Art Toy Design: Background Research on Yucca Man
Lurking in amongst the Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert, hairy, smelly, glowing red eyes, eight-feet-tall, the devilish humanoid creature is sought after by cryptozoologists from all over. Who is he? He’s Yucca Man.
A Brief Historical Background
While I could sit here and write out a long, fantastical historical essay about the origins of Yucca Man, I’ll instead take the time to write out my plans to turn Yucca Man into an art toy. To read about it’s history and its significance to desert folklore, check out this article here. The article was originally featured in the fourth issue of Desert Oracle, the quarterly print magazine edited and designed by Ken Layne out of Joshua Tree, California. On my recent trip to Joshua Tree, I got my very own issue of Desert Oracle.
Here are some key highlights from the Yucca Man’s history, sourced from the link above:
- Since the 1970s, when the Mojave Desert base expanded from its World War II encampment, there have been regular reports of new recruits terrorized by both the Yucca Man and pranks inspired by the tales. But most sightings of the spectral creature come from campers and hikers at Joshua Tree National Park.
- The Natives who lived in California long before European colonization considered these creatures to be supernatural entities, with names that often translated to “hairy devils.” They took care to avoid the gloomy spots where the devils were often seen.
- The Antelope Valley Daily Ledger-Gazette described the common features of the eyewitness reports in a staff report from June 1973 beneath the headline “Bigfoot Surfaces Again In Palmdale, Nine-Mile Canyon.”
- “A small boy sent to tell his father supper was ready was found hours later crying near the corral. When asked what happened to him, he answered that a big, furry man would not let him pass.”
- He is also known as The Sierra Highway Devil or a desert adapted Sasquatch.
Having never left the east coast before, I made the long journey to Los Angeles this past August all by myself to visit my roommate over summer break. If you’ve heard me speak about my trip to California, you know I don’t shut up about what a life-altering, cathartic experience traveling across the country for the first time was for me. But the highlight of my trip was most definitely the one night I spent in Joshua Tree.
Strange roadside stop after strange roadside stop, I learned about American desert culture up close and personal. Coming home from my trip, my suitcase was filled with desert trinkets and baubles — vintage matchbooks, handpicked succulents, thrifted denim, artwork by local artists. My prized souvenir though was a copy of Desert Oracle, the magazine I referenced above in my background research.
This set me off into a deeper internet dive of desert folklore and led me to where I am now, a girl who visited Joshua Tree for two days and thinks she’s a local. Haha, just kidding — but really, I think I discovered the meaning of life in Joshua Tree so it has a very special place in my heart. And now I present to you my idea! A Yucca Man action figure. His personality is a stark contrast to his physical appearance. He’s just your average joe, he wears converse and gets around in a 1978 VW microbes.
Here’s my initial sketch. He’s in the iconic bigfoot pose and is dressed in his regular attire. I can’t quite decide if I want him to have the mustache or if I want him to have a derpy smile. I’ll decide that when I sculpt him.
After this, I created a turnaround sketch for his front above.
I’m also planning on making custom packaging but I’ll get to that later!