“PATIENCE IS A VULTURE”: AN INTERVIEW WITH CREATIVE GROWTH ARTIST RAY VICKERS
Interview by Sophia Cosmadopoulos
February 19, 2019
Ray Vickers thinks it’s “un-American not to have a pet.” It just is. The Oakland-born and bred artist also wants you to know about the exact Thursday he was born, his 120-pound dog named Ace (maybe our favorite dog name to date) and his popular series of dead rabbit illustrations. For this edition of Inside Job — a monthly artists’ series led by LAND Gallery’s Sophia Cosmadopoulos — Vickers chats about his nine years at Creative Growth, his artistic process and all the animals that he’s taken care of.
Creative Growth is an Oakland-based non-profit that serves artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation.
Ray Vickers: Did you know patience is a vulture, ain’t that how it go?
Sophia Cosmadopoulos: I think the saying is patience is a virtue.
RV: I think it’s vulture. And if I found your phone and gave it to you, that’s called a good samurai?
SC: It’s whatever you want it to be. Is that some pepperoni on your drawing?
RV: Oh my goodness [brushes it off]. I told my mom and sister last week, a few days ago, if I see someone, a man, doing a horrible crime, I would take my belt off and spank him. If I see a man doing a crime, I would whoop him. I would hit him with his belt in my right hand and take my belt off and whoop him with my left.
SC: So a double whoop?
RV: Yeah, so what questions you got for me?
SC: Well, would you like to start off by introducing yourself?
RV: I’m god. No, I’m not. I am Ray Vickers. V-I-C-K-E-R-S, period. We are in Oakland, California. I was born and raised out here, lemme see, about 31 years. I am 31. Been on this earth 31 years. I lived in Hayward years ago for a short period. But I have been in Oakland pretty much all these years.
SC: Yeah, I grew up out here too. But in San Francisco.
RV: It’s freezing out there, huh? I heard because it be by the ocean.
SC: It is definitely foggier. But now I live in New York where it gets really cold. Have you ever been out there?
RV: No, I can’t really travel because of my pets. I got my two dogs and I got my lizard. And nobody can really feed my lizard his worms. I have a bearded dragon and I feed him mealworms — they are about an inch. My mom will hold my lizard but she won’t feed him worms. So nobody will feed my lizard worms, nobody will walk my dog, he’s nine, he’s 120 pounds, he’s strong. So he used to pull me when I walk him, but he doesn’t pull me no more. So I take his leash and I put it around my waist and I take the leash and I put it around his neck, you know, a chain collar, but he doesn’t really pull me like he used to. His name is Ace.
SC: And what is your lizard’s name?
RV: Jax. J-A-X. He turned a year old on April 19, 2019. I got him when he was small but he’s still growing. He has autism, he don’t like changes. I kiss him on the lips. He don’t like changes. I chilled with him yesterday for about an hour, but I didn’t have time for him on Tuesday or Wednesday. So I picked him up yesterday and he was mad at me because I couldn’t hold him on Tuesday or Wednesday and he tried to bite me. But I told him, if he bite me, I am not going to feed him. It took about 30 seconds and he calmed down. Then I picked him up and I put him, you know, to chill in my pocket for a little bit. I let him sleep. I can pick him up and he can be on my shoulder, chilling with me.
SC: I have never heard of a lizard with autism.
RV: Yeah, it happens. They can have ADD, ADHD, all that.
SC: When did you first start coming to Creative Growth?
RV: Almost nine years, I believe. I come here four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. But Tuesdays I am here from 9:30 to two o’clock because I leave to do my dog walking job, walking my friend’s dog for an hour. She’s a German Shepherd mix. She’s not big, she’s medium, she’s still strong. I leave today at 2:45, I do a dog walking job. But since the time change, unfortunately I don’t get home till about close to five o’clock, where it’s almost dark and dangerous. I hate to be out in a dark period. You know, I have a big dog and I have pepper spray but I still hate to be out in the dark, because that’s when a lot of badness happens. So I leave here every Tuesday about two o’clock on the nose. I am here four days a week.
SC: Can you describe an average day here at Creative Growth?
RV: It has its days. It’s good. It’s like, me? I have autism and I say and do stuff without thinking, but I know how to control my impulsiveness here. Like if I saw you talking to somebody, I wouldn’t walk up behind you and talk to you, because I know how to control my ADD and everything. I wouldn’t just butt in and say something because I have R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
SC: And can you describe your artwork to me?
RV: I just draw whatever is in my head. Something simple, nothing fancy. I do dead rabbits that a lot of people like. I don’t know why people like them, but they do. They sell quick.
SC: When did you start making work about dead rabbits?
RV: Well I was watching TV and I had a freezer in my room. I was watching TV and I had a step, kinda like a stairway thing, a step stool, and it fell on my freezer, and my freezer had a dent in it and I looked at the dent, and I automatically thought of a rabbit. But the real part was, I was watching a show called Heroes, I don’t know if you heard of it, but about 30 seconds later, after the commercial, they showed a guy on there killing a rabbit. It was weird because right before that happened an image of a rabbit popped in my head on my freezer. So I started drawing them, and then everybody liked them. So I started making them out of wood and everything and on paper.
SC: And who is killing those rabbits?
RV: It varies. It could be those teddy bears killing them. Because you know those rabbits with the red eyes? I love animals, don’t get me wrong, but you know those rabbits with the red eyes? It scares the holy guacamole out of me. I ain’t gonna lie, it scares the crap out of me. The rabbits with the red eyes? That’s scary. I took my chances with petting a pitbull on the street more than once, I haven’t been attacked by one. But the rabbits with the red eyes? Wowee. I ain’t petting one of those. It would bite my fingers off.
SC: And what’s your process when you draw them?
RV: I just draw them, I just use the main colors, red for the blood, pink is for the ears — no, wait — pink is for the stomach and a purplish color for the ears. I use a hot glue gun to bring out the whiskers. When I see a rabbit with red eyes, it scares the crap out of me, I don’t know why. The next time I see a rabbit, I will leave it alone. As long as it’s cool with me, I am cool with it. Because I have ADD and everything — my mind, it never stops processing everything. Like September 11th happened on a Tuesday. There are just certain things that I can’t forget. I was born on a Thursday, August 20, 1987 and I still remember that I was born on a Thursday. And the 1989 earthquake, you heard about that one? I was two years old and I remember when that happened. There are just certain things I can’t forget, it’s like a gift and a curse.
SC: How long have you been working on your art?
RV: I was drawing as a kid. I was drawing Sonic the Hedgehog and stuff like that. But I didn’t start coming here till like about almost nine years. I was just at home with my leopard gecko. I was just at home watching TV playing PS2 with my leopard gecko on my shoulder. I was just sitting there watching TV with nothing to do and I heard about this place here and I started three days a week. Now I go here four days a week.
SC: Do you like going to exhibitions at Creative Growth or at outside galleries?
RV: Yeah I don’t go to all of them, just certain ones. I always say, if my work ain’t in it, I don’t come.
SC: What are your goals for your art?
RV: I want to go big, you know, platinum? Nah, just to sell, but I would never be cocky if I was rich because the most money I ever had, probably was about one thousand, three and a half, four years ago here. But I am not cocky with money or nothing like that. It’s like I am good at certain things, but I don’t be bragging about it.
SC: What do you do outside of the studio?
RV: I go to Comic Con. The next Comic Con I am going to is August of this year. I remember the first time I was there about three or four years ago, I was there from like 9:40 in the morning to literally 3:00pm. I walked around the whole day, never did sit down. What happened last year was, all I ate was a crummy little bag of trail mix peanuts. That’s all I had. I collect action figures. Like, when people say I’m too old to collect action figures — I’m 31 — they’re probably jealous because they ain’t got the money like I do. Because I’m 31 and I probably have 300 action figures.
SC: Wow, that’s amazing. Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself and how you grew up?
RV: I was born and raised in Oakland. Never knew who my dad was, real mom died when I was 16 and I couldn’t cry because I never lived with her, I was never close. So my main focus was watching Spiderman and cartoons in the 1990s and then going to Comic Con. I used to have a leopard gecko, now I have a bearded dragon, a bulldog and a Newfoundland.
SC: It seems like you’re a real animal guy. What’s your favorite animal?
RV: My favorite reptile would be a bearded dragon, still my favorite reptile. I like snakes too. Any animals, I am all for — any animals. I was learning something the other day — that caterpillars, I think it was in Australia — no, London, that caterpillars can actually make silk like spiders and they can silken up houses and trees and cars and all that kind of stuff. A monarch butterfly can fly 1,100 feet in the air. An armadillo’s shell is literally pretty much bulletproof, and they can actually give people leprosy. I was learning a lot of stuff on the animal shows.
SC: You’ve told me a lot about your lizard, what about your dogs?
RV: Both my dogs get along fine, but the bulldog, I actually found her four years ago by the bus stop. And I couldn’t leave her there, and I promised myself that I wasn’t gonna bring home another dog, because I had a Pomeranian, but unfortunately she had to be put to sleep because she kept having seizures. So I ended up bringing home the bulldog. I walk my dogs. I just walk, if it’s raining, I’m still walking. I don’t mind walking, because I walk everyday for an hour. Yeah, because today I got my two hour and fifteen minute walk in today. If it’s hot, cold, rainy, I’m still walking. Now if it’s thundering and lightning and hailing, I ain’t crazy. I am crazy, but I don’t get struck by lightning. I ain’t trying to get struck by lightning. I don’t wanna be in a coma for six months sitting on my ass. I would miss a lot in six months, I would be missing all my shows, my dog would be missing everything.
SC: That’s right, I heard that you have rescued a lot of animals, tell me about that.
RV: Yeah, the smallest dog I ever saved, like almost four years ago? Her name is Clara, our teacher Mady has her. She was real, real, real, real small when I found her, lemme see, that was about almost four years ago. She was probably not even bigger than my shoe. I found her by the bus stop and that’s when I had my long skateboard. And I couldn’t leave her there, she was with another dog, so I picked her up and brought her on the bus. And when I skateboarded here, she was in my backpack, because I never really fall, and then I said Mady, I got something for you, so I reached in my backpack and got it for her. I have rescued about four or five dogs total. I am good with animals. I hate to see dogs roaming the streets. Even this past Tuesday I was walking home, there’s this one dog and I thought it was a boy so I named it Homeboy, but I just found out this morning that she’s a girl, so I gotta change her name to Homegirl. She’s a chow mix. Whenever I see her, I always give her food.
SC: Do you ever bring your pets to Creative Growth?
RV: No. Well, my lizard is autistic, he doesn’t like changes. He’s only used to me. Like if anybody else try to hold him, he gets kind of spicy. But then if I hold him, he’ll come chill with me for like three to four hours. I be chilling with him. I got a thousand pictures of him. It’s un-American not to have a pet. Everybody should have one. I go to PetSmart. My mom says she’s allergic to snakes but she’s not, she just doesn’t like snakes. So if I could get a snake, a long time ago, I would have, but my mom doesn’t like snakes.
SC: Any last words, Ray?
RV: Patience is a vulture. And, if somebody tells you you are a horrible artist or you’re too old to do this or that, don’t listen to them because haters are gonna hate. And as Stan Lee would say, “Enough said.”