Colorful candor: Whittle the Wood Stump 10’s Robert Waits taps into Dr. Seuss sensibility

Left: Robert Waits displays "The Lorax" for the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous. Right: The face of the Dr. Seuss character peers down.
Robert Waits

An orange and yellow furry fellow perched atop a Truffula Tree with Humming-Fish beneath might be pushing the boundaries of creativity for some artists. For Robert Waits, such a character is right in the middle of the bell curve.

Waits’ entry in the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous drew inspiration from the grand-daddy of children’s literature with Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” tying for Artist’s Choice in the 2019 event.

Robert Waits gets to work with spray paint Friday during Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman

“Fun to carve, bright colors, all of the important criteria,” he said. “It’s one of the brightest ones I’ve ever done.”

The vibrant, colorful, mustached figure was not Waits’ original intention, though when he began work on a Native American woman with cascading hair, the stump he received didn’t cooperate.

20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carvings

Stump 1 — Nate Hall — “Mountain Migraine”; Rams butting heads

Stump 2 — Matt Ounsworth — “20 for 20”; Animal totem (Second place)

Stump 3 — Jim Valentine — “Buckshot Bill”; Cowboy

Stump 4 — Damon Gorecki — “Wood Haven”; Bench

Stump 5 — Justine Park — “Home of the Brave”; Skull with feathered headdress

Stump 6 — Joe Srholez — “Xing Yun (Lucky)”; Dragon

Stump 7 — Chad Stratton — “Long Ago”; Wooly mammoth

Stump 8 — Bongo Love — “The Sweet Life”; Hummingbirds (Third place)

Stump 9 — Robert Lyon — “Horse of Course”; Horse

Stump 10 — Robert Waits —  The Lorax”; The Lorax (Artist’s Choice)

Stump 11 — Fernando Dulnuan — “The Lion of Judah”; Angel with lion and lamb

Stump 12 — Ken Braun — “Blue”; Velociraptor (First place, People’s Choice, Artist’s Choice)

“The log was in really bad shape, but I was able to trade out just this one time, and off I went,” he said.

The base of the carving also features an etched stone with the hopeful word “Unless” that hints at a happier ending in an otherwise bittersweet book. And, though Waits admits the irony of a wooden carving of a personality synonymous with fighting deforestation, he enjoyed having an opportunity to employ Seuss’s ecological message, with “I speak for the trees” on the other side of the base.

“I’d love to see it at a bookstore or library, somewhere like that,” he said.

Robert Waits is a few birds short of a conspiracy, the collective name for ravens, but is happy to have won the 17th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous for his carving, “Never More.” This is the second consecutive first-place victory for Waits, from Diamond Springs, California, who was selected as the winner of the annual festival Saturday at Loudy-Simpson Park.
Andy Bockelman

Waits, who took back-to-back WTW wins in 2015 and 2016, has boasted more occasions at Whittle the Wood than any other competitor, with this being his 15th year.

“Big Hooters” from the 2015 Whittle the Wood
Andy Bockelman

Previously living in California, he also had a longer trip than most, though coming from Payson, Arizona still involved 14 hours of driving.

“I love coming out here to Craig each year,” he said.

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