Colorful candor: Whittle the Wood Stump 10’s Robert Waits taps into Dr. Seuss sensibility
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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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When you hear an unholy shriek or a cacophony of chest-pounding hundreds of feet high, you know you’re about to see something fantastic.