“The PUNK School of Art” by Richard F. Yates

I’m definitely from the Punk School of Art, in the sense that I think everyone should make stuff regardless of talent or technical expertise or access to fancy art production tools. If you like art and enjoy making stuff, the DO IT! If your drawing or painting looks distorted or silly, don’t be embarrassed, just LAUGH about it. Not everything has to be a perfect MASTERPIECE every time. Have fun with your art. Enjoy the act of creation.

And you really don’t need expensive paints or canvases or drafting programs or high-tech computer drawing tablets. I’ll draw on anything—receipts from the floor of the car, junk-mail envelopes, newspaper, a sidewalk with colored chalk—if it will hold an image, I’ll put one on it. (Then I’ll take a picture of what I’ve drawn with my phone and color the image using a freeware sketch program…but that’s a topic for a different discussion.) All you really need are some scraps of paper and a pencil or pen or some crayons. I frequently use cut-up cereal boxes and felt pens to make my drawings, and then cheap colored pencils or oil pastels if I want to add color. (You can get a box of oil pastels at most art supply stores for about five or six bucks—and if you don’t want to spend that much, then DON’T. You don’t need them.)

Make MANY things. Whatever type of art you like—collages, watercolor painting, cartoons, doodles, poems, zines—make a lot of them. I’ve done 1,000s of drawings (I can show them to you if you want) and most of them are pretty bad, sometimes FUNNY BAD, sometimes just junky—but that’s okay. You can learn from a bad drawing, learn what doesn’t work and what NOT to do next time. And if you do lots of drawings, every once in a while, almost by accident, SOME of those drawings or paintings or poems or sock puppets will turn out to be REALLY GOOD. (And you can learn from the good ones, too.)

But really, you shouldn’t worry about your art being bad or good. I don’t think very many people are going to be AWESOME right off the bat. The important thing is to have fun creating—YOU ARE CREATING SOMETHING THAT WOULDN’T HAVE EXISTED IF YOU HADN’T MADE IT. Make yourself laugh, then (if you want to, you don’t HAVE to) you can show some of your stuff to your friends and family and make them laugh. (This is a tricky step if you are insecure, and it’s not necessary to the MAKING PROCESS.) If you create stuff and you have fun while you’re doing it, most of the time people will go with you and enjoy your enthusiasm. And if you want to learn how to get BETTER at your art (I DON’T really care about that, obviously) you can check out a How-To book from your local library or watch an online video or two, or even take a class (if you’ve got the time and/or money.) But personally, I subscribe to the “JUST MAKE IT” philosophy. Make LOTS!!! Some will be garbage, most will be so-so, one or two, every once in a while, will make you smile and feel pretty good.

So grab a pen and some junk mail envelopes, look up a picture of your favorite animal or cartoon character—or if you’re brave you can try to imagine something altogether new—and start putting lines on paper. Whether it’s good or bad, FINISH IT. Give it a look (DON’T THROW IT AWAY!!!) and decide what you can do differently next time. After you’ve done a bunch of stuff go back and look at those first couple of pictures and see how your art has changed! (I keep a notebook that I draw in—actually, I have BOXES of notebooks that I’ve saved over the years with receipts and envelopes covered in snakes and bunnies taped inside them…) Keep making stuff, as long as it’s fun. Look at other artist’s art pages. Get inspired to make NEW STUFF! Don’t get frustrated. STAY PUNK! My favorite line about the Sex Pistols is when someone at a concert screamed, “You can’t play!” and Steve Jones yelled back, “So what?” So what indeed… There will always be dickheads out there who will tell you that what you’ve done is BAD, but if you just say, “I know it’s BAD, isn’t that AWESOME!?” and then laugh, they get confused and leave you alone… Now get crackin’!!! And feel free to send your art this way if you want. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it!

—Richard F. Yates

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About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
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