The mane attraction: Whittle the Wood Stump 9’s Robert Lyon doesn’t horse around while working

Left: Robert Lyon leans on the finished work, "Horse of Course." Right: Lyon gets last-minute work in during the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman

Capturing a classic image of the American West, Robert Lyon’s depiction of a free-spirited equine was somewhat of a departure from his past pieces, yet it’s a chance he’s glad he took.

Lyon, originally from Boulder and currently hailing from Payson, Arizona, carved up “Horse of Course,” the title animal rearing up on its hind legs for the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

Lyon is no stranger to putting likenesses of the animal kingdom in his works, especially those he’s entered in WTW, now in his third year.

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)

His previous entries showed multiple forest denizens together, including “In Wild Harmony” and “The Big Fish.”

Robert Lyon of Boulder leans on “Wild Harmony,” a carving of multiple forest animals, at the 19th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman
Raccoons greet spectators on the back side of Robert Lyon’s animal totem “The Big Fish.”
Andy Bockelman

Taking on a different subject this year was Lyon’s attempt to branch out more, he said.

“When you’re carving, you start with bears and other things like that before you move on to horses,” he said. “Everybody carves bears at first.”

Robert Lyon smooths out his horse sculpture Friday during Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman

The animal’s musculature and features was a different challenge than he’d ever experienced, however the particular stump he drew added some unexpected help.

“All these spots in the wood really made it look even better,” he said, noting though he had no particular horse breed in mind, the piece came to resemble an Appaloosa.

Lyon added that he unconsciously referenced the theme song to “Mr. Ed” in the title, which he liked mostly for the rhyme.

Robert Lyon’s “Horse of Course” at the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman

However, when he was varnishing, some extra residue bunched up on the body that he didn’t notice until it was too late.

“That probably hurt me in the judging, but it still came out great. I think this is my best so far,” he said. “I feel like I’ve really grown as an artist this year.”

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