Coffeeklatch

creative chit-chat

Bue The Warrior

Street artist

With an apartment full of toys one might suggest here lives a keen collector. This isn’t the case for street artist Bue the Warrior, for he isn’t attached to any place. He is almost never at home. Half of the year he tours around the world to make murals. "As an artist, you are invited to events to collaborate with other artists. You get food, drinks and accommodation and during a few days you paint together. After the event you go on to the next. I don’t consider what I do as work. I just have fun at what I do."  We are invited for coffee and cake in Bue’s apartment that he shares with a roommate. We’re enjoying a panoramic view of the city of Ghent and a cat that is more than happy to pose for the camera. "Check out my cat! Normally she is very shy and look at her now enjoying and posing! It’s really the first time she does that. "

 

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For someone who doesn’t collect anything, I see a lot of gadgets, books and toys. And the walls are full of work.

I still have a lot of work that needs to be framed, because I have a wall which I like to call my 'Wall of Fame' and its far from done. What you see here are souvenirs and gifts from friends with whom I’ve painted with. For example Dear Smith from Mexico and Chase from LA. When people are passing by, they leave behind a drawing. The drawing you see here is of my grandfather and dates from 1951. He was the first employee of Willy Vandersteen. He drew and inked 80 Suske & Wiskes and around 40 Bessies and Rode Ridders. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, but my father still works for Studio Vandersteen. Obviously drawing is in the genes.

 

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Your life seems fantastic, six months working, six months travellng. Lucky we caught up with you, because you're constantly on the road.

Yes, life is good. (laughs) For me painting is a kind of therapy. You’ll never know if i’m a bad mood while I’m working, because when I paint a wall, I experience a moment of total freedom. I have little responsibility, no debts and I have no kids. I'm exactly like Peter Pan who never wants to become mature. You live 80 years and then your life ends. In the meantime I want to have fun and do things my way. People my age all have become moms and dads. That's cool, but that way of life is not for me. Maybe I just haven’t found the right person. Recently someone told me that I am going to grow old alone. That might be the case, but I was also born alone. When I grow old I know that I’ve lived my way. You won’t hear me complain.

 

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If you have nothing to complain about, I assume that you are a happy man. Your work reflects a positive vibe. The universe you paint is populated by super cheerful characters.

My work is spontaneous, naive and positive and that has a lot to do with my personality. I hear many people complain in general. But my work leads me to many places and I’ve seen a lot of things. For instance, kids sniffing glue and homeless people who really have nothing. And despite all their misery they remain positive in life. If you compare this to our first world problems then I think we have a lot to learn. When I create murals in the favelas, I get a lot more appreciation then here. People come to me, show interest in what I do and thank me by bringing me food, drinks and joints. I don’t make high brow art, but people find it fun. It doesn’t matter which profession you have, people can recognize themselves in my work or associate themselves with it. My work is mellow, not too conceptual, not political and I don’t do propaganda. It's just fun! In Belgium people see street art still as vandalism. I've experienced a farce recently, here in Ghent. I had made a mural, but I asked for permission to the wrong person, with the result that my mural was completely repainted by the real owner. A discussion arose on Facebook. Not about the painting itself, but about undoing a beautiful mural which people described as real vandalism. However you look at it, my work envokes a reaction. Action and reaction: that’s what my work is all about. Facebook and Instagram are labeled as ego-tripping, but they are good media to find new commisioned work.

 

 

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Besides painting walls you make toys, gadgets, hats, T-shirts and you’ve developed an iPad application.

I work with many media, but my big love will always be the mural. All designs find their origin on walls. My street drawings get translated into other media. This way a whole universe of characters arise. You can compare it to the Hello Kitty world. Look at my designs for LinFashion, a fashion label that sells at Barney's in New York. It's nice to see my drawings from the street being transformed into high fashion and worn by celebrities like Heidi Klum, Steffi Graf and Chrisette Michele. But celebrities don’t fascinate me. I'm a big kid that finds it cool to make stuff for other kids. With the 'Hey Hey Colours' iPad application, children are able to color my street drawings. And now we’re going to develop an app for the iPhone. There's the Belgian children's line Toykyo Kids where kids can walk around wearing my designs from head to toe. My dream is to design an outdoor playground for children, with all the toys, swings and roulettes, made by me. That would be the coolest! Sooner or later it will happen.

 

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Can you tell us about the special places and the remarkable people you meet during your travels?

NY is special, but very recognizable. Bangkok, Mexico City and Sao Paulo are hardcore. The district of Lapa in Rio De Janeiro feels like the set from a Star Wars movie. There is this 'From Dusk till Dawn' atmosphere full of shemales, homeless people, dealers and pimps. You have to really pay attention. As for the rest of my adventures, they are more normal. I constantly walk around with my iPhone and iPad, filming like a tourist. From the moment they know you have good intentions and you are accompanied by locals,  it is really ok. In a few years I want to settle in Mexico. Their manner of outdoor life, the beautiful weather, meeting together in the street and the whole social scene: all these things appeal to me. And I really miss that vibe here. 

 It’s crazy that through my work I come across all kinds of artists that I know from magazines, books or from the Internet. They are people I look up to very much, because they are more talented that I am. I really didn’t expect that they would show so much respect and appreciation for my work. Working with top artists such as Jean Special, Highraff, Fefe, Chase, Flying Fortress, Tika, Dear, Smithe and Remed is awesome! Yes, I can’t really complain, I am a happy man!

 

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About Coffeeklatch

Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More

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