Some woodworkers have spacious garage or basement workshops in which to carve their artistic creations.
Brian Matthews has the cab of his Mack truck.
When it’s time for a rest period, or when he’s on a layover, Brian pulls out his woodworking knives and whatever project he’s working on at the moment.
“My creativity occupies my down time,” he said.
What occupies his time could be a translation of one of his drawings into an engraving carved on a board or it could be a model of a boat or truck.
Pretty soon, though, the cab “looks like a wood shop when I’m done,” he laughs. “It gets a little messy.”
Brian, a driver for E.W. Wylie Corp. out of its Houston terminal for two years, has been drawing since his youth.
“Drawing is something I did when I was bored,” he says. “I never took classes. Growing up in a tough neighborhood in New Orleans, it kept me out of trouble.”
He made the jump to making three-dimensional versions of his drawings in his early years working on Gulf Coast tugs and towboats, primarily as an able seaman, navigator and deck hand. An engineer on a boat he was working on saw one of his drawings and asked Brian if he could make a model of it.
So he did. A captain of a vessel Brian was crewing on liked the model so much he paid $8,000 for it.
Brian later made the switch to onshore freight transportation, because “I always wanted my own truck,” but ships, not surprisingly, continued to figure in a lot of his projects. He’s made a six-foot-long replica of the paddle wheeler, Natchez. That one, he says, he stowed between the seats of his truck when he wasn’t working on it.
Also in his portfolio is a large model of a barge tug decked out in the black and gold colors of the New Orleans Saints (his mother, a Saints fan, has that one). And yes, he’s done trucks, including a six-foot model of a Peterbilt (complete with Caterpillar engine) and trailer.
Some models, such as boats, take as long as six months to complete, depending on the complexity of the project and how much time Brian has to devote to them.
Some of his woodworking creations are more two-dimensional, like a panel with a Parisian scene or another depicting a family of tigers. His charcoal sketches can start with something as basic as an image called up on his phone.
Brian has lots of ideas for developing his hobby further. He hopes to build a website to display and sell his creations. He’s even working on a screenplay for a movie that will include some of his models (including some radio-controlled trucks that he’s accessorizing and modifying). He’s proud that his artistic and modeling endeavors are being passed on to the next generation; his son, now 12, recently completed his first model airplane.
Brian Matthews is well known in the Wylie family for his abilities.
“He amazes all of us with his talents of building remote control steam boats, tug boats and ships from scratch, remote control semi-trucks and the amazing drawings he can do free-handed,” says Heidi Casarez, a recruiter with E.W. Wylie. “People who have had the chance to see his talent are amazed with the very fine detail he puts into each and every project. He has a passion for his craft and is extremely talented.”
Brian’s talents span from one-dimensional drawings all the way to three-dimensional, hand-crafted models and beyond.
Even out on the road, where Brian’s recent hauls have taken him up to the Eastern Seaboard and as far north as Minnesota, word has spread of his abilities. He remembers one trip on which another driver spotted one of his projects. By the time he got to Wylie’s North Dakota terminal, people were asking to see what he was working on.
But it’s not the recognition or sales that keep Brian Matthews working at his craft.
“Constant improvement,” he says, “is the goal. It’s a challenge to me to see how my work will come out, to see how well I can turn a drawing on paper into a wood model. If one model I make is nice, the next one will be even nicer.”