Buff Monster Interview

Vroom & Varossieau Gallery sat down with legendary American artist Buff Monster to talk about his recent activities, including the UPAINT festival in Monaco and his work in the Shapeshifters exhibition. His colorful characters can be found all over the world on walls, sneakers, other collectibles, and in established galleries. We hope you enjoy the interview with Buff Monster!

Hi Buff Monster! First of all, how are you doing and what have you been up to?

Buff: I just got back from painting in Monaco for the UPAINT Festival, benefiting the Prince of Monaco’s foundation. It was a great line-up of artists and it was quite surreal to be painting behind the Monte-Carlo Casino, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Very nice of the Prince to come by and meet all of us. Now that I’m back in NYC, it’s time to get back to a bunch of projects: big paintings for a few serious collectors, shipping out the first big proper vinyl toy that I’ve done in many years, and the usual mix of other projects. Always a lot going on!

The main figures returning in your works are the Melty Misfits, characterized by their colourful ice cream appearances. When (and where) did you draw your first Melty Misfit and how have they transformed throughout the years?

Buff: I came up with the Mister Melty character in late 2011. He evolved out of a very simple character that I had been using for years. I needed a human-like character to make a series of Renaissance-inspired paintings at the time. I also set out to create a set of vintage-style trading cards, and I needed a good character for those as well. Those are The Melty Misfits, and I’ve been making series of cards almost every year since then. The Melty Misfits have names (two names per character actually), but the characters in the paintings and murals rarely have names.


Two large sources of inspiration you mention are heavy metal and cute Japanese culture. While they seem to oppose each other, they both clearly become apparent in your work. Where did this initial inspiration come from and why do you think the two work so well together?

Buff: I guess on the surface, you could say that opposites attract, but to me they’re different expressions of the same feeling. Personally, I enjoy heavy metal music, and I grew up in Hawaii, surrounded by Japanese culture. So that’s all part of who I am, but as it relates to my work, it’s really this feeling of pure full-on expression. Both are 100% unapologetic in their approach. They don’t ask for permission and they don’t make apologies; they're moving ahead at full speed, unaffected by how you feel about them one way or another. That’s the same sense that I hope people get from my work.

You have had over two decades of experience in the world of street art and by now can be seen as a veteran. Recently, you released a series of NFTs on OpenSea. Do you consider it important to stay up-to-date with evolutions in the art world?

Buff: I’ve released NFTs on a variety of platforms, and I’m always working on more pieces for more NFTs. I’m just slowly, quietly, continuing to pay animators, sculptors, and renderers to keep creating more assets for me to use in the future. I don’t see it as me being up-to-date on the latest thing, I see NFTs as solving a problem. I think ownership of digital assets is an amazing development. It actually encourages artists to invest more time and resources into these digital creations. I see it as a direct extension of copyright law; when creatives can monetize their creations, they’re incentivized to keep creating. And I can do all sorts of things I couldn’t do otherwise; it’s better for me, it’s better for my collectors, it's better for everyone.

You are part of the street art exhibition Shapeshifters with a large canvas depicting two characters spraying graffiti. Could you tell us something about the work and how it fits within the exhibition at large?

Buff: I used spray paint to create that piece, which I rarely do. I use spray paint to paint murals, but in the studio, it’s almost exclusively acrylic that I paint with. But considering the theme of the exhibition, and the size of the piece, I thought I’d try to paint it with spray. It was definitely a challenge. Spray works much differently on a wall compared to a canvas. But I think it came out alright. The ice cream is a metaphor for life, the skull represents the certainty of death, and I think that all relates to the temporary nature of street art. So I think taken as a whole, it sums it all up pretty well.

Do you have any exhibitions or other projects coming up?

Buff: No shows. Just busy with commissions and a ton of other projects. Way too much going on, as usual… find me online in all the usual places. Thanks!

It was great to sit down with Buff Monster for a talk and see what he has been up to! Stay tuned for his upcoming projects via Instagram and go check out his work in the Shapeshifters exhibition in Almere (on show until July 31, 2022).

If you are interested in works by Buff Monster, please contact this address.