When Alex deMoustes began working with a tree service company last fall, he took a good, hard look at the fallen trees. Where others saw firewood, he saw artistic potential.
DeMoustes told the property owner in Hernando Beach that he could make a sculpture for her from the stump of the red cedar using a chain saw. She accepted, and he carved a bear with multiple small animals looking up to it.
"I'm a creative person," said deMoustes, 47. "I look at a tree and I know what I need to do and what to take off. It kind of talks to me; it shows me. I can picture the creature sitting there. I can imagine what it will look like."
DeMoustes studied art at Dunedin High School from 1978-82, learning about pen and ink, pastels, crayon, charcoal, water color and oil painting. "I was more advanced (in art) than other students and the teacher let me do my thing," he said.
He did not pursue further art education and went to work as a truck driver. For a while, he operated a sign shop, which tapped into his artistic nature.
DeMoustes' creativity bloomed again during his brief stint with the tree service, and he decided to explore wood artistry, armed with chain, other sharp tools and a keen eye toward nature.
"Ninety percent is chain saw, to get it down to shape," he explained, noting that he often starts with stumps up to a foot in diameter with as many as three chunky offshoots.
After starting with an Echo model 400 chain saw with an 18-inch blade, DeMoustes uses a Dremel saw to cut details and shaves fine points with a hand grinder, angle grader and chisels.
DeMoustes further enhances his woodwork with a variety of stains, some merely a satin gleam, others with color.
On one piece, a 5-foot-tall carving titled The Eagle has Landed, the bird's primary wing feathers are upraised in downward flight and are stained lifelike brown, with white tips. Its head feathers are ivory white, the beak yellow-gold.
"People say my work is unique and more detailed," deMoustes noted, comparing his wood art to other chain saw artists' offerings on the Internet.
At the Christmas parade and festival in Brooksville, he gave a chain saw demonstration and said buyers were surprised by the details he puts in.
In addition to the eagle, he showed an owl, a mouse in its grasp, peeking out of a stump top; The Eagle Goes Fishing, with the raptor grasping a bass in its claws; an iguana paired against a bear; and a 2-foot tall owl staring intently through lifelike eyes.
Prices for the artwork range from $425 to $725, which he acknowledges may be a bit much for local residents but are consistent with similar works offered on the Internet. Locally, the prices are negotiable, deMoustes said.
He bases the price on the size, basically $100 a foot, plus time invested. For instance, he worked about 12 hours a day for four days creating one of the eagle pieces priced at $725. Sculptures of bears, which the artist said are easier to saw and carve, are less expensive.
DeMoustes also will carve logs into outdoor benches featuring animals as accoutrements. He'll go to a homeowner's property to create art from a stump in place.
DeMoustes's work can be viewed at photobucket.com/doneright, and is offered for sale on Craigslist.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org