Why a Game of Thrones and Disney illustrator is building his new portfolio on the blockchain

Steph Kunkel
August 18, 2022

Best known for drawing Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne, Marc Simonetti is an exceptionally diverse concept artist, with Aladdin, Aquaman, and Transformers amongst the classics on his resume. Yet it is in web3 where Marc has found the freedom to fully explore his creativity. He speaks to Steph Kunkel about creating magical worlds that we have never seen before.

Growing up, Marc Simonetti describes himself as “the kid that was always drawing.” He originally studied as an engineer, but decided to apply this perspective in the arts world, studying at the Emile Cohl School in Lyon, named after Emile Cohl, father of animated cartoon. Marc quickly established himself as a concept artist, working on visual effects and illustration for studios like Marvel and Disney, novels like Game of Thrones (he drew the original Iron Throne for George RR Martin), and even artwork for video games and theme parks.

While working full-time on films, Marc saw his friends succeeding in the web3 space and was naturally very curious, thinking that it could provide him with fresh air and the freedom to further expand his skillset. Upon entering web3 in 2020, Marc has since developed his fine art practice, merging traditional art, music, animation, and storytelling techniques to produce thought-provoking questions about the world we live in, through his artwork.

Marc changed his philosophy on art after hearing a quotation from his friend, Sylvain Desprez, “If it’s a commission, you’re not a true artist”. He now defines his ‘Commissioned art’ as art that he is paid for, and his web3 and NFT work as his ‘Fine Art.’ This distinction emphasises Marc’s perspective on what it means to be an artist and creates a division between these concepts. Marc says “you can’t compare fine art progression to a normal or commissioned job,” as he believes that the two should be viewed and treated separately.

For a traditional job or commissioned artwork, Marc has to recreate the vision of someone else, instead of following his inspiration wherever it leads him. Web3 and NFTs allow Marc the freedom to explore and do what he loves the most — experiment with crazy perspectives and architectural elements with no restraints —, supported by a community built around him and his art, rather than a corporate client. Through his artwork, Marc reacts to the society that we are living in with elegant techniques to share his storytelling and creativity with his audience.

A frame of I Miss You. The animation is about the process of memory and how we idolise those who we have lost. “When we're separated from someone, only a fragment of this beloved memory remains, twisted, magnified and echoed, making a beautiful abstract object of the mind.”

Marc enjoys his experience with web3, meeting and discovering new people, and the ability to be fully responsible for his own work with no constraints. He is also attracted to the raw energy in the space and how excited everyone is to contribute — it has a huge impact on his professional and artistic work.

I Miss You is inspired by the late Russian-American novelist, Vladimir Nabokov: “I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.” Like most of Marc’s work, it embeds his own past in a surrealist experience — when you are stuck in a memory, trying to send a message to a loved one, trying to figure your way through to it. The protagonist in this piece is trying to send a message to someone, though it never arrives. “It’s very interesting how memory works, you always seem to remember the same memories,” Marc says, adding “when we're separated from someone, only a fragment of this beloved memory remains, twisted, magnified and echoed, making a beautiful abstract object of the mind.”

Tower of Babel, by Marc Simonetti. “This myth questions so many topics: the relationships between humans, the social role of language and the power of a community.”

The human experience with memory is almost akin to a one-sided conversation; the person we are remembering, whether alive or passed, has their own experience with this memory, though the events have already happened and are engraved in the past. The moment remains distilled in time — until Marc’s artwork breathes animation, vitality, and depth into them, recreating these experiences, and bringing your memories to life again.

Marc’s creative process is constantly changing and evolving, shifting to fit the project that he is currently working on. Beyond his surrealist work in NFTs, in a given week, Marc may be working on a cute Disney character, the next superhero for Marvel, or backgrounds for a sci-fi film. He strongly believes “if you only have one creative process, you are trapped in it.” Pouring himself into his artwork, Marc wants viewers to connect with the piece on a meaningful level. His art bridges the gap between the real and fantastical, the darkness and light, and paves a path to human connection.

“If you only have one creative process, you are trapped in it.”

— Marc Simonetti

Although his process changes often, typically Marc sculpts pieces in VR, building it layer by layer. “It’s almost like building a sandcastle,” he says, starting with an empty universe and slowly building and stacking details on top of one another. Inspired by his love for architecture and his engineering background, Marc loves playing with the foregrounds and backgrounds to create visually appealing spaces full of dimensions, depth, and detail. He is transfixed by staircases, cliffs, mountains, and other modes that help you get from one place to another, and simulate movement — he says that this helps him to build worlds based on reality. Marc uses elements and references from the real world that resonate with him to create complex compositions, encompassing small details that invite us to fully immerse ourselves and engage with this new world that he has created.

Aftermath, by Marc Simonetti, inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animator, and an image that Marc saw of a tractor pulling a tank in Ukraine. Marc says, “life sometimes has its ways to show complete disrespect to symbols of destruction and turn them into mundane objects to build on.”

When he reflects on the purpose of his art, Marc summarises, “I want to leave a positive impact.” He believes art is fundamental for humans and is interested in capturing human nature and cultural influences that reflect society. “Artists have a responsibility to share with the world,” he says, using artwork as a vessel for others to address societal concerns and disparities. Marc wants the rich and poor, the young and old, anyone from around the world, to confront his artwork and evolve their perspective on life, by giving people the freedom to think about the endless possibilities of the world that we are currently in.

Marc is currently focused on developing a series of strong female characters; his upcoming piece, ‘Boucledor’, drops on Nifty Gateway next month. He wants to continue to explore the sentiment and storytelling of family and the idea of trying to find someone along their journey, in the right place, at the right time, at the right moment.

“When you connect more with the piece, you connect more with me.”

— Marc Simonetti

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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.

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