‘Why butts?’ A Q&A with the artist

Pjae Naiima, an Original Butt Sketcher, in action at Campus Kick-Off 2013.
Photo by Jenna! Roosdett

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Pjae Naiima, better known as the elusive “Butt Sketcher,” comes to UAA every year to draw the derrieres of countless students.

The legacy began when Naiima’s boss, Krandel Lee Newton, was painting a picture of someone. In the middle of painting, he left to go get something. Someone came by and asked to purchase his unfinished work. Over the years his friends suggested he start up his business as a butt sketcher.

Newton and a team of four other “Original Butt Sketchers” now travel the world to share their art. Little did anyone know how popular a butt sketcher would be among students in Alaska.

UAA Social Work major Kacee Holloway said, “Everybody loves her (Naiima), and every year this is the one thing that is very popular at Kick-Off. There’s no doubt in our minds that she’s there every year.”

Naiima had a butt sketching table in the Student Union Aug. 26, and TNL caught up with her to get to get the scoop on the person behind the ever-popular attraction.

TNL: How many years have you been butt sketching on UAA’s campus?
Naiima: I’ve lost count. I think maybe this might be my eighth year.

How did this tradition begin?
My boss was actually painting a parade downtown, west in Dallas, and somebody stopped him and asked to buy one of his paintings, and he wasn’t really finished. But he needed the money, so he sold it. And over a course of time, people started suggesting that he’d do this for a living — you know, sketching people from behind. But to do it quicker, rather than painting he started sketching and that’s where it began.

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What tools do you use when drawing?
I use charcoal and charcoal pencil and vine charcoal.

Why butts?
I just joined the bandwagon. My boss had already had the momentum going with butt sketching. But you know, it’s a different perspective, unique.

What reactions have you gotten from your drawings?
They’re usually the same: surprise, joy, very excited to see themselves from others’ eyes. Usually people perceive themselves differently than as others see them. So it’s nice to see yourself in the light of someone else’s eyes.

Last year someone said that you had to cut off the line at Kick-Off, because you were so popular? Is this true?
So popular! (Laughs.) I don’t know about that, but yes, I’ve heard they’ve had to do that, because the line does get kind of long.

What advice do you have for students on campus?
Follow your heart, follow your dreams, follow your passions and don’t settle for anything less than that.

Rumor has it you’re an alumna from this university. Is that true?
(Laughs.) Starting rumors. No, I’m not an alumna, but I would love to say that about myself.

Do you have a degree? If so, what is it?
I have a degree in living life with a passion and searching for bliss.

Do you do this all over the world? Where have you been?
Yes, no boundaries. Wherever we’re invited that’s where we go. I’ve personally been outside the states. I’ve been to Montreal (Canada) and Cabo San Lucas (Mexico). My boss and a few of the other artists have been to countless other places: Spain, Italy, Paris and a few regions in Canada. We try to make our mark.

Where did you learn to draw butts or draw in general?
Well, I’ve always been drawing my whole life. I’ve learned the technique once I started working for the company.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in Alaska so far?
There’s so much natural beauty in the state. It’s incredible. But besides the beauty of the earth, here the people have been amazing. That’s the thing that has been the most impactful: the people.