Artist Buff Monster talks about his latest show, black metal, and Garbage Pail Kids
By Carrie Tucker
Everyone’s favorite pink ice cream- and black metal-inspired artist, Buff Monster, first made a name for himself by putting up thousands of handmade silk-screened posters around Los Angeles. His happy, bubbly characters were so popular that, in addition to his fine art painting, he eventually expanded into a line of merch that includes collectable toys, T-shirts and the ever-popular Melty Misfits trading cards and stickers–making his art accessible for those of us who don’t have deep pockets.
Buff’s empire continues to expand, no doubt assisted in part by his recent move from L.A. to New York City. He says the advantages of living on the East Coast are the collaborative experiences he’s able to have with other artists and the sense of community. There's no better example of that than Number Of The Beast, Buff’s show with artist, friend and longtime collaborator L’amour Supreme which runs April 12 to May 6 at Brooklyn’s the Cotton Candy Machine.
Inspired by–what else–Iron Maiden (some of the pieces are riffs on Maiden artwork, originally designed by artist Derek Riggs), Buff says the show was a true collaboration in every sense of the word, even down to the duo’s exclusive mural on one of the walls of friend and artist Tara McPherson and Sean Leonard’s gallery-cum-store where the show is held.
Speaking of Iron Maiden, Buff and L’amour are a perfect pairing: The two are inspired in their own way by metal, as in heavy. L'amour was discovered by legendary skateboard/punk/heavy metal graphic designer Pushead (who you might know from his work with Metallica and Misfits), while Buff listens to metal all day, every day.
“I basically listen to three genres of metal, and I listen to them throughout the day,” says Buff. “So I’ll start in the morning with power metal: Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, 3 Inches Of Blood. That gets me in the mood to work. To see me through the middle of the day, there’s going to be some Maiden, some Blut Aus Nord. Then, usually toward the end of the day when I’m tired and don't want to work anymore, that's when I listen to black metal. It’s often made by these Scandinavian guys in intense environments, where it’s cold and dark for six months out of the year, and the music seems to come from a place that matches where I’m at. I really like black metal as a form of expression. It’s not overly commercial, and it’s about bringing an idea down to its purest form.”
Buff took a break from listening to Satyricon and readying his Garbage Pail Kids-inspired Melty Misfits Double Heather line of toys (more about that later!) to walk us through some of his favorite pieces in Number Of The Beast.
Get descriptions below and walk through the show digitally via the gallery above.
1. Be Quick Or Be Dead
“This was the first piece we started for the show. I started by painting [the piece] in L'amour’s studio, and then we actually took it to Miami with us and worked on it in the hotel in Miami during Art Basel. And then somehow we got it finished up.”
2. Hallowed Be Thy Name
“This is the first piece we did intentionally for our show here. The show is called Number Of The Beast, which is obviously an Iron Maiden reference—awesome album and song—and a guy named Derek Riggs did a lot of that iconic art back in the ’80s for them. My old best friend from high school lives in NYC, and I hadn’t seen him for a long time, and he gave me this book on Derek Riggs’s art. I showed it to L'amour and he said, ‘Oh, dude, that’s sick. That's what we should do.’
This composition is based on the Maiden album artwork for Hallowed Be Thy Name. In the original image, Eddie is impaling Bruce Dickinson. So I said to L'amour, you do your version of Eddie, and I’ll do my guy impaled, and it’ll be awesome.”
3. Number Of The Beast (Collaboration by Buff Monster and L'Amour Supreme. Inspired by Iron Maiden's album art by Derek Riggs.)
“This is based on the album art for Number Of The Beast. I said to L’amour, ‘I’ll do Eddie this time, and you do whatever the hell you want to do.’ L’amour has painted this stuff since he was in high school, so he knows [the artwork] forward and backward. I painted the character, the background and handed it off to him to finish up everything else. I actually never painted a background like that before, and it was a lot of fun.”
“This is a drawing I came up with that I thought would be a fun thing to work on, roughly based on what we painted in San Antonio. I thought it’d be good if my guy was split apart and there was some crazy skull inside. So I started that one and handed it off to L’amour, and he went for it.”
5. Number Of The Beast (illustrated title of the show by Buff Monster)
“I wanted to use Wrathchild for a T-shirt, and thought that I should do some lettering for it. L’amour and I went to Tokyo—L’amour does a lot of work for Mishka, and we did a collab shirt for Mishka—and I actually did this drawing the day before I flew to Tokyo. It got more likes on my Instagram than anything else. Just me with a brush–and I’d only outlined the ‘B’ at that point.
“Usually, when I work, I just put on some crazy black metal and I just sit there and improvise for hours. For stuff like this, I listen to a lot of Opeth. Nice variation: really aggressive and crazy, yet really melodic.”
6. The Metal Misfits (Each is available as an original piece, or in a trading card set. Visit buffmonster.com to purchase.)
“Besides heavy metal, I am super-inspired by Garbage Pail Kids. Instead of the Melty Misfits, these are called the Metal Misfits. First, you have to make a painting, and the painting was done in the same size and medium as the original Garbage Pail Kids, which is acrylic and airbrush. They did them back in the day on illustration board, but I use watercolor paper. I'd wanted to learn to airbrush for years so this was my excuse to finally get an airbrush and learn. I did 30 of these paintings.
“The cards–we super nerded out and went to crazy lengths to make them as legit as we could… They come in a wax pack, just like the cards in the ’80s. Each pack has a complete set of eight, but there’s a ninth rare chase card that’s only [one out of five packs].
“Also, in the cards there are errors. I love misprinted cards so we intentionally messed some up. If you get a box of 24 packs, you might only get a couple misprinted ones. We have signed cards, we have sketched cards–those are hard to find–and we have a golden ticket [The Golden Ticket gets you a hand-signed, original Buff Monster painting! –ed.]
7. Vengeful Vince/Zombie Zack
“These two are based on an iconic first series Garbage Pail Kid, a zombie guy crawling out [Like Dead Ted/Jay Decay -ed.] of the ground. In the spirit of the cards, I thought it’d be fun to have our own take on that.”
8. Melty Misfits Double Heather Cheap Toy
While these weren’t part of the Number Of The Beast show, they’re way too exciting not to talk about! Buff says, “In continuing my homage to Garbage Pail Kids–they also made these things called Cheap Toys. To collect these Cheap Toys takes a whole new level of fanaticism and money, and it’s super-crazy. I had a sculptor take one of the figures and sculpt my heads onto it. I posted a photo last week on Instagram and the Garbage Pail world loved it. They were originally released in four colors: red, blue, green, peach. I’m releasing all four original colors at once, but from them on out, I’m going to do all kinds of awesome colors.”
Melty Misfits Double Heather Cheap Toys are out today on buffmonster.com. Sculpted and cast in resin, they go for $15 a pop and he only made of few of them, so act fast!
Number Of The Beast runs through May 5 at The Cotton Candy Machine, 235 South First Street, Brooklyn, New York (718) 387-3844. If you’re not in the Brooklyn area, you can still order original work, prints, and tees online at The Cotton Candy Machine.
For more of Buff’s work, go to buffmonster.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @buffmonster.