This article is part of the Alpacawhal interview series A Couple Minutes on Crypto Art, where we talk with brilliant and emerging crypto artists.
We have utmost love and respect for the crypto artists and their scene in Mexico— the energy, talent, and vibe from that particular flavor of crypto art is pure dankness! It is really special then, that the wildly colorful neurocolor has decided to take time out from creating rad art to speak with us about his artistic journey and the crypto art scene at large.
Alpacawhal: Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and art with us! Please give us an introduction to yourself and your story with crypto art so far.
neurocolor: I'm a digital and analog artist based in Mexico City. I'm a former painter and self taught in digital arts. neurocolor is an alias I started using in 2005 and that I fully embrace since a couple years ago, initially I tried to go with a traditional approach using my real name, creating physical oil paintings and selling them through an art gallery to a more narrow audience but I never really felt satisfied doing that.
Then I switched to the internet. I’ve always been into online sales and strategies to stay relevant as an independent artist. In my attempt to be all over the place with social media beyond Instagram, I opened my Twitter account to reach other kind of audience and then, I guess because of the hashtags, I was followed by Robness! Actually he was one of my very first followers, then I ended up here.
Alpacawhal: Robness is an OG in the space for sure, so it's cool that your conduit into crypto art is via such an established luminary. It is not easy getting into the scene and as most will agree, the learning curve for a crypto artist is steep. You started in your artistic journey in analog mode– did you find anything super challenging about the technology or workflows you needed to learn to succeed as a crypto artist?
neurocolor: Not really. I have always been a self-taught person and enthusiast of all kinds of technology, even before starting my training as a painter I was already experimenting with graphic creation software.
During my painting career I often use the digital tools to enrich my analog painting process and I also paint to create digital images, it's always back and forth with that. On the other hand, I was familiar with online sales by doing commissions and selling my art and my clothing designs on platforms such as Fiverr, Big Cartel and Storenvy. I already had a Bitcoin wallet with some savings so entering the crypto art scene was somehow natural.
"I tried to go with a traditional approach using my real name, creating physical oil paintings and selling them through an art gallery to a more narrow audience but I never really felt satisfied doing that."
Alpacawhal: Sounds super smooth for sure. You mention experience seelling your art on these other sort of established or mainstream platforms that use fiat currency. Most folks from design and art will know these sites. Certainly not every crypto artist has this sort of experience.
Would you say that you have benefitted most from the crypto art platforms or the fiat ones? What about the user experience? We see a lot of complaints about the various crypto art platforms and their usability. What do you think, have you found them to be as good as the traditional platforms or no?
neurocolor: Traditional e-commerce platforms have never been my main source of income and they are not a means of building community.
I came to these because I wasn't satisfied with the model of the galleries around here. The market is focused only on neo-conceptual art or only eye-friendly painting, and this prompted me to look for alternatives of financial independence.
With e-commerce platforms the relationship with customers is mostly one way. The paradigm of NFT platforms is completely different, your collectors end up becoming your friends, your artist friends end up becoming your collectors and the dynamics of the market are much more intense.
Not to mention that the rates on fiat platforms are higher and the shipping and payment processes are more cumbersome. There is really no comparison.
Alpacawhal: We totally get the built-in commmunity aspect of crypto art, and it is both endearing, but can also be somewhat challenging. In the mainstream art world, artists seek representation through agents and galleries. Those entities can act as intermediaries, and shield an artist from intense social and market dynamics.
For example, many artists art not good at socializing or find it awkward and exhausting to socialize with their collectors in a constant manner. The crypto artist is more exposed in this way and almost at the whim of the collector if they are not careful. Does this worry you at all?
What about if scaled to thousands of collectors? Do you worry about the burnout that could be caused from having that many people with direct social access to you?
neurocolor: It doesn’t worry me.
They are different dynamics; For an artist with poor social skills, dealing with a curator or dealer in person can be much more difficult than dealing with many avatars on the internet, I even dare to say that crypto art is a space where introverts have an advantage by being able to function without having to leave their caves.
I also know cases of crypto artists who are so constant with their art that they are being collected without having to put a lot of effort on twitter. Many collectors are also just for quick secondary market sales, no need to build up a friendship.
I consider that an advantage of the NFT scene. In any case, in order to participate in the market, it is necessary to learn certain minimum communication skills, that is in any professional area.
"I even dare to say that crypto art is a space where introverts have an advantage by being able to function without having to leave their caves."
Alpacawhal: So it seems in crypto art, despite not having an agent, and allowing anyone to DM you or chat at you in a discord or email you directly is not a problem. We tend to agree, but also note that this necessitates that the most technologically savvy artists can also be the most successful simply because of their technical prowess combined with artistic talent.
What do you think of that?
Also, are there basically artists of all talents in the space, or are we really just observing an elite group of people who are doing crypto art in their "spare time" along with getting their extra-curricular study on while not doing their normal "9 to 5" job? It seems a great deal of crypto art consists of people doing this in addition to an already established career path, which might or might not have anyhing to do with art. Do you get this same impression from some in the space– that this is just their "second job"?
neurocolor: If technologically savvy artists are taking the lead in a technologically developed scene it's kind of normal. However the technology is getting gradually easier to use for more people. Like the case with e-commerce, artists who were unable to participate in the traditional market had to learn the new ways that the internet brought. Before very few people used PayPal, today buying online is the most normal thing. In other words, I think the swift to a new financial and organizational paradigm is going to scale opportunity up.
This is an really interesting topic for me, it would take me hours to talk about every possible angle, in short:
I think this new scene has participants from each of these groups: established hyper specialized and experienced artists; underground artists that otherwise were outsiders; amateurs; and art hobbyists.
I find particularly interesting to see computer engineers who started to collect NFTs and who, in short time, started to create their own art and sell their own pieces. That’s new in history and I find it awesome, there’s room for everyone who is curious enough and the community is in a good part an open minded one, you see a lot of positive feedback. Sometimes it gets cheesy but it’s starting, then I guess the market is going to do its own thing.
Alpacawhal: Yes, the scene seems to be composed of very technologically savvy artists, and so it should be interesting to get the next levels of less savyy artists in here creating and helping them cope.
Let's shift gears to art though– when it comes to your art, your palette is super vibrant and we have noticed that even your oil paintings have this wavy brightness. Also aren't some of your works sort of light-interactive pieces that change in different light? Please tell us about those.
neurocolor: I’m obsessed with intense saturated colors and all sorts of effects that can be done with it depending on the medium.
I like to play and experiment with media limitations. Often, I struggle with rendering all the color and flashy details on my gifs, some are even meant to be visually uncomfortable using tricks from op art, glitch art etc.
With my paintings, it is a similar approach with a different result. We live in a digital era, paintings are mostly consumed in instagram or tumblr digital photos, painting became only an image and lose the presencial object feature. By using fluorescent colors and specific illumination I challenge the viewer and the collector to move physically and live the real thing.
I’m interested in the phenomenological aspect of color pigments, most details of my paintings can only be perceived when seeing them in real life, then you can see it’s body-ness. Fluorescent colors experiences can’t be translated to a digital image. In summary, I’m often playing with media limitations and looking for ways off satisfying my own curiosity about color vibrancy.
"By using fluorescent colors and specific illumination I challenge the viewer and the collector to move physically and live the real thing."
Alpacawhal: You talk about making some pieces intentionally visually uncomfortable. What do you mean by that? Why do you want the viewer to feel discomfort?
neurocolor: First of all I’m a visual devourer, I enjoy watching films, going through illustrated books, taking photos in the street, saving references from the internet... I’m always consuming images.
Although academia was not my favorite thing, I can say I’m versed as well in art theory and research on the nature of images from all those years studying. I’m obsessed with visual language. That said, I’m very demanding with what I dig visually and I have a strong aversion for formulas (artistic processes that became repetitive based on their success).
That leads me to create images or objects that I want to see myself in the world before thinking on the audience, and leads me to materialize what I feel it’s necessary to see in the world that doesn’t exist yet in a particular manner.
Images that are easy to digest won’t achieve that feeling of satisfaction in my case, I often have the need to challenge the visual comfort without falling into shocking imagery, which by the way I believe is another formula that was already tried in the last decades.
That’s what I mean with discomfort, I want to challenge the viewer. I‘m not really worried about being liked or not by the audience because I strongly believe there’s many like me, the world is big you know? I have confidence that there’s many, or at least enough, who dig my art and get the idea.
Alpacawhal: Your style is certainly super distinctive in respect to the saturated color and effects, and there is much refinement there too. Clearly the work of someone who has themself put in work towards mastery of their craft. Along the way, and in those regards, to whom have to looked upon for inspiration? What artists excite you most and have influenced your art?
neurocolor: As a participant of the long pictorial tradition, there's a huge background from where I can be inspired.
Old masters to late 20th Century: Hans Holbein, Clara Peeters, El Greco, Jan van Eyck, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Monet, Saturnino Herrán, Joaquin Sorolla, Giorgio Morandi, and Francis Bacon.
Contemporary painters: David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Neo Rauch, Jenny Saville, Justin Mortimer, Felice Varini, Adrian Ghenie, Phil Hal, Kathryn MacNaughton, Sangram Majumdar, Ian Francis, Lars Eling, Darina Karpov, Escoto + Carrara.
Digital artists: Adrian Cain, Alycia Rainaud, Giacomo Carmagnola, Xanadu Media, Zach Lieberman.
Graffiti writers: Aches, Dems, Pantone etc.
All the vaporwave movement, new wave aesthetic, oh man there's so many things
I'd have to make another interview.
Alpacawhal: Nice! That is a rocking list of great artists for sure. Final question– what about new media frontiers? Your art is typically formatted as 2D and 3d static and animated images, but we have not seen you put on the VR helmet or drop a voxel based piece as far as we know. Is neurocolor exploring any new mediums of creation anytime soon and any hints to which, if so?
neurocolor: There are two reasons I have not explored these media:
One, is that overall I am still not attracted to the aesthetics currently achievable by those media you mention (VR and voxel art), I feel like it's still like doing art with toys the same way doing art with legos is something more into the curiosity classification. For sure stunning things can be done I'm just not eager to play with it until it gets more developed.
The second reason, maybe the most important, is that I consider myself a 2D artist, even if I use 3D renders for my animations sometimes, they are just moving paintings. I prefer to focus in the power of images and the pictorial language, longer animations or further interactiveness would have an undesired and distracted effect in my art. So if I get to play with any of these tools, it will be probably to include the results in a 2D output.
Hints? maybe when that moment comes in which creating images via lucid dreaming directly with the mind is possible, headset or not, count on me.
If I manage to make my work more efficient, I definitely wanna try generative art. But learning code takes time.
Alpacawhal: Totally understandable and the tech is really still in its infancy with respect to VR and AR. We are big fans of generative art too, and would be stoked to see what you come up with in that medium. Thanks so much for talking with us, neurocolor!
As a parting shot, what do you think is in store for the future of crypto art?
neurocolor: About the future of cryptoart... well I have no idea.
As the encryption technologies and services permeate the mainstream, the idea of crypto-art is going to fade more and more until it becomes again a niche, like in the beginning when it was art using crypto as a topic.
If blockchain technologies become part of the everyday life as more use cases are implemented through finances and contracts, what used to be cryptoart as a movement is going to be "art" again, top artists probably will be creating NFTs and the old school ones will be using them as certificates at least while more artists will be at least familiar with the benefits that comes with some degree of adoption.
There is always so much to explore, I'd only want to stress that before a crypto-anything I'm an artist. I do share with the community the intense enthusiasm about the possibilities with these technologies to empower and emancipate people, however I'm technology agnostic, I don't think technology is the only definitive solution (let alone salvation) to the ultimate human condition. I see lots of dogma and fanaticism in the space... Don’t lose the ground, we still have a lot of shit to figure out that no algorithm will do for us.
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