Psychedelics, Time-Traveling Kittens, Mixed Martial Arts and NFTs: Welcome to the World of Ugonzo NFT NFT
Published in
11 min readDec 15, 2021
Ulysses “Ugonzo” Gonzales.

When Ulysses “Ugonzo” Gonzales reimagined his cat Moki as super-intelligent, deranged, time-traveling psychonauts inspired by the likes of counterculture icons Hunter S. Thompson — the father of “Gonzo” journalism — and Jimi Hendrix, he forever minted his legacy on the Chain. Released in September, Ugonzo’s first collection of “PsychoKitties” sold out within minutes and became lucrative on the NFT platform — with editions selling for as much ten times their initial price. On Dec. 16, the celebrity-endorsed psychedelic artist will embark on his most ambitious NFT project to date: a collection of 10,000 unique “PsychoKitties” characters, algorithmically generated from 96 hand-drawn traits with different levels of rarity. “PsychoKitties: The New Era” will be available for sale, exclusively at

The Hunter S. Thompson and Jimi Hendrix-inspired NFTs from the first “PsychoKitties” collection by Ugonzo.

The sophomore profile picture (PFP) project on NFT, following the company’s own “Loaded Lions” collection that launched in November, “PsychoKitties” is highly-anticipated among the platform’s loyal collectors. Ugonzo has been building a community around the brand, with an active Discord server and Twitter channel. Only two days ahead of the drop, he even got a tattoo of the Thompson-inspired Kitty from the first collection by artist Opie Ortiz — who is known for his work on various Sublime album covers.

Ugonzo’s “Hunter Kitty” tattoo by Opie Ortiz.

Before experimenting with NFTs, Ugonzo earned a reputation for his surreal murals and trippy pop culture portraits — garnering a 100,000-plus social media following and the attention of celebrities, from basketball player Deron Williams to Pauly Shore and even Joe Rogan. In fact, he credits the latter for significantly advancing his career — after Rogan began collecting his studio art, starting with a psychedelic painting of Thompson, and sharing it on Instagram in July 2019. “Joe had bought an original painting from me that inspired me to keep going; he basically gave me a boost in life,” said Ugonzo. “My life changed drastically and I was able to become a full-time artist.”

Ugonzo’s 40-foot mural of Joe Rogan in Chicago.

A year later, on his birthday, Ugonzo was commissioned to paint a surreal mural in Chicago and chose Rogan as his muse. The 40-foot tall piece depicts the podcast host, UFC commentator and comedian being abducted by aliens in what Ugonzo describes as a “DMT-like psychedelic space warp.”

“He told me that he was inspired by me — that he’s never seen anything like that — and he was just very, very happy to see [it],” said Ugonzo. “It made me inspired [and] more driven.”

Rogan has continued to support Ugonzo since, promoting his work and introducing him to new clientele — such as UFC mixed martial artists Cody Garbrandt and Marlon Vera.

Hailing from Garden Grove, California, Ugonzo comes from an artistic family and was creatively encouraged by his mother — who would make him recreate Van Gogh paintings to sharpen his skills, as a teenager. Finding solace in creativity, even when his family relocated to Mexico for two years in his youth, Ugonzo used art to help cope with the uncertain. It wasn’t until making the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Europe as an adult, following a rough divorce, that Ugonzo would embrace the unknown and decide to dedicate his life to artistic pursuits — and he hasn’t turned back since.

Images of NFTs from the “PsychoKitties: The New Era” collection by Ugonzo.

Now, not unlike his quantum leaping “PsychoKitties,” Ugonzo explores altered states of consciousness — traveling the world and leaving his mark along the way. NFT spoke with the nomadic artist about his creative journey, his upbringing and his inspiration for “PsychoKitties” — as well as Rogan and his understanding of NFTs.

Read the Q&A with Ugonzo below and visit the “PsychoKitties: The New Era” drop page for more information.

Tell us about your upbringing and how it’s affected your work.

Many of my family members are naturally artistic, so I grew up on it — and I was inspired by them and by situations in my life. My upbringing as a kid was often confusing, because I grew up without a father and was constantly uprooted. I lived in Mexico for two years, and was bullied because I was an American. Even then, art was and always has been my solace.

I am self-taught and have always gravitated towards art as a way to cope with life. As a kid, I often drew monsters and creatures that scared me. I think giving my fears a form helped me overcome them.

As a second grader, I was inspired by pop culture and cartoons like “Dragon Ball Z” and “Mortal Kombat” because I wanted [that to be] my reality — to [possess that kind of] power.

I have always chosen art, since I was a kid — and that is something I’ve always come back to regardless of life’s circumstances. From being placed in a life I didn’t choose to working a job I had no motivation for, floating through life without an avenue for authentic self-expression drove me back to art. Finally, I got serious about becoming a full-time artist.

Please tell us about your mom and how she influenced your artistic journey.

My mother is is everything to me; she had always pushed me, as a little youngster, to keep creating and to try new things — and always stay active. She made me paint every Van Gogh piece, to train me to become a better artist, when I was 17. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be who I am now.

I understand you once lost your vision; can you tell us how this happened and how it affected your art career?

I was married young and didn’t know what [I was getting into], so I became a father figure to [my wife’s] siblings of five and eight years old. It was challenging, so I did not have time to pursue my passion for art. Then I snapped out of it and told my wife I needed time to create and find myself, so I did. Then came the divorce. I was set free to follow my dreams and to find myself again, as an artist.

Tell us about El Camino de Santiago and what you experienced?

El Camino was planned through research. I felt the drive and strength to hike across Spain, beginning in France, through the Pyrenees mountains. This taught me that life is an obstacle and that there’s always a way to overcome your fears and laziness; this is discipline for your mind, body and soul.

How were you monetizing your art before NFTs?

I was already traveling the world and doing murals all over America, which led me to the opportunity to do a mural of Joe Rogan. But beforehand, Joe had bought an original painting from me that inspired me to keep going; he basically gave me a boost in life, to keep going with my art and to never give up. My life changed drastically and I was able to become a full-time artist.

When I did that mural of him, he told me that he was inspired by me — that he’s never seen anything like that — and he was just very, very happy to see [it]. It made me inspired [and] more driven to keep going and never stop being an artist.

Ugonzo painting his 40-foot mural of Joe Rogan in Chicago.

I saw that you finally got to meet Joe in May. What led to that?

On July 19, I was coming home from a hard day’s work, drained and exhausted from putting in some manual labor at the Iron Workers Union in California. I was driving home, when I suddenly got a [direct message] from Joe. He said he wanted to buy one of my paintings, so I decided to give it to him for free in exchange for publicity.

Then I painted a mural for a client in Bucktown, Chicago on Aug. 26 — my birthday — of Joe getting abducted by a UFO in a DMT-like psychedelic space warp. Me and Joe were in contact via DM and he told me he was inspired by the masterpiece I did of him.

Months passed, then the pandemic hit, and he kept purchasing my art. He started giving me free passes to his standup comedy shows. We met in Austin, because I was still doing many murals at the time — and he had a show lined up, so I called him up to get some tickets.

When the show was over, I went outside to look for him. His security said to stay away and I said, “Joe, it’s me — Ugonzo!” So he said, “Get over here, man!” We chatted about life for 15 minutes and drank whiskey.

Have you tried to explain NFTs to Joe; think you might be able to make him a believer?

I have not explained them — but if I had the magic power to make anyone believe, I would. I mean, his assistant Jamie Vernon has tried and failed, but I believe he will [come around] eventually.

I understand you have some ties to UFC as well. Can you elaborate?

The ties I have with the UFC are from Joe. They were amazed by the “Joe Rogan clout” — and I was a wrestler in high school, so I was always interested in martial arts.

I also painted a portrait of Cody “No Love” Garbrandt and Marlon “Chito” Vera. He is also a collector of my art.

How did you get into NFTs?

I was selling regular paintings and I got a phone call from this man from Estonia, and he asked me if I knew about NFTs. I said, “What the heck are NFTs?” He kind of persuaded me that NFTs will allow me to involve my community in more ways than ever before.

What do you like most about NFTs or working in the NFT space?

NFTs give me an opportunity to grow my own community in ways I never thought possible and allow me to give extra benefits to my true supporters. I also get to create on my tablet, which is more futuristic.

What makes your NFTs unique from others on the market?

I’m a psychedelic artist that makes [everything with] my own twist…

I pour my feelings into my art, from my experiences, things that happen in the world and movies that inspire me — with a colorful juxtaposition of gritty reality and optimism.

What are the common themes of your work?

My work often reflects my travels and experiences in life, for instance moving out of nowhere and just fucking getting away from everyone and being myself — trying to find a new way to create something different.

Tell us about the NFTs in this collection. What inspired them?

My pet Moki was the inspiration behind this collection. I came up with these unique characters, which were inspired by my own cat. I was talking to one of my partners that wanted to work with me. He’s from Puerto Rico and we came up with a bunny and the cat.

Then I came up with the name “PsychoKitties,” which was going to be PsychoPussies — but that wasn’t allowed. But I finally got “PsychoKitties” approved. It sounded catchy, so I went with it — and it was a hit.

The story is about time travel, since I am a traveler at heart — and when I get to see other places in the world, it makes me a better artist. The “PsychoKitties” find the answer to this quantum leap of discovery through culture and psychedelics.

Your Instagram bio reads, “I don’t do psychedelics, I am psychedelics.” Please explain your relationship with psychedelics and how you got into psychedelic art.

The psychedelic side of my mind is naturally created through my imagination. I see faces and eyes in every form. Don’t get me wrong, I experienced shrooms and LSD at the young age of 19; they opened many doors in my art.

Images of NFTs from the “PsychoKitties: The New Era” collection by Ugonzo.

What are some new ways you’d like to leverage NFTs in the future?

I would like to have exhibits with digital screens, so that people can come see my art in the metaverse or a real building in my community. They are working on that right now, for us to have exhibits and galleries to show our art.

I also know a few good DJs. I definitely want to look into hosting a private party for “PsychoKitties” holders, maybe in Decentraland, in the future. We’ve also got many surprises in store, that we’ll soon be teasing on our Discord and Twitter.

Any goals or future plans for your art in the NFT space or otherwise?

My goal is to be a mentor to new artists to help them grow in the cryptocurrency space, as well as kids that are interested in digital art.

I also want to create special experiences, a platform and a community for my “PsychoKitties” — and make it worldwide.

Browse the “PsychoKitties: The New Era” collection.

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Editor’s Note (Oct. 10, 2022): an earlier version of this article was originally published on Dec. 15, 2021 and has since been edited and/or updated.