There was a moment in time when Lucas Pennington’s chain saw got a hankering to become an artist, and he made the decision to not stand in the way.
“I started noticing I was getting really good at what I was doing,” he said, talking about his chain saw work as the owner of a tree trimming business.
“I told my wife what I was thinking and then I walked up to a piece of wood and said ‘If this comes out looking anything like a bear, I’m gonna go for it.’ A little while later, she looked at it and said, ‘Looks like a bear.’ I went for it.”
That was five years ago. His bears now are joined by eagles and nearly life-sized horses and the type of signature pieces (like a leaping bass totem) that sit by the front door of a lake house to become the icon of the place.
One piece that features a red barn reads “Farm Sweet Farm.”
Pennington was wrapping up a slow night at the Boyle County Fair where he was one of the vendors stationed next to the Floral Hall. It is fair and festival season so he is making the rounds.
Part of what he does when selling at fairs and carnivals is to demonstrate the artistry of his skillfully aimed destruction.
The smell of sawdust lingers after the deafening silence that follows a finished piece. The wood looks good naked but comes to life once painted in the colors of the species or subject represented.
Pennington is from Nancy, where he has a wood shop. He also owns a meter reading service there which only operates 11 days each month, leaving him time to rip wood into art.
“I¿picked up a chain saw as soon as I got out of the Marines,” he said. “I was into motocross before, as a kid so, you know ...,” he said, laughing.
So, the sound of a two-stroke engine was hardly something new to Pennington. Or the risky potential for injury.
The chain saws he uses today are likely more expensive than the bikes he used to ride.
“I have about $1,500 in the two with me today, but they start on the first pull,” he said.
He said the wood first started talking to him as art when he was clearing a cedar grove on some property he has.
Aromatic cedar is given to extremes in color from blonde to blood red with striations throughout that already paint pictures in the wood. It is easy to see how creativity could become sparked in such an environment.
Does the wood tell him what it wants to be?
“Sometimes,” he said. “A¿piece of wood will already look like something, but other times a client requests something.”
“Or my kids — we have five — will be sitting with me around a fire, because as you can imagine, we do that a lot,” he said. “And my kids suggest something for me to make next. I sketch it out and then make that.”
“It’s a lot of fun, to be able to do something as part of making a living that I’d want to do anyway,” he said.