you can see this laminar flow going over the top of the 956. I would love to do some of the newer cars in my new abstract style and several of the Porsches would lend themselves nicely to the new direction I am going in.
You did a really stunning Porsche 917. Most artists pick the blue and orange colours but you picked the other colour scheme. Was that for a reason?
Yes, it was a commission and my client just loved the pychodelic colour scheme on the 917 (which you call the hippie car) but he wanted it to look as if it was going 200 mph. He asked me how I would do that. I looked at the paint scheme and said ‘to me it’s very simple. I would extrapulate the paint behind the car and just elongate it and exaggerate it’ and he said ‘great, just do it’. And that’s how it came to be. I made that sculpture from two separate pieces of wood and it was extremely intricate in the way that I intertwined all the pieces. I worked for months on it and it was a two month process just getting all the colours exactly right.
After putting so much time and effort into doing a piece like that, isn’t it hard to see it leave your studio.
By the time I had finished that piece, I just wanted to finish it and get it done. So I didn’t have a problem letting it go to the client. Then the piece was sent back to me to take to Bahrain last year and when I opened the crate and saw the piece after 10 years, I thought ‘wow, did I do this’? Then I did feel sorry I had sold the piece. Everyone who saw it in Bahrain was blown away by it. They couldn’t believe it was made out of two pieces of wood.
When you do a Porsche, how much study and research do you put into it?
With that particular piece, I did a lot of research and investigation and in particular to the colour because I couldn’t find the exact true colours anywhere on internet or in photos. I eventually found and ordered a book from Japan with a full page spread of the Porsche 917 when it was in the pitts during the race with it’s tail end up because they were doing some work on it. That showed me right there the true colours because I could see the correct florescent orange red emergency kill switch which all the cars have. It also showed me how the stripes over the body widened out at the rear. To this day, cars which have been repainted are correct in every way with the exception of the stripes. They paint them the same width going over the whole length of the car, when originally they should widen out at the rear. So if you don’t have that photo, you don’t know that because most people take photo’s from the front or side or back of the car and not overhead of the car.
What about the dimensions of the car. Do you have the technical drawings of the car then?
I go to a couple of good websites which have the blueprints of cars. They are not always the most accurate but I get the dimensions, take a copy of the blueprint, scale it out, make a paper template and continue my process to get the dimensions exactly right. A lot of sculptures that you see of that car are not as wide as the car should be and some are also shorter than the car really was. It was a long tailed car.
The car itself became quite an inconic car with Steve McQueen and the movie Le Mans. Did it have more meaning for you that just being a commission?
Oh yes because I think that car represents the battle between the Ferrari and the Porsche during the 1970’s and the long tailed cars which were only a couple of years like that. I think the high point in the Le Mans race was that the cars were extremely pretty because of their graceful long silhouettes. That represents to me one of the hallmarks of the Le Mans type racing. There have since been other cars which have done equally as well and are nice but in the 70’s THAT was IT. THAT was the car! The car is currently owned by Dr. Simeone in Pennysylvania. He has done a really wonderful job in setting up a great museum, showing all these wonderful classic cars from all the premieres but he kind of stages them in the setting which is appropriate to when the cars were in the pitts at Le Mans. He goes after some really unusual and highly regarded Formula racing cars. He’s got Ferrari’s and Alphas and everything else but they are always the number 1. He’s a marvellous guy who raises a lot of money for childrens’ charities.
Read our other interview with Dennis Hoyt.
Visit Dennis Hoyts' website for more of his work.