We talked with artist and audio engineer Chad Yenney to learn about where he gets his inspiration for his collages and how Munsell color charts came to make an appearance.
How Did You Get Started Making Your Collages?
Well, I have 2 kids… we would eat dinner together and then, they would want to watch TV after. It was often the Disney channel or some kind of kid program. My kid time became Disney time, which drove me crazy. I started collaging as something to do to spend time with my kids. It just developed from there to something I wanted to do more and more of.
As my kids grew up, I continued to do the collages. My inspiration started to come from album artwork from bands like the Dead Kennedys and other records from the early 80’s I grew up looking at.
Did You Study Art?
I didn’t, no. My dad was an art teacher and I’ve been around art my whole life, but I’ve never really pursued it until about 2 years ago.
Are You Familiar with Color Theory or Were You Drawn to the Munsell Soil Charts for Other Reasons?
I’m always collecting materials from estate sales and secondhand stores. What drew me to the Munsell charts initially were the holes. I could see through them and back fill them with other colors. I could also make a series with them, which I thought was fun. I’m familiar with color theory and different color charts. I’ve created all sorts of color palettes from various things like brochures, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinet colors, refrigerators, etc. I am drawn to these palettes that display a bunch of different colors, so it was the pattern of the soil chart I was drawn to more than anything in particular with it.
So You Weren’t Using the Soil Chart for Something Else, You Just Found Them?
Yeah, I just find stuff. I have a room above my garage that’s full of a lot of different paper materials. With the soil charts, I happened to find them and I thought they looked really cool. In fact after I used them the first time, I started to try to find them… like used on eBay. I like the old ones the best but people tend to hold on to them. For what I do, it doesn’t make sense to use nice new materials since I take it and cut it up. I want something that’s almost garbage, you know… something I can re-purpose.
Do You Listen to Records or Just Collect Them for Inspiration?
I listen to them. I actually put out a record in the mid-90’s for a little band I was in… a weekend band. It was kind of the low point in vinyl. It is cool to see it swell back up again and be popular. All my old CDs, like most of them don’t play anymore, but records I got from my parents are still playing. So that is one reason to like them.
Do You Use the Records Art in Your Collages?
Records have two purposes. One, those I wanna listen to and two, if it’s cheap and it’s has cool colors to it, it goes in the collage pile. A lot of cheesy old gospel records might have a rainbow or a big image of clouds I can pull out and use for a collage. If there is a store having a blowout on vinyl that’s like .25 cents a record, often times I’ll talk to the person at the counter and say, “I don’t even want the record, I just want the sleeve,” so I’ll just leave the vinyls for somebody else if they want it and just take all the sleeves. So, yeah, I use them for both.
What is Your Day Job?
I am an engineer and I am working on a ski movie right now about our local ski hill here… it’s pretty fun.
Are the Collages Influenced by the Work You Do in Your Day Job?
They are kind of in a backwards way. We do digital video production with a bunch of clients constantly wanting things revised and tweaked, so collages are kind of a nice way for me to do my own thing and have it be permanent. I cut out the images and then glue them in place and when it’s glued together, it’s done. There’s no revision really. It’s nice to have finality to a piece of art rather than the constant revisions I’m doing during the day. It’s also nice to have something tangible on paper versus doing it on Photoshop and something tactile because I spend so much time in front of the screen.
So It Must Be Nice to Have an On-Screen and Off-Screen Balance?
Oh definitely. I enjoy old magazines and being exposed to other imagery that you wouldn’t normally see. When you are flipping through an old magazine, you don’t know what you’re looking for. You just get inspired by whatever hits you, versus what you would search for on Google. It let’s you be open to what’s out there, which is nice.
So What is Your Process? Do You Lay Things Out Then Glue or Just Wing it?
I usually lay it out and then glue it last thing. I use rubber cement so I can lift it up… with a little tiny dab it’ll stay, but if I need to move it slightly to make something line up better, it’s not completely fixed. I also have a short attention and inspiration span. So if I can do a piece in one shot, I’m usually happier. I don’t stockpile images that are precut or anything for future use. I get inspired and I do it from the beginning to the end and then I’m done. When I try to nest away a bunch of little clippings for later use, they usually just end up just getting damaged in the drawer as I take things out, and by the time I get ready to use them I’m kind of over that image. If I have seen it for a couple weeks it no longer inspires me. So I tend to try and plow through.
Does Rubber Cement Remind You of Being a Kid?
Yeah, my first art show I did was called “Sniffing Glue”. It was kind of a joke to make the imagery look a little bizarre, and then it was like, come open this, sniffing the rubber cement. I didn’t come up with it, the gallery did, but I thought it was pretty funny.
Do Your Kids Still Help With the Artwork?
My daughter is 16 and my son is 12 and they’ll hang out with me while I do it, but they don’t really participate. They’re not into it. They kind of roll their eyes at dad’s little art hobby.
What Kind of Art Teacher Was Your Dad?
A high school art teacher. He did ceramics, painting and drawing. He’s a talented guy. He graduated high school in the late 60’s and was really into “muscle car art”, like Ed Ross kind of stuff. I’ve got a bunch of his artwork with 8 ball shifters and the ghouls. Later he got into the psychedelic art and surrealist looking paintings and drawings. It was cool to grow up with that stuff in my house and see it. It definitely influenced me, especially aesthetically. I would see the way he would do line drawings and it’s rubbed off on me over the years.
Did You Create Art Together When You Were a Kid?
Not a whole ton. We did a lot of hiking and outdoors things, but art, we would do more on our own but together. My sister growing up would do calligraphy, while I would just draw on paper silly creations like a half boat, a half car, machines, battleships and tanks. My Dad was there but not over our shoulder teaching us. He was doing his own thing, so I didn’t really get one-on-one art lessons necessarily.
Where Did Computarded Come From?
It came from two places. I was signing up to be on an online forum about guitar repair. I think I signed up for it like three different times trying to get the password to go through. It was so simple but I kept failing at it. And so by the time it came to the username, I was like, “copy tarted”, because I am obviously unable to use a computer. And then later I joined Instagram and I needed a name, and I thought, oh that would be a funny name because this was a computer thing that I’m not good at, so I’ll use that. And then it kind of translated over into the collage world because I do them without a computer, kind of a nod to the non-photoshop workflow.
Do You Use Photoshop at All?
I use it at work for other things. I am not great at it or anything, but I do know my way around it. I appreciate it. I’m not anti-Photoshop collage art. I have some friends that create some really great art on the computer. I’m really inspired by them as well, so I don’t want it to come off like I’m an analogue collage snob or anything… it’s just a personal preference.
Do You Use Photographs in Your Collages?
I have a couple times, but I just don’t have many. I would if I had more. I’ve used some old black and whites images I’ve gotten at estate sales. I would love to do more of that, but I just don’t come across big lots of them for cheap. I live in Wenatchee, Washington, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but there’s not a whole lot of fairs and flea markets or places to get this stuff, so it’s kind of slim pickings.
Magazines are easier to find. Many times people will be moving out of a house and they have a whole collection of magazine and they’re trying to get rid of them for free or cheap. Those are the ones I try to go pick up. It’s tough, because you get tired of looking at the same type of magazines every time, so I’m always looking for something new. Well, new old, pre-1970’s basically. After that, the print style changes and the imagery can change and I’m not personally as drawn to it. Finding images that are older and in color are my favorites. I was just more drawn to the older color palettes versus just black and white. There’s been a lot of black and white imagery to use, it’s just that I’m always looking for color stuff.
Do You Find it Frustrating to Deal With Different Materials? Matte vs Glossy for Example?
Yeah, for sure. I try to avoid the glossy stuff. People give me piles of magazines from the 90’s and up and even if the image is cool, I don’t want to use it because it’s so glossy and looks so different. Eventually I might dive into that kind of stuff if I get exhausted on the older things, but right now I still have enough source material that’s older so I want to stay in that realm.
Have You Thought About Using Photocopied Images?
One thing I’m limited to right now is size. I’m taking the images straight from the magazine onto the paper, so I can’t make big art piece unless I do a montage of a bunch of little pieces. If I want to keep an image simple, like 2 or 3 images together, it’s typically the size of a piece of paper. If you hang it up in a gallery, it’s not really impressive… like, “Oh, there’s a little piece.” So I have been thinking about Photocopying a smaller image, blowing it up, printing it out big, cutting it out again, and doing a big collage from it. But at that point, maybe it makes sense to just make a large printed version. It’s already bastardized, so what am I even doing it for?
What is Your Sound Studio Like Compared to Your Art Studio? Tidy? Artistically Messy?
I have two audio spaces as well. I have a recording room at home that has band instruments… it’s eclectic. Then I have a work space that’s basically just a desk, computer, speakers, a little sound booth… it’s really clean and nice. But at home, instruments are, not a mess, but a little more loose. The paper room is usually a disaster zone because I will have everything organized but I’ll pull it out and stack it up as I’m trying to find something. If I find one piece, I’m trying to find a mate, or I think, “Oh this would be cool if I had whatever with it.” I’ll be looking for a piece to finish it and sometimes I’ll be flipping through 30 magazines trying to find it. By the end of that session of work I’ll have a giant pile. Other supplies too will be everywhere. Like extra frames, matting material, glue and all the other stuff that goes along with the magazines and books. I just try to keep it all organized and clean. It’s a constant struggle. It becomes a mess so it’s nice to have a dedicated area to make that mess and be able to clean it up at a later time versus a public place where you feel ashamed of your hoarding.
What Are You Working on Now?
Cigarette packs. I’m trying to take a bunch of cigarette packs and make a giant anatomical heart and lungs out of them. It’s this ongoing process of everytime I see an ad with a cigarette pack, I’ll cut it out and then throw it into this pile. I now have a pretty big pile and I’m thinking about trying to sort them out by color, but it’s going to be crazy, because they’re so many different vibrant, bright colors that aren’t going to really blend together. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Maybe just the heart or the lungs or a cityscape where the cigarette packs become buildings and they have smoke billowing out of them or something. Trying to do a big project is a labor of love for sure, because it’s a lot of cutting without any payoff.
About Chad Yenney