Transcript: E07 noCreative — Finding Your Scenius, Texture as Artistic Subject, and How Achieving Realism Makes for Better Surrealism

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Read the Show Notes

The article “Digital Scenius and Your Creative Career: Wisdom from noCreative” inspired by this conversation, can be read here

Brady Walker: All right, here we are. Kristian, welcome.

noCreative: Thank you.

Brady Walker: It’s great to see you. My first question is about the origin of your Web3 name, noCreative, sometimes noCreativeAbode. Where did that come from and why did you drop the ‘abode’?

noCreative: I did drop the abode. I can’t drop it on Instagram because you can’t just change your name there like you can on Twitter. It came about when I transitioned into 3D. I started off as a photographer, then became a high-end researcher for 13 years, and then slowly transitioned into 3D. When I was transitioning, I created a new Instagram account and I didn’t know what my creative goal or home was, so I came up with the name noCreative Home. But it was taken, so I had to find a synonym for home and I used ‘abode’. Then Web3 came around and I found my home. So, I dropped the ‘abode’ and it became noCreative instead. That’s why I’m noCreative now.

Brady Walker: What prompted the move from photography to 3D?

noCreative: 3D has always been a passion and an interest of mine. I remember as a kid, watching shows about people using 3D effects, but I was never able to get the results without having an actual render firm and understanding the render engines. It was similar to my transition from photography to retouching. I’m more of a technical person. I love taking photos, but the competition was fierce. I was really good at retouching, and the competition there was less severe. People started asking me to help them edit their photos, and I started making money that way. The same happened with 3D. My friend introduced me to a render engine, and I realized that I could achieve what I wanted on a basic computer setup. It was like a photo studio, only I could control the sun and create a mountain if I wanted. A competing retouching studio saw my Instagram and asked me to start a department at their studio. I’m still working there full time, and I’m doing NFTs on the side.

Brady Walker: I’m curious to know how being a color grader trained your attention. Are there any meta skills that you developed as a result of this practice? Your 3D work’s colors are very cinematic. There’s a Kodachrome kind of vibe…

noCreative: Yeah.

Brady Walker: Maybe you can talk a little bit about how your attention shifts when you are a color grader.

noCreative: It’s so ingrained into how I do everything now, because that’s what I did with retouching. We are a Nordic retouching studio, so we didn’t do the over-beautifying of women. We often said stop to the client when it was no longer human. Our real focus was getting that filmic look, like the old Kodak look. As we move further away from analog, everything becomes too perfect. So, we would use old film cameras and take pictures of walls to use the grain that was in the film medium. Those same techniques, I apply to my 3D images. Most of the time in 3D, we had to develop a feeling like a summer campaign needing to be warm, light, and welcoming. A lot of my stills revolve around a feeling and colors are a great medium to express those feelings.

Brady Walker: You also write short little poems to accompany each piece. Do the poems exist separately or does it come after?

noCreative: They come during the piece because, like the colors, they emphasize what I want to express with these pieces. My work often takes several weeks to create, where I keep going back and forth, trying to hit that expression and feeling I’m going for. While I’m doing monotonous tasks, like painting a wall or modeling a balustrade, I think about the poems and they come into existence that way. I keep a Google Doc next to me where I type in my ideas and thoughts.

Brady Walker: Can you tell me about your interest in architecture? It’s a prominent feature in your work, and you’ve showcased different regions like Japan, Europe, and the Middle East.

noCreative: When I was a kid, my dad would often visit churches or grand buildings when we went on vacation. Not that we were religious, but he had a particular interest in these awe-inspiring buildings like churches, mosques, and minarets. My dad’s aunt lived in Copenhagen and she was the cultural person in my family. She would take me to museums and I would have the same awe-inspiring experience walking into these grand halls with paintings hanging on the walls. It stems back to me as a kid and the feelings those experiences gave me. Now, I do what my dad did. I walk into churches whenever I get the chance, and I love going to museums whenever I’m abroad. I was very inspired by the Met in New York, and you might see a piece that’s inspired by it at some point, same with the Louvre in Paris.

Brady Walker: Yeah, the Met is definitely awe-inspiring.

noCreative: It’s a beautiful building.

Brady Walker: I have great memories of the Met. Walking in and being there for maybe about three hours, then realizing it takes you another hour and a half to find your way out of the actual building.

noCreative: I actually got lost several times.

Brady Walker: So, I was reading an interview you did with NFT Culture, and you described yourself this way: “I make 3D-based art with an emphasis on an exploration of architecture, art history, and the radical movement of fabric suspended in weightlessness.” In another interview, you referred to yourself as “tapestry boy.” Can you tell me about your fascination with what has become your signature, these bolts of fabric floating in air and other pieces of clothing occasionally?

noCreative: That fascination goes all the way back to me being a photography student. As a student, all you want to do is take pictures, be it of people, buildings, landscapes, or whatever interests you. Back then, I was fascinated by empty spaces and magic realism. I would go to abandoned places like old factories in Copenhagen or parking lots with a friend, and have them toss a bedsheet in the air for me to capture. We would do this over and over until they couldn’t do it anymore.

I had the same fascination with waves. I remember once taking about 600 pictures of waves in a single day. My girlfriend at the time had to drag me away from the coast.

When I transitioned into 3D, one program that really fascinated me was Houdini, which allows you to create a wind system. I could simulate how wind would affect something like a sheet. Unless I need to do something really controlled, like making something go in a circle, there’s always something unpredictable that happens. It’s similar to the way the sea slug (the Spanish dancer, aka nudibranch) in my piece “Synthetic” almost falls apart at the end, but then comes together again and looks behind the glass. I don’t know if that fully explains it, but I’m just fascinated by the way fabric moves in space, even though I’m simulating it all the time in 3D.

Brady Walker: Looking across your body of work, the cloth pieces are quite dominant due to their unique vision. However, looking more broadly, I see texture as really your subject matter rather than any specific narrative or characters. I notice this particularly in your overgrown building pieces like the “Gardener” or the “Feather” series with pieces like “Canary.” Can you speak to this obsession with texture, and are there other artists with a similar focus who inspire you?

noCreative: Like the cloth, the focus on texture originates from my days as a retoucher, working extensively with fashion. Ensuring the right feel of dresses was crucial when retouching for high-end clothing brands. The texture had to be perfect, and the colors spot on, because that’s all the designers care about.

There are many 3D artists who strive to simulate the real world so accurately that it’s hard to distinguish between their work and reality. Nowadays, AI is quite proficient at this. But I add elements that make my work undeniably unreal. For example, with “Canary,” I originally intended to make a rock out of bird feathers, but they became more like hair. The concept was to create something that appeared real but absolutely wasn’t.

The same process applies to my cloth pieces. I create a room, making it look as real as possible, then I introduce some cloth, freezing it in place to float around. After that, I add the color grading and heavily modify the colors to emphasize the magic and the difference from reality.

Brady Walker: You’ve mentioned magical realism, and I’m curious about cinema and its influence on your work. Given that you’re from Scandinavia, which has a rich cinematic history, and you’ve studied Japanese culture, does this affect your art? For instance, one of your significant photographic inspirations is Hiroshi Sugimoto. Do you have any specific influences concerning cinema?

noCreative: I’m a huge fan of cinema, especially movies that are a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, I could watch John Wick repeatedly, but I also enjoy movies like Tar. I also appreciate Dog Will by a Danish director, whose name eludes me right now. Cinematic influences have always inspired me, just like books. I draw ideas from them for my experiments. I’ve never been particular about the language of the film, be it Danish, English, French, Korean, or Thai. I’ve watched films from all over the world, and just like with music and books, anything that surprises me or does things differently piques my interest. This is probably why my artworks differ from most others.

Brady Walker: Speaking of Hiroshi Sugimoto, your series “Nature as Object” seems to echo his dioramas. It’s quite a departure from your usual work. Could you talk about the origin of this series and your intentions with it?

noCreative: This series is indeed a breakaway. To start from the beginning, this was my first mint, on Megasplays, just a few days after I was accepted there. I minted the series “Nature as an Object,” which came from the notion that humans tend to objectify nature. We’re focused on certain species, like lions, giraffes, and pandas, while thousands of others are going extinct unnoticed every day. The idea behind “Nature as an Object” was a future where you’d have to visit a museum to see an actual plant. This concept is similar to my piece “Synthetic,” where the underlying message is our dwindling opportunity to see creatures like dancing sea slugs due to worsening ocean conditions.

Many of my works stem from these thoughts. You’ll often see trees encroaching into abandoned human spaces in my work, symbolizing nature’s return. My interest lies in the relationship between humans and nature, and I hope my work provokes thought about our actions towards this planet.

Brady Walker: We’ve discussed your visual influences, but when it comes to your animated pieces, are there any specific inspirations for your sound design? Do you handle the sound design yourself?

noCreative: Absolutely. In pieces like “Roots,” created for Neil for the curation at the Beijing Contemporary Exhibition, I aimed to capture the essence of a place from my childhood in Denmark. It’s a barren landscape, almost desert-like but with distinctive flora. The visual elements reflect this, with nature encapsulated and boxed in as if humans have encroached upon it. The sound design complements this, combining a classical music piece slowed down by 7,000% with the natural sounds I recorded at that location, such as leaves rustling and birds chirping.

Brady Walker: That’s fascinating. How do you decide whether a piece will be animated or still from a creative process perspective?

noCreative: It’s a complex decision. Animated pieces often have a more immediate impact on people, but they’re also a lot more work. I tend to simplify the designs for animations because of this. To be frank, I have a love-hate relationship with animating. I’m a perfectionist, so fixing mistakes in animation takes much more time than in still images. For example, perfecting the loop in “Enroute” took an immense amount of time and manual retouching. So, if I feel like enduring some pain, I opt for an animation.

Brady Walker: We briefly touched upon AI during our meeting at NFT NYC. Today, Bloom Collective is curating an AI exhibit that Maker’s Place is hosting. Could you elaborate on your use of AI in your creative process?

noCreative: AI greatly speeds up my creative process. In fact, I’ve largely moved away from Pinterest and now mainly use AI to generate the initial sketch for a piece. For example, an upcoming piece of mine on Maker’s Place was entirely inspired by three or four prompts from an AI app. The app not only helps with the initial idea but also with textures. For instance, in the piece “Estranged,” I used AI to create a custom fresco for a depiction of a Danish church. This removes the need for stock images, eliminating any potential issues with usage rights. I’ve been integrating AI more and more into my workflow, and it’s proven to be a powerful tool.

Brady Walker: Can you tell me a bit about the Bloom Collective? How did it come about, and how does it function?

noCreative: We all ventured into Web3 around late 2020 or early 2021, and met through Twitter. I recall hosting a “Show Me Your Art” thread, as a means to see what would stick—I only had 24 followers when I started. Artists like Shavonne Wong, Stephan Duquesnoy, Ben Thomas, and Icki, among others, began to engage. We started chatting, but Twitter wasn’t the best platform for communication. So, I created a Discord channel called Home for us, which led to the idea of forming a collective. However, we didn’t officially create the collective until a year later. I wanted to ensure these were individuals serious about their craft, who knew how to network and were keen to push the space forward.

Bloom Collective consists of passionate individuals who want to push themselves, each other, and the broader community forward. We hold weekly meetings to discuss opportunities and current projects. If a member gets an opportunity but doesn’t have the capacity to take it on, they share it within the collective. We also help each other with various projects. It’s a way to push each other forward and provide support, given the multifaceted role of an artist in the Web3 space—creating art, promoting, networking, managing finances, and more.

Brady Walker: You’ve mentioned Twitter as a key platform where you found like-minded artists and honed your networking skills. Given that you started with only 24 followers, can you share your thoughts on artists marketing themselves and building a supportive network?

noCreative: The idea of branding and marketing being a “dirty word” in the artist world is, in my opinion, a romantic lie. Art has always been a commercial venture. Growing a community on Twitter is challenging, and consistency is crucial. The most important approach is to add value to others and help without expecting anything in return. That’s how I built my follower base and network. Understand the Twitter algorithm—it cares about consistency. Be ready to adapt because the platform can change at any time.

Brady Walker: It seems like staying adaptable is key in this fast-paced world.

noCreative: Absolutely, we always have to stay on our toes.

Brady Walker: I’d like to ask about your piece, Devéloppé, which is one of my favorites, and according to a previous interview, one of yours as well. Seeing Edgar Degas’s work as a child was a transformative experience for me, and when I saw Devéloppé, I immediately thought of Degas. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind this piece and why it’s so special to you?

noCreative: This piece is a merging of the world of ballet, as depicted by Degas, and fashion. Degas had a peculiar fascination with ballet dancers, often painting the same scene repeatedly with hidden elements. Like Degas, I enjoy incorporating little things into my works, like cables, which I used to remove as a retoucher. As for Devéloppé, the idea was to portray ballet dancers without the dancers because in ballet, everything except the dance itself is interchangeable. The tutus floating around without the girls was my interpretation of the essence of ballet—it’s about the dance, not the dancer.

Brady Walker: Fascinating. Now, I want to ask something that our artist audience might find helpful. Do you have any rituals or practices that help you maintain your creative momentum?

noCreative: I gather inspiration from all around—books, movies, other artists on Twitter, and more. The beauty of our time is that we are exposed to so much creativity daily. As for my creative process, it involves a lot of contemplation. I currently have about 20 pieces in my head, just waiting to be created when I find the time. In the last 15 years, my professional life has trained me to be creative on command. Even on bad days, I had to deliver, materialize ideas, and create something beautiful. Now, I have the freedom to work with 3D, where clients often give me a description and let me do my thing. To those experiencing a creative block, I’d say, accept it, do something else, and let the ideas naturally come to you. In art, you have the luxury to do so, unlike in a traditional nine-to-five job.

Brady Walker: On the flip side, you mentioned having at least 20 ideas in your head for future pieces. Considering a single piece could take two to four weeks, how do you concentrate on one idea without being distracted by others?

noCreative: When I start working, everything else disappears. It’s like meditation for me. I often find myself engrossed in one project at a time, which might seem more like an obsession than a passion.

Brady Walker: What’s on the horizon for your art? Any surprises in the coming year?

noCreative: I wouldn’t say surprises. I’ve found my artistic home. I enjoy creating beautiful spaces and integrating elements like cloth into them. My work as a lead 3D at a studio lets me explore different ideas every day. So, even though I’d like to engage in more collaborations, I don’t anticipate a significant shift in my art. It’s my meditation, my comfort zone.

Brady Walker: Looking back on your journey, is there any advice you would give your 20-year-old self about creativity, making a life in art, and finding your place in it?

noCreative: It’s a profound question. However, I firmly believe that I am who I am because of my experiences. Sometimes, it simply takes time to become who you’re meant to be. So, I would probably just observe my younger self, have a laugh, and continue on my path.

Brady Walker: Kristian, it’s been a delight to chat with you and have my questions answered. We have to wrap up, but where can our listeners learn more about you and follow your work?

noCreative: I’m primarily active on Twitter. You can reach me at noCreative_ETH—I respond to everyone, even the scammers, albeit not so nicely. So, if you’re interested in my work, that would be the place

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