Constantly drawing. Always have a scrap of paper or chunk of cardboard or notebook at hand. I’ve been an “artist” (though decidedly unprofessional) since I was a kid. I remember being six or seven years old and drawing monsters, and for some reason thinking that I might be able to BRING THEM TO LIFE if I put the drawing next to a lightbulb, so I climbed up on the bathroom counter and put my drawing on top of the mirror-cabinet next to the light fixture. I hoped that in the morning, I’d find whatever horror I’d created walking around the house… Then, when I was eight or nine, I remember climbing way up into a giant bush we had next to our house (probably an old rhododendron that had been left unattended for so long that it was well over two stories tall) and taping a ghost drawing up near the highest point of the bush. I thought that anyone who came into our yard and climbed up in the bush would get a fright when the spotted the ghost.
My high school notebooks have sketches of punks with mohawks riding skateboards, my journals have bad cartoons next to weird sci-fi stories and unspeakable tales of terror (I’d tell you about them, but they’re too unspeakable), and if I still had my clothes from my teen years, you’d see all the slogans and sketches I drew all over my jackets and pants and even shoes! I’ve always loved to draw and make up stories and tell bad jokes.
Sometime in the early 2000s, I saw a documentary called HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY about Pop Artist, Ray Johnson, and Johnson became a huge influence on my life, particularly for his “mail art” technique or creating things (usually small collages with absurdist text) and mailing them to people. Over the next few years, I made hundreds of collages and postcards and strange packages of “art” and mailed them all over the world. I loved being a postal artist because, for the first time, I got solid feedback from people (besides my family) about the STUFF that I’d always made. I started an archive of mail art that I’d received, I posted scans of the items online, I even started doing BACKYARD ART SHOWS and inviting tons of people to see my collection of hand-made postcards, collages, ATCs, and weird correspondence from Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, Wales, Pakistan, Canada, and even some bits from the U.S. of A. I loved mail art, but postage costs started to rise, and my circle of correspondences grew until I just couldn’t afford it anymore.
Also, about 2010 or so, I decided that I was getting bored with collage, so I bought some oil pastels and water colors and thought I’d take a crack at making “art” out of my own head instead of out of cut up magazines. I was pretty happy with the results, usually drawn on typing paper, but eventually moving towards canvas boards and watercolor papers—and then I discovered acrylics. And then I discovered how EXPENSIVE acrylics could be—and I opted for cheap-o “craft paints,” which cost about 60 cents per little bottle, but covered fine for my scratchy sketches and weird abstracts. I also decided that stretched canvas was too costly for my non-budget, and usually would paint on found cardboard or hunks of wood that I found laying around. This “recycled” aesthetic landed my artwork in a “found materials” gallery in Olympia, Washington, where I actually sold a few things (for REAL money!) before the gallery closed. (It has since reopened as a collective under the artists that used to be represented there, but I’ve never bothered to reconnect.)
And, in December of 2012, having started and abandoned a dozen or so other sites, I started THE PRIMITIVE ENTERTAINMENT WORKSHOP, which allowed me to post digitized drawings, stories, and other bits, and get feedback from a whole bunch of people. It was almost like having the postal art community back (which I still miss.) Eventually, my friends and family started contributing to the site, and we now have over 5,600 posts up in just under five years. (Damn… That’s a lot…) And that’s where we are today!
But I promised PROCESS, so here we go…
Lately, thanks to modern technology, most of my artwork (though not all) starts as a little drawing, usually on found cardboard or paper, and usually only an inch or two square, though sometimes going as big as a full 8.5 x 11 page. I then take a picture of my sketch with my fancy phone, and utilizing a free program, I crop, edit, and color the images, sometimes using digital filters to get funny effects, but not always. I then come up with a clever title and post that sucker to the internets. Utilizing my typing skills, I then REPOST my image to a half-dozen OTHER places, and let (force?) sometimes hundreds of people glance at my little sketch as they scroll down their amazingly long and crowded feeds. It’s one of billions of images floating around in the cyber-realm, so I know most of what I post pops up for a fraction of a second then sinks down again into the SEA OF BITS AND DATA, possibly lost forever. Whether the drawing is a masterpiece that I spent weeks on or a quick sketch that I’ve got 10 minutes invested in, they come and go in the cybernetic night…
But there’s an interesting twist, that ARCHIVE of materials is still there, buffered in a dozen or more online databanks, and accessible for anyone who types in a strange search phrase. (“Real Devil Sightings” tends to be one that brings people to me for some reason… I don’t mind.)
So I make stuff, I send it out into the world, it clogs the world’s arteries and waits, like a bit of acid stored in someone’s fatty tissues hoping for a chance to strike again and give the victim a free trip. It would be nice if I could do this full time, like and still eat and pay bills, but though I’ve been knocking on that door for decades, it ain’t even close to cracking yet. But I’m dedicated to my creative endeavors, and will continue to write and draw and edit and post and archive and prattle until I drop dead, ink stains on my fingers and visions of goblins flitting for four to six minutes after the heart stops beating, and some poor soul (probably a relative) with have to figure out what they’re going to do with the seven metric tons of paper I have accumulated in journals and notebooks, sketches and paintings, sitting in boxes and tubs and piles… Cool thing about paper, it burns to almost nothing, just a little bit of ash…
But the ghosts and snakes and bunnies will probably stain the internets forever, thanks to my tenacious posting and reposting and archiving and so on. Even death can’t stop me now! (Although death, a fire, AND a complete collapse of the electrical grid—that would probably be enough to wipe me out…. OR when the sun goes supernova. Ain’t nothing going to survive that… HA!)
And that’s a look BEHIND THE SCENES here at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)