Why a designer for Apple and Justin Bieber turned to blockchain for the next step in his career

Steph Kunkel
August 30, 2022

Born to a technical botanical artist and a stained-glass window painter, Kidmograph has worked with the likes of Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and Apple, his digital art and 3D GIFs portraying futuristic and acid-inducing surrealism. He speaks to Steph Kunkel about experimenting with a plethora of mediums, his creative approach, and why NFTs are a much needed innovation.

Inspired by his drive to express universal feelings through a unique voice, Kidmograph produces art embedded in the untapped potential of human nature, with a forward-looking perspective on what humanity and the future can be. Heralding from La Plata, Argentina, the illustrator known as Gustavo Fernando Torres communicates his ideas through a variety of shapes, modes, and mediums — from AI and animation to 3D art, and various other ventures in digital art and visual effects, including music videos and production for Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera, Nas, Maroon 5, and The Weeknd.

Kidmograph's digital style blends the timeline with references from the past and inferences of the future, blurring the lines between time, reality, and the virtual world. Inspired by elements of science fiction and the ‘80s and ‘90s, he creates hyper-realistic artwork that evokes an alternative and dystopian feel; yet also a sense of nostalgia.

An artist from his roots and in his blood, Kidmograph grew up in a highly multi-disciplinary family. His father was a technical botanical artist, musician, painter, and graphic designer; his mother an illustrator, printer, and stained-glass artist. Having grown of age in that environment, he was never one for the traditional route. He dropped out of his undergraduate degree in painting and design in the late ‘90s, finding it to be “pointless and trivial”. In pursuit of a more liberated experience as a creator, he also quit “traditional art”, shortly after the turn of the century. “The traditional art scene is tainted by contacts, shallow connections, and biases. I really disliked that, and I felt that I was losing my time trying to fit into a deprecated system.”

Instead, Kidmograph immersed himself in the digital world, learning the software, diving into the ecosystem to find gigs online, and eventually producing work for the likes of Apple, Instagram, Adidas, and Gucci. He felt more comfortable in this world, which recognised his artistic talent and gave him a platform to build a name for himself, rather than for his clients. In the early 2000s, Kidmograph immersed himself in Tumblr and Instagram, creating GIFs, videos, and animations to showcase his work. As a digital-native, the step to NFTs was a natural one, given the opportunities for ownership, experimentation, and collaboration in web3. An avid researcher in the field and with a passion for learning new technologies, Kidmograph jumped into the space eager to learn more about the potential for blockchains and smart contracts to democratise the art world.

A frame from ENTER:BRAIN, which featured in an augmented reality NFT pop-up book, produced by Sutu.

Influenced by the background of old anime and the hand-style drawing, ENTER:BRAIN showcases the timeline of a single thought. As Kidmograph describes it, “the piece ‘activates’ once you put your phone camera over the illustration. The head opens up and the narrative starts.”

“I like to think of my art as a way to filter life.”

— Kidmograph

The AI turns to life for a moment, exhibiting the activation of the brain and thought. We see an animated and theatrical representation of human thought in the subconscious mind. Framed by the use of animation and technicolour, ENTER:BRAIN is a discourse on artificial intelligence and the evolution of human thought as a linear process. Maybe one day our thoughts will not be a clear, linear narrative, but, rather, an explosion of impromptu thoughts of varying stages of coherence, slowly collapsing and expanding on themselves, thought by thought, one on top of another.

“I like to think of my art as a way to filter life — I can’t think of a way where both art and life are not intertwined.” Kidmograph explains that, for him, art and life feed on one another; the ability to express himself through his artistic approach makes his days meaningful and worthwhile.

Despite his vibrantly upbeat and optimistic perspective, he admits to, like we all do, sometimes feeling mad, frustrated, lonely, sad, or angry. He believes that different techniques and approaches help us to express ourselves in a visual language. For Kidmograph, experimenting in art helps him find “new ways to exteriorise our feelings.” He describes this as a “mindfulness act,” tapping into his emotions through his artwork. “For several moments, I can forget everything and just do, just be,” he says.

Recognition Tunnel D37, by Kidmograph.

With over two decades of experience in digital art, Kidmograph primarily uses two generated modes for his creative process. The first method involves chasing what he describes as a “vague idea, feeling, or vision — something blurred and unclear in shape but strong in feeling.” This transitions into him sketching shapes and concepts and ultimately building the assets on his computer through different types of software, like Photoshop and Unreal Engine.

The second method is reliant on his vivid imagination. Here, Kidmograph has a clear and specific situation that is an already-completed artwork in his mind. The struggle is trying to recreate this vision into a finalised piece. “Sometimes it works, other times, not so well, but ‘serendipity’ often happens, meaning that I create something unexpected and different to what I had anticipated.”

Working in both traditional 2D illustration and animation, as well as 3D, involves the complex process of hand-drawn ideas, detailed scenes (particularly for 3D), and, for music videos, compositing. “I’m always interested in how things work and like to create everything from scratch when the budget and time permit.”

Kidmograph believes it is crucial for the web3 community to concentrate on the concepts of provenance and ownership in order to continue to build stability and community for artists of the future. “As a craftsman, I do love to work on several projects with many people around the world, and that will not change for me.” His experience — shared by artists of all mediums — of the battle for attribution and the devaluation of his work on the internet, is one he is keen to move away from.

“When we posted GIFs, or even videos, on Tumblr ten years ago, artists had to constantly fight about the uncredited posts, false attributions, and overall bad usage — it was an uphill battle. Web3 can be a potential fix for this, and though the economic aspect is not my first priority, of course, who doesn't want to earn 100 times more via digital currency after being underpaid for years?” He adds, “the web3 revolution is a big door for many people that didn’t have a space before, and lots of new artists are emerging.”

Always at the forefront of emerging technologies, Kidmograph is excited by how digital art is gaining attention in traditional galleries. Today he is shifting his focus to motion graphics, one of which includes a cartoon-type pilot based on his AREA collection on Nifty Gateway. As always, his other ambitions stretch across multiple mediums: a movie title credit, a retro-futuristic video game, and continuing to explore one of his most prominent interests — holograms and augmented reality — “as a way to get a closer experience between the art and the spectator.”

Kidmograph’s art acts as a portal, a bridge opening life and inspiration to the possibility of new worlds. He can see the world as it truly is in the present and the foresight into what the world could be. “I believe that we as human beings can connect through different ways of expression, regardless of geography, governments, or economic situations,” he suggests. “Art is a gathering point.”

“The web3 revolution is a big door for many people that didn’t have a space before, and lots of new artists are emerging.”

— Kidmograph

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Steph Kunkel
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Steph Kunkel is a US-based writer, choreographer, and brand/marketing specialist. She is an art enthusiast with a passion for all things creative. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, and dancing.

Collaborators and honourable contributors:

@KidMograph

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