Wood-carving artist: 'A chainsaw is just a 3-D pencil'

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. -- Where some people see firewood, Thomas Earing sees a blank canvas.

The Maple Valley artist sculpts animals, totem poles, and even the busts of famous people from discarded wood in his large outdoor 'studio' - tucked away behind a barn, beyond the free-roaming horses, piles of large timber, and a persistent Border Collie named Ramses.

And he fine-tunes his passion -- with power tools.

"There's so many different things you can pull out of a tree that relate to real life," Earing said. "I get to work with the bones. I get to sift through the sheets of history, fiber for fiber."

Earing is a wood carver, using a chainsaw to sculpt everything from popular comic book characters to the faces of Seahawks players. The Colorado native has been chainsaw carving for 12 years, after taking a traditional tree-trimming job to support a graffiti habit.

He realized he could marry both of his interests, and found a calling by chiseling.

"It starts as a log and you start making lines just like drawing a picture," Earing said, as he carved away at some Oregon driftwood. "To me, a chainsaw is just a 3-D pencil. You start scratching in the details. You try to get the shadows. It just starts revealing a surface just like a printer would print."

One of Earing's more popular displays - a giant wood sculpture of Batman, aptly titled 'The Bark Knight' - recently made the rounds across Seattle. The sculpture was displayed in the Central District, drawing looks - and interest - from onlookers who passed by.

Earing is currently working on a number of projects, and regularly competes in chainsaw carving events across the country. He updates followers and fans through social media and on his website.

Being a chainsaw carver is part of his childhood dream, he said, and something he can't imagine stopping.

"I will carve until I die," he said, "(whether) I'm whittling or I'm carving professionally. It's one of those things, I think, that's ingrained into my DNA."