He was called by the sea. For four years, Brian Matthews worked on a tugboat and traveled to ports around the world as an able seaman and merchant mariner.
The job instilled in him a lifelong yearning for the ocean—and a talent for 3-D drawing and woodworking.
A lifelong artist, Matthews often drew on the boat. His engineer saw his drawing one day and asked him if he would carve a model of it. Matthews never had carved anything before, so he rose to the challenge.
Carving is a talent Matthews nurtures to this day, and his truck has become his workshop on wheels. Matthews made the transition from able seaman to CDL trucker 16 years ago.
“I always wanted my own truck,” he reasons.
Trucking and Carving
Now Matthews works as an over the road flatbedder for E.W. Wylie, carving whenever time allows—whether he’s waiting on a load or breaking for his 34-hour restart. Scraps of wood often pile up in his truck, evidence of Matthews’ talent at work.
Matthews always draws 3-D renderings of his models before carving them, measuring as he draws for accuracy. His models typically measure 6 feet long and 9-and-a-half inches wide.
The best thing Matthews ever carved was stolen years ago from his Houston apartment during a break-in. It still pains him. It was a replica of the last tugboat Matthews ever worked on, the Jackie B., and it was one of only two replicas Matthews ever made. The other was of the famous New Orleans steamboat, The Natchez.
“I loved that boat, I miss that boat,” Matthews says of the Jackie B. replica. “It had a remote control. It was four feet long, a foot wide. I’ll build it again. It’ll just take time.”
Art Kept Him Out of Trouble
Matthews says he grew up in a rough part of New Orleans, where “everybody around me wanted to fight. My momma said, ‘This fighting isn’t going to work. You need to find something to do.’”
So the young Matthews took up drawing. He’s been drawing ever since.
Today, Matthews identifies with drawing and woodworking equally. “I’m a little of both,” he says. “I can draw my butt off, but I can build my butt off.”
Forever a Seaman
Despite his artistic chops and his love for his CDL trucking job at E.W. Wylie, Matthews always will be a mariner at heart.
“Even though I don’t work on the water no more, boy do I miss it,” he says. “I haven’t worked on the water in years, but I promise you, if I went back on the water tomorrow, it’s still with me. It’s like I never left. Deep down, I’m a seaman.”
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