Star street artist Bumblebeelovesyou doesn’t make art to shock or horrify you. He doesn’t want to make you cringe. Instead, he looks to make people happy and create a sense of nostalgia. He wants to remind us all of the creativity and joy of youth — through whimsical murals of children exploring the world. In short: He’s all about the message in his pseudonym. He loves his fans and wants them to love his art. If he can make people smile as they drive or walk past his work, then he feels like he’s done his job.
I spoke to Bumblebee recently and we talked about the delight he takes in his career and reaching people, the nature of losing our youthful dreams, and how to hold on to the magic of childhood.
How did you choose the name Bumblebeelovesyou?
You know what, Bumblebee was a nickname in high school that I kind of forgot about. When I started to make art, I would always focus on coding brands and making a brand and making something identifiable. I went through a few names before I settled on my old high school nickname. And the “Loves You” part was a way to research my work. I decided to add that because if you Google “Bumble Bee” you just get bees. I needed a way to differentiate my name. I think that it was a positive.
I don’t know why, but I just liked it.
How did you get started in street art? Why did your art take that form?
You know, I had a job I wasn’t happy about. I was really young and I think an angst-y teen. Going into my early 20s was just not happy. I was in a lot of debt — which is like normal American life, a lot of people are like that. But I was just not happy so I wanted to do something cool. I was always an artist but you can’t just like, in your early 20s, apply to be a graphic designer and get the job. That’s just not how it works. When you’re just starting out nobody’s going to hire you. I always felt like it was super messed up. Like I was misled — “Oh, go to school, and graduate, and get a job.” Then you find out, oh wait you can’t get a job, and you’re deep in debt. Not fun. Anyway, I think I just needed a way to express myself. That was it. It was more for me to do it than for anyone else. I wanted people to see it but I also just wanted to do something in public.
Graffiti was cool but everybody did it. It just didn’t feel right taking that medium. Something else was out there. And I just started noticing there’s other people doing like cooler stuff. I didn’t know what it was called. You know? We really didn’t know what to call it. It was just like intervention, basically, in the street. I just thought it was so cool. I felt like it fit me.
I started doing stuff like that– like little sculptures on the street, and paste-ups and stickers obviously. That’s kind of how it all started. Then I kind of dabbled in those areas for a couple of years. I didn’t really start using Bumble Bee until 2008 or 2009 when I had my first show. That’s when I really settled on Bumble Bee. Other than that I had a lot of other work that was based purely off of negative energy. Then one day I woke up and I literally was like, this is like so negative. I want to do something else. I want to be myself. I don’t want to let the news or CNN dictate what I put on the street. I just want to do my own thing.
You kind of graduate from your own self in a way. You graduate to this level of artistic consciousness and finally know what you can do. I don’t know. I just kind of said, “All right. I’m done with this. I’m going to start doing what I know I’ll love to do forever.” Because that’s what I wanted to do forever was be like an artist. If I’m going to do this, well, I might as well be happy. I’m going to do some cool stuff, some positive stuff. That’s kind of how it all started with that.
Your drawings of kids they are so happy and they’re so innocent and… nostalgic. How does nostalgia play a role in your art?
Growing up too fast you just kind of forget what it’s like being a kid. I remember, as a kid, drawing all the time. And then one day, you just like can’t keep up because you get hired. You go to school and you have to get a job at about 16 or 18-years-old. Then it’s like… then you have a car payment. Your mom starts making you pay rent. And you can’t keep up with your hobby or your passion and your life. I think that’s the most troubling thing of kids today. Nobody tells you growing up like, “Okay, one day you’re just not going to have time or the desire (to create art) because you’re going to be so tired.” Nobody tells you. You kind of have figure it out and then you get mad at yourself because you fell into that.
I remember trying to find the time (for art), and you just can’t, then you just forget. I think it gets sucked out of you. Then you grow up and you realize, okay, I just don’t want to have a real job. You have that choice to make yourself. I think nostalgia for me is just the most important thing because I can kind of relive those years again that I loved. Right now I’m buying all these old toys online that I just play with. I just got one in the mail.
We all were kids once. And the memories make us happy. Just remembering a time when we had the time to care about what we wanted to do. That’s the feeling or emotion (I want) to give to people again. That’s kind of it. I feel like that’s my job to do for everybody.
Do you have a favorite child that you’ve created recently?
Yeah, I do actually. Recently I painted at this school, Melrose Elementary School. It was this giant girl on a swing. It’s like a three-story building. And she’s my favorite. I just love it. The composition is great. It’s a girl on a swing and it’s like in a playground. It makes sense. When I was in school, I didn’t want to be in class. I just wanted to play, like every other kid. This was a good way to bring that joy, I think. I just loved the emotion in her face. It’s just a girl on swing with flowers, and the flowers are going everywhere, and she’s just enjoying life.
She’s one of my favorites. Actually in the last few days, I’ve been drawing her and she’s going to go into a show in Hawaii next month. Somebody came over yesterday and bought it, so that’s cool.
That’s awesome. How does it feel to be doing gallery shows and to be selling pieces?
Oh, you know what? It’s really stressful to do that. I try not to do a lot of shows. I think if you know the art market, I think it’s just a stressful situation because some people can get away with making crappy art and just selling it for really cheap. But they make a lot of it so they can make a decent amount of money. It’s different for me. These kids, they have to look like kids, they can’t just be abstract art or something. I try to spend as much time as I can but it’s really stressful.
But shows can be cool. The thing about shows is that it’s good exposure if you show at the right gallery. You might not get a million followers at once, but you get fans for life. That, to me, is really important because that helps me keep going. And I think it’s cool for a street artist to be in galleries. A lot of people I feel like are, “Oh, are you selling out? Blah blah blah.” It’s like, you’re not making any money. You’re just displaying your art on a wall in a gallery, and it’s really cool. It’s a cool accomplishment for any artists or designer.
Do you still do illegal pieces, or are they mostly commissioned now?
No, no, I’m kind of done with that. I’m too old. I disappointed my parents enough in my early 20s and now I think they’re really proud of me, so it’s really nice to answer that question honestly. I feel like I’ve done a lot of illegal stuff. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t mess up anyone’s property. They were all abandoned places anyway. But just having that anxiety of going out in the street, maybe you’re going to get caught. It was just not worth it. If you’ve ever had a panic attack before, those are not fun. I don’t see my life like that anymore. I like to chill and make cool stuff. Illegal stuff is out. It’s done.
Yeah. I’d be afraid of that. I’m so afraid of authority, I’d never been able to do street art.
Right. Yeah. I got caught a couple times. Luckily, I did not go to jail or anything. Nothing happened. I don’t think we got handcuffed. I think we got put on the curb once with our hands behind your back. They were just like, “What are you doing? What the hell is this?” This was a long time ago. This was like 2006. Nobody knew what it was yet, putting up posters. I’d put up a poster of me when I was a baby. I don’t know why. I put something next to it, something stupid, but it was cool. It was right in front of town. It was up for a few days. That’s all I really wanted. But back then, the cops didn’t really know what was going on. They’re just like, “Oh, it’s just a poster. Okay, cool. No painting?” I’m like, “No.” They’re like, “All right. Just don’t do this again.”
Now, it’s like, if you get caught postering, I think that’s actually not cool anymore for them. You’ll definitely get a ticket, I’m sure. Back then, nobody knew what we were doing, so it was kind of cool.
You’ve talked about in other interviews about the theme of communication in your art, and I was wondering if you could about how communication directly affects your pieces.
I think communication blurs with, and is still in, my work. I don’t know if I can say anything about it now, but back then, I used to make sculptures of bees and sculptures of beehives in abandoned phone booths. It was an all-inclusive kind of thing where it was like they’re taking out the phones, and at the same time, the bees were all dying, right? And there was kind of a thing where the bees are finding their new home in these abandoned spaces, like the old phone booths, which we used to communicate on, but we don’t use those anymore.
It’s not a big part of your work now?
It is. But I’m just making children, which if you can relate to them or not, we all were a kid once and you most likely can. I’m just not focused on … The thing about now is I’m not focused on trying to put myself in this one position. It’s more about just making something cool. Making something that you love. Making a good design so people love it.
I want to…I don’t know, make people happy when they see it, and I hope that’s what people feel when they see it.
So your goal is making people happy. Do you feel that you succeed in making people happy? What is the kind of feedback you get?
Yeah. (People say things) like, “Oh, I just passed by your mural. You totally made my day. Your work makes me so happy. I love your work. Thank you.” It’s a lot of that. That’s, I mean, that’s why I do it. It’s really nice to be an artist and have people respond to you on a daily basis. I feel like that might be needed these days. There’s a lot of sadness in the world, so … It’s like I always said doing this, if I could make one person happy or smile or get back to me, respond, I’ve done it. I made it.
That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do. Now, I do that all the time.
That’s so cool.
It’s something I’m really grateful for. It’s really humbling because you look at the world differently once you realize, okay, you’re doing it. You’re doing something cool. Your goal is being set and you’re doing it yourself.
It’s interesting because you paint children and the idea of the childhood dream, and you’re following yours!
Yeah. Exactly. That’s true. It was a childhood dream to be an artist. That’s what I wanted to do, but society kind of says, “Dude, you can’t. It’s really hard. I would think of a plan B. Do you have a plan B?” It’s like, “Dude, are you serious? That’s fucked up. I want to, I just want to do this. Why can’t you let me?” You realize, okay, a lot of people say that because there’s a lot of bad art. Where I’m from there’s no art galleries. I really didn’t know that true art galleries existed here. I’d never been to a museum or anything. What you saw was just stereotypes on TV of starving artists, stuff like that, but I didn’t really know anyone (who was an artist), and there was no social media. And then when social media popped up, it was like, “Oh, cool. There’s somebody doing something!” Just to be around that kind of stuff, it’s really inspiring, like art galleries and stuff.
I mean, I wish I would have known (growing up)… Like, “Hey, there’s a show on the weekend.” Like, there’s a show every day in LA.
Do you have anything else that you’re working on right now?
Yeah. I’m actually doing one, starting when the rain ends. I’m actually going to return to that school with the girl on a swing because they asked me to paint something else for them, so that’s really cool. It’s going to be a little girl on a string with a pet, a pet dog. It should match pretty well. It’s the first mural of the year. I have a lot of big things coming up. And I do have a new print coming out for Valentine’s Day.
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✌🏻️💕💛 #staycool coming to life 🌵☀️Thanks to everyone who came out to visit me today. Hope to see more of you tomorrow and at the museum opening #lancastermuseumofart ⭐️🌵🦂 I'm off to get more #sunscreen 👽#powwowAV #moahlancaster #thenewvanguard @powwowworldwide @moahlabcaster
What is your print that you’re doing for Valentine’s Day?
It’s a girl eating pizza listening to music by herself. It’s for all the single ladies out there. She’s really cute.