NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The spare pieces of his working life as a carpenter rest on garage shelves and in stacked corners.
But more and more, John Tullius keeps them for something other than building cabinets or crown moldings.
“It’s cedar,” he says of his piles of wood. “Two by fours, two by sixes. I also have some cedar posts.”
He grew up a good Catholic kid in Norman and served a stretch in the Navy.
His brother got him into carpentry, but what he really liked wasn’t architecture, it was art.
“Like these carvings,” he points out, “I do one, and if someone sees it and likes it, that’s all I need to hear.”
For years, John scratched his artsy itches by drawing weekly cartoons for the Norman Transcript.
Tullius recalls, “I didn’t make much money, but that was my feel-good thing I did at night.”
Then he challenged himself, not long ago, to carve a figure he liked in someone else’s garden.
It was St. Francis that spoke to him.
John likes animals too, so off he went, carving contemplative faces with their eyes closed as if listening for some kind of inspiration.
“You don’t even need to know what he’s thinking,” Tullius says with a smile. “His eyes are just shut. He looks peaceful, kind of like I’d like to be.”
He didn’t realize until someone pointed out that most of the faces he carves look a little like his own.
“I think they do kind of look like me,” he admits, “But all of us with bald heads and beards look alike.”
The Tullius Brothers still do a lot of cabinet work and deck work, whatever their clients want.
But more often, these days, John finds himself staring into a face of his own making, inspired art work that takes its place right in front of his very eyes.