An eleven foot bear’

I have seen strange sightings before but an 11-1/2 foot tall, 6,000 pound bear made me stop and take a second look Tuesday afternoon. Lashed to a flatbed trailer and on its way to its new home, the bear and its current owner, artist James Brazeal of Capitan, N. Mex., stopped in Brady for a quick shopping trip. The bear, made from the trunk of a 400-year-old pine tree, is one of the latest artworks created by the burgeoning chain saw artist. Only in the chain saw sculpting business for just over 2-1/2 years, Brazeal is an up-and-coming artist who specializes in creating works of art from trunks of natural hardwoods. His latest creation, has been purchased by a client in Stanton where the bear will reside overlooking the freeway adjacent to the new owner’s property. On his way through Brady returning from a show in San Antonio, Brazeal’s rig and unique creations caught the attention of several passers by who stopped to take a look. The industrial arts class from Brady High School stopped to take a gander and heads were turning as passing cars marveled at the massive carving. “I also carve stone and combine it with wood carvings to make unique pieces,” said Brazeal. “My main focus is on creating figures of art that symbolize one of the seven directions of a Native American religion.” Without drawings or photographs, he tries new ideas and works to transform a seemingly useless piece of wood into an attractive work of art. Most of his creations involve bears, eagles or Indian figures, but he loves to experiment and try new things. “I am just a street artist, but I want to be a fine chain saw artist,” he said. “If ‘want to’ has anything to do with being successful, then I have a good shot because I really want to be a well-known artist.” The wood Brazeal chooses usually comes from special circumstances. Large trees that may be 500 years old or more are difficult to come by. “The way in which I get most of my big pieces is to follow power companies when they go to make a new line through a forest. You can’t get your hands on the old giant trees any other way, so I usually follow their path and find what I need. Once I do find a good tree, it is quite an ordeal to get it out of the woods. It usually takes a couple of days and some specialized logging equipment.” Once he has the wood at his work site, the actual carving can be a relatively quick process. With a smaller piece of wood, total time from start to finish can be just a couple of hours. “This is high-speed art,” he explained. “People love to watch it because they can see the art transform right before their eyes. “I don’t work from a pattern, I just start. It’s all free hand. Each piece of wood or stone dictates a part of the carving. A really crooked or distorted piece can be beautiful, if you master them. I did a horse head out of a giant root once. It turned out great, but that is the only one I have been able to do successfully.” To carve his art, he uses five different saws and two high-speed grinders that can cut off a finger in the blink of an eye. The equipment used to whittle away large chunks and even tiny little bits remains the same. Once the details are done, hours and hours of sanding and applying coats of finish are the only extra things done to the works of art. His works of art are slowly gaining recognition throughout the country. His largest creation, a 16-foot bear that weighs 14,000 pounds is located in New Mexico at the home of the real Smokey the Bear. According to Brazeal, one other bear named “Gone Fishing” will also be located at a Motel 6 in New Mexico as its official mascot. “One man here in Brady already said he wanted my next large bear,” said Brazeal. “I’ll be headed to another show here in the next few months and he’ll have a chance to proof it on my way through. If he still wants it, it is his.”

Leave a Comment