“It is an instant ride back to your childhood” — Amrit Pal Singh on using toys as a canvas

Léa Rose Emery
November 19, 2022
Commissioned by the likes of Netflix, Google, and Pinterest, Amrit Pal Singh is now making toys in web3.

One of web3’s most distinctive artists, Amrit Pal Singh turned his pandemic passion into a million-dollar set of art collections. The Indian creator speaks to Léa Rose Emery about turning his passion for Disney and Studio Ghibli into a full-time web3 endeavour.

Few artists make headlines for generating over $1 million in NFT sales — and even fewer would be committed to investing back into the community. But Amrit Pal Singh isn’t any artist. His Toy Faces have become iconic not only to NFT aficionados but also to art lovers and digital dwellers around the globe. And alongside creating a vast and engaging body of work, he has been growing his own collection with the same passion and sense of purpose that makes his signature style instantly recognisable. 

“I have been making art ever since I can remember,” Amrit explains, revealing that the initial draw came from a love of animated movies. “I was a huge Disney nerd and fell in love with Studio Ghibli. After that, my passion for history exposed me to art history and architecture.”

Whilst Amrit’s sales splashed over global headlines give the impression of instant success, apparent overnight success has come from a lifetime spent honing his skills. Alongside his own fascination with childhood nostalgia, Amrit also credits his years working in branding and design for helping him build the distinctive artistic identity that we recognise today. After film school he worked as a motion designer before building up an impressive client roster — including brands like Snapchat, Google, Netflix, Adobe, and Pinterest.

“I am one of those people who are more comfortable with a mouse than a pen.”

Amrit Pal Singh

“I started as a designer creating brand identities and digital products. It's a creative pursuit that is quite different from making art,” he says. “Making my art collection is highly self-expressive, whereas client projects have a strict brief.” But while client work may have come with limitations, Amrit's background in corporate design helped shape his approach to digital art, aiding him in creating a cohesive identity and a recognisable style. “I enjoy both and borrow a lot of practices from the design world for my own art, for example, building a brand of non-fungible toys and self-curating my work.”

Amrit's Toy Faces collection.

Digital art felt like a natural fit. “I am one of those people who are more comfortable with a mouse than a pen,” he explains. Already working on his Toy Faces collection when Covid arrived, having found that people were drawn to portraits and avatars, Amrit's collection found a more engaged audience during the pandemic as potential collectors sought new ways to represent themselves and be playful online.

“Everyone can relate to them.”

Amrit Pal Singh

After a friend mentioned that the collection might work well as NFTs, Amrit minted his first piece in February 2021. That moment marked an immediate change, not just in how his work was received as it spread around the world, but also in how Amrit perceived himself. “Before NFTs, I saw myself as an illustrator and designer; now, it's all about my art practice.” 

Most known for his Toy Faces and Toy Rooms collections —  both of which are “inspired by nostalgia and a sense of childlike wonder” — Amrit's work is wide-ranging and complete with depth. As with much of his signature style, the Toy Faces are deceptively complex. What initially look like simple, Lego-like portraits are used to capture much more. From a wizard to Charlie Chaplin, from Medusa to Malala Yousafzai, the faces feature legends, childhood favourites, heroes, and villains. In exploring his own passion for toys and animation, Amrit taps into a desire to be reconnected with another time.

“Like all kids, I was fascinated with toys; however, that fascination never faded,” he says. “I use toys almost as a canvas because it's universal, and everyone can relate to them. It is an instant ride back to your childhood.”

The urge to play with something so seemingly simple goes back before his Toy Faces. Buried in his extensive portfolio are 3D letterings — bold, impactful renderings with stunning typography. These were, in fact, the beginning of his 3D digital art journey.

“My love for 3D started with the lettering; letterforms are like canvases, and typographers are artists,” Amrit says. “I love typography and lettering; I wanted to see what I could do with it. I enjoyed making these so much that it led to me exploring what else I can do in 3D. So in a way, I owe it all to 3D lettering.”

Malala Toy Face by Amrit Pal Singh

Seeing what he could do with simple things drives Amrit — an innate curiosity and playfulness that propels him with huge velocity. And his explorative spirit comes into play with Toy Rooms, which would became of the first collections to drop on Foundation with a custom smart contract. 

“Web3 is all about community and culture, which I love.”

Amrit Pal Singh

But this series all began with a limitation that so many of us experienced: being confined to our homes during the pandemic. While many felt the pressure of the four walls that surrounded us, Amrit rediscovered his love of 3D art as he began to iterate other small rooms. From a hobbit’s study to Aladin’s cave, a simple room was transformed into something utterly charming and whimsical. In the limitation of a traumatic period, imagination and inspiration took hold. 

With such playful sensibility, it’s easy to see why Amrit has become such an important part of the web3 landscape. “Web3 is all about community and culture, which I love. From day one, it was an intersection of so many things I admire, like tech, art, and pop culture. It's amazing to make friends with aligned goals and actually build so much.”

“It's amazing to make friends with aligned goals and actually build so much.”

— Amrit Pal Singh

And Amrit's admiration is clearly more than just lip service — he’s made a conscious commitment to give back to web3, both as an avid collector and a promotor of artists. In Voxels (formerly CryptoVoxels) and other metaverses, Amrit has invested in virtual galleries and museums to display art of his own, alongside other artists he admires and has collected. His own collection is diverse and exciting, with a broad range of themes and creators. What draws him to collect a certain artwork or a certain artist? It appears to be a mix of personal taste and love for the artists themselves.

‘He's made a conscious commitment to give back to web3.’

“There are so many reasons I collect what I collect. I love colourful art and art that has a distinct style. I am obsessed with food art, so you will see a lot of it in my collection. I also love nature-inspired art and portraits,” he explains. “I research my artists a lot before collecting. I love artists who are active and trying hard, in addition to making great art.”

Supporting active artists also speaks to Amrit's contagious enthusiasm. In his own work, he consistently builds, repeats, traverses, and plays. And there’s no sign of him slowing down. Along with plans to do solo shows, experimenting with new mediums, and continuing to collaborate, Amrit is determined to keep growing and testing the limits of Toy Faces and Toy Rooms. “I want to push my existing collections and see what else I can do more. There is a lot to be explored.” 

A collection of Amrit's 3D Rooms.
A collection of Amrit's 3D Rooms.
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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.

Collaborators and honourable contributors: @AmritPalDesign