Your introduction to new art available on Mint Gold Dust.
Jennifer Panepinto is a visual artist combining analog and digital processes, and often plays around with negative space. Her artworks are inspired by her own journey with mental health, exploring both positive and dark concepts, frequently using rainbows. Jennifer is also inspired by the conscious mind and metaphysics, a theme present in her work. Jennifer’s art is multidisciplinary, using a range of mediums from Polaroid to AI Art. Jennifer has been a professional graphic designer and illustrator for the past two decades. Jennifer received her MFA in Design from The School of Visual Arts in 2003 and a BFA in Photography from Pratt Institute in 1998.
Born in Madrid in 1967 and now residing in Cadiz, Nacho Frades is a distinguished digital artist known for seamlessly blending traditional techniques with modern digital innovations. His works, characterized by their intricate details and emotional depth, resonate with authenticity. With a style that infuses life into ordinary subjects, Nacho’s artistry is evident in every piece, be it on canvas or a digital platform. His foray into Cryptoart showcases his adaptability and forward-thinking approach. Amidst the evolving digital age, Nacho’s artworks stand as a testament to the timeless beauty of everyday life and the transformative power of art.
SphericalArt, aka Paul Petersen, is a geometric artist and poet who finds and creates his images inside of 3D polyhedral spheres. He looks for unique arrangements of polygons that hint at an emerging story. He overlays meaning onto the inherent beauty of polyhedral patterns. He also curates as the host of the weekly show, DISCOVERING NFT ARTISTS on the Tokensmart Discord server. He studied painting at UCLA with William Brice, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He did post graduate study at the Art Center College of Design. He’s had careers as an advertising art director, watercolorist, and medical illustrator. His technical proficiency in computer graphics has put him in a position to explore this new area of geometric image creation.
Color Roulette #9
金關係，The Secrets of Glitch
MizzD is a digital and visual artist inspired by the wild and beautiful vibrations of life. She has been oil painting since 2008 and digital painting since 2018. Her strong style and vibrant spirit evolve by combining tradition and technology. For MizzD Art is a portal to happiness and joy. She uses art to boost the mind, body and soul. It is proven that being surrounded by bright alluring colours can influence our way of being and way of life. Colours can nurture our spirit and give us energy. MizzD’s wish for us is to enjoy and experience the strong sensations created by colours and forms.
“And so even if no verse ever emerges from the mute poet, even if the painter never sets brush to canvas, he is happier than the wealthiest of men, happier than any strong-armed emperor or pampered child of this vulgar world of ours — for he can view human life with an artist’s eye; he is released from the world’s illusory sufferings; he is able to come and go in a realm of transcendent purity, to construct a unique universe of art, and thereby to destroy the binding fetters of self-interest and desire.”
–Kusamakura, Natsume Sōseki
October 11, 2022. The day that Japan fully opened its borders to foreign tourists. An announcement that some were surprised by, given Japan’s strictness surrounding COVID travel and its 220-year history of isolation from the outside world from 1633 to 1853. Known as “sakoku,” this national policy restricted trade and relations between Japan and most other countries. Foreigners weren’t allowed to enter Japan, and the average Japanese couldn’t leave the country.
Born in 1867 at the start of the Meiji era, Natsume Sōseki, the father of modern Japanese literature, saw his country open up to the West and begin a breakneck process of modernization. Although he was infatuated with Japanese and Chinese classics, he chose to study English at university because he thought it might be useful for a writing career in this new world. In 1900, the Japanese government sent Sōseki to study in London with the distinction of being “Japan’s first Japanese English literary scholar.” He spent most of those two years alone at home, devouring English books.
Sōseki’s upbringing at the start of Japan’s modern era and his time in England set the stage for his novel Kusamakura in 1906. Centered around a nameless artist narrator who takes a hiking trip to a mountain hot spring inn, the main character aims to achieve a “nonemotional” and “unhuman” approach to capture the beauty around him, as it is.
Like Sōseki, the nameless artist is infatuated with modern Western culture, but also reveres Japanese traditional art forms such as haiku and ukiyo-e, and finds himself in a liminal state between these two worlds. His novel captures a moment when Japan was at a turning point, with one eye on the past and one on the future, where seemingly anything was possible.
November 5, 2022. The Reiwa era. Anticipation in the air. A gorgeous autumn day with Japan peeking through the clouds below. Rows of Japanese travelers returning to their families for the first time since COVID sealed off the archipelago from the outside world. Gaijin on business, gaijin with fanny packs and urban hiking gear, gaijin of the neckbearded otaku variety. And one Thundercat, dressed in a fuzzy animal hoodie and a Murakami backpack patterned in joyous rainbow flowers. All of us masked up, ready for a customs gauntlet before finally emerging from the metro to the intoxicating smells of rich, umami curry.
I’m traveling with one of my oldest friends, who has been studying Japanese for the last few years and generously agreed to help as a translator. We’re here to meet a new generation of Japanese artists navigating another turning point for their country. With one eye in the physical world, and one eye in the digital.
Techno Temple in Electric Town
Standing inside the grounds of Kanda Myojin, a shrine with 1300 years of history now perched on a small hill in Tokyo, all is calm. The tranquil vibe feels worlds away from the lights and noise of nearby Akihabara — Japan’s mecca for otaku and technophiles. In fact, the shrine sells an “IT Information Security” talisman to guard your devices from viruses, data theft, and other potential issues. I make sure to purchase one to bless my gear and protect me from future rug pulls.
Anocam (a photographer and artist from London who has been living in Tokyo for the past 3 years) also graciously meets up with us for the day to take photos and help translate. His work captures the frenetic, dreamlike quality of Tokyo with a deep respect and love for the city.
We’re here to chat with EXCALIBUR — a 13-person collective led by two artists who prefer to remain anon (I’ll call them “Y” and “M”). Wearing handmade masks covered in computer keys, the founders welcome us into the shrine’s adjoining tearoom, where we sip on iced coffees and matcha whisked with bamboo.
Although the collective comprises a roster of visual artists and musicians, the main concepts come from Y’s brain, and then M works on the animations and finer details.
Y is deeply interested in the Shinto religion — they were born and raised near a shrine that appears in Japanese mythology, where the sun deity and energy deity descended to Earth and first lived together. The deities then traveled across Japan and arrived at their present location of Ise Shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shinto.
“There are 8 million deities and over 80,000 shrines in Japan,” Y says. “In other words, in Japanese Shintoism, the divine spirits are replicable. And even if the spirit is split, the original divine spirit is not affected, and the split spirit performs the same function as the original divine spirit. Therefore, each deity is original, and they all have their home. In the same way, all reproduced digital data are original, meaning they must have a home somewhere. We hoped to provide a home for the souls of digital data.”
This is what drew the collective to NFTs. EXCALIBUR makes conceptual pixel art about the melding of the physical and the virtual, so it was a natural progression to start creating crypto art.
“PRAYABLE (Nagoshi no Harae)” (2021)
“Before NFTs, with digital art you would print it out, put it somewhere, you would project it somewhere, or you would need a digital screen. But it could be copied. There’s not an origin, per se,” Y says. “And with NFTs, you can see the art has a soul, where you can follow where this thing goes. There is an origin to this thing.”
EXCALIBUR are disciples of Yutaka Matsuzawa (a pioneer of conceptual art in Japan), who was concerned with the vanishing of the object and visual image in physical art, creating an anti-materialist art that focused on absences. The collective calls their overlap between the physical and the virtual “Street, Ethernet, Field.” “Street” refers to the street art that they’ve done in the physical world. “Ethernet” is their portmanteau of “Ethereum” and “Internet” — the digital world that they’re exploring (also a cable). And then “Field” refers to their gaming focus, which can inhabit physical and/or virtual worlds. Games can be anywhere.
For a recent exhibition, EXCALIBUR pay homage to Art Nouveau and Zen philosophy with “Fūkō Hibi Arata,” which literally means “the light and wind are new every day.” Nature always gives us something new to ponder, and EXCALIBUR evokes the ever-shifting natural world with their “pixelated natural landscapes.”
“As technology improves, we’re getting closer to where the physical world and the digital world is just one flowing thing,” Y says. “Whereas now, you have a reality and a digital world, or even comparing it to Ready Player One, the physical and digital are clearly separate. Whereas something like The Matrix, you cannot tell the difference. There isn’t a difference…We’ve never thought about it being good or bad; it just is.”
COVID and gaming inspired their series “NEW GAME+”. “[‘NEW GAME+’] is a system that allows you to start over from the beginning of a video game that you have already completed, while retaining your status,” the booklet for the series states. “We were severely damaged by the Corona disaster, but our world is neither GAME OVER nor RESET. Can’t we consider that we have cleared the social structure once and for all? We have seen the ending of this reality. Then, you can start again with your own status inherited.”
“NEW normal GAME” (2021)
With a vivid color palette that references retro gaming, EXCALIBUR’s work is firmly in the pixel art style, but it’s not just an aesthetic choice. They find that their Shinto and Zen concepts make more sense as pixel art than, say, 3D art.
Unlike the general NFT community in Japan — which Y finds to be small and atomized, due to the Galápagos effect and the country being an archipelago — the pixel art community is tight-knit. They enjoy playing games together and connecting from all over the world. They share a similar art style, interests, and complaints about the creative tools they use — as well as an aspiration to be “pixel perfect” with their artwork. Essentially, “pixel perfect” means creating something without design imperfections, all the way down to the pixel level. To be “not pixel perfect” is unforgivable.
After our tearoom chat, we take a stroll with EXCALIBUR to the main drag of Akihabara, which is lined with multi-story arcades packed with UFO catchers, horse race betting simulators, and taiko drum games. On the classic games floor of a GiGO (formerly SEGA) arcade, we play House of the Dead 2 and Arkanoid before watching Y expertly maneuver a retro shooter called Xevious that serves as a big inspiration for EXCALIBUR’s artwork. The game’s lead artist, Hiroshi Ono (a.k.a. “Mr. Dotman”) was a legend in the pixel art world.
While EXCALIBUR have embraced NFTs and use computers to create their pixel art, they ultimately think of themselves as conceptual artists. The newness of the technology they use, or its relation to “classic” art, isn’t as important as the concepts the technology explores.
“Another 100 years pass by, and digital art now becomes classic art,” Y says. “It’s all relative.”
Earlier in the day, we rendezvous with Anocam at a hookah bar in the heart of Akihabara called Chill Inn, on the seventh floor of a building nestled among tech merchants and maid cafes. Chill Inn is adorned with artworks by MITSUME, an artist whose talent for illustration is unmistakable. Before the bar opens, we have the pleasure of chatting over shisha and mint tea. Throughout the interview, he sips on a hookah and the sound of water bubbles up between his thoughts.
MITSUME is wearing a button-up shirt patterned with a monochrome manga cityscape by the late Kansai Yamamoto — a larger-than-life designer who had a storied career designing fashion for icons like David Bowie at the height of his stardom. MITSUME had the honor of collaborating with Yamamoto as well.
Raised in a city near Nagoya called Gifu, MITSUME began drawing when he was 6 years old. From a young age, he had a dream to be an illustrator. As an adult, he attended a CG design school for 2 years, where they taught skills such as video game character design. After graduating, he applied to work at game studios like Capcom and Konami as a graphic designer, but he couldn’t find a role in the industry. So he pivoted into client illustration work and continued honing his creative vision.
MITSUME’s artwork at Chill Inn, Akihabara
Even so, MITSUME loves games. His all-time favorites are Street Fighter II and Resident Evil 2, but the games that influence his visceral and hyper-detailed artwork come from the cyberpunk aesthetic, with warped cyborg characters that tend towards the feminine but generally appear desexualized. All told, he’s optimistic about society’s shift to the metaverse and thrilled at the prospect of more Japanese IP wading into the NFT space, like Pokémon. We both agree that when Pokémon NFT drops, it will be legendary.
“I’m really inspired by the metaverse and NFT technology, especially the explosion of value of digital art with the NFT market,” he says with a smile. “There are so many possibilities… I would be happy if the fusion between humans and machines becomes possible. I myself would like to become a cyborg. If a body part can be modified into a machine, I could fly, see what the eye cannot see, and go to deep parts of the ocean or to space.”
The lines between reality and the digital world are starting to blur, and that’s a theme that MITSUME clearly enjoys. For instance, he’s inspired by digital fashion and how it can mirror the physical garment. Likewise, when he was 18 years old, he started live painting in front of an audience, and IRL performances have continued to be a major part of his creative practice.
“With live painting, the finished painting is far from idealistic — it is distorted and has dirty parts,” he says. “I think of it only as a live performance, so I feel uncomfortable when just the finished painting is seen. However, I feel pleasure in the act of humans painting a picture. The excitement I felt as a child just by coloring the color red, or the pleasure of drawing not knowing what I was drawing. There is no need to draw a beautiful painting, I just want to color or just freely draw something. Sometimes the painting turns out far better than I could have imagined.”
Meanwhile at home, MITSUME starts with line drawings on paper and scans them into Adobe Illustrator, where he re-draws everything using only a computer mouse. His process is partly inspired by Japanese line drawings called Chōjū Giga (literally “Animal Caricatures”) from the 12th and 13th century, which are often referenced as early works that led to the manga artform. These four scrolls feature animal caricatures that satirize Japanese priests from that period, and today they are a national treasure. When I ask about his modern inspirations, he cites Katsuhiro Otomo, the revered manga artist and creator of Akira.
In January 2022, a collector reached out to MITSUME and suggested that he mint NFTs of his work, and by February he had released his genesis on SuperRare’s digital art marketplace. Though he loves the web3 community, he finds that people in Japan generally don’t understand the use cases for NFTs, how to interact with them, and why they would want to use them in the first place.
“[Past ← wisdom → Future]/M01” (2022)
“Japanese people don’t really buy art. There are very few collectors,” he explains. “In Japan, there isn’t really a culture of decorating your room with art on the walls.” This is partly because most landlords in Japan don’t allow renters to drill screws or hammer nails into a wall to hang up artwork.
According to an annual survey by the Japanese government, Japan’s share of the global art market was just 3.7% in 2021 — a small figure given the country’s population of over 125 million. However, more Japanese collectors have slowly entered the traditional art market over the past 5 years, with Christie’s seeing a 14% increase from 2020 to 2021. Perhaps as NFT technology becomes more integrated into everyday life, people in Japan will discover the advantages of collecting digital art. No need to hang up a canvas in a cramped Tokyo apartment; you can just collect it on the blockchain.
Like EXCALIBUR, MITSUME also brings up the Galápagos effect. By being so disparate and secluded from the rest of the world, it can be difficult for Japanese artists to break into the international community. The language barrier is also a major factor. Not much gets in; not much gets out.
On the other hand, because Japan is relatively secular compared to countries like the United States, MITSUME finds that Japanese people can more easily relate to a wide variety of artists’ creative expression without having to subscribe to a particular religion. So he remains optimistic about Japan’s creative future.
“Nonexistent cross-section” (2022)
No matter if MITSUME is exploring a new country or a digital world, it’s clear that travel and adventure fuel his creativity. He often hikes into the mountains for inspiration and his manager can’t reach him for days. And even though this year will take him on a busy tour schedule around the world, he still plans to trek to the top of Mt. Fuji this summer — a rite of passage for the Japanese people. Sometimes, you need to unplug from the metaverse, even if you’re helping to create it.
What do frogs, trash cans, and Punks have in common? They’ve all been burned and elevated by one artist so committed to the social and cultural power of art that he’s influenced the very meaning of what it means to be infamous. One of the most wide-ranging and influential artists in the world of crypto art, ROBNESS has been a part of this ever-growing community since its early days and has made significant contributions that have shaped the scene into what it is today. From his experimental digital art pieces to his infamous ’64 gallon toter’ that challenged artistic boundaries in a decentralized network, ROBNESS has been at the forefront of defining what art can accomplish when paired with blockchain technology.
But one of the biggest challenges for artists, especially those that approach or achieve critical acclaim, is balancing reputation with experimentation. For “The Golden Age” exhibition, ROBNESS revealed a new style of art that bridges the tactile and the digital. Using digital tools to add creases, rips, and fade, his artwork “MA’MORTE AND CHILD” looks like one that has been crumpled up, perhaps thrown into the garbage bin, and found anew by a lucky passerby.
In this interview, we dive deep into his journey as an artist in the crypto world and gain insight into his creative process and experiences creating art in a new and untested terrain.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: A lot of people are familiar with your digital artworks, from Pepes to toters to glitch. What kind of work were you making before you got into digital art?
ROBNESS: AS FAR AS PHYSICAL WORK? MOSTLY IT WAS ATTACKING CANVASES AND DOING ABSTRACT TYPE OF WORKS IN BETWEEN BAND PRACTICES IN A STUDIO I USED TO RENT OUT. I HAVE BEEN DOING DIGITAL ART OFF/ON SINCE I WAS 7 YEARS AND UP. I ALWAYS JOKE THAT MY FIRST FORAY INTO DIGITAL ART WAS USING AN ANCIENT MICROTEK SCANNER AND TRYING TO EDIT MAGIC CARDS TO SEE IF I COULD COUNTERFEIT THEM. I DIDN’T GET INTO CANVAS STYLE WORK UNTIL MUCH LATER, EVEN ACTUALLY AFTER I GOT INTO MUSIC AS WELL.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: I know that music, and specifically album covers, were an entry point for you as a young person getting interested in art. How does music fit into your artistic practice today?
ROBNESS: MUSIC GOES COMPLETELY HAND IN HAND IN MY PROCESS. MAINLY, IT’S ALWAYS ON WHEN I’M WORKING. I HAVE A WEIRD CONNECTION WHERE I ALMOST PICK CERTAIN GENRES OF MUSIC I FEEL AT THE TIME FIT THE VIBE I’M GOING FOR. FEEL LIKE IT GIVES ME A RHYTHM IN THE WORKFLOW. SOMETIMES I’LL PUT ON SOME 90’S ELECTRONICA, BEBOP JAZZ, VAPORWAVE, CLASSIC ROCK, FUNK…..ANYTHING THAT AESTHETICALLY FITS THE OVERALL FEELING AT THE MOMENT WHILE I’M WORKING VISUALLY.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: There is a lot of humor in your work, both in the feelings you conjure up for the viewer and the titles you play with for the pieces. Yet, some of the topics of your work are extremely serious, like censorship and the financial system. How do you strike a balance between making statements with your work and at the same time keeping it rather joyful?
ROBNESS: IT’S FUNNY YOU MENTION THE HILARITY ASPECT. PERHAPS IT’S MY INNER SKEPTIC OF MOST THINGS AND I NATURALLY HAVE TO POINT OUT THE ABSURDITY OF WHAT I PERCEIVE. IT’S ALSO A COMPLIMENT AS WELL, PRIMARILY BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S A TRADITION OF ALL ARTISTS FROM THE PAST TO IMBUE THE WORK WITH COMEDIC ELEMENTS, ENSURING THAT WE DON’T TAKE LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY. MAYBE THAT’S PERHAPS WHY THAT PENCHANT EXISTS FOR MANY? AS FAR AS BALANCE IS CONCERNED IT’S ALWAYS A CHALLENGE, REALLY DEPENDS ON THE CONTEXT OF THE WORK. SOMETIMES YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY AND GROTESQUELY BLATANT, OTHER TIMES YOU MIGHT HAVE TO REALLY BURY IT INSIDE THE WORK FOR IT TO NOT TURN YOUR PIECE INTO SOME FUTURE ROTTEN MAC & CHEESE, YOU KNOW….THE PIECES THAT ARE JUST TOO ‘ON THE NOSE.’
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: Everyone knows about the SR/Toter chapter of your career, so I won’t bore you with an easy question on that. Something I’d love to know is: Why was it so important to you to stress test the NFT community at that time?
ROBNESS: TRUTH BE TOLD, I WASN’T REALLY LOOKING FOR IT. PERHAPS MY PENCHANT FOR A FREE AND OPEN PLACE TO CREATE ART BEYOND ANY CENSORSHIP BOUNDARIES SLIPPED INTO DOING LITERALLY EVERYTHING WRONG ON THE SUPERRARE PLATFORM. HOWEVER, WHEN THE IDEOLOGICAL ROADBLOCKS BEGAN AND JUDGEMENTS FROM THE COMMUNITY ON MY SPECIFIC STYLE OF ART EMERGED, MY INNER JOHN LYDON I GUESS CAME OUT AND JUST SAID ‘F IT, I’M GONNA TRASH THIS PLACE.’ AT FIRST THE JOKE DIDN’T GET ACROSS….OR MAYBE IT DID I DON’T KNOW. BUT I MADE SURE MY STATEMENT WAS MADE WITH THE 64 GALLON TOTER BEING A BLUNT DIGITAL MESSAGE. SO YEAH, IT WASN’T REALLY INTENTIONAL….NOW THAT I LOOK BACK ON IT IT FEELS LIKE A NATURAL COURSE OF EVENTS FOR THE SPACE TO GROW.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: You have been called a “disrupter” by many writers both inside and outside the NFT art space. I think of you as being more open-ended, like a question with an infinite amount of answers. How would you describe yourself?
ROBNESS: MERCURIAL. I REALLY DON’T CONSIDER MYSELF A ‘DISRUPTER,’ PRIMARILY BECAUSE IT SETS ME ON A COURSE WHERE I’LL HAVE TO KEEP DELIVERING THAT SET OF EXPECTATIONS THROUGH MY FUTURE WORKS. IF I FEEL I HAVE TO MAKE SOME WORK IN A CONCEPTUAL/DISRUPTIVE WAY I’LL DO IT, SOMETIMES I JUST WANT TO CREATE BEAUTY OR PERHAPS A ZEN ELEMENT TO THE WORK. AS OF LATE I’VE REALLY BEEN GRAPPLING WITH THIS AND NOT TRYING TO BE A BROKEN RECORD, ALWAYS TRYING TO STRIVE FOR SOMETHING NEW. IF PEOPLE EXPECT ME TO BURN AN NFT FOR INSTANCE, I PROBABLY WON’T DO IT JUST BECAUSE I’LL FEEL IT’S JUST TOO PREDICTABLE.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: I can tell from previous interviews that you have some fond memories of the earlier days of cryptoart, like finding the Fake Rare community or artworks minted on Rarible circa 2018-2020. What did you like about that time?
ROBNESS: QUITE SIMPLY, THE SLOW GROWTH OF FRIENDS I’VE MADE OVER THE ENTIRE PLANET. SOMETIMES I’LL BE WORKING AND I JUST THINK THERE’S NO TIME IN ART HISTORY WHERE REALLY THIS TYPE OF MOVEMENT COULD GROW LIKE THIS. THE SPEED OF INFORMATION TRANSMISSION, COMBINED WITH CRYPTOART JUST CREATED THIS VAPOROUS SCENE ACROSS THE WORLD AND IT’S PROBABLY ONE OF THE GREATEST HIGHLIGHTS OF MY LIFE.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: A lot of people are leaving the NFT community now that there are fewer eye-popping sales and less money in the space overall. Do you think that this shift will affect the way people create? If so, how?
ROBNESS: IT’LL SHIFT FOR THOSE WHO WEREN’T REALLY IN HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, AND I CAN SEE IT CLEAR RIGHT NOW. A LOT OF ARTISTS THAT ARE REALLY IN THIS THING HAVEN’T FALTERED AND REMAIN CONSISTENT. SOME OF THE MORE SUCCESSFUL ONES (DISAPPOINTINGLY ENOUGH) HAVE SLOWED THEIR PRODUCTION. IT SEEMS LIKE THEY MIGHT BE AFRAID TO REDUCE THEIR PRICE POINTS ON THEIR ART DURING THE BEAR MARKET PHASE, WHICH I THINK IS KIND OF LAME BUT TO EACH ITS OWN.
VIRGINIA VALENZUELA: I read that you were actually living in your car before you got into crypto, and long before you found a way to make your art a source of sustainable income. What did you learn from that experience that you hold on to to this day?
ROBNESS: FAITH. FAITH, AND MORE FAITH. IN MY DARKEST PERIODS OF HOPELESSNESS, I’D DRAG MYSELF OUT OF THE CAR, GRAB MY RUNNING SHOES IN THE TRUNK AND GO RUNNING ON THE BEACH BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE AROUND WOULD WAKE UP. I’M A GOD FEARING MAN BUT NEVER WENT THE ROUTE OF THE CHURCH AND ALL THAT. I WOULD PUT ON GOSPEL CHOIRS AS I RAN IN THAT 5:30-6:00 AM MORNING, TO THIS DAY I’M NOT SURE WHY. IT GAVE ME STRENGTH, TRULY DID. THE SMELL OF THE OCEAN AIR CLEARED MY LUNGS, AND THE MUSIC CLEANED MY SOUL, IN A WAY. AN ODD BONUS WAS I GOT TO FINALLY SEE WHAT GAVE ELVIS THAT SPECIAL GIFT OF ROCK N ROLL. IT ALL STARTED FROM GOSPEL MUSIC….
For Acid Boy (aka Pat Cantin), nothing hits quite like trying something for the first time. Art is all about exploration for the Quebecois creator. Working out of his east Montreal studio, the trained painter, creative coder, photographer, and DJ/producer is thriving as a full-time artist. His studio is split up into different areas for different creative practices — one area for painting; another for digital art; another for music.
After discovering NFTs in early 2021, he saw the medium as a new avenue for creativity and minted his first works on Hic et Nunc. Since then, he’s been an active participant in the space with works minted across marketplaces. In this conversation, we explore what it means to have a healthy creative mindset, believing in the process, and why you don’t need drugs to make art that feels like you’re on drugs.
Chris Kokiousis: When did you fall in love with art? Like was there a moment or an artwork?
Acid Boy: When I was born! [laughs]
Chris Kokiousis: Out of the womb.
Acid Boy: Yeah, I’ve always loved art. I’ve always been into art, into drawing, into creating. I have a bachelor degree in Fine Arts. I graduated in 2000 here in Montreal. And after that I couldn’t live from my art at all because I mean living from art when you finish school, it’s impossible. It’s like a dream, but I did a lot of things before getting back into paintings in 2012 full time, and I did only that until NFTs came. So now I do paintings and NFTs for a living. So, I live from my art, so I’m super happy, but between 2000 and 2012, I learned to code by myself. I was a webmaster at a big TV company here in Montreal and I learned everything all by myself.
Chris Kokiousis: Did you have an epiphany where you realized work was too much and you were missing your art?
Acid Boy: I was missing my art for like, five or six years. And I said to myself, if they don’t give me a raise this year, I quit and go back to my paintings. And they didn’t have the budget to raise every employee and they said that they [couldn’t] give me a raise for the year in 2012. So I said, Okay, I give you my two weeks. And so I stuck to my point. And it’s like a drop in an empty space — you don’t know where you’re gonna land.
Chris Kokiousis: Right.
Acid Boy: But I mean, when you’ve got the passion, everything is gonna go. Well, even if it’s a stressful job being an artist, if you like it, you know, you’re gonna get through.
Chris Kokiousis: Talk to me a bit about the difference between your painting process and your NFT process. How do you get in the headspace for that? Like, are you working on a project at any given moment? Or is it kind of more, Oh, today I’m going to paint.
Acid Boy: Creation is not like a 9 to 5 job, that’s what I learned… I try to be at the studio most of the time. So, I’m here from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. even if I’m not creating, even if I’m just procrastinating, playing Zelda. But if I’m in the studio, I’m in the creative mood. I already have all the tools available here in the studio, so if I want to make music, I can go in the studio, make beats. If I have an inspiration or an idea or a painting, I can do it right away. It’s not like I’m home and I have to go to the studio…So if I have an idea I can do it right away, and when an idea comes or when you get the inspiration coming, you need to do it right now. You cannot take notes or do a drawing and come back later. I mean, I have to work on it like right away because it’s a feeling. So I don’t have a plan. I don’t go like, Oh today I’m gonna paint, or today I’m gonna do an NFT. I’m gonna do what I want to do every day, so if I feel like painting, I do it.
Chris Kokiousis: So more spontaneous.
Acid Boy: Yeah, exactly…You can’t force creativity.
Chris Kokiousis: What was the first artwork you minted and the first NFT that you collected? Like, how did you get into the space? Tell me that story.
Acid Boy: One of my friends introduced me to NFTs. He’s like 65 years old, and he read an article in a newspaper. And he said, “Hey Pat, do you know what an NFT is?” And I was like “No, I don’t have a clue.” It was like right before Beeple blew up with [“Everydays”].
And I dug a little bit and I said, Oh my god, that’s a pretty cool medium to explore for me. I always did a lot of things — photography, music, painting, digital art web stuff. And I said, Okay, that’s another avenue to express myself, to express my creativity…
So I learned a lot of stuff, but before, I [was trying] to put my conceptual art into NFTs, like some performances or like, balloons and stuff. But when I found ToughDesigner, that software was really speaking to me, because I’m not a good coder and I’m really, really bad at math and I’m really, really bad at coding. I have a small brain [laughs]. I don’t know why. I never took acid by the way.
Chris Kokiousis: Oh, that was gonna be my next question… [laughs]
Acid Boy: No, never never, I’m too scared of that…
“Space Wave 19”
Chris Kokiousis: So acid, maybe means more to you in a musical sense than a drug experience?
Acid Boy: Well acid…boy. Acid Boy came from like, you know, acid music. Acid house music, techno music. And I wanted to create stuff that gives you a buzz visually. So I want the person who looks at the art to get a little bit dizzy or confused or you know, like when you’re on drugs. Well, I never did drugs, but I want to give a physical feeling when someone looks at my art. So I think Acid Boy fits really, really well for the purpose of this.
Chris Kokiousis: What’s interesting is each piece kind of gives you a different feeling and they’re all kind of self-contained experiences. Some of them are more dizzy, some are more hypnotic.
Acid Boy: Yeah, or more meditative as well.
Chris Kokiousis: Yeah.
Acid Boy: And one fun fact is that I’m really, really seasick. Motion sickness, you know? Even when I swim in waves in the ocean, I get sick. So I’m really sensitive to that. So there are some pieces that make me sick. Like I have to look away from the computer for 10 minutes and breathe and then get back to the code. Because when you create, the animation is always moving. And you look at it, and there’s some details you need to correct, but sometimes it’s like, Okay, oh my god, I need to take a break because I’m gonna be sick.
Chris Kokiousis: Yeah, I could imagine doing that looking at one of your pieces for hours. When you look away, you probably see it on the wall.
Acid Boy: Exactly. The walls are like here [moves his hands in front of his face in a swirling motion].
Chris Kokiousis: That’s amazing [laughs]. Obviously in the art world, a lot of the most successful artists have a very distinctive style and they stick to it a lot of the time and it becomes their signature. How much of art do you think is finding a lane like that? Is it more of a necessary evil, or do you see it more as a fun kind of creative limitation?
Acid Boy: It’s a hard question, because if I speak for myself, I always wanted to try different stuff. Since I was young, I tried karate, I tried unicycling, I was a clown…I mean, I tried everything. And why would I stop that in my art? Because it’s part of myself, it’s part of my life. I always change things. I always try something new and I get bored easily. So, you know, painting was my main revenue from 2012 until 2019. But when I got into NFTs, I had like a year without painting because I wanted to be into NFTs. But as for the style, it’s different from artist to artist, but in the conventional art world, if your style is always different, galleries will not take you to exhibit. You always have to do the same thing.
Chris Kokiousis: Right.
Acid Boy: You always have to do the same style, same colors and whatever. And this is really really boring to me. So I’ve never been represented in a gallery because my style always changes. I started with portraits. Very figurative portraits. And now I’ve really abstracted more and more and more. And now it’s just splashes on the canvas. So if you take like my early work in 2012 and [compare it to] today, I mean it’s two different artists.
Chris Kokiousis: Yeah, I really like your paintings. And I was surprised when I saw them on your Twitter feed, like that’s the same guy?
Acid Boy: Yeah. And if I had advice to give to artists — if you want to do another style, do it. That’s it. There’s no questioning. If you want to create something else, create something else… Anyway, just create even if it’s something that is way beyond your usual stuff. Okay, do it. It’s gonna nourish your own style, and you’re gonna experiment and you get to take that and come back to your style and go and come back.
Chris Kokiousis: How do you feel about story in art — have you played around with that much? It seems like something that’s not as high of a priority [in your work].
Acid Boy: At university, I always had a hard time explaining what I was doing and teachers were always on our backs about how important it is to have a statement about our art. And I remember one of my teachers, we had to write 20 pages about our art at the end of university. And I failed that course, because I wrote like 20 pages with big fonts so they were like a paragraph of text, like a hundred words, but in 20 pages — no spaces, no [periods], no accents, no nothing. So it was really hard to read. But it was like, the contrary of the statement I was [supposed to be] doing. I was doing a [statement on the statement] — like I hate doing statements, so why would I do it?
Just look at my stuff. What you see is what you get. Like, why would I have to write about my art? So, I was in rebellion about the writing stuff at university, but the teacher didn’t like it. Obviously. [laughs]
Another time I had to do an exposé, and all I did was put me in a frame and I was holding it like this [holds a sideways pose] for 10 minutes in front of the class. Because I didn’t want to do the exposé. So that was the exposé. So I failed that course, but I was an artist.
“Stare at me for a minute”
Chris Kokiousis: Right. Now you can probably look back on that kind of fondly, you know, just like that purity of, yeah, I’m an artist.
Acid Boy: Yeah, I’m a true artist, you don’t understand me, you know. But to answer the question, I think it’s important to have a statement. It’s the most difficult thing to do as an artist. It’s easy to do it for someone else, for another artist. But when you have to introspect and [ask yourself], what do I want to say to others with my art, it’s the hardest thing ever.
Chris Kokiousis: What other advice would you give to aspiring artists who are trying to work their way into the NFT space, just about getting involved in the community and staying productive as an artist?
Acid Boy: Well, the only advice I would give is to be genuine. Like, just be yourself. Be authentic. And don’t try to hide yourself behind a persona. I mean, Acid Boy is Pat Cantin in real life. I’m the same person; it’s just a name. So when people talk to me on Twitter or something, I’m the same person as Pat Cantin on my website. But yeah, be authentic…
That would be the best advice I could give. Don’t lose yourself in the Twitter space and the Meta whatever, Instagram and things. Just create. Put it out there. If you got likes, fine. If you don’t, fine. Just create — just do what you have in here [taps his hands on his chest] and show it to the world. But don’t get lost in all the negativity and marketing on Twitter and other platforms.
Chris Kokiousis: Really good advice. What about for artists that are trying to find their creative voice? The journey of that experience, of finding your creative voice and experimenting with different styles?
Acid Boy: You will never find your creative voice. I graduated in 2000 and [I’ve been] a full-time artist since 2012. Every day, I’m questioning myself. What’s my style? What am I doing? Why do I do that? Where do I want to go? As an artist, it’s always the same question. And I speak to other artists — like well-established artists that sell big paintings for 12 years or 25 years — and they say Pat, it’s always the same question every day all the time even after 20 years.
So, it’s okay. It’s part of the process as an artist to always question yourself because when you don’t, you won’t be an artist.
Chris Kokiousis: Yeah. I guess it’s more about the promise or the commitment to believe in the art you’re making, and the process, and just sticking with it.
Acid Boy: Yeah, you never figure it out, it’s always a process. An artist’s life is always a process. It will never end. You’ll always be questioning yourself — what are you doing, and why [are you doing it]…
So yeah, be true to yourself and what you love, and other people are gonna love it.
Chris Kokiousis: Thanks for the wise words Pat. Let’s wrap this up — any favorite acid tracks?
Acid Boy: I’ve got some DJs that I like — Mistress Barbara, she’s from Montreal as well, and I really love Miss Kitten too.