Virginia artist makes unique portraits with a chainsaw

Virginia artist makes unique portraits with a chainsaw
Richardson said he started creating these pieces after helping a friend with an art show back in 2016. (Source: WDBJ7)

WOODSTOCK, Va. (WHSV) - For the past three years Glenn Richardson, an artist living in Woodstock, has been traveling the country heading to festivals like Burning Man in Nevada, creating portraits.

"I have people sit and I outfit them with earplugs and a barbers smock to protect their clothes from the sawdust," Richardson said. "And I cut their portrait with a chainsaw."

Richardson has been an experienced artist for years but decided to work with wood and chainsaws after helping a friend at an art festival in Florida. Richardson would ask people if they would want a portrait and experiment with it.

Since then he has created friendships and unique piece of art with more than 600 people,

"I like to establish a good relationship with whoever I'm gonna carve," Richardson said. "I do this because I'm not trying to just carve an image of that person but I'm trying to capture a bit of their personality."

The process can take about 30 minutes. First Richardson will ask you to sit down in what he calls, his death chair. It’s not a scary chair just the name he gave it. He then asks you to sit straight and look at a card he has set up so you have perfect posture.

After about 15 minutes of carving the blank piece of wood, Richardson takes it and sets it on fire.

"We burn it quite heavily with a propane roofing torch," Richardson said. "I prefer to do this at night so I can get the face to glow with embers."

He then takes a wire brush to the portrait to add more details to the face.

"It's kind of this rebirth you know it's this phoenix thing," Richardson said. "And I can bring in the highlights with the wired brush."

Richardson said each year he set up shop at the Boy Scouts Christmas tree stand off W. Reservoir Rd. in Woodstock hoping to bring in a crowd.

“It was kinda hard to stare at the card the whole time,” Wyatt Leonard, a boy scout at the stand who had his portrait done, said. “But it was extremely cool especially because somebody can do that out of a chainsaw.”

If you’re interested in getting your portrait done you can head to Richardson’s website or see him at the tree stand each weekend until Dec. 23.

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