How blockchain inspired Patrick Amadon to make digital art again – and make a dent in the world

Léa Rose Emery
September 1, 2022
“No artist needs to be a starving artist” — Patrick Amadon

Patrick Amadon began making glitch art over ten years ago, creating glitched versions of his own paintings and sharing them on Tumblr. In 2021, he saw that everything had changed in the digital art space, and jumped in. He speaks with Misan Harriman about the early days of glitch art, combing his political and aesthetic interests, and contributing to the dialogue. Léa Rose Emery tells the story.

“The first thing I did was on Tez, and when I first received something for it, I realised, ‘Wow, brave new world; we’re not in Kansas anymore.’” But NFTs are more than that, it’s also a brave new world that Patrick Amadon is helping to shape. The glitch artist has built a huge following, first in the early days of digital art and now in the NFT space.

Growing up in Los Angeles, “art was never really on the radar”, besides doodling and comic book sketches. But that changed in high school, in a dark room with a giant screen, through an inspirational art history teacher who Patrick only remembers as Mr. Silva. “It was the way he told stories, he was engaging — it was my first real experience diving into art, and I loved it.”

Although he felt drawn towards the study of art history, it wasn’t until after college with some paints and “one of those shared courtyards that every single Hollywood apartment has”, that he delved into making art with friends. Suddenly, the pieces fell into place. “Something just clicked in, this totally spontaneous event and it felt right. I went the next day, bought more paint and spiritually something just connected.” This was 2008, and soon he was studying YouTube tutorials, practising, and honing his skills. His early inspiration came from abstract artists like Gerhard Richter, before more political and social commentary began to inform his work.

Transient, by Patrick Amadon.

“I really love Banksy. I know it’s a popular one, but I really appreciated how most of his work is a commentary on something. I appreciate how he’s always needling and commenting on something out there. I think that element is something that I like to bring into art. It’s not purely aesthetic. It has to have a story. It has to have a purpose, it has to be contributing to the discussion, contributing to the dialogue.”

An early adopter of digital art, Patrick grasped the accessibility and dexterity of the sphere. He describes the arduous process of making oil paintings with layer upon layer, each taking a week or more to dry, and the limiting factor of time. “So I like digital art,” he laughs. And through digital art, he discovered the glitch aesthetic, which spoke to him both in theory and as a medium. Photoshop doesn’t need time to dry.

“It has to be contributing to the discussion, contributing to the dialogue.”

— Patrick Amadon

“I really liked it conceptually, from the idea that it’s corrupted,” he says. “And the older glitches too, you would go in and actually corrupt the image file itself. So opening up in a word pad and seeing a huge block of code, deleting a few lines until you get a really nice aberration in the actual image. So thematically, I liked it. Conceptually, I liked it, and I just started making glitched versions of my paintings.”

From 2012 to 2016, he was very active in the digital art community, finding his way to Tumblr, as many artists now active in the NFT space once did, including XCOPY and Max Capacity. But at that time, it was solely an exercise in creation, in curiosity, and in exploration.

“I mean, there was no path to money in digital art,” he explains. “It was purely just that I felt these were interesting. I liked making them and people seemed to respond well to them.” Despite his success and growing following, personal issues led to Patrick taking a step back from the art world in 2016. When he returned in December 2021, he found that the entire landscape had changed. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Wait, this thing that we've all just been doing for fun all this time: people actually figured out technology that allows you to make this into art that people can buy.’ I immediately just went fully down the rabbit hole of what an NFT is, smart contracts, all of it.” 

Patrick is humble about the fans and following he developed before his break, acknowledging that he had “a bit of momentum” from his previous digital art life that helped propel him into web3. But that same humility meant that he spent time listening and learning before delving in — and, perhaps most importantly, building a community. “I was reasonably early to the space and I just spent 12 to 14 hours a day getting to know everybody. I wasn’t minting anything at the time, other than a few things on Tezos, though that was more for fun.” 

For Patrick, the difference between web2 and web3 was immediately apparent. The SuperRare artist describes web2 as a “show me economy”, explaining, “you’re not engaging. You’re not having dialogue with people. What you’re doing is just showing them things that are interesting, and if they like it, they like it and they share it. Web3 is not the same: people are interested in connecting with you and building out a network, a web, and a community of people.” 

Those early days “felt very pure and good”, and he describes an “idyllic version of art in a decentralised community”. But he also witnessed how the monetisation and decentralisation allows artists to move away from traditional gatekeeping structures. How it allows both those who haven’t had an exposure to the traditional art world to dive in and develop a passion, while at the same time creating a space for artists to reap the benefits of the value of their work.

“Web3 is not the same: people are interested in connecting with you and building out a network, a web, and a community of people.”

— Patrick Amadon

“I think one of the most beautiful things about the space is that for creatives in general — art, music, photography — there’s been such strong structures built, to extract value from the creatives, that people have to just be a part of because they’re so established,” he says. “There’s no reason for an artist to be a starving artist. And there's so many myths around that whole thing that just make life miserable for being an artist.”

But while he’s “bullish about the direction we’re headed” in web3, he’s also acutely aware of the direction we need to travel in — and what we can learn from recent booms and busts. “I felt like there was a good case study and a good demonstration of the value of NFTs. The fact that people could create collectibles that people would then see value in, I think was interesting,” he says. “The downside? Call it monkey JPEG casino culture, right; people just purely gambling. I think that’s obviously unhealthy and so much of it was an unsustainable bubble, but it did introduce a lot of people to NFTs.” 

In a growing space teeming with excitement and expansion, he’s aware that it’s easy to “lose focus or just focus on yourself entirely” — an instinct it’s clear he has no interest in. Instead, he’s focused on expanding in the right ways, for everyone. 

In part, that means being an active liaison for newcomers to web3. He spends his Thursdays hosting web3 onboardings, meetups, and panels, though he admits he’s a “bit of a masochist” and happy to tackle questions and naysaying first-hand in pursuit of a wider goal. “The whole premise of everything we’re doing is community. So how you build that online and in real life.”

“There’s no reason for an artist to be a starving artist.”

— Patrick Amadon

While his role is partially spreading awareness, he’s also an active voice shaping the space. In the next five years he sees a shifting focus on AR (rather than VR), “seamlessly making that transition back and forth” between physician and digital art, but most importantly he sees that it’s crucial to remember the purpose and potential arena.

“I feel like it’s incumbent on the people that have a voice to help make this better. We’re helping people reclaim sovereignty in so many different ways with web3. Whether that’s just freedom from regulations, financial empowerment, responsibility with your wallet — I mean, all of these things are about giving people back power.”

1st St Bridge, by Patrick Amadon.

His own work is a reflection of that. After a bit of constructive criticism from Jerry Saltz, the American art critic, Patrick made the journey from abstracts to socially and politically motivated work.

“Jerry said, ‘You know, this is pure zombie formalism. You need to, uh, you need to start over,’” Patrick recalls. “I just really appreciated the viewpoint; I thought about it and I knew that he was right. There were things about my art that I feel like I just hadn’t accepted yet. I always knew it could go in a different direction. I just didn’t know which direction that was, but I knew it was missing something.” 

Soon, he expanded to pieces on the early days of the Syrian conflict, on the attack on Boris Nemstov, on Ferguson, Missouri. No longer was his interest in political and social justice separate from his art — he combined them, making his art a vehicle for awareness and change. And in this way, he sees the space as not only helping artists gain exposure and feel valued, but also as a place that can elevate voices and causes from around the globe. He’s working on a project with OutRight International to help raise awareness for LGBT issues, and sees these larger social causes as the true potential of web3. And these wider goals are clearly never far from his mind, as he’s ready to push the space in that direction. 

“A lot of people around the world come up with a way to sustainably support their families via art,” he says. “But obviously there’s so much more work to do. So we can’t lose focus on that.”

An excerpt from WAGMI, by Patrick Amadon.
An excerpt from WAGMI, by Patrick Amadon.
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Léa Rose Emery
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Léa is an American writer, editor, broadcaster, and presenter based in London. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, The Huffington Post, WhatWeSeee, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Teen Vogue, and The Daily Dot. She is working on her first book.