Kiptoe Talks About His Journey as a Sticker and Mural Artist
In this Stickers on the Mic episode, Andrew chats with Kiptoe, a mural artist in Los Angeles about his passion for art, getting started as a mural artist, and some of the amazing art he has created all over the world!
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[00:00:07] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com where we talk with our customers about how they started their business, how they're marketing their brand, and how they're growing their company. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thank you for your continued support.
Without further ado, it's time for the Stickers on the Mic podcast from StickerGiant. Let's get on with the show.
[00:00:39] Andrew: Welcome back everybody to Stickers on The Mic. I'm Andrew. I'm hosting this week and we have a very special guest dialing in from across the country. We have an artist named Kiptoe who's been a customer of ours and he has some pretty amazing designs that we're going to have him talk through a little bit.
Also, just talk a little bit about how his business got started, and how he turned that passion into something that is shared now all across the world, which is probably the coolest part of this story. If you're out there on YouTube, this YouTube channel is pretty impressive and we'll drop a link to that in the pod when we launch it. Thank you Kiptoe so much for joining us and just tell us a little more about yourself and where you're located to get started.
[00:01:27] Kiptoe: Yes. Andrew, thanks so much for having me. I love doing podcasts. I think just sharing unedited knowledge instead of just these very high produced videos is a new step for me so it's fun for me as well. I'm coming in from Los Angeles, that's where I'm based. I've been here for about five years now. I originally grew up in New Hampshire on the East coast and I studied illustration.
I had been doing art my whole life and I studied illustration in school. Then after about a year after college, I was dabbling in the mural thing. Once I finally got like a big project under my belt in Rhode Island, I realized like, "Holy crap, this is like totally what I want to do." I just made it a point to become a professional mural artist and travel around the world and paint murals.
I thought, to become a little fish in a big pond was the best way to challenge myself, so I moved to Los Angeles and I never looked back, and I've just been grinding ever since. I've traveled the world a few times and now I'm getting into the merchandise and that's where we come up with the stickers.
[00:02:49] Andrew: You were talking about highly produced video. That's actually where I found this story because you do these time-lapse and travel videos of your art as you're doing it. Can you talk a little bit about how you produce those videos really quick?
[00:03:03] Kiptoe: It's all me. I'm doing this pretty much 100% myself and I'm going around and I'm setting up the cameras. I got a regular camera on a tripod and I have GoPro and also my iPhone. I'll use those three in cohesion and just try and capture the moments that I'm painting. A lot of it's time-lapses, but also I'll be talking to the camera, probably doing little vloggy stuff as I'm traveling or try and do fun little angles in setups that make it fun to watch rather than just one time lapse from one camera.
I come home and I'm putting two or three days of work into the edit for each video, so it's a lot of work.
[00:03:57] Andrew: Speaking of those videos, the video that really grabbed my attention was How I Make Sticker Packs. The video where you're using the stickers that we printed. What brought you to doing stickers after these huge art pieces that you have? What drove you to decide to do stickers?
[00:04:16] Kiptoe: I think stickers are one of the easiest and most accessible ways to merchandise your artwork. Who doesn't like stickers? You can put them anywhere and it's a cheap, fun way for people to have your art. It's like a mini-sized little piece that they can have and they can put on their own stuff. I think that's one of the reasons why I chose to start making stickers, and also, just as a way for me to professionalize myself and start creating more of a brand.
It brands yourself when you have these iconic pieces. Especially for me, because I've done all these murals around the world and every sticker that I have is pulled directly from a wall that I've done around the world. That creates a cool nostalgic effect for me, and a cool effect for the people who buy them. This is actually painted from Columbia or Europe or wherever it was painted and now they have it in their hand.
[00:05:39] Andrew: When you're doing these murals, are you being commissioned? Is it like you're allowed to do it? How do you set that up with those places to make a mural like that?
[00:05:48] Kiptoe: When I was first starting out, it was just me going around town looking for blank walls and painting for free, with the goal of eventually getting commissions and traveling and getting invited to places. When I went on my first world tour in South America, it was just going on my own and I set up everything myself and made my own little tour. I went to Bogota, Buenos Aries, and Rio de Janeiro and made my own connections as I went along the way.
Then a year later, I got an invite back to Columbia, and so it worked. Everything that I set out to do, it worked and I got invited back to Columbia the next year on a full month-long tour to these four different cities. I wasn't paid for the work, but everything else was paid for. It was like living for free and doing what I love to do. That was the main goal, and I make these videos along the way and when I got home, I got a sponsorship for all the videos.
I ended up actually making money off of the videos from the murals, so everything worked out.
[00:07:07] Andrew: Your YouTube channel is pretty banging. You have many subscribers. That's impressive considering you've probably only had it a few years. What does Kiptoe mean? What does that come from?
[00:07:23] Kiptoe: The actual term stands for kinetic imagination presented through our experience, which means in layman's terms being able to take what you've experienced in your life and flip it into your imagination and be able to push it out into your art. You take all the experiences and ideas that you've developed through the years through your own experiences and be able to push that through your artwork in a very energetic imagination is what I like to be about.
I like to spread that message. Also, it was just a way for me to reinvent myself with a new moniker that I can paint on the wall. It's only six letters. You Google those six letters, everything of me comes up as a brand.
[00:08:22] Andrew: The branding and search side of it is pretty dialed in. As far as the business behind what you do, obviously, it's coming from your passion and now you're able to travel, and you've made some pretty impressive pieces of content. What background did you have in New Hampshire as a kid growing up? What brought you to art?
[00:08:46] Kiptoe: I fell off an alien spaceship or something because none of my family members are artistic at all, so I don't know where it came from. My parents are regular nine to fivers, and my brother is an engineer, and nobody else in my family is really artistic. Like my aunts and uncles, and cousins, I'm the only one. I guess my mom and dad, as much as they're not artistic, they're very supportive.
They had this mentality like if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want. My dad is an extremely hard worker, so I got the hard work from my dad, and I got the mental support from my mom. As a kid, I was always making stuff and I would always be making these little projects, little paintings. Every Christmas, I would make customized gifts for my family and custom Christmas cards. I would be the art kid in school, always making stuff and drawing stuff. Then I got into making movies as a 13-year-old when my mom had a little point and shoot, a digital camera that had movie mode. I would have all these little short films that I would make. I would just improvise as I would go along. I would be the only character and I would be in selfie mode doing these James Bond spoofs and stuff, and setting up the camera and fighting myself because I had no friends.
I couldn't wait to make the videos, so I just did it all myself. I was like, I had this idea and I just had to do it. I'd play every character and just be these silly videos. Then I would get a little bit more into it, then I would start writing scripts. Every summer, I would have these crazy action videos with my friends and my brother. I'd rope all my family into it. They would be these 20 minute long freaking action movies every summer and they would get bigger and bigger and bigger.
Then I started really getting into filmmaking. When it came time to go to college, I had to pick between do I want to be a filmmaker or do I want to be an artist? Ultimately, I chose an artist because I thought that's what I was born as. I thought I'd get more satisfaction out of creating art and you can do it a little faster. You don't have to rely on as many people. Creating art is much more of a faster lane of self-expression I think.
[00:11:55] Andrew: It started at a young age though, for sure.
[00:11:58] Kiptoe: Yes. I've been drawing. There's pictures of me at two years old with my little pajamas, with the crayon and easel going at it.
[00:12:06] Andrew: I got to see that too.
[00:12:06] Kiptoe: It's been part of my whole life.
[00:12:09] Andrew: You've had the support, you were able to turn that passion into what has become a business. You have a pretty robust offering of products on your page and all that stuff. Walk us through a little bit of your move to LA. You've established the identity of Kiptoe and you're painting murals. How are you now trying to grow this business? What are some of the methods that you're doing? Other than the travels and the public art, what are you doing to grow that side of things?
[00:12:40] Kiptoe: That was a main squeeze of 2019 where I wanted to focus on creating more of a stable business. I'm working on a fleshed-out business model, becoming a professional in that sense. The merch shop was a big part of that and creating cheap prints for my YouTube audience to pick up and the stickers. Those were the first two steps in that direction. I started with two packs. The first two packs were the Kiptoe sticker pack and The Deadbeat Trio.
The Deadbeat Trio was the second mural that I ever painted in LA. It's still up, it's still there, so I got to do-
[00:13:35] Andrew: That's probably my favorite. I'll dig that. That one's cool.
[00:13:38] Kiptoe: I got to go back to the actual site. I got to do these cool little marketing tricks where I hold the stickers in front of the actual mural that I cut them out from. I would do a cool transition where I would bang, snap it in front of the mural. I have a cool little trick where they would pop up in front of the mural. I would be basically cutting them out of the wall in the video.
It creates these cool little animations where I'd be able to pop it out of the wall and try and sell them that way where the point will be driven home where these are directly from my murals. Finding creative solutions to put them in my videos and making these merch videos where they come to life is one of my specialties, where it's not just a picture of the sticker, "Here, buy this."
I'm creating a narrative around these and I'm making them come to life in a way that is exciting for people to want to pick them up. That was one of my avenues that I tried to go for for sure.
[00:14:56] Andrew: In your logo, which the Kiptoe logo that's on your site, you've got that lion head and it looks almost like a spray paint can.
[00:15:04] Kiptoe: Spray paint can, yes.
[00:15:06] Andrew: I actually just noticed that even though I did a bunch of research on you to write the blog. For those listening, there's a really awesome blog post. That's not awesome. The content is awesome. It's just another blog post. I'm not trying to toot my own horn. It was one of my favorites to write up because it's so visual and your art is so expressive, but I didn't notice until right now looking at it closer while we're talking that it's the spray paint can on top.
Is that your preferred medium, is spray paint? When you're out there on a mural, it's paint, but then what are the other ways that you create what you do?
[00:15:43] Kiptoe: Usually, I start with a rough sketch with a roller, so I use a roller and buff paint. I call it buff paint. It's a term for just a roller paint. I use buff paint in a little weenie roller. Those little hotdog shaped ones. I'll use that as a giant pencil and I'll sketch it out on the wall using a rough grid or landmarks that are already on the wall like windows and doors. I'll sketch it out on the wall like that.
Then I'll start buffing in the background. I'll buff in the big shapes and the big flat colors that get the general shape of the mural on there. Then I'll start carving it out with spray paint. That's the basic process. A lot of it is just filling in the buffs and then going back on top with the sprays and carving it out.
[00:16:47] Andrew: In this video that's in the-
[00:16:50] Kiptoe: Spray paint is my most favorite medium.
[00:16:52] Andrew: Then to create the stickers, for instance, the video that you have that's on the blog, you're using Photoshop for that.
[00:17:00] Kiptoe: Yes.
[00:17:02] Andrew: You do digital work as well.
[00:17:04] Kiptoe: Yes, for sure. In today's world, you got to be savvy in everything. Especially you got to be savvy with digital. I know I'm pretty fluent with Photoshop. I can pretty much do anything with Photoshop. I'm taking my murals and especially for making the prints, I took the stickers from the prints. I made the prints first, so I would have these photographs of the murals.
Then I would edit them, so they were nice and cleaned up and there were no low hanging wires in the way or no doorways or anything like that and cleaning up edges and making things symmetrical. That was the first step that took a couple months to get all of those pieces squared up and looking sexy for the prints. Then I would take those and then I would put those out to create the stickers.
[00:18:12] Andrew: Your style is interesting. You've got this natural animalistic thing, but then you also have this technological robot mysticism thing too. How do you draw inspiration like that? Where from?
[00:18:31] Kiptoe: I draw a lot of inspiration from comic books, comic book artists or movies, my own personal life. I'll do a lot of-- especially when I'm traveling and I'm going through a lot, it's hard not to paint what's on your mind. A lot of times, I'll start painting what I'll be going through emotionally or whatever. I just like painting bad-ass stuff and that happens to be a lot of bad-ass animals or dudes with big hands and fists in action poses and stuff. That fuels a lot of my inspiration in a way.
[00:19:21] Andrew: The client list on your site, you've got some pretty cool big names. How do you land those clients and what's it like? What kind of projects are you doing with, for instance, Billboard Music Awards or The Amazing Race for instance which are just a small sampling of some of the A-list clients you have?
[00:19:37] Kiptoe: Actually, I should update that because I've worked with a lot bigger clients since then.
[00:19:42] Andrew: It's hard to keep your site up to date. How do you, A, get that business in? Then, B, what do they want from you? You know what I mean?
[00:19:53] Kiptoe: This past year specifically, I worked with a couple of big names like Express Men, their clothing company. They reached out to me or a creative agency between them reached out to me about doing a commercial campaign for their newest line for their fall collection. I've done a couple commercial pieces in the past as well. That's my third or fourth commercial where it's actually them filming me painting something. I'm on screen as onscreen talent painting a thing. This one I was solo and they filmed me.
We found a warehouse in downtown LA and I painted a little mural piece that wrapped up their brand image as unity, but it was still totally in my style and they filmed me painting this piece as they did a little interview. They made a one minute piece and I did a little model shoot with all their clothes and everything. I was doing this photography in between painting and I was like a full-on model that day walking through the streets of downtown with their clothes trying to look cool and shit.
[00:21:21] Andrew: When you moved from New Hampshire, was that part of your vision or did that just organically happen?
[00:21:28] Kiptoe: No way, that's totally an LA thing. I'm totally cool with it because those are some of the sickest gigs because they're so unique and I feel like that couldn't really happen anywhere else. It's been a cool ride just to do those things. It's definitely cool. It's totally unique. It's not like just painting another mural, it's working with a big name company and doing a commercial is like that's a big deal. That was cool.
Then at the same time, I got hit up by Fortnite to do digital loading screens. For their new season, they were hiring a bunch of artists to paint a loading screen. In between the menu and the gameplay, there's a loading screen and they had a bunch of artists create artistic loading screens in their own respective styles. One of the guys who was following me on Instagram, he reached out to me.
He said, "Hey man, I'd love to have you in the new season." I got to do these loading screens for Fortnite, one of the biggest video games on the planet. That was super cool because it was one of my most professional illustration gigs and didn't even involve painting a mural. That was interesting for me because it doesn't always have to be a mural. That was cool for me because murals are a lot of freaking work.
[00:23:04] Andrew: Right. They’re a large size.
[00:23:07] Kiptoe: There's a lot of expenses that go with mural painting and there's no expenses that go into a digital painting.
[00:23:13] Andrew: That's cool.
[00:23:15] Kiptoe: I'm kind of finding these new avenues for client work. Just having a big YouTube channel and having a big Instagram helped me with my marketing, just getting my stuff out there. People are finding me, so I'm just going to try and keep moving.
[00:23:36] Andrew: YouTube and Instagram, your handles, what are the handles there for people to find you on on those two channels?
[00:23:42] Kiptoe: You can search just Kiptoe on YouTube, K-I-P-T-O-E and on Instagram and it's Kiptoe1, the number one.
[00:23:50] Andrew: That's right. What is next for Kiptoe?
[00:23:56] Kiptoe: In 2020, I'm working on some kind of different projects. I'm working on creating a coffee table book where I can share some inside stories from all my travels and document all the work that I've done in three or four world trips, and put a little paragraph in there where maybe something didn't make it into the video is like a little cool little story next to the mural and some sketches and some behind the scenes, photos. I think that'd be really sick.
I'm working on trying to get that finished by like December, have a book ready to go. I just want to build some more characters and flesh out these murals that I've done around the world. Take these characters and give them a backstory, flesh them out, make them living, breathing characters and start creating stories that I can have them interact with each other and start making a rogue's gallery of Kiptoe characters.
Try and get more illustration work because that was fun and maybe do comic book covers and maybe travel. Maybe go to Southeast Asia, start painting murals over there.
[00:25:24] Andrew: Speaking of the murals though, out of all the ones you've done, you've done a bunch, what was your favorite location and experience making a mural?
[00:25:34] Kiptoe: That's tough. Some of my favorites have been in Columbia. If I have to pick one, maybe it would be the one in Bogota where it wasn't my first time there, but when I was there for the first time, I made a friend, Javier, and we both painted two murals together. Then I went on my trip and then a year later, I got invited back and I did the whole polychromasia tour through Colombia.
Then at the end of that tour, I went back to Bogota on my own and met up with Javier again almost a year later. Then we both went out on the town and found a big wall on our own. We almost didn't find one and finally at the end of the day as the sun was setting, we found this motorcycle shop that we were able to paint on. Then I was only there for three days and then we found the wall. Then the next day, we had two days to paint this mural.
We just smashed it out. I had a great freaking time and it became one of my most popular prints to this day. One of my most popular stickers.
[00:26:48] Andrew: Which one is that?
[00:26:51] Kiptoe: It's in the Kiptoe sticker pack. It's got that blue lion head with the wings on each side and the eagle head. It's one of my most popular pieces and it was a great time.
[00:27:08] Andrew: If anyone wants to see those, those stickers and you're listening, it's kiptoe.com/stickers is where the sticker packs are. We are super psyched to be able to provide those for you. I'm a big fan of The Deadbeat Trio just because I like music and it's got that New Orleans voodoo style and that horn is like an animal. It looks like a snake or whatever. That just speaks to me personally as someone who loves music.
We are so thankful again for everybody out there listening. I really want to encourage our listeners to check out the Kiptoe site, check him out on his social handles. We really appreciate you, of course, Kiptoe for giving your time to us. We look forward to watching all of your growth in your business. It's been a true pleasure being able to share this story. Any parting shots for our audience really quick, man?
[00:28:00] Kiptoe: Just keep creating, keep feeding that kinetic imagination, and keep watching.
[00:28:07] Andrew: Thank you so much for joining us, Kiptoe. Excuse me. Thank you to everybody out there listening. Again, I'm Andrew out here on Stickers On The Mic for everybody. We want to keep sharing those business growth and marketing stories here in 2020 and this is an awesome way to kick off our year. Kiptoe, best of luck and thanks again for joining us.
[00:28:27] Kiptoe: Thanks, Andrew. I really appreciate it.
[00:28:32] Announcer: That wraps up this episode of Stickers On The Mic brought to you by stickergiant.com. You can download us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcatcher. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review. It helps us reach new listeners and share our customers' sticker stories. If you're inspired to create your own stickers or labels, head over to stickergiant.com to check out our options.
Thanks again for listening to Stickers On The Mic.
[00:29:16] [END OF AUDIO]
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