PUEBLO, Colo. – Some professional athletes struggle with life after sports, but Montana cowboy Tobin Capp is not one of them.
The former pro bull rider has thrived in his new profession as sculptor, and his prized bronzes have spread their way across North America in the last decade. Most recently, he was commissioned by the PBR to produce two bronze sculptures of newly-retired bucking legend Bushwacker, and he came through in fine style.
One of the sculptures went to the bull’s owner, Julio Moreno, while the other is on display at PBR Headquarters in Pueblo, Colo. The expertly crafted bronze – which details the bull’s head – is roughly 30 inches tall by 24 inches deep and captures the combination of elegance and power exhibited by the three-time World Champion Bull during his illustrious career.
Capp, who runs a semi-guided outfitting business each fall, said that he works differently than some sculptors, who may not know as much about animals.
“The way I sculpt is from the inside out, and so I start with the bone structure,” said Capp, who rode bulls from the age of 13 until he was 28. “When I sculpted the Bushwacker sculpture, I started with a large bull’s skull and did like they do with forensic sculpting, where you have a skull and add the muscles to it. That way, you end up with the most realistic representation of the animal.
“If you just start with a block of clay and take everything off, it’s not a bull.”
Capp’s first-hand knowledge about how bulls buck helps him in his craft.
“You know the peak action of what’s going on, the position of the rider and all of the equipment,” said Capp, who also sculpted a bronze of Chris Shivers on Dillinger for the PBR to commemorate Shivers’ 2012 retirement. “You’ll see some artists or sculptors do a rodeo piece, and they have no idea about rodeo. So, the next half of a jump from where they’ve stopped the action, the guy’s getting bucked off. He’s not in control and doesn’t have the proper riding form.”
It was important for Capp to effectively capture Bushwacker’s physique, especially considering he has a great deal of reverence for the talented bucker.
“Bushwacker is just an incredibly athletic bull that can do things that other bulls just don’t do, and he never quit,” Capp said. “He never missed a step.”
He even envisioned riding the bull, which bucked off 64 of 65 riders in 2014, while working on the sculpture.
“Having been on a lot of bulls, you can watch a bull and know how it’s going to feel riding him,” Capp said. “That’s probably one of the most fun things about sculpting and doing a piece like that. It steps me back into time and I can feel the bull underneath me while I’m sculpting it. It’s the weirdest deal, and it’s like I’m 20 years old again.”
Capp learned to sculpt from, of all people, a rodeo judge. Bob Burkhart took Capp under his wing, and the bull rider’s natural talent emerged from there.
After deciding rodeo was not going to provide him with a comfortable living, Capp made the switch to sculptor.
“If I could have made money riding bulls, I probably never would have become a sculptor,” said Capp, who has sculpted awards bronzes for the Calgary Stampede for a decade. “After my career, I knew I wanted a job where I didn’t have to work for somebody else, and I’d always been interested in art. So, I decided after rodeo, I’d go into sculpting and that way could still be connected with the sport.”
Capp, who spends more than 100 days outdoors in the Montana wilderness, focuses primarily on wildlife sculptures for his company, Bear Tracks Bronze.
“A lot of my art is centered around wildlife art, so I really spend a lot of time outside in the mountains seeking inspiration,” he said.
Considering the raw natural beauty of the state, Capp is in no short supply of inspiration. Not only is sculpting a career for the third-generation Montanan, but it also has therapeutic powers.
“It’s absolutely relaxing, and I love it,” said Capp, who has spent much of 2014 building his own house from YouTube instructional videos. “Time just evaporates when I’m sculpting.”
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