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Kayla Buium


"My art is like my offspring that I send out into the world, and if people like them that’s fine but my work is done, the emotion has been felt and I need to move onto the next thing instead of living in the past." 

"Art is fun, art is in the moment, art is fluid and changing, I am not the last piece of art I made."

You can find Kayla on Instagram @milkboxtheartist  and TikTok: @milkboxtheartist

By Emma Shehan, Arts Editor

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Toronto/Montreal-based muralist and illustrator Kayla Buium (known by her artist name Milkbox) is on a roll. Known for her brightly coloured murals depicting cartoonish characters, Buium has been gaining momentum in the art scene following a stint at a Berlin artist residency, which lead to an editorial feature and solo art gallery show. The recent OCAD graduate opened up to us about her relationship to her artwork, experiences growing her career, and what got her through lockdowns. Following her successful solo show, Buium has been steadily adding to her body of work.


Although she counts several high-profile clients in her portfolio, the artist admits that maintaining relevancy in the art world can be a challenge. “There are months where I get a lot of work. Clients all seem to just pop into my email and I feel super lucky. There are other months that go by where I am not getting any work at all and that can be really frustrating.” Social media can also create pressure to produce more content just to keep up. “There is a lot of cold emails, knocking on doors and blunt no’s.” Buium adds. In a sign of the times that many can empathize with, Buium’s burgeoning career hit a roadblock with the arrival of the pandemic. “I was super slow and uninspired towards the beginning of the pandemic.”, she says. “I was headed into my final year of school when it hit. I was making a lot of artwork at school and I was playing around with rapid prototyping, plastic, wood and metal. Suddenly I couldn’t go to classes, I couldn’t bounce ideas off of my peers, and a lot of the work I was doing professionally got postponed or cancelled. I had to do my whole thesis year at home, I feel like I missed out on my final year of school.”


Taking the time to slow down allowed the artist a rare chance to develop her skills and style. Buium bought an iPad and began using the Procreate app (a digital painting and editing tool). She also used the time to cultivate an impressive following on TikTok by making videos about her murals, detailing her artistic process, doing art challenges, and teaching others about the business of professional art, among other things. Currently, she’s working on a painted series about “the relationship between human beings and the planet, and how once peaceful relations have turned into a war between the humans and the planet. It’s very surreal and I can’t wait to show it to people.”

Buium’s fix for combating pandemic blues? A new hobby. “I took up roller skating which took me away from art for a while. I needed that escape and art had always been very isolating, and I was done being cooped up in my house.” After seeing skating videos on social media, Buium dived in and found it came instinctively. “I always loved doing gymnastics as a kid, and I loved skate culture, so this felt like the natural next step. I ended up skating pretty much every day.”

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Skating brought Buium a sense of freedom amidst changing Covid restrictions, pointing out how easy it is to social distance at skate parks. “I felt like I was at recess, I felt like a kid again”. She couldn’t find an online skate community, so she decided to start one herself. Now boasting several thousand members, the group is a space for skaters to ask questions or find groups to skate with. Buium has even coordinated several large-scale events. “A friend and I really wanted to throw a roller disco, so we found a nice flat slab of concrete, got a generator, a DJ, some snacks and we invited the community.” Buium pulled from her artistic skills to create posters and stickers for the events. “It was a really rad experience and probably one of my favourite things I’ve done in a while.” 


When asked about how she stays motivated, Buium had an unexpected answer: taking her ego out of her art. She described the double-edged sword of creating art that she was proud of yet also fearing she might never top it. “Putting my art on a pedestal like that has made the act of art-making very difficult because each mark I made felt too important, that art felt too special, and all that pressure made me not even want to try it”. This realization meant learning to let go. “My art is like my offspring that I send out into the world, and if people like them that’s fine but my work is done, the emotion has been felt and I need to move onto the next thing instead of living in the past. Art is fun, art is in the moment, art is fluid and changing, I am not the last piece of art I made.” Embracing this has allowed her creativity to flourish. “I’ve cared a whole lot less about what people think of it. I think it’s important for artists to work with clear heads and just focus on the creative stuff.”


In addition to focusing on the creative stuff, Buium would advise young artists to put their nose to the grindstone. “It takes years to get noticed, there’s a lot of last-minute jobs at the start. You gotta try a million different alley’s just to find which one is best for you. You’re gonna fail A LOT. But eventually you will find a way to make money through art.” For Buium, that meant a lot of Saturday night’s spent working, but seeing the impact that her art has had on people and the neighborhoods her murals live in has made it worth the effort. “Just try to stay grounded and remember how to have fun.”