Happy Birthday JL Nippers!

February 16, 2008 at 5:00 pm 3 comments

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.


Entry filed under: bird trees, chainsaw carvings, homer green, j.l. nippers, outsider art and folk art environments, polka dots, sculptures, self-taught artist, totem poles, wood sculptures.

Happy Birthday JL Nippers! geeky thing #13 – back to my mac…

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. vollie  |  March 17, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Homer Green was never “Best Friends” with JL Nippers. Nippers pretty much conned Homer and is a straight rip-off of Homer’s style. Nippers was a frequent subject of Homer’s derision and sarcasm. Homer was fond of saying “When he (Nippers) goes to Hollywood, I’ll carry his bags for him.”
    Nippers taught Homer nothing but took everything from him. Homer was the real thing…a naive, hillbilly, folkartist, originally creating art out of boredom and away to entertain his wife, not for fame. Nippers created his whole persona around “The Folkartist.” Nippers is not authentic….he is a charlatan and huckster. He borrowed his persona from others and self-created a persona that he thought could help him make money. It makes me sick to read here that “he” influenced Homer. Don’t believe this phoney. If you buy his work, keep in mind that 99% of it is a direct derivation of Homer Green…a man that never considered Nippers a good friend. Also, there is no such thing as “Green Mountain.” Homer lived on the Eastern Edge the the Highland Rim, overlooking the Central Basin.

    • 2. Shane Patterson Wright  |  May 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Thank you Vollie for telling the truth. The only thing you got wrong was about my mamaw. She hated all that stuff in her yard. lol But she loved Pap enough to let him get by with it I guess.

  • 3. Shane Patterson Wright  |  May 3, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Vollie is telling the truth. I know this for sure because my name is Shane Patterson (like Homer’s middle name) Wright. I am Homer Green’s grandson and name sake. He took this Nippers guy under his wing but soon learned that Nippers just wanted to be famous. If you knew anything about my Pap, then you know that he wanted to die the way he had lived. He never wanted to be famous and did not consider what he did as art. He called it, “painted wood”. As a child he would give us wooden snakes he had carved and spoons made from cedar. My most prized possession as a child was a dead racoon that Pap’s dogs had killed. He stuffed it with a couch cushion and it had wire coat hangers running through the legs with bright green babydoll eyes sewn on the face. I slept with it every night, much to my father’s dismay. Pap only wanted to create his “cuttings” for himself. I personally do not like coming across what I call a “forgery”. For me it is very painful to see someone bastardize and profit from what I know to be a pure expression of a loving man’s soul.


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