by Ilayda McIntosh

“Art is just a reflection of our lives. Everyone is an artist.”

Artistry is an objective discipline. For some, it’s transactional - a means to an end, something to cover the bills. For others, it’s a simultaneous connection with the inner child and the divine. A step towards a higher purpose. Club Bum balances on the fine line between the two, bringing both heart and realism with his unique approach. 

We dial into a wobbly Zoom connection on an early evening in Turkey (for me), early morning in the Bronx for Club Bum. He’s sitting at his desk surrounded by 4-5 half-complete canvases, intermittently looking up from his current commission to consider my questions. On first impressions, he seems pretty busy, distracted. But after chatting for a while I recognise something very familiar: full immersion in the creative process. The epitome of an artist in his element.

“My home is everything. It’s the foundation of who I am. The more awareness I grow within myself, the more grateful I become for where I grew up, and where I'm from.”

Why Club Bum? What’s the story behind the name? 

“Back in 2009, there was this sneaker collector in the neighbourhood. Owned over 900 pairs of sneakers but he would come outside in bussed up Air Force ones and a raggedy T-shirt. Nobody could say anything to him though. 

He would always come up to me and be like “you got some nice kicks” and I’d be like “me?”. Once I started formulating the Club Bum idea, he said ‘you gotta take that for you and tap in with it.’”

“Club Bum is an acronym, ‘cause we’re all walking billionaires under manifestation. That’s the concept of Club Bum. Club Bum is just a reflection of myself, everyone around me, and everyone is part of the same concept.”

Club Bum describes the concept as a mental meta-field. As you shift your perspective on the internal and external: it puts into motion that you’re valuable and content within yourself, assets, spirit and being. “You can do anything you fucking feel like… you can bring life into anything you put life into.” 

On Escapism

Like many artists, Club Bum finds escape in his creativity. “I used [art] as an escape, and I never knew escaping is where I’d find myself. As a little child, everyone has something they do to escape.” 

Many argue that escapism acts as a mere distraction; something to get lost in. Yet escapism often acts as a remedy to that which is lost. In that escape, the artist is able to connect/reconnect with the parts of themselves they’ve yet to discover or perhaps re-discover. 

Many also utilise sport as a field of inspiration in their creative endeavours: for Club Bum, basketball was that sport. “Basketball was my foundation, that was my first experience of being an artist… it really helped me find my real ‘passion’ within art.” 

“In 2012, I left college and then got a job as a preschool teacher and that’s when I realised ‘I can really tap in and be an artist.’ When you’re surrounded by those little gems, it’s like omg - they’re little geniuses. They have the most confidence, they are fearless, their imagination is close to reality.”

Raw Artists Exhibition

Club Bum’s first art exhibition was in 2013, a group arts show with an organisation called Raw Artists. “It’s where I first sold my first painting.”

What was that feeling like?

“I was so surprised, ecstatic, And from that point on my confidence grew. I sold a piece for $700 that I just did for serendipity. I realised at that point, I could really be an artist and take this forward…haven’t stopped since.”

And how do you ‘get into the zone’?

“It’s all about the curiosity, the groove that you’re in until you find your niche. I was constantly painting the things that inspire me, like my culture from growing up in the early 2000s and 90s.”

“After my experience as a teacher, I always said my work is to attract the minds of the youth, and my elders. If I can capture that concept while I'm painting, then I know I'm doing the right thing, in the right groove.” 

“But right now, getting in the right groove is different. This is my main income now so I have to paint. I don’t work 9-5. Back then I was painting for the love of it, for the expression. Right now, it’s still in the same aspects but now I have to make a living off of this. The concept and the essence have had to change.”

Do you still have the same love for it?

“No. In my perspective love changes. It’s just like within relationships, everyone expects the love to stay the same. But it changes. No day is the same, we adjust to every day that we’re blessed with.”

“My love for what I do is constantly gonna change. But as long as the foundation is there that will forever carry me into being an artist and creating. I won’t lie being in this career field, there’s a loss in some sense. When we do things for money, it’s a whole different spirit… But I do love what I do, it’s an expression of me; of my life force.”

They say when we’re creating we’re closest to the inner child - is that something you relate to?

“Yeah, yeah…” 

He pauses.

“It‘s what I'm getting back into. It’s being in serendipity and not overthinking. The more we think the more it stops things naturally coming into existence. Especially once we start getting into the outside world. We look at this and that, and start comparing.”

“You gotta block all that, and connect to that inner child spirit. You gotta think within yourself, vibe with the nature that surrounds us. I’m definitely getting back to that inner child-like mentality in my artwork.”

What does home mean to you? 

“My home is everything. It’s the foundation of who I am. The more awareness I grow within myself, the more grateful I become for where I grew up, and where I'm from.”

How would you describe the Bronx to someone who’s never been?

“There’s a lot of beauty to the Bronx, a lot of nature. There are bad areas, good areas. But that’s everywhere you go.”

“It has a lot of authentic cultures, varied communities. We all cultivate in our little area and we still have our own section. But we’re still able to respect each other.”

“Those are the little things that people don’t understand about the Bronx. We’re able to cultivate and have our own culture but still have a culture as a whole.”

“My artwork is a living reflection of what I see on a daily basis: distortion, broken up pieces - my art reflects this. Every day, our emotions are all over the place.”

Biggest inspiration? 

Club Bum smiles. “My madre, my mom.”

“Watching her put up with a lot of shit, and still maintain her mental, her perspective. That’s rewarding to me. She put up with a lot of shit, I mean she allowed me to turn the whole house into an art gallery. How can I not be inspired and grateful for that!”

“One thing for sure, we don’t actually know our parents. You grow up with them but you don’t actually know them until you take time to get to know them. As I’m talking to her now, I get to know her back story, it inspires the hell out of me. Like ‘oh, shit! you did that??” 

“Paying attention to those little things, allows me to pay attention to little things within myself. And then to the details in my artwork.”

What’s next for you? 

“Right now I'm working on a big show in LA. I gotta get all these pieces behind me ready by Friday.”

“But what I wanna do is more individual shows... I wanna narrate my own story, my own concepts. Part of my mission when I started Club Bum was to curate a world canvas. Exploring different cultures of youth around the world, different tribes of youth across the world.”

“There’s a whole lot of us, a whole extension of creativity. I just wanna explore and create. I got a lot of my confidence and inspiration from the youth - as a preschool teacher - I feel as though it’s necessary to give back what you got.”

“Give and take. My mom told me about give and take. She told me about this story about shamans back in the Caribbean, how they appreciate nature. They express that the reason society is the way it is is that they take, take, take from nature and don’t give back.”

“If we take the fruit from the tree, I gotta give a piece of me back. It’s that give and take vibration.”

So how do you give back to nature? 

“By not eating meat, being respectful to nature! Even the little things. I’m sure the majority of people that go outside don’t give any daps to no tree. I always make sure, even if I'm walking and there’s a leaf right there - I say ‘what up, baby’. I make sure they’re acknowledged because everything around us is a living being.”

“It’s those tiny things that we don’t see or acknowledge that keeps us alive. I always say thank you to the sun too… I look at the m’fucker right in the eye and he looks back at me like, ‘stop looking at me.” 

“I do things like that in my head to bring me down to earth more. To make me more appreciative and careful.”

My conversation with Club Bum was very inspiring: he’s an authentic artist with a refreshing approach not only to artistry but to the world as a whole. In an IG follower count-driven world, to create without being attached to either the outcome or external opinions is truly unique. I don’t think I’ll be dappin’ trees soon, but I’ll be sure to appreciate the gifts of nature and escapism in my creative approach. 

You can find out more about Club Bum via the link below.