Things changed as he went. Termite damage forced him to hollow out both stumps. That meant using shallower cuts. He scrapped the head-to-toe gnome idea, opting instead for the bust.
Working from a scaffold, he carved freehand, cross-stitching The Druid's hat, etching his nostrils, shaping the foliage in The Green Man's hair.
"I see a face coming into focus as I go, and I cut out what doesn't belong," he said.
The tough red oak ate up six chains, leaving Acton weary. But the wooded setting proved inspiring, and so did the fact he drew crowds.
"I think Mark enjoyed being our park celebrity for a couple of weekends," Orth said.
The artist even signed a few autographs.
A few fans made helpful comments. Acton was still thinking of the hillside man as a generic gnome when someone shouted, "Nice druid!" Research told Acton that a druid is a figure from ancient Celtic lore.
"A druid in Druid Hill Park — I thought that was perfect," he said. He worked in four-hour chunks over several weekend days, finishing after eight to 10 hours' labor each day.
The next step for the sculptures: The city will have them fumigated, then add coats of outdoor ethylene every few months as long as funds are available. If the applications are done annually, the work could last 30 or 40 years, Acton said.
Orth believes the city got a bargain, as Acton generally asks up to $2,500 per piece. But the artist said he, too, got a good deal.
It's his first crack at public art, after all, and it has been spreading cheer. The Druid seems to be telling visitors the park is in safe hands. And the pieces serve as showcases for chain saw art.
"If you have an old stump, it's going to cost you as much to have it taken out as to do something like this," Acton said. "Why not turn it into something beautiful?"
Friday's fete at the park is scheduled between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. near Parkie Pavilion and will include a bonfire, hayrides and music and an opportunity for guests to write down unwanted thoughts from 2012, then burn the notes in holly leaves — a variation on an old solstice ritual meant to dispel the past.