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Sleepy Hollow features carvings of local artist

Saturday, 05 August 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Sleepy Hollow features carvings of local artist
Zack Neuberger has been creating chainsaw art at Sleepy Hollow Campground in Pincher Creek.    Photo by Auralea Boldt

Sleepy Hollow features carvings of local artist

By Auralea Boldt

Sleepy Hollow Campground has recently taken on more character, thanks to the artistic talents of Zack Neuburger.

Zack, 25, was staying in Sleepy Hollow campground after returning from living and working in the Yukon. Campground co-owner Connie Varley saw him carving a poplar root and was impressed by his artistic ability.

She then invited — and commissioned — him to transform two stumps next to the campground office into wood carvings.

She has plans for him to continue his work throughout the campground.

Zack says he is essentially self-taught. He learned a few skills from an acquaintance in the Yukon, and also purchased some tools from him.

He started out carving spruce burls. As he increased his proficiency with a chainsaw, he branched out to do carvings of big-horn sheep, and then faces.

Zack has a background in art. He attended the fine arts program for two years at the University of Lethbridge, where he studied painting and drawing.

At the time, he found the program too structured for his taste, and felt it was aimed more at those who wanted to become teachers. However, some of what he learned, such as composition and proportions, translated well into his wood carvings.

Zack has made his livelihood with a chainsaw at times throughout his life, so was already experienced working with wood.

He says the process of making his carvings is “fairly intuitive.” The hardest aspect is developing the three-dimensional profile. The flow of the hair and eyes of each figure also prove challenging.

As he starts the carving, he has an idea of what he would like to create, but must stay flexible throughout the process, as the wood ultimately informs his artistic vision.

He originally planned to make one of the trees into a wizard, but instead it became a gnome, due to the shape of the wood at the top of the stump.

The two carvings are intended to be a couple, as requested by Connie Varley.

Zack starts with a blocky shape, then roughs out the proportions of each feature. He does the larger pieces with a chainsaw, and then refines his vision and features with a set of chisels.

“I think a lot of people leave a stump with some idea that they’d like to do something,” he says.

“They hope it might grow back. It might have been an attempt to prune it that killed it. I know people who have carved chairs into them.

“I think a carving, it’s art, it adds a bit of novelty to a scene more than just an old tree stump might. It’s not something you see every day. They are a unique feature.”

Zack would like to eventually expand his service to all of southern Alberta and into British Columbia. He currently works at Grumpy’s Landscaping, and sees his art as a potential complement to his day job.

His long-term goal would be to develop his wood carving into a career.

“I’d like to do as many as I could,” he says.

He has a Facebook page, Twisted Timberwood Craft, which he jokes makes him “official by 2017 standards.”

Connie says she has received many compliments on Zack’s work, and high praise of his artistic abilities by those familiar with the art form.

Zack sees creativity as an important part of life.

“There is so little room or expression in everyday life,” he says.

“People have the desire to create. You hear so often, ‘If I had your talent.’ People have the desire to express themselves, it just takes a willingness to try. I feel it is important to do something beautiful and expressive.”

Read more in this week’s online edition here.
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From the August 2, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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