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.