GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Some people pride themselves on being a throwback. William Underwood takes that to the extreme, tapping into a caveman mentality to escape today’s complicated world.

The approach gives him a chance to ponder something deep.

“What is at the very core of our being? And kind of fundamentally as humans, what gives us the desire to create,” said Underwood.

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW: Sign up here for QC News Alerts and get breaking news sent straight to your inbox

“Any component I want, I have to go out and get from nature,” he told Queen City News.

Across the street from Poston Park in Gastonia, QCN watched the modern-day hunter-gatherer dig in, and it didn’t take us long to find the dirt on him.

“One, I kind of get rocks out of the way, and try to get an understanding of what shade the clay will actually be once it’s dried,” Underwood explained,

Collecting clay satisfies a primal instinct.

“It felt very right for me to use it,” he said. “From there it’s kind of history. It just worked for me.”

Perhaps what he meant to say is that from there it’s kind of prehistoric. At home, he mixes the clay with water. All the mudslinging is part of a passion that sets him free.

“It made sense because the work I was doing, the materials I was using, felt so primitive,” said Underwood. “I just got in a headspace where I was thinking about what caused these ancient humans to make art.”

We hate to club you over the head with this storyline but thinking like a neanderthal inspired his creative process. The finished pieces up in his… well, man cave.

The colors of North Carolina clay he gathers pay off with an earthy palette at his fingertips, perfect for those consuming a paleo art diet.

“Add a little more clay on the top layer and seal it with resin… it gives it more of the red and the orange,” he said.

“How this has been impactful to me is just meditating on the lives of ancient humans, prehistoric humans who are totally in touch and at peace with nature around them,” Underwood noted.

It was a giant leap for this caveman artist when he learned to make fire. William’s a chef by trade, so giving each canvas a little extra caramelization comes naturally.

“I just watch the back of it… start to get some burn marks,” he demonstrated after making a fire in the backyard.

Underwood has taken a sabbatical from his culinary career to be at home more with his little girl. Selling his caveman-inspired art has helped him put food on the table for his family, so there’s a method to his madness.

“A lot of the process I can’t control,” he said, pointing out that chaos can be a beautiful thing.

Letting nature do the work adds an element of exciting unpredictability. When he’s not burning his work over an open flame, he lays hot coals over it.

“Kind of taken a lot of practice to figure out how I can get some holes in a lot of places, rather versus burning it to pieces,” Underwood said of the process.

The artist makes it look so simple, he almost makes you think that any caveman could do it; sorry, Geico commercial cave dweller… I didn’t want to write that line, but I caved. Let’s just hope William’s future includes fewer primitive puns and more trial by fire.  

“I don’t know I guess there’s not a name for it. I just say I’m burning the canvas, ha,” he said.