The Early Years

One of my earliest memories in life is holding a Burmese Python at a pet store inside a mall in Sherman, TX, near the town I was born and raised, in the late 1980s. I was around 4 or 5 years old. That feeling has never left me. I spent the rest of my childhood in creeks catching reptiles and amphibians and finding the occasional skull.

Later in Life

As a teenager I was already well aware that my brain was not working the same as everyone else around me. I’m introverted and fairly awkward in normal conversation with people because I usually feel uncomfortable. This is because I obsess over subjects to an almost debilitating point. I’m usually trying to listen and not think about whatever I’m obsessing about, but it’s hard. I can’t sleep until I know everything possible about whatever it is I’m onto at the moment. It creates constant anxiety and it wasn’t until my early 20’s that I learned how to turn it off. Work. I have to be working towards a goal at all times. It’s the only way I can function.

 

This really caused issues in school. Public school is designed to make you a round peg that fits in a round hole. I felt like I was in prison every day and I have absolutely no fond memories of my time in school. As soon as I turned 16 I dropped out and went on my way. I have never felt regret for this decision.

I became a professional body piercer at 18 and sought out a tattoo apprenticeship at 19. At 25 I opened my first studio, which I still own to this day. At 34 I opened my second one. At 36 I created a high end automotive detailing business. I have not pierced or tattooed in years and just run my businesses and hobbies now.

During my life I have worked towards living my own way and doing what I want when I want. I married my dream girl and had a wonderful daughter. I work with my favorite species, built my childhood dream reptile room, and I don’t have a boss. That last part is mandatory for the way my brain works.

It’s not even that I want to create the art, it’s more like I have to. I’m very compulsive and usually working in other areas of my life like businesses, family, reptiles, vehicles, and traveling, but if an idea accidently creeps up on me I tend to obsess and toss & turn at night until it is finished. That’s why I’m nowhere near as prolific as other similar artist.

Rickey Wheeler

Live Stuff

During that time period, and since I was 9 years old, I have always had pet reptiles.  I have worked with a broad range of species from Anoles as a kid to Black-headed Pythons as an adult.

My collection has grown into its current state based purely on my own interest. I have almost no mutations, but I’m also not a purist. I just prefer the normal phenotypes better. The first species I bred was my favorite species to this day, Eastern Indigos (Drymarchon couperi). I still breed them and other species.

Dead Stuff

I have had a small skull and oddities collection for almost two decades. But in 2016 I accidentally began obsessing with how the process works. Within weeks I was building a dermestarium and starting on my first skull. This obsession didn’t calm down for about 2 years. I learned how to process bones using museum grade methods and how to build full skeletons. Screwing up along the way lead to a large amount of spare bones. This lead to building art.

As weird as people seem to find this activity I enjoy, and no matter what crazy chain of events they seem to think they are going to hear when asking, there just really isn’t a lot to why and how I started this. I like it. I wanted to. So I did.

Method

I use Dermestid Beetles and museum/university designed methods for all bone preservation. Everything is degreased and whitened properly before assembly.

Conclusion

So there it is, the uneventful, boring story of how, why, and what.

Teaching

I don’t have time to teach people or answer a flood of questions as what I do is complicated and impossible to teach via email or msgs. However I do have tutorials available here.