What happens when you invite a dozen professional artists — writers, game designers, painters, illustrators, filmmakers, musicians — to work together under one roof for three days of ideation, collaboration, and creation? We wanted to find out.
The Cellarius team just wrapped up CELLCON Ø, our inaugural content jam. We couldn’t be happier with the way things emerged.
The event was inspired by DevCon, the Ethereum Developer Conference, which brings the community together for a few days of education, development, and work. In the spirit of the collaborative, open-source nature of the Ethereum project, those in-person meetings are important for relationship-building and aligning shared visions in a globally dispersed, digital community. We envisioned a similar gathering, but with the goal of producing original content for our universe.
We recruited a group of incredible artists to get on board with the Cellarius project and join us from far and wide for a long weekend in the rolling hills just outside Nashville, Tenn. We had complete faith in the abilities and imaginations of the creators we’d assembled, who do everything from writing and directing films, to publishing acclaimed novels, to storyboarding major video games, to painting book covers, to illustrating comics, to designing iconic characters we all know and love.
On the first night, the CX team shared an overview of our vision for the Cellarius Universe, Blockpunk style, and an introduction to blockchain and decentralization. (Bringing creatives and non-technologists to the ideas and possibilities of blockchain technology is at the core of the CX mission.)
Many of the CellCon artists are used to working in legacy media organizations, where they receive a lot of top-down guidance about the stories they’re commissioned to create. Our working model is all about freedom, opting in, following one’s passions, and working together, so we invited the creators to self-organize into small groups and spend the next two days making the stories they wanted to make.
To our delight, the artists ran with our free-form encouragement and immediately started exchanging sketches and ideas. After a few hours of conversation, four groups formed almost effortlessly and began building four unique stories inspired by the CX Universe Guide. They spent the rest of the weekend bringing them to life.
Somewhere between the big group breakfasts and the 4 a.m. conversations about everything from childhood, to quantum entanglement, to religion, to martial arts, to board games, four inspiring, impressive, and incredibly different stories emerged. They center around distinct time periods in the CX universe, entirely different factions and geographical locations, and wonderfully diverse heroines and heroes. From the Cellarius team’s perspective, it is impossible to overstate how much we already love these stories and how excited we are that the CX universe resonated with experienced and talented artists, who are already making it their own.
We were also excited that the team of creators understood deeply the ethos of the community and the platform we hope to build together. They took the freedom to ideate and collaborate and ran with it. They self-organized beautifully, and great work emerged without hierarchical controls or rigid parameters. The artists also shared with us their insights on the occasional challenges of doing creative work for big media franchises. They expressed enthusiasm for the promise of shaping new models for artist credit, copyright, content remixing, and open-source education. We couldn’t have asked for a better first event, nor a better response from artists we respect and admire.
We look forward to sharing the CELLCON stories and more details about their collaborative creation in the coming weeks. But first, meet the amazing contributors.
We were fortunate to host the following creators at CELLCON Ø. In no particular order:
- Iain McCaig divides his energies between a lifelong love of storytelling, and a passionate belief that everyone in the world can learn to draw. Originally a Sesame Street animator and the artist behind Jethro Tull’s “Broadsword and the Beast” cover, Iain has now spent almost three decades in the entertainment industry, helping create movie icons like Darth Maul, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, the Hulk, “Mad-Eye” Moody, Mowgli, and more. He has several other lives as a screenwriter, author, producer, director, teacher, mentor, husband, and father. In 2014, he received the Spectrum Fantastic Art Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement, even though he’s pretty sure he’s just getting started. For a mostly full list of film work, visit his IMDB page.
- Alex de Campi is an Eisner- and Bram Stoker-award nominated writer of comic books and novels. Her next book is the noir Bad Girls, coming from Simon & Schuster in July, and then the Ghost in the Shell anthology from Kodansha in the autumn. Currently in shops, she has Twisted Romance from Image Comics, Judge Dredd from 2000AD, Taarna from Heavy Metal, and Astonisher from Lion Forge. She also occasionally directs music videos. She lives in New York City with her daughter and a dog.
- Christian Gossett was one of the first designers hired by Lucasfilm Licensing to retro-design the Star Wars galaxy in 1993. His concept drawing of a double-bladed lightsaber was later made famous as Darth Maul’s signature weapon in “The Phantom Menace.” Gossett’s character and concept designs have been sought by such visionaries as George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton. He has drawn books for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and directed animation in video games for Sega, Namco, Microsoft, Activision, and others. His ongoing project, The Red Star, is playable on Playstation and Xbox networks, has sold over a million units worldwide, and was voted one of the top 100 graphic novels of all time by Wizard magazine. Since 2009, he has been directing live action. His first film, “Only Child,” won the prestigious Emerging Cinematographer Award from the International Cinematographer’s Guild (Local 600). His most recent short film, “Prelude to Axanar,” is a must for any fan of classic Star Trek, and is approaching 3.5 million views on YouTube.
- Dan dos Santos Known for his colorful paintings, most often depicting strong women, Dan dos Santos’ work spans a variety of genres including novels, comics, and film. With hundreds of book covers to his credit, Dan has worked for every major publishing house in the United States and abroad. His clients include Disney, Universal Studios, Saatchi & Saatchi, Boeing Aircraft, GE, Scholastic Books, The Greenwich Workshop, Penguin Random House, Tor books, UpperDeck, Wizards of the Coast, Dark Horse Comics, and DC Comics, among many others. Dan has received the Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist, the Chesley Award winner for Best Paperback Cover, Gold and Silver Medals from Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, and is a five-time Hugo Award Nominee. His illustrations have graced the cover of #1 New York Times Bestsellers numerous times.
- Steven Barnes is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of more than 20 novels, a screenwriter, and the creator of the Lifewriting™ writing course, which he has taught nationwide. He recently won an NAACP Image Award as co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with actor Blair Underwood and his wife, Tananarive Due. But Steve’s true love is teaching balance and enhancing human performance in all forms: emotional, professional and physical. Steve is also a life coach, CST coach, and certified hypnotist. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the self-development arts, including hypnosis certification with Transformative Arts Institute, training as a yoga and Tai Chi instructor, and fourth-degree black belt.
- Karla Ortiz is an internationally recognized and award-winning artist. With her exceptional design sense, realistic renders, and character-driven narratives, Karla has contributed to many big budget films, including “Jurassic World,” “World of Warcraft,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Marvel’s “Thor 3,” “Black Panther,” and most notably, her design of Doctor Strange for Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.” Karla’s work is also recognized in the fine art world, showcasing her figurative and mysterious art in notable galleries such as Spoke Art, Hashimoto Contemporary, Nucleus Gallery, Thinkspace and Arludik in Paris. She lives in San Francisco with her cat, Bady.
- Joshua Jon Herbert is a veteran video game designer currently working as a Senior Level Designer on Psychonauts 2 at Double Fine in San Francisco. He has worked in AAA, mobile, VR, and indie games, and has shipped titles such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and several indie games. He is also currently building VR escape-the-room events. His professional skillset includes most flavors of design and user experience, as well as content and technical writing, puzzle creation, graphic design, and video editing. Joshua’s interests and hobbies include blockchain tech and applications, VR/AR, philosophy, political science, travel, motorcycles, modular synthesizers, the study of tryptamine-based analogues, and psychology.
- Michael Bierek is an artist currently residing in California. After getting his first break as a professional artist at Massive Black Inc. in 2008, he’s since worked on a variety of projects including Middle Earth: Shadow of War, based on the The Lord of the Rings universe; with Ubisoft on the Far Cry franchise, for Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering, and the Elder Scrolls game series. He’s currently freelancing and spends his free time drawing, studying, writing fiction, and learning to program for the development of compelling stories and games.
- Mishi McCaig is a story and concept artist who has worked on such projects as “Ironman” (Marvel Studios), “John Carter” (Disney), and “Lego Movie 2” (Warner Bros). She’s also worked as a writer/script doctor on numerous film and TV projects and is currently teaching “The Art of Storytelling” in Washington, DC.
- Chase Conley is an artist, illustrator, and inker. He became involved in comic books in 2006 when he illustrated the Planetary Brigade miniseries for Boom!. After a break of about two years he did some artwork and inking for BloodRayne: Prime Cuts. He started working for Dynamite in 2009, adapting prose novels to comics, including Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, illustrating The Wheel of Time: Dragonmount and The Wheel of Time: Eye of the World. Chase next worked on adapting Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Fool Moon and the ongoing Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World. In 2011 he joined Titmouse as a supervising character designer for Black Dynamite, the Animated Series. He is also working on his own graphic novel, The Kinetic Kartel.
- Jay Baker is an animation and storyboard artist who started his career at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1996. He has worked for Warner Brothers Animation, Cartoon Network, Jim Henson Studios, Universal, Hubris Studios, and others.
- Chase Toole has been a professional artist for ten years and a working games Concept Artist for eight. His art and design are about pushing into unknown territory, both conceptually and personally. Chase draws with ink, graphite, digital, watercolor, marker, or whatever he can find; it’s not a matter of how, but why he makes things. His clients include Gamesworkshop, Fantasy flight games, THQ, VIGIL, Ubisoft, Square Enix/Eidos, 343 industries, Microsoft, Applibot, and others. He was born and raised in Canada and now lives in Seattle, Washington with his dog, Bones.
- Thomas Denman (Remote) is a composer, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist based in New York City. Versatile and imaginative, he is comfortable composing evocative music in a variety of genres, including sci-fi, electronic, hybrid, epic, orchestral, rock, and trap.
We’ll share more content from the event in the coming weeks.