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Jim Menken transforms tree trunks!

Interview with an artist


An 8-foot tall grizzly!

When you think of a sculptor, the image of a chainsaw does not immediately come to mind. But for Ontario sculptor and carver Jim Menken, the chainsaw is the tool of choice for creating his masterpieces large and small.

Menken has had a lifelong interest in art. But in 2003, while still working as a teacher, Jim saw a chainsaw carver at a local festival and became so enthralled with the process that upon arriving home later that day he carved a heron! And he literally has been carving ever since – transforming old trees, stumps and logs into beautiful works of art for a wide range of clients.

Jim took up this new passion full time in 2005. He now lives and carves in the town of Mono in beautiful Dufferin County (about 1 hour north west of Toronto) on a property that is perfect for a chainsaw carver; isolated, and with no neighbors within earshot. He has never advertised once and the phone calls and emails have never stopped since. Jim considers this a gift – an answer to prayer.

Jim is inspired by God’s creation and uses his God-given talents, a chainsaw and a few other tools to depict animals, people, and select objects as realistically as possible. Jim’s portfolio includes bears, beavers, birds of prey, critters and pets. Living close to the Bruce Trail and the breath-taking Hockley Valley, provides Jim with an endless stream of inspiration and interesting subjects to draw from.

This commission was of a grandfather who’d played lacrosse in his younger days.

Interestingly, Jim does not title his pieces! This is partly because Jim’s work is almost 100% commissioned. He does not create pieces and then try to sell them. Rather, Menken enjoys the challenge of commissioned works where the client picks the subject.

Menken says his clients often have memories attached to their trees and will ask him to carve something to help preserve those memories. In this way Jim meets many different people from different backgrounds and his life and work intersect with many interesting stories.

In 2005 Jim was commissioned to carve the veteran for Gage Park in Brampton. It was an existing tree in the park. The legion is close by and veteran Bill Bettridge was used as a model. Unfortunately, the tree had a bit of a seam in it, so it began to decay over time. In 2013 a replacement carving was commissioned. Last year the city commissioned a bronze sculpture modeled after Jim’s original carving which was returned to Jim who then passed it on to Bill’s family.

Jim has never set foot back in the classroom but he is available for chainsaw carving demonstrations throughout the year. In the winter he demonstrates ice carving and sculpture. Perhaps he’ll inspire the next budding sculptor to lay down the traditional tools and pick up a chainsaw instead. It appears you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.

Jim is married to artist Deb Menken, and has 3 grown children who are all artistic as well! He is a member of the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church. Visit Jim’s website,, to learn more about his work and you can also follow him on Facebook (@JimMenkenCarving) and Instagram (@jimmenken).

If you have a suggestion for an artist you’d like to see profiled in RP please email Jason Bouwman at [email protected].

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Interview with an artist

Julia Veenstra is expressing the world!

Interview with an artist **** Breakfast at Tiffany's48” X 72” - Acrylic on CanvasTiffany Falls is a waterfall in Hamilton. Water has the power to change its path! With God so do we! According to Hamilton-based artist Julia Veenstra, we all have a moment in time that comforts and reassures us when remembered. “Perhaps it's a smell that transports us back in time, stirring up emotions of all kinds,” Veenstra says. “I am attracted to those moments that create comfort, those scents that cause a rush of deep memories.” Julia was an observant child who took detailed notice of the world around her, especially on walks through different neighborhoods. “These moments shaped my understanding of wholeness and peace, both real and imagined,” she says. Julia later expanded her neighborhood explorations to worldwide travels. She has spent time in New York, Virginia Beach, Tanzania and Kenya. Having lived in various countries throughout her life – including a spell spent as a missionary in Tanzania and Kenya – Julia incorporates diverse influences into her impressionistic and representational style. Veenstra studied illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. In addition to illustration work, Julia freelanced as a fine art painter. After some time as a missionary in East Africa, where she illustrated educational materials and taught art at an international school, she came home to Hamilton. Upon her return to Hamilton, she began painting as an occupation in a rented studio space. Eventually she bought a building in the “artsy” James St. North area and ran a gallery there for 10 years! Cloud Watching36” X 36” - Acrylic on CanvasMuskoka islands are reminders of a day on the lake with friends! Always amazed at creation! Julia is currently opening a new gallery called Crown and Press – also in Hamilton. You can find Julia most often these days in her studio, a converted garage, at her home on Beach Boulevard in Hamilton. Julia says “I create because I was made to! Expressing the world I see around me is a form of worship and a thing that draws me daily to my brush and canvas.” Julia’s artistic journey has now led her to focus on capturing the vivid landscapes of her native Canada, for which she has gained national recognition. Veenstra is renowned for her lively composition and vibrant use of color. You can view more of Julia’s art and you can purchase originals, prints and a variety of art-inspired products at her website: You can also connect with the artist at And if you have a suggestion for an artist you’d like to see profiled in RP please send us a note. Pictures have been graciously provided by the artist, and are used here with permission....