Los Angeles used to be covered in pink monsters. In the early 00's Buff Monster started to appear all over the city, on billboards, benches, office buildings, or where ever he could find the right surface.
It's been a long time since Buff Monster roamed the streets of LA, choosing to head to NYC to find new inspiration and opportunities.
Since that time the world of street art has gone through several cycles but despite it all continues to thrive in, and beyond, its own ecosystem.
Buff (for short), is a testament to the fact that people still love street art just as much as they ever have. I got the chance to catch up with him right before his new show "Works On Paper" which starts this week in NYC. Moving in from the streets to showcase his more traditional side with a grouping of, well, works on paper.
You’ve been in the art game for long time now, what’s changed since your days back in Los Angeles? How has NYC changed your perspective?
Moving to NYC was the best thing I’ve done. No doubt about that. Street art has gotten more and more established and mainstream. You see more and more street art festivals happening all around the world. Now, more than ever, brands want to be involved with street artists. Social media gets more and more important, and is a better and better way to share your work. It’s definitely a lot different than it was 10 years ago when I left my full-time job to focus on art full time.
You just got done with a huge mural in New Jersey, how did that project come about?
Funny enough, it came about through Instagram. I had wanted to paint that wall at Mana for a long time, and didn’t know who to talk to about it. When Mana started posting a few of my murals, I hit them up to see if we could work together. Then we met up, I chose that section of a giant wall, and started to plan it. It’s by far the biggest mural I’ve ever painted, it’s the first in Jersey and it’s visible from the highway as you head towards the Holland Tunnel to get to NYC. Shepard Fairey painted the other side of the building a year or two ago, and KAWS still has tags on it from when he was in high school.
How much is music a part of your creative process? Do you work in silence or do you crank up the tunes for inspiration? If so what are some of your favorite genres to listen to?
Heavy metal music is always a big part of the process; usually nothing too aggressive or intense; usually more uplifting. Metal is such a deep well to choose from that there are subgenres of metal to suit every mood.
Pink used to be your signature color, it seems like you’ve widened your palate quite a bit as well as added more characters to your portfolio? Is this a constantly expanding Buff Monster universe?
You’re right, pink was important years ago, but it’s lessened so. Some of that was more propagated by fans and the media than by me. I think as I’ve made the point that Pink is Power, I can move on to make other statements. The universe is always very slowly expanding.
You recently did a project that was kind of a homage to the Garbage Pail kids style sticker packs of the 80s, complete with a full wax paper wrapping. How did this project come about and how did you get such an authentic package?
I love the Garbage Pail Kids. They came out in 1985, which was the right time in my mental development to leave a lasting impression. Years ago I was introduced Tom (Sidekick Labs) who really wanted to facilitate artists making vintage style trading cards. It took years to find the right paper, and in the end we custom made the sticker paper. There is so much insane work that goes into making The Melty Misfits cards as much like the vintage style cards as we can. He’s also the only one on the planet that has the ability to make those great wax packs.
Who are some of the younger street/contemporary artists that are catching your eye these days? Are you mentoring any young artists at all?
It would be fun to mentor some younger artists, but there is so much information out there these days, that you can get by alright. I speak at conferences or to school classes sometimes. I’m happy to share my thoughts to those who want to listen. As far as younger artists, there’s so many. I think you should check who I follow on Instagram for some of my favorites.
Any big plans for 2017?
I have one BIG project that I’ve wanted to do for years now. I hope that 2017 is the year that it’s finally realized. Meanwhile, I’m wrapping up a few projects this year and then I’ll plan 2017 soon.
You are doing a show in NYC this week, tell us a bit about how that came about and why so traditional on the format?
Yes, I’m doing a show at my studio this week. I’ve never set up a show at the studio before, but it really is the perfect venue for it. For years, I’ve been making graphics with ink and a brush. I’ve created hand-drawn pieces for the likes of Hello Kitty, Minions, Disney and many others. Even though people might be familiar with the imagery, only a couple people have ever seen the original artwork. I just really wanted to show this work, and the studio is the perfect setting for it. The show opens on Thursday at my studio in the LES.
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Where do you see the Buff Monster universe in ten years? A cartoon? Comics? Any grand plans?
Probably not comics. I’d love to do some animation. That would be really great. I read a great biography about Walt Disney recently (“The Animated Man”). It was a truly surprising and inspiring story. I’m always after bigger and bigger projects to work on and I’ll see if I can get a cartoon to materialize soon!