BUCKINGHAM - Kevin Forest is a hands-on type of guy.
Relaxing at home, he enjoys strumming a guitar for his 2-year-old son. Working at the family-owned Buckingham Valley Vineyards and Winery, he prunes vines and welds broken farm equipment.
It wasn't a leap for him, then - at one of those life-defining moments - to cultivate an interest in sculpting metal works of art.
"My wife and I were discussing having children," he said with a smile, "and it made me realize I had to get off my butt."
Forest, 39, explained that so often people talk about someday following their dreams.
"Well, I realized someday could come and go real fast," he said.
He enrolled in a sculpting class at Bucks County Community College in the spring of 2000. Within months, his work was accepted into a juried show. More shows followed in Bucks County and New Jersey.
One of his large-scale, steel-and-bronze pieces was awarded first place in the annual Bucks County Sculpture Show, which continues through Sept. 30 in Warrington. The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown Borough accepted his work for an outdoor exhibit next year.
"I'm a little overwhelmed... . By no stretch of the imagination do I think I've hit my stride sculpturally," said the self-effacing artist.
Solebury sculptor George Anthonisen, who helped judge the nearly 70 entries to the Bucks County Sculpture Show, found Forest's work refreshing.
"So much work that's done is so directly derivative of well-established people, and I don't think that's what Kevin does," Anthonisen said. "What is really delightful is you have a sense he's a student of modern art... but the work is his own conception."
Three of Forest's abstract pieces, ranging in price from about $600 to $2,000, are in the Bucks County Sculpture Show, which is presented by the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce. Judges also singled out the works of Bucks County artists Janet Bishop of Quakertown and Mark Pettegrow of Point Pleasant, who tied for third.
Forest, who leans toward geometric forms up to 12 feet tall, also creates tabletop and wall sculptures in his studio, a short walk from the rustic log home he had built about 10 years ago.
Before settling down with his wife, Pauline, Forest raced bicycles throughout the country and said he considered turning pro until he developed back problems.
"That's what happens when you use your body as a crowbar at the winery," joked Forest, who now rides a bike back and forth to the vineyards that his parents established in the mid-1960s.
Working the land since childhood, Forest finds much of his artwork inspired by the environment. He has created a variety of metal vessels with stones trapped within, reflecting man's domination of nature.
"Instead of living within nature, we want to dominate it and rework it... . In many cases, it is a horrendous thing," Forest said. "We should spend more time trying to coexist than to control and bend it."
Forest also is drawn to the numeral three, which he described as a powerful number, evoking such relationships as mother-father-child and earth-sun-moon. Many of his pieces are three-sided; some incorporate three spheres.
Although he plans to study figurative clay sculpting in the fall, Forest feels a real connection to things welded.
"It's a real primal thing - hot, metal sparks," he said. "It's the stuff you wanted to do as a little kid and weren't allowed to."