Richard Vest, the son of a commercial fisherman, grew up in San Francisco. Though he’s not interested in hauling fish from the sea in nets, he captures fish and wildlife in another way.
Even as a child, he loved to draw, and won prizes for his art. He attended San Francisco State University, where he earned degrees in Fine Art and Design/Technology and acquired his secondary teaching credential. He taught art and woodworking in the San Ramon, California, school district before devoting himself to his art full-time.
Using his own photography of creatures as a reference, Vest first captures his subjects as a sketch. Then he selects his wood, and using various grinders and carving tools, crafts his remarkably detailed sculptures. Most are meant to hang on the wall, but he carves free-standing pieces as well.
All of Vest’s pieces are one-of-a-kind. He also produces artworks on commission, but due to differences in woodgrain and slight variations in execution, no two sculptures are ever exactly alike.
I first met Vest at the Tempe Festival of the Arts, where I was dazzled by an enormous bear, like this one, but larger. Vest is a popular participant at a number of shows every year.
Of course, I had to include the unicorn. But, obviously, Vest was not working from a photograph, because then he’d know real unicorns look more like goats than horses. (Sorry, Richard–I’m a medieval purist. I like my unicorns like the ones in the tapestries in The Cloisters.)
Note: all the photographs in this article are the property of Richard Vest. Used with permission. All photographs are copyrighted, and no part of any photo/carving may be reproduced by any means including photographically, mechanically, or digitally and is subject to all U.S. copyright laws.