Jack of all visual arts trades, catswilleatyou (AKA Matt Semke) has cultivated a style all his own through constant experimentation and creation, having created a new piece to post to his site every single day since 2006, making his the longest-running “dailies” streak on earth. During this time, he’s explored nearly every facet of digital art, including early use of gifs as fine art, digital painting, animation, and now AR and VR.
We had the privilege of interviewing Semke ahead of his first MakersPlace drop, VRy real(ish).
MP: What inspires you to create in VR as opposed to creating in real life but digitally on your iPad or computer?
MS: I’m inspired by being an early artist exploring this medium. This is still the early days of VR art in art history. I felt the same way about digital art and GIFs. It’s also incredible to be completely immersed in your creation. I still create IRL paintings and do tons of digital work on iPads and desktops, but this is just another amazing tool to play with.
MP: How long have you been creating in VR? Do you prefer it? Why?
MS: I’ve been making VR art for about a year and a half. In a lot of ways, I do prefer it to some other ways of creating. It’s great to have infinite studio space, infinite supplies, and zero cleanup to worry about. There’s huge freedom in being able to splash paint and not have to pay for it.
MP: Do you believe more artists can benefit from creating in VR?
MS: Yes! I feel like right now is a great time to be a VR artist. The community is somewhat small and tightly knit. There are huge advantages to being early. There’s obviously a wow factor you get from showing the work to people that haven’t seen anything like VR before. But the thing that excites me the most is that I can talk directly to the developers of these apps. I can have my suggestions implemented. With a lot of the popular tools on a desktop, you just don’t have that sort of access.
MP: Where and how do you display your work? In VR? IRL? Anywhere else?
MS: All of my work gets posted online at catswilleatyou.com and all of the popular social media sites, but I absolutely like to spice it up with VR and IRL showings.
I recently designed my own metaverse to showcase these VR paintings. It works in VR headsets, and also on desktop and mobile. It’s called “none of this is real,” and anyone can visit it at cwey.link/NONE
I’ve done several live performances where I improvise my daily piece in front of a live audience. I’ve also participated in a VR art battle where I took home an amazing championship belt. Outside of VR, I make short films that end up in little festivals all over the world. I show my work in traditional gallery shows and coffee shops or basically any wall I can find.
MP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating in VR?
MS: Big advantages in the freedom of VR and being an early adopter.
I do think that, at the moment, there’s a bit of a disadvantage in showing VR artwork to people. One of the reasons I’ve gravitated to the painting apps (I use BrushworkVR and PaintingVR mainly) in this space is because they translate well outside of the headset too.
I also enjoy making 3D work or experiences in the headset with OpenBrush and GravitySketch, but this is harder stuff to share with people without headsets. I haven’t really been able to figure out a decent way to package that work for collectors. I don’t think rendering out a movie file, or a 3D asset really does it justice. I want to be able to offer the whole experience.
MP: What medium have you not yet explored that you hope to?
MS: I want to do some animation in VR. Right now, it’s just not available on my headset, but it is available on some higher-end and PC-only headsets. I also feel like I need to make more 3D AR experiences, so I’m playing around with that a bit.
MP: After 15 years of daily new work, how do you keep things fresh? What do you do when you hit a wall?
MS: For me, playing with emerging art technology is the easiest way to keep things fresh. I love traditional art too, but there’s something about discovering your own voice within a brand new medium that is really motivating for me.
After 15 ½ years of sharing art daily, I don’t hit a lot of walls. It was much more difficult to stay inspired during the first couple of years than it is now. Now I have tricks, I have styles that I can work at thoughtlessly until inspiration magically comes back. My to-do list is always longer than I would like it to be.
The creative walls I hit are with just basic life shit. Death, sickness, etc. When that stuff comes up, it gets real tough to make a daily work, and I’ll totally feel like a selfish jerk for keeping my art streak going. But those are really the only times where I let myself put out something low effort.
MP: What does the future hold for catswilleatyou?
MS: Oh, there are so many things I want to get into here. I’ve got an animated short film I’ll be releasing this fall. Here in Minnesota, we’ll be showing it with live musicians performing the soundtrack.
I’ve been playing around with making animation that works with my record player and a strobe light. So it’s like an IRL augmented reality experience, I’m going to expand on that with some 3D printing.
I need to spend some time on traditional painting and other mediums like that just because my online shop for that stuff has been cleaned out, and even though I love this tech stuff, there’s a special place in my heart for using my bare hands and no tech once in a while.
I’ll keep exploring VR and making little metaverse spaces. Obviously, I’ll keep on going with doing my daily posts of new work too.
MP: Do you have any favorite artists in the NFT space?
MS: I have so many, and it’s always changing. Recently I’ve really been into @stellabelle, @letsglitchit, @jrdscott, and @katecursed.
I’ve also been a huge fan of @ALCrego_ since before NFTs. And then a couple of young artists from Canada (@onderwish and @shindo3D) who helped me out a ton when I came to the NFT space, and I’m floored by their work
I’m leaving off so many artists I’m into. I’m sorry if you’re reading this, friends, I love you all so much. I swear. @stellabelle is my favorite this month, though, for sure. She’s killing it.