I don't have any distinctive memories of my Grandpa's brother.He was the unconventional brother; the artist who followed his dream. When he died my mother was given the unfinished carving of the owl. I've had carving tools for over 15 years. Just a basic set. (I'm not sure where to find them in all my art and craft supplies.)
When we cut the trees down by the alley, I had the stumps left tall. I could see the faces wanting to smile out of them. I had my wood chisel sharpened today and began stripping the bark as I did it's nose and eyes just popped! I had to rough them out. It made me stop and think, "Great-Uncle Elmo I wish you were here to guide me."
About 10 years ago I went with a group of my co-workers to the Afton House. They let me choose the place. There is a spiral staircase there carved out of a single tree. Also, several other carvings done by Elmo Erickson are on display. www.aftonhouseinn.com
I'm not sure if they've ever done any actual studies, but I am certain that artistic talent is hereditary. There is Elmo on my mother's side who is artistic. On my father's side, my Great-grandma Bell was a painter and my Grandma cut animals out of scrap paper in perfect proportion.
It has taken me three years to start this project. No guarantees how long it will take to complete even one of the faces. As I said, I still need to find my carving tool.