Inside the Story: Artist brings animals to life with giant sculptures

Inside the Story: Artist brings animals to life with giant sculptures (Photo: KUTV/Todd Dinsmore)

(KUTV) Stephen Kesler doesn't mess around with the small stuff when he sculpts.

He's into recreating and showing off nature's giants, even if they are small to begin with.

If you visit Kesler's "Tusk Sculpture" shop, you'll run into a 31-foot-long iguana.

That's what the 40-year-old Kesler is working around the clock to finish.

The massive lizard, with all its intricate details, is being made for the popular Red Iguana restaurant in Salt Lake.

"The detail is actually the most challenging part on this, because the scales can differ," said Kesler.

This kind of artistry takes months and months to complete.

"It's a passion that just hit instantly," Kesler said.

But that passion didn't hit until later in life.

Kesler would spent the first 18 years of his career at a desk as a graphic artist.

Then one day, he made a small African elephant out of sculptor clay and he was hooked.

"I kept going bigger and bigger each piece I got and I couldn't stop," said Kesler. "I'd do it everyday. Something ignited in me I hadn't felt before."

From there, the graphic designer became the wildlife sculptor and each project seem to grow in size.

Kesler found himself living out his dream as a kid.

"I've been obsessed with marine life. As a kid I'd be at the library with my face buried in books about whales and sharks. I drew them all my life," he said.

Kesler's largest and most prized sculpture is located at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

It is a 50-foot humpback whale that weighs 4,400 pounds and had to be cut it up into eight different pieces to get through the front doors.

"I want people to be able to experience that animal," said Kesler of his creation.

And he didn't stop with the whale. He has since sculpted many more underwater animals for the aquarium in all different shapes and sizes.

"That's part of the art of sculptor is trying to make it feel like it's living through the design, through the movement, through the anatomy. Make it feel like it's a real, living, breathing creature," Kesler said.

But he says this is just the beginning of what's to come.

"I have a whole list of things I want to get started," he said.

Kesler has actually only been at this full time for about a year and a half.

Pretty impressive when you see his work.

One of the projects he wants to dive into is sculpting fine art animal furniture.

That's what you call diversifying his talents.

For more about Stephen Kesler's work, visit his website.