Sean Cudney, a chainsaw wielding artist, carves birds, bears, mountain lions, even people. He can look at a log and make it into whatever creative image comes to mind.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the artist demonstrated his chainsaw skills sculpting a host of wildlife and trees at Merrill Family Holiday Sales.
Although Cudney makes it look easy, it takes a talented and serious sculptor to produce work at the speed and accuracy he achieves.
The artist carved the huge mountain man that stands as sentinel in Wellsville Park, and in California he carved a polished redwood portrait of a Native American.
After about 500 bears, they have become more of a pain than a challenge.
“I’m sick of doing bears, they are not much of a challenge anymore,” he said. “I love doing someone’s dog. I did a dog after my mother’s dog died.”
Cudney not only uses wood, he also uses clay, wax, plaster or even different kinds of metal.
There are a couple of successful local artists that Cudney said have influenced his style. Craig Harrison and Scott Rogers have offered to help coach him along. He’s learned a lot from them. He said the two have inspired him and given him valuable advice.
He is starting to recognize he can be successful with his abilities if he works hard at it.
“After 20 years as a sculptor, I’m finally sinking my teeth into it. I’ve finally figured out what I’m doing and what I want to do.”
Cudney broke his back in high school and was looking for a way to make a living other than construction.
He went to a profitable hobbies workshop in Provo and began by carving an elk in a flintlock gun stock. He gradually worked his way into three dimensional pieces and different materials.
“I love playing with different mediums,” he said. “My pieces are never finished; I could work on them forever. It’s a blessing to see things, but it’s also a curse sometimes.”
He’s been in construction 25 years and owned a tree trimming company. Sixty percent of his time was cutting trees and 40 percent was construction.
“I’ve got to work construction to be able afford my sculpting,” Cudney said. “I’m going to get my contractor’s license. As a starving artist, I’ve had to subsidize my art.”
He thinks he knows what he needs to do to make his art pay. It’s just getting there.
“I’m pushing more towards mass production and art for Cabela’s and Sportsman Warehouse,” he said. ”If I get into those places, I get royalties.”
He said he has a large piece of wood which he plans to use for carving a large sculpture for the American West Heritage Center. He is working with a committee to get a grant.
He is working on a moose using clay, an action basketball figure of two players, and a draft horse piece.
“The human form is really difficult to do,” he said. “Then when you add action, it becomes more difficult.” He said he had a lot of pictures to work with and that helps.
There is a small community of sculptors in the valley that really do some nice work.
“There are some pretty successful, top tier sculptors in the valley,” he said. “I’m at the bottom tier. They have pursued it a little bit more than I have, but I’m going to do what it takes.”