The Keester Club Is a Denver Fan Club for Those Who Love the Booty | Westword
Navigation

Fun Buns: The Keester Club Is a Fan Club for Those Who Love the Booty

Denver artist Joe Murray's latest creative endeavor is pretty cheeky.
Joe Murray in his Denver studio.
Joe Murray in his Denver studio. Jake Cox
Share this:
Derrière. Caboose. Keester. All are names for the humble body part popularly known as the butt. The list of iconic cultural butt moments is long, from Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" to Kim Kardashian's champagne-popping PAPER magazine cover, though its contents typically have an "adults only" vibe. But that's not the case for the new, bootylicious venture from Denver artist Joe Murray, who aims to build a community for lovers of fun, curvy art with the Keester Club.

It could best be described as a cross between an old-school fan club and a community meeting place, albeit a digital one. Subscribers join for an annual fee at various membership levels, such as the Booty Board Member ($75) or the Cheek Champ ($15). In return, they get a sampling of tuchus-celebrating Keester Club merchandise and art, discounts on other products and a say in the club's direction. Murray's designs prominently feature the juicy little booties of a variety of characters, some inspired by real-life figures, some fictional.

"I love that idea of those old-school fan clubs from the ’80s and ’90s, where you'd send in, like, five bucks, and then you get a button that says, 'You're part of the Spider-Man fan club,'" Murray says. "That's kind of what I based it on."

Murray's art certainly bears comparison to Marvel Comics, with lots of thick (thicc?) lines and bold colors, but the Keester Club has more to offer than just a button. This year's physical merch drop includes a diner-style coffee mug, a T-shirt, a bumper sticker and a key chain. That's in addition to the club's monthly digital content, which includes art downloads and curated music, available at the "Keester Clubhouse" online. It also has an interactive and philanthropic side: Ten percent of the Keester Club's revenue and fees are donated to "community-oriented organizations," which members will select with a bi-monthly vote. Participants can also make suggestions for music selection and artist features.
click to enlarge a coffee club that says the keester club
A Keester Club mug.
Auberon Design
Art and graphic design have been lifelong hobbies for Murray, who started Auberon Design in 2021 after breaking away from his white-collar day job. With Auberon, he's created album covers, local collaborations and public art, working in a variety of styles. He is perhaps most recognized for his unconventional portraits of creatives both in Denver and abroad, Rick Griffith and Dafi Kühne among them. But he's also known for his cute little butt illustrations, which have been bubbling away on his social media since the beginning of his professional art career.

Murray and cartooning go way back. "Growing up, I was always very much into art," he says. "I would spend a lot of time drawing in my notebooks, not paying attention in class. ... I used to draw Pokémon comics. I would draw comics featuring my friends, with goofy things happening to us. So I've always kind of been drawn to this more cartoonish style." His most recent cartooning efforts sprouted up between other Auberon projects.

"I like to draw goofy cartoons in between drawing those portraits," he says. "One time I drew an orange with a butt, and all of a sudden, I was drawing them all the time. ... I started becoming recognized as the guy who [draws butts and] being introduced to friends as, 'Oh, yeah, he draws butts.' Which is kinda funny. Not what I had planned, but funny that it's happened, anyway."

Over the past couple of years, Murray has created a vast array of cheeky creations, including ass-y renditions of grocery staples such as pineapples, doughnuts and mushrooms; local figures including Nicola Jokic (and various versions of himself); and old friends from the cast of SpongeBob SquarePants (another inspiration).

"Growing up, SpongeBob was my life," Murray recalls. "I do like my drawings to feel a little vintage and retro and, even though they're digital, to have some texture and physicality to them...kind of that older style of cartoons."
click to enlarge drawing of a mushroom with a butt
Illustration by Joe Murray.
Auberon Design
For years, the cartoon backsides existed as a fun sideline. They were popular as commissions, and he showcased them in a "Battle of the Butts" contest on his Instagram in 2022 and 2023, in which followers could vote on their favorites. It wasn't until late last year that he started to envision his infatuation with buns as something more central to his work, however.

"The butts were fun, but I wanted to do something a little more intentional with them, and that's kinda where the Keester Club came from," Murray says. He was also ready to change things up creatively. His signature "exploding portraits" were in demand, but he wanted to try something new. "I kind of wore out the style [on those] a little bit, I think," he says. But push came to shove for the new direction last December.

"I was actually going through some pretty rough creative burnout," Murray recalls. "So I took most of [the month] off from creating things, and was kind of working on this idea a little bit that was initially called the International Butt Club." After a few tweaks, including changing the name, he hit the ground running in January, developing the brand, launching the content and elaborating on the ideas behind it.

Each participant receives both a membership card and an introductory letter from Murray, which explains the thinking behind the club as follows: "Keester Club is a source of joy, color and soft cheeks in a world that grows increasingly gray and grim every day. I think the reason people like butts is that their softness and round shape are the antithesis of modern existence: gray buildings with hard edges, coldness towards one another and isolation. So as a Keester Club member, you've chosen to fight back against that."

"The Keester Club is not just about butts," Murray notes. "It's fun and colorful, and that's what I want. But I also want it to be kind of a channel for me to create opportunities for people to connect with each other and find moments of joy and silliness. There's just not enough of that. ... I'm not some super-philosophical genius, so this is what I've landed on in terms of creating little moments of joy." For Murray, there's also been a great deal of joy in figuring out all the details — in particular, finishing all of the merchandise by hand.
click to enlarge drawing of a potato with a butt
Illustration by Joe Murray.
Auberon Design
"I love to make things with my hands, which I don't often do," he notes. Most of his other illustration and design projects are made digitally in Procreate, but creating the Keester Club's merch gives him an opportunity to get physical. That includes crafting the keychains himself, screen-printing the shirts and heat-pressing the mugs. "I really wanted to make everything by hand rather than order a bunch of bulk merch from some cheap website," he explains. "So that's been a lot of fun, and an opportunity for me to get off the screen a little bit."

Admittedly, there's "lots of trial and error in learning how to make some of the stuff," Murray says. "I can't tell you how many misprint Keester Club T-shirts I have in my drawers now. I could wear a Keester Club shirt for two weeks straight. But finally getting it right feels really good."

For him, the process and its quirks are part of the fun. "Each piece is almost one of a kind. ... I like that it feels like it was made by someone rather than at a factory. I have a small studio in my house — emphasis on small. I definitely don't have enough room to be making all this stuff in my house, but I'm making it work," he says. "Part of my kitchen has become a production facility. When I first launched...half my house was a little production facility." Now that he's caught up, Murray's ready to crank out some more while he continues to develop the club's features and future.

"I have the name for an event in my head called 'Keesterfest.' I want to put together some kind of show with local bands. No other details aside from that," he admits, "but I would love to transition into some in-person opportunities."

While he's mulling what a Keester Club business membership might look like, we're wondering what next year's Keester Club products might be.

He muses for a few moments before giving the perfect answer: "Fanny packs would be great."

Find out more about the Keester Club at auberondesign.com.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. Your membership allows us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls. You can support us by joining as a member for as little as $1.