Chainsaw Artist to Wow Music Fans
Caboolture chainsaw artist has been commissioned by the town of Childers, to transform
a timber log into a life-sized replica of 89-year-old country musician Chad Morgan.
Luke Sheehan is no run-of-the-mill artist, carving his way through life. He's both a musician and a star boxing coach who has produced five national boxing champions in as many years. His talent for creating intricate public artworks using only a chainsaw as a carving tool is set to grab the attention of country music fans as he carves a statue of one of Australia's iconic musical entertainers.
“I don’t fit the natural criteria, and I like that. I don’t think anything special came from normal.”
Chainsaw carving is relatively unknown in Australia but is popular overseas, where ice is sculpted during winter. Luke's father, Rod Sheehan, pioneered chainsaw carving in Australia and was one of the country's first national speed carving champions, creating The Big Cassowary in Tully. Luke says he developed a love of chainsaw carving by watching his father carve, stating he wouldn't be a chainsaw carver if it wasn't for his Dad.
The first carving Luke created with a chainsaw was a goanna in 2010. Since then, he has carved a myriad of human and animal-shaped sculptures, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle, using this dangerous implement. The sculptures are installed in playgrounds at childcare centres, schools, public parks, and private homes when they're complete.
Even more extraordinary is that Luke fashions his artworks in speed carving competitions in front of large audiences at shows and festivals around the country. At the Inglewood show, Luke carved a dolphin, a kookaburra and a wombat on the first day of events. The following day he carved out a giant pelican in under four hours. Luke carved a magnificent red deer for the town's community garden during the Heritage Festival in Linville.
Spectators find it incredible that Luke can achieve detailed representations of living forms using a cumbersome and hulking chainsaw, but this master craftsman enjoys challenging stereotypes. "I don't fit the natural criteria, and I like that. I don't think anything special came from normal," he declares.
Hailing from a small town in regional Victoria, Luke found carving in front of a large audience daunting but threw himself into the challenge. "It feels scary, but once you've made it through the first time, you can do it again and again. The audiences often tell me I've had a massive crowd watching me carve but, in my head, there were only a couple of people."
Despite the crowd's fascination with his work, he doesn't consider himself a gifted artist, putting his skill down to sheer willpower and his own way of expressing himself. He explains that he visualizes a project, as a series of images, in his head, similar to a picture story. Sometimes, it is the shape of the log itself that inspires what form it will eventually become.
His latest project, commissioned by the town of Childers, is a life-sized statue of country musician Chad Morgan. A tourist attraction for the town. Chad wanted Luke to depict him holding a cane knife in tribute to his beginnings as a Childers cane-cutter. In a nod to Chad's musical career, Luke proposed that he also incorporate a guitar into the final carving, and Chad loved the idea.
How does one transform a timber log into a life-sized replica of an 89-year-old country entertainer wielding only a bulky chainsaw?
Luke says each artist approaches a piece differently. He examines the timber log for lines with which to define the ultimate shape he will carve, then removes excess wood, bringing it into scale, fine-tuning and chipping away each layer from the top downwards. "Not too much, though; if you chop off more than you need, you can't put it back!" he says with a laugh, adding that he has never had that problem, which is a testament to his skill.
Even though Luke finds the definitions and proportions of faces the most difficult part of a carving to perfect, he says it has helped that the tools available to chainsaw artists have improved substantially in recent years.
"The bars are used to carve down into a fine point, in the same way we might use a pencil, but it is a chainsaw." For the details on a bird, Luke will use an oxy-acetylene torch and a burning technique to create the impression of feathers. The whole piece is then finished with a layer of protective polyurethane varnish.
In the years ahead, Luke wants to create more signature pieces using his chainsaw. This includes timber slabs for bench tops, furniture, and carvings with a functional purpose. "I am still learning and growing as an artist. I chip away at it," he says philosophically as he continues to chip away at his carvings.
Contact Luke on 0418 195 198 or e:email@example.com