In an interview with Brady Walker, digital artist Andreas Lilja details his artistic journey and approach. Lilja’s path started in the mid-1980s, using an Amiga 500 and Deluxe Paint software to create pixel art. Recently, Lilja minted his childhood art as NFTs as he introduced his son to blockchain technology.
Lilja’s work explores contrasts: dark, dystopian themes versus peaceful landscapes, reflecting his mood and interest in life’s extremes. He notes a series of dystopian works that illustrate this exploration. Lilja discusses the challenges of pricing in the crypto art space and takes a patient approach when facing creative blocks. He shares advice for his younger self: believe in oneself, prioritize simplicity, and stay true to one’s vision.
See Lilja’s latest MakersPlace Drop >> Glitch
Brady Walker: When did you first start making digital art, and what kind of art was it?
Andreas Lilja: In the mid-1980s, I made my first attempts to create art using digital tools. I was fascinated by the graphics in the games we played, even though they were relatively simple back then. I wanted to learn how to create my own images, so I used my Amiga 500 and a software called Deluxe Paint. At first, it was a lot of trial and error before I could create an image that even remotely resembled what I had in mind. Often, I had to build the image pixel by pixel. I created art that reflected my interests at that age, such as fantasy, music, and computers. I even made some simple animations with sound, which by today’s standards might seem basic, but back then I was really proud of what I had accomplished. Unfortunately, I do not have any work from that time saved.
BW: You’ve minted a lot of child artwork. Is that your own from childhood, or is it from a kid in your life?
AL: Yes, that all started when I showed my son some of my artworks and explained what NFTs were. He got interested and wanted to learn more, and even try to create some of his own. However, like most teenagers, his interest faded quickly, and he moved on to other things.
During our conversation about art, I also showed him some of the paintings I had made during my own childhood, and we compared them to the ones he had made at a similar age. It was a really interesting and fun experience to look back at those old creations. I found it particularly fascinating to interpret what we were trying to depict back then, given the benefit of hindsight.
The decision to mint them as NFTs was twofold: firstly, I believe they could be of interest to others, as they represent my first steps into creativity; and secondly, I like the idea that they will live on forever on the blockchain.
BW: Tell me about the piece, “Identity Lost.” It’s your profile picture, so I assume it must have some significance, and that face often recurs in your work.
AL: You’re right, it all began with my thoughts about our place in the world we currently live in. Questions such as whether everything is truly as we believe it to be, or if we’re merely living in an illusion that reflects what we imagine is reality. Could it be that we are nothing more than strings of code in a vast artificial creation that goes beyond our imagination? The image, or the face, is an early AI-generated image that I reworked to create something solid that I could use in various creations that explore my thoughts on this subject.
BW: What are your primary tools and techniques for creating your work?
AL: My primary devices for creating are my phone and tablet. I never use my computer, except for technical adjustments such as video conversion or resolution changes. When creating, I prefer to use my fingers as much as possible, although I do use a pen occasionally for working on small details. As for software, I use essential tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
However, in addition to those, I like to experiment and explore every app or software that catches my interest and can fulfill my artistic needs. I often use software in ways that may not have been intended, but this approach allows me to find new and exciting ways to create the artwork that I envision. I also enjoy incorporating analog techniques like stop motion and photography into my work.
BW: Your recent work uses AI in addition to your signature animation style. Were you creating your own base imagery beforehand? If not, what sources were you remixing?
AL: The base for my artworks is quite diverse, ranging from other artists’ work used in collaborations to compilations of my photos or stop-motion clips I’ve arranged. I also use bits of old vintage commercial adverts or machinery manuals, reassembled into something entirely new, as a base to build upon.
Occasionally, I will create an analog painting as the base and blend it with other elements to create an interesting starting point. Ultimately, the base for my artwork varies depending on what I want to create at any given time.
BW: You do a lot of collaborating. What makes for a good collaboration?
AL: Yes, I really enjoy collaborating with other artists to create something unique together. For me, a good collaboration is all about having fun and finding synergy with another creative person who shares the same passion for creating as me. Through collaborations, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and interesting artists in the NFT community, which has helped me to evolve my art and generate new ideas. It’s been a great way to not only create impressive pieces of art but also build relationships with other creatives.
BW: What have been some of your favorite collaborations?
AL: First of all, I must say that every collaboration I have done has been really interesting in its own way, and it’s hard to choose just a few. However, the early ones will always be special as that was a unique time in the NFT space, and I learned a lot about collaborating.
One of my first collaborations was with Greg Fuit on an animation of his fantastic artwork Drekkar, resulting in the collaborative artwork “Drekkar – The Niflheim Edition”. This was followed by “Resetting” and “The Actuator”, which is my personal favorite collaboration with Greg. I love how it turned out.
Another great favorite of mine is “The Saviour”, which is one of a series of three that I did in collaboration with Mar e. This was one of the most fun collaborations I’ve ever done, and I still feel happy when I see it. It’s a sweet and happy piece.
“The Chairman of Chaos”, which I did with Federico Paoli, is really as crazy as intended and as awesome as ever.
The pieces I did with Kitty Bast are beautiful, and I really enjoyed working on “The Awakening”. It still moves me to watch it.
And of course, there’s “Erase”, which was both a real challenge and a fun project to work on. First, we had a beautiful song by Isaria and then an equally beautiful portrait by Nika Danny. My vision was to combine those and give life to that combination. There was much to learn and much to try, but in the end, we created something truly unique.
There are many collaborations that I want to mention, such as the absolute joy of working with Dunja Jung and her fantastic artworks, Nadiia, Fan Chen, Glen, Peter Mohrbacher, Ruslan, Anonymous Nobody – all of these fantastic artists, personalities, and artworks.
Lastly, I cannot forget to mention a truly unique collaborative creation that was by far the most challenging so far – “Remembrance of a Withered Love”. It is a collaboration incorporating six artists (Mar e, hairofmedusa, Greg Fiut, Dunja Jung, NikaDanny, and myself). This was a challenge that lasted almost a year, as we had to forge all the pieces together, giving every artist their part in the artwork and the story it unveils. Combining it all into a whole was a fantastic journey and a challenge that gave us so much experience and joy to be a part of.
BW: You toggle quite a bit between dystopian or otherwise dark imagery and social commentary on one hand and idyllic peaceful landscapes on the other. Where’s the balance point? When do you feel compelled to do one versus the other? Is it something other than purely what mood you’re in?
AL: Well, mood is certainly one major factor that influences what I create, but I believe it goes deeper than that. I have always been fascinated by the diversity of life, including the interplay between happiness and sorrow, creativity and depression, black and white, and positive and negative. I believe that one cannot fully appreciate beauty without also having experienced its opposite, and that one cannot understand the importance of light without having experienced total darkness. It’s all about finding a balance in life. For example, if I create a piece that is really dystopian and depressing, I often start working on something that opposes that, in order to create some kind of balance in my mind.
BW: I quite like your pieces No. 2 – Manufacturing, No. 4 – Selection, and No. 5 – Equipping, but I wasn’t able to find Nos. 1 & 3 in what I guess is a series. What’s the story with these pieces?
AL: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy them. There is actually a Part 1 (Momentum) and Part 3 (Initiates) in this series, with three more parts still to be minted (Parts 6, 7, and 8). It’s a story that takes place in a dystopian world, with the story unfolding as you progress from the first artwork to the last, moving through stages of selection and equipping until the ultimate goal is revealed in the final part. These are some of my earlier works where I experimented with various techniques and animations to create the particular mood that I was striving for.
BW: You tend to bounce around styles quite a bit. What do you think ties all of your work together, if anything?
AL: Well… I suppose I could be considered an all-around artist, as I enjoy trying new ideas and techniques all the time, not only in digital art and NFTs. One thing that ties my work together, at least to some extent, is a constant exploration of light and darkness, unexpected turns, and a feeling of unpredictability regarding what my next art project will result in. As a collector, I understand that this may be both intriguing and confusing, but in the end, it will all come together to form a cohesive whole.
BW: Having been in the crypto art space for a while, can you offer any advice to newer crypto artists about pricing?
AL: No, not really. You know, there’s a common challenge for most artists, and it’s the valuation of their creations. It’s easy to measure time in money, but it’s much more difficult to place a value on creativity and talent. I believe it’s important to consider how much compensation you’d need for the separation of a creation that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and then find a balance between what your wallet and artistic mind agree on.
BW: How does frustration manifest in your creative practice? How do you overcome it?
AL: When I get stuck, I leave the project to rest. Inspiration always has its ups and downs, and there is no point in forcing creativity when it fades. In my experience, I often find new inspiration in things I see or hear, which leads to my mind spinning with new ideas. Eventually, the ideas begin to flow back into the project I was working on. It can take time, but creativity always returns naturally. The key is to avoid forcing it.
BW: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self about art and creativity?
AL: I would say that you don’t necessarily need to do what people expect you to do. Instead, believe in yourself and your work, keep it simple and true to your vision, and you will eventually find the key to your very own artistic style.