Happy Birthday JL Nippers!

J.L.  Nippers | 1935-  |  Beechgrove, TN  Chainsaw sculptures

Just got off the phone with J.L., wishing him a happy birthday. We got to talking about his longtime friendship with Homer Green, Homer’s orneriness, his contributions to Homer’s work, how to distinguish the differences, and more.

J.L. was best friends with Homer Green  for over 20 years. Early on, he asked if he could help Homer with his “cutting.” Homer told him to come back the next morning with a chainsaw. That began J.L.’s journey as a self-professed “wood butcher.” Picking up where Homer left off, J.L. creates a menagerie of dotted critters, from winged owl totem poles and alligators to porcupines with sharpened chopsticks as quills. He is often helped with the painting by his wife, Marie. His ornery sense of humor has shaped the evolution of his work, with J.L. now creating more human characters with exaggerated features, and painted commentary.

Homer Green | 1910-2002  |  Murfreesboro, TN   Chainsaw sculptures

Homer Green lived on Green Mountain, high above the “holler” where he was born. At first his carvings were unadorned and unnoticed.  Encouraged by his wife, Rilda, to “paint some color on them,” his land became a garden of speckled delights, with chainsaw-carved, polka-dotted painted animals of every shape, color, and form; from owl totem poles to winged critters from deep within his imagination. After thieves who were looking for his “bankroll” ransacked his home, Homer wouldn’t leave the grounds for over five years without someone there to watch over his carvings. Some people say that he was a bit mean, ornery, and crazy, but close friends disagree—describing him as a man who was fiercely protective of his home and deeply loyal.

According to JL, the last three years of Homer’s life were tough on him, as his health was failing.  JL often cut for Homer, sometimes also painted the pieces, and Homer would sign and/or mark them.  When looking at later pieces by Homer, tell-tale markings include a rougher cut than J.L.’s work (“you could get big ol splinters off of them”)…Homer preferred a log cutting chainsaw, whereas JL’s is smoother.  

Homer’s dots were painted with a 1-inch brush and had drips, JL’s are more rounded and “cleaner”. Often Homer wouldn’t paint dots under the arms, as it was getting to difficult, although on earlier pieces he would.  Homer would sign his work with
a circle mark on the wings of his critters, and ofttimes initial them, look for the backwards “P.”  Sometimes Homer wouldn’t even paint the pieces before selling them, or just put a base coat of white paint and let them go.  JL always seals is work.