Mystery artist identified

  • Written by Deborah Stone
The mystery artist responsible for the artwork that adorns old tree stumps along local roads has been identified as Dan Cautrell. File photo/Deborah Stone
The mystery artist whose wood cuts adorn tree stumps throughout the Snoqualmie Valley has recently been identified.

His name is Dan Cautrell.

The Duvall man once reveled in his anonymity, enjoying the fact that few people knew he was the creator of the whimsical installations that have fascinated the community for years.

It all began after the 2006 windstorm littered the area with downed trees.

"It was my personal response to the mass destruction from the storm," explains Cautrell. "I saw the stumps that had been cut by the crews who had come in to repair the lines and I viewed them as symbols of hope and progress, of restoration."

He adds, "I chose the cut off logs that were most accessible because I wanted as many people as possible to be able to see the pieces as they drove by."

Two years ago, he received public artist grants from 4Culture and Artist Trust, which allowed him to expand his work.

In all, Cautrell has decorated 16 stumps within Woodinville, Duvall, Carnation and Redmond Ridge. Currently, only 12 remain.

At first glance, it appears that the stumps are carved, but if you look closer, it’s apparent that a series of fine wood cuts are layered on top of one another and tacked on to the logs with tiny nails.

Cautrell explains that he first traces the outline of the stump and then heads back to his Fusion Press Studio in Woodinville to create a wood cut design which will fit within the outline. It only takes him a day or two to create the design and then he returns to the stump to tack it on. Each design is unique.

"My inspiration comes from the environment and location of the log," says the local man. "If it’s positioned low to the ground, I think of a flower-like symbol – something that grows up from the ground. If it’s higher up, then I think of something like a bird."

The Duvall man is an artist by profession with a specialty in wood and linoleum block printing. He didn’t start his craft until he was 25 and he attributes everything he learned to the art classes he took at Cerritos Community College in California.

While living in Riverside, he made numerous public art installations, as well as held various art workshops in schools and community centers.

Cautrell moved to Duvall in 1998 and continued his work, creating several murals, panels and totems for the cities of Duvall, Seattle and Portland.

"My mission is to create work that is approachable and accessible to a diverse viewing public, while maintaining a deep and personal relevance and creative ideal," he comments. "I don’t want to be too abstract or crazy. I want my work to be for the benefit of the community, not just for the art or gallery community."

The response to Cautrell’s wood cuts has been amazing and he is overwhelmed by the positive, heartfelt messages he has received.

"I was really surprised by the feedback," he adds. "People seem to have a real emotional attachment to them."

The local artist plans to continue to create more outdoor work in the future.

"I feel obligated to do it when the opportunity and inspiration arises," he says.

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