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Atomik is the Miami-based graffiti artist leaving his mark

While traveling in Miami in mid-June, I visited the Wynwood district. What I would come to see was graffiti art that piqued my interest and captivated my attention. Among the greatest art present was that of Atomik, the Miami-based graffiti artist leaving his mark on the city and world.

Before colorful murals, graffiti museums, art galleries, and chic boutiques coming in, Wynwood was in fact a struggling working-class neighborhood with burgeoning crime and riots in the 80s.

Walking down the streets in Wynwood, I saw different kinds of graffiti. Each piece emanated a strong personality of its creator.

One piece stood out; a bright orange graffiti instantly caught my attention. I couldn’t stop thinking about the adorable orange head, the cartoony eyes, the exaggerated smile with a chipped tooth, and even the stem popping out at the top of its head.

The neighborhood has greatly changed over the past decades. As the Design District to the north became insanely expensive, art crowd and developers were attracted to Wynwood’s lower rents and ample warehouses. That was when the gentrification began. The incoming talented artists have transformed Wynwood into a newly rising creative community.

The funny-looking smiling orange character was omnipresent in Miami. I later learned that it was local graffiti artist Atomik’s work.

Image via Wynwood Miami

Atomik, the Miami-based graffiti artist

miami-based graffiti artist atomik
Image via Voyage MIA.

Hailing from a graphic design background, Atomik is a huge influence in the Miami art scene.

Atomik’s real name is Adam Paul Vargas. He was born in 1981 and grew up in South Florida’s suburban Kendall neighborhood in Miami-Dade County.

Atomik has shown tremendous interest in graffiti art since a young age. The Miami-based graffiti artist’s first graffiti was during elementary school, during which he used the tag name APV, initials to his full name.

Throughout middle school and high school, Atomik continued to practice graffiti and has since left his mark everywhere in the city. At age 15, a friend gave him the tag name, Atom. He adapted the name to Atomik two years later.

In 2003, Atomik joined Miami Style Gods (MSG), a graffiti crew founded in the early 90s. He and some friends established a new crew, 28, two years later. 28 is a nod to Miami-Dade County’s police dispatch code for vandalism.

Origin of the iconic orange character

miami-based graffiti artist
PHOTO CRED: The Orange Bowl.

The idea of the orange character came from the Miami Orange Bowl. The original design resembled very much to the 1989 version of the Orange Bowl mascot, Obie.

The Orange Bowl has always had a special place in Atomik’s heart. To Atomik, it was a sacred place for Miami football. He used to go to football games and other events there before the landmark was demolished in 2008. Painting the orange character out in the public was the artist’s way to memorize the absent architecture.

His open devotion to the painting of the orange character, however, did not receive good response from The Orange Bowl Committee. The organization sent the artist a cease-and-desist order to stop using the Obie in his arts. Instead of giving up the design, however, Atomik made a couple adaptations.

The orange is still there, but its crown is replaced with a stem, a teardrop is placed on the side of its face. Its big smile, additionally, is accentuated more with a later added chipped tooth. Meanwhile, Obie’s original nose-to lip connection and Pacman eyes remain.

The orange is now Atomik’s trademark and style. Many people can relate to the orange not only because it is a signature mascot of Florida, but also because it reminds them of their memories and experiences with the Orange Bowl.

The legend of the Miami graffiti artist continues

Atomik’s art has accumulated considerable recognitions from both the art community and the public throughout the years. However, it was in 2012 that his work has been made ‘legit’ and professionally recognized.

During the time, Atomik was asked to create a mural with the words ‘Welcome you to Little Havana’ on Calle Ocho. It was a big mural that featured dominos and other symbols of the neighborhood.

The representative Cuban cigars, however, were absent. The program received sponsorship from Preferred Care Partners, Medica HealthCare Plans and AARP Medicare Plans from UnitedHealthcare.

‘Welcome You To Little Havana.’ PHOTO CRED: Jolene Gonzalez.

It’s the 24th year this year since Atomik first started doing spray can art. Over the past two decades, he travelled to Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, Australia, Korea, Thailand, and so on. His signature orange character, too, travelled along with him and found its place in those locations.

Travel generates creativity and motivation

It could be hard to be creative in Miami sometimes, as the artist has been painting there for over two decades. Therefore, he would travel to different cities and countries. In new places, he gains inspirations again and spreads his work.

As he comments in an interview with Juxtapoz, “Traveling charges my creativity and motivates me to paint once I return.”

Traveling opens up a lot of doors and opportunities for him. Mobility influences the delivery of his art and application.

With repetition comes perfection

Does Atomik ever get tired of painting the orange over and over? Maybe.

Image via Miami Niche.

To the artist, the repetition can get boring from time to time, but it is an addiction to him. Through repeatedly producing the same subject, he refines his artistic skill and style.

What will Atomik impress the world with next time? A vinyl toy or a new collaboration with brands of the orange? Maybe when you travel to a new place next time, you will run into the artist and be fortunate enough to witness the birth of another signature orange character!

John Beijer

Swedish artist John Beijer is bringing hip-hop to life with wavy murals

Imagine your favorite hip-hop star spray painted on a warm colored brick wall canvas. Now put yourself in Stockholm, Sweden, a far place from the native home of hip-hop, which is now the world’s leading genre.

What do you see?

Imagine Kendrick Lamar’s bust being spray painted on a wall in a colorful range of colors by John Beijer.

Beijer’s pieces take fan art to a completely different level. His background in graffiti is a bonus and helps him visualize his art on a brick wall canvas. Kulture Hub caught up with the Swedish artist to see exactly where he draws his inspiration from.

His love for hip-hop is present in his work. Beijer inherited his ear for music from his father who used to listen to reggae and hip-hop around the house. At the age of 13, Beijer took an audio oath and delved right into the rap world and never looked back.

“When I was a kid my father listened to a lot of good music, mostly reggae but a lot of hip-hop and other types of good music. I always liked it but started to really get into it at maybe 13 years old.”

From 13, that was the only music Beijer listened to, with a sprinkle of R&B. While painting, you can catch Beijer bumping Gucci Mane, SZA, Quentin Miller, Future, or Cousin Stizz. His top five is valid as well – Andre 3000, Biggie, Jay-Z, Pimp C, Ludacris – and for his sixth man Kendrick Lamar.

But it’s not only his love for the music that has influenced his art, it’s also the artists’ characteristics that play a huge role on who he paints.

“First, I love the music. I don’t listen to anything else. But the paintings are more based on characteristics. I would not paint someone that I think does super good music but looks like anyone else and vice versa.”

Issa image…

RiRi definitely approves

So, what’s up with the colors? His tropical palette is an escape from the cold weather and dull colors of Sweden.

“The colors are inspired by the tropics. So it’s more like an escape from the cold weather we have here during wintertime.”

Beijer continued,

“I love bright and popping colors. Like you know in warm countries it’s almost always different bright colors on every house, I love that! In Sweden its like, all houses are the same red color with white details. The colors go very well with the characters I paint as well! I just like colorful things and always did.”

Quavo the Huncho

Young Carti

For any young graffiti artist, making a transition from the streets can be very hard.

Painting graffiti from the age of 15 it wasn’t until Beijer hit 22 that he realized it was time to take his talents to the bank. He turned towards an education picking up a graphic design class perfecting his already incredible skills.

Beijer spoke about making his hobby a profession,

“It was when I was about 22, I painted graffiti since I was 15 and kind of realized that I had spent most of my free time getting good at something that is illegal and that I can’t make any money. Then I did a graphic design course and after that, I started making more graphics and art, after that, I’ve just kept going.”

Since then, things have been looking up for Beijer.

His work has made it into galleries, Swedish newspapers, album covers, a billboard in LA, a sick mural in Bahia, Brazil, the 2017 Billboard Awards, and the hands of Lil Yachty.

His feature in the Swedish press…

John’s awesome tribute to Nate Dogg in LA…

R.I.P Nate Dogg, one of The best! • Throwback to this piece of @natedoggmusic i made in Venice beach, Los Angeles.

A post shared by John Beijer🌴 (@johnbeijer) on

The mural that started it all in Brazil…

His phenomenal work for the Billboard Awards…

And that moment he got to meet Lil Yachty.

Don’t get it twisted. Graffiti still plays a huge part in the pieces that Beijer creates as it served as the greatest artistic guide he could’ve ever asked for. It was his tenacious obsession with perfection that allowed him to accomplish his dreams.

“All the influence comes from graffiti. I never was any good artistically as a kid, I just drew letters over and over until it looked ok. I mean it wasn’t anything I was born with so I got everything from doing graffiti. About the graffiti lifestyle, I think it’s cool and I still live that.”

Hip-hop culture is truly everywhere.

Make sure to peep his shop online too!

H&M proves they ain’t shit again again, start stealing graffiti from artists

After receiving backlash this past January for it’s racially insensitive ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ ad, which featured a small African-American boy, today the retail giant H&M finds itself amid controversy again.

This time for attempting to steal graffiti.

Though already a downhill battle, the Swedish fast-fashion brand is in the middle of a copyright battle with artist Revok. The graffiti artist, who’s formally goes by Jason Williams, sent H&M a cease-and-desist letter after one of his murals appeared in an ad for the brand’s New Routine line of workout gear.


Revok claims the ad was an “unauthorized” use of his original artwork,” and, additionally, could cause consumers to familiarize his work with H&M’s brand even though the relationship between the two doesn’t exist.

This is not the first time H&M has been accused of copywriting artists’ work and creating pieces similar to their original designs. In this instances, Revok was adamant about people not associating his work with the H&M name.


A post shared by @ _revok_ on

In response to the cease-and-desist H&M filed a lawsuit claiming Revok didn’t own a copyright because, like most graffiti, his mural was created illegally.

“The entitlement to copyright protection is a privilege under federal law that does not extend to illegally created works,” the brand stated in a letter to Williams and his lawyer.

Their plan of action took the ire of many. Come to find out, trying to bend litigation to rob artists of their own art does not bode well with the art community. Several artists started a new campaign to boycott H&M.

One in particular was Kaws, a world-famous graffiti artist turned sneaker-designing superstar who drew a picture of a headstone that read “R.I.P. H&M” and posted it to Instagram.

In response to the petition H&M issued a statement backtracking on their initial stance.

“H&M respects the creativity and uniqueness of artists, no matter the medium. We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter. It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art,” the company said.

However, they have not withdrawn their lawsuit. It seems that regardless of controversy, H&M remains headstrong. In late January they announced plans to close 170 stores and since December, the brand’s stock price has fallen from about $21 to $16.

For Revok and artists everywhere one would hope that H&M does not get away with this.

It speaks volumes to what cooperations can get away with and shows that there are little protection for independent creatives. Only time will tell.