Creative Lives: Career Artists – Preston Buffalo

September 30, 2021

Preston Buffalo is a self-described urban, queer, Indigenous artist with a deeply defiant practice. His iconoclastic output includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, soundscape and digital media. Working from a 200 square-foot live-work space in Vancouver’s Railtown neighbourhood, the line between his art-making and ‘everyday’ life is blurry, if it exists at all.


A lot of the imagery I use is First Nations, but not just from my tribe – from tribes across Canada. I connect the West Coast with Prairies, using Cree and Haida imagery as well. There’s quite a bit of displacement in my background. One of my images is a poodle, done in the West Coast style. A lot of us feel disenfranchised by the clan system in Canada so this symbol is a way for us to feel connected to it. 

I’m lucky that I don’t have to work like most people. I spend my days creating and I’ve tried everything – painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, 3D printing, cyanotyping… I  usually have four or five projects on the go and will cycle between them all within one day. 

Some stuff doesn’t work, some stuff does. I’ve realised not everything will be a masterpiece, and those are the things which end up getting cannibalised for new projects. For a recent show I printed loads of the wrong design so I’ve started making bags and wallets out of it.

My place is a 200-square-foot room and it’s floor-to-ceiling with art supplies. It does force you to create. I’ll go through the archives, rediscover things and finish what I started six months ago.

Living like this can be hard because pieces get damaged and crushed, but I do like having access to it all, otherwise I forget about things. Once I decided I was going to get rid of everything and live minimally. I kept three outfits and got rid of all the junk and I felt totally empty. I hated it and had no supplies to work from. 

Vancouver is a strange place to be an artist. It has highs and lows, but it’s hard because this city can be so expensive. You really see the divide. 

The neighborhood I live in is pretty crazy and I get most of my inspiration from just walking around, but I’m not taking pictures of people – it’s more about capturing the vibe and not sensationalising it. There’s more to these streets than needles. 

See more on Preston’s website and follow them on social media @prestonbuffalo to stay up to date.

More with Preston Buffalo