Brooklyn-based artist shares insights about his motivation, an imaginary friend named Stefon and the wild world of WEEN
No canvas is too big for Madsteez’s eye-popping colors and intricately-absurd details. He’s painted portraitures of countless notable luminaries, from Kobe Bryant to Bill Cosby and about everyone (and everything) in between. His visual style is truly original and predictably unpredictable.
But what about when it comes to underwear? “I had to be conscious of the fact that you’re seeing my artwork as the first layer you’re putting on,” Madsteez said. In other words, you’ll likely be reaching for his signature pair of boxer briefs (or briefs!) the moment your top drawer opens up. Think of them as a shining ray of light poking through the blinds that shouts, “Good morning!”
So as we kick off this one-of-a-kind collaboration with the artist called Madsteez, we thought we’d sit down with the man himself to see what really moves him.
What initially drew you to art?
Working a full time design job from 17 to 19 years old sent me to my first midlife crises. So I quit my job, and with five new surfboards went to Bali for a few months. I had my 20th birthday in the jungle at G-land being chased by a tiger and got a candle in a Snicker’s bar for a birthday cake. After that, I did a few months exploring the inner-heaven-and-hell depths of Europe. I came home to Newport Beach, CA with my eyes bulging out of my head and completely different view on the world. With no job and all the free time in the world, I would find masonite panels from constructions sites around town. I nailed them to my walls and started painting without any reason at all. Before I knew it, I had an entire house full of paintings and from that point on I would bleed everything art.
What is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is seeing the extraordinary in ordinary everyday life. Whether its an 80-year-old man riding the subway rocking a shrimp tuxedo and a horse hat draped in flashing Christmas lights or watching someone fill their high-tops with handfuls of dried-up leaves while they’re wearing them, I feel like I’m still a little kid and get so excited when I see something no one else sees and appreciates.
What is your preferred medium?
For studio work, I like to paint on unprimed linen canvas with traditional oils and big brushes. The vibrancy and longevity of oils is unmatched and there’s something special about painting with the same materials the old masters used thousands of years ago. For murals, I like to use house paint and spray paint just for the shear size and massive coverage you can get in a short amount of time.
What do you like most about where you live?
The best part about living in Brooklyn, New York is that every day can be a “choose your adventure” kind of day. If you want it, anything and everything is there. There’s always galleries to see, some sort of live music to hear, great food to eat and you never know if you’re going to end up at Leonardo DiCaprio’s crib at 6:00am. I feel like it’s the only place in the world you can do 10 different things and run into 10 different friend groups all in the same day. And there’s always someone from out of town visiting, which can be good or bad. I thought by moving to NYC I was giving up on surfing. And I never would have thought in a million years that I’ve been more barreled here in six years than 20 years in Newport Beach. But I must admit, the winter’s suck here!
Who is Stefon and where did he come from?
Stefon is my little homie that I started drawing on Instagram stories like nine years ago. I would always try to stealthily hide (and usually get caught) and film funny scenes where people would be sleeping in airports or just doing weird shit. I'd draw him in the environment to make the situation even stranger. This company I was working with made a 12-inch plush version, a 3-foot version and a life-size 5-foot, 4-inch vinyl statue of him. Now that he’s real, the possibilities are endless!
Describe the Stefon chase scene from the video.
In broad daylight, Stefon was bombing a self-portrait heater on Cortland Alley in Tribeca. The restaurant across the street called the police and before Stefon could finish, a NYPD 5-0 squad car pulls up hot. Stefon takes one look and dips. He runs around the corner and jumps into his purps Aventador Lambo. A police chase ensues through Lower Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge and ends at a halt on the shores of Williamsburg where Stefon had his jet-ski stashed and ready to go. Stefon rips through the East River but a NYPD police boat was not far behind. Stefon ditches the police boat, hides behind the rocks and escapes to safety.
What went into deciding what artwork would look best on BN3TH boxer briefs?
I wanted to use artwork that was a portrayal of me as an artist so I thought my signature hand style and color palette would be perfect. It’s fun, it’s energetic, has movement and works well in any format or fabric.
What about the briefs you designed?
The briefs are a stripped inverse version of the boxers. Simplified with a black base but WEENified with contrast piping.
For those who don’t know, what is WEEN all about?
The all-knowing, all-seeing world of WEEN is epicenter of all things in the WEENiverse. It all started when Mark Healey ran up the beach at 54th Street yelling, “I cut my WEEN! I cut my WEEN!” Then there was WEEN, the iguana. And then everything became WEEN, from WEENlenium to titles of paintings to WEENholes to WEENimals to WEENseuss and Mr.WEEN which are actual WEEN dachshunds. As a footnote, there is zero relation to the band Ween. I did get an email from Dean Ween in the year 2000 wondering the reference and I told him. He was like, “Cool, love the art!”
How does your approach change from designing giant murals to a pair of underwear?
My mindset changes based on the end result and what message I’m trying to get across. A mural is in public space so I try to be localized with the community where it lives and be conscious of what they might want to see on a daily basis. So with a pair of underwear, I had to be conscious of the fact that you’re seeing my artwork as the first layer you’re putting on.
What do you like the most about BN3TH products?
I’ve actually hated wearing underwear/briefs since I was a kid so when I discovered BN3TH, it was the first pair that felt like I wasn’t wearing anything at all. Since I like being active, the fit is so insane, ergonomic and the quality of materials make it the best pair of underwear I’ve ever worn.
What are some of your other interests?
Surfing will and always be my greatest love. I pretty much love almost every sport and anything to get the body moving like basketball, snowboarding, skateboarding, tennis, ping-pong and football to name a few. I just got into fencing and archery which as been super fun to learn something I’ve never done before. I also love playing music even though I have no idea what I’m doing. I keep adding and collecting more instruments like guitars, basses, Korg, electronic harp, MPC beat machine…and I’m waiting for a full size cello to arrive any day now.