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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Carving a niche: Artist creates horses from wood

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The horse bench carved by Kevin Rains serves as the perfect place to hang one of horse trainer Howard Hamilton's floral horseshoes.
(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler)
Two years ago, local cartoon artist Kevin Rains stumbled across an old chain saw while helping clean out his family's cabin in the Smokey Mountains. That find sparked a curiosity in Kevin that's become his new passion.

After finding the chain saw, Kevin began studying the craft of wood carving. He's been practicing and fine tuning his skills ever since, growing a collection of art that ranges from walking sticks to pumpkins to black bears.

Horse art

Living in Shelbyville, it didn't take Kevin long to begin carving pieces that might appeal to the horse crowd, including plant holders and benches that feature beautiful horse heads.

Kevin does this in between drawing cartoons and shooting photos -- and raising his three sons, ages 8, 10, and 13.

Yes, he's an artist (operating BearVue Artworks out of his home in Shelbyville) -- and a stay-at-home-dad.

Most art such as this takes Kevin two or three days to complete.
(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler)
"As a man, you have to put your ego aside, not being the 'bread winner,'" Kevin said. "You're trying to juggle the kids, the housework, and at the same time trying to make a living off being an artist."

Unplanned change

Kevin has his MBA from Middle Tennessee State University and earlier in his life thought he'd have a career in airport management. His wife, too, was career-minded. Kevin worked at night and his wife worked days. Then, in 2002, the couple found out they were going to have a third child.

"We decided something had to give; something had to change," he said, quietly.

Kevin began brainstorming and started exploring the idea of drawing and submitting cartoons to mostly Christian, children's or other trade publications. Other than enjoying music, Kevin said he was never particularly drawn to art as a child.

Whitlei Green, daughter of Shelbyville horse trainer Charlie Green, stands next to some of Kevin's wood art (a planter).
(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler)
For a man whose talent sort of came out of the blue, Kevin has done well, but he admits it hasn't been easy.

Hard work

"You might put in eight or nine calls or e-mails to (a publication) and then hear something back," and it might be a no, he said.

"I have to study and read a magazine for a while before I can think of something funny," he said.

Kevin's diligence has paid off, though, and he's had about 40 cartoons published thus far.

His hobby for creating wood art came a few years after the cartoons, after that trip to the Smokies when Kevin's father-in-law, Henry Wilhoite introduced him to the old chain saw. And, with Henry being the owner of local business Henry's Cabinets, Kevin wouldn't have to go far to get some advice on the trade.

"He's great," Kevin said. "His (type of wood carving) is a different kind, though. I couldn't do that. I'm more freestyle."

Show of its own

He started by carving bears, then wood sticks, benches, and pumpkins. Then horses -- just in time for the show.

This is the first of about 40 of Kevin's cartoons that have been published in various trade magazines.
Local walking horse trainer Charlie Green helped Rains with the next step. Charlie helped his friend by setting a horse bench in front of his barn on the show grounds at this year's Celebration. The next day, Howard Hamilton, another trainer, wanted to buy it.

"As an artist, you know you do something and you hope people are going to like it," Kevin said. "But it's always a gamble."

Kevin also specializes in black and white photography and looks forward to having a booth for his first time this year at October's Webb School Craft Fair in Bell Buckle.

For more information call 205-3225.

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