Orcanauts: Meet the Artist
As the release of 10,000 Orcanaut NFTs into the wild draws closer, we thought it was high tide to introduce you to the creator who brought these adorable critters to life: the talented Cori Huang.
Cori has brought a vast wealth of experience to this project as a professional illustrator and designer. Her creative talent and eye for detail can be appreciated in the adorable design of each and every Orcanaut.
In this interview with Cori, we cover the inspirations behind the Orcanauts designs, what it’s been like to bring this new pod to life, her thoughts on how NFTs might disrupt “TradArt,” and much more.
Enjoy— and be sure to follow her brand new Twitter, @corcorarium!
Cori, thank you for your incredible work with Orcanauts! Can you tell our community a little about yourself?
I’m a freelance designer and illustrator from New Jersey, currently exploring West Coast life. Previously, I’ve worked at a few tech startups wearing different design hats — marketing, product design, illustration. Aside from art and design, I love to read, mostly sci-fi and other fiction, play games, and dabble in various crafts.
As an artist and designer, what brought you to DeFi and Crypto? How has it changed your working life?
I learned about DeFi and Crypto through hanging around tech folks, but I started hearing about NFTs through a few artist friends who started minting NFTs. When Ori (@oritheorca) and I first talked about the Orcanauts project, I was really just beginning to wrap my head around the space.
Since I’m just starting to get involved, not too much has changed in my working life. There are some practical changes, like accepting payment in cryptocurrency, but otherwise, I think what’s changing is that I’m getting to see a different collection of digital art than I’ve been exposed to before, and I’m following the conversation around how and whether artists should get involved in the technology.
How did you come up with the art style for Orcanauts?
Orcanauts is the first project of its kind that I’ve worked on, and the early stages were exploring the art style, since we hadn’t figured out the format of the project yet. I got to sketch a lot of whales during this time, not really knowing what kind of character it would be.
Since the project originates from Orca, we continued with a friendly and approachable look. With Ori’s direction and feedback, we came to this cute and colorful aesthetic partly inspired by Neopets and Pokemon. Some of the design decisions were practical though, like using thick lines to help separate foreground shapes and keeping the shading simple to avoid overcomplicating a color palette that already had many colors.
Tell me more about the colors. They’re quite different from Orca’s, no?
That was a really fun part of it. I started conservatively, taking Orca’s distinctive color palette, increasing the saturation and slightly shifting the blues away from purple to create a lighter feel.
I’m used to working with brands with more minimal aesthetics though, and this shift turned out to be way too subtle — Ori asked me a few times if there was a way to make it even brighter and more cheerful. When I realized Orcanauts really didn’t need to be tied to the Orca look and feel, I got to play with the fun pinks, oranges, aquas, and teals that you see in the Orcanaut artwork, logo, and website now.
As I was drawing the whale and then the traits, I spent a lot of time checking different combinations and making corrections to the relative positioning and colors. You’d think by the time all the traits were drawn, I would have seen all of the different Orcanaut combos… and yet one of the most exciting parts was when Jon (the lead developer on the project) actually tried generating thousands of fully-assembled Orcanauts with all their unique combinations!
What element of the Orcanaut project did you enjoy the most?
Regarding the art, I enjoyed drawing the backgrounds because they create the context for the Orcanaut, a bit of a mini world for the Orcanaut to exist in. This touches on my personal love of worldbuilding, and there was quite a variety in the types of backgrounds: abstract and representational, thematic and geographic.
As an artist yourself, how do you think NFTs might shape the existing art world? Do you think NFT’s could disrupt the traditional art market (“TradArt”), the same way DeFi is disrupting traditional finance, or “TradFi”?
I think NFTs have framed all sorts of digital art in a way that calls attention to them as art. I’m not sure I’ve heard of an artist selling a 3D motion graphic work the way they would sell a painting before, but now it seems like ”of course!” And I’m obsessing over this piece by Yun Ling lately. Then there’s the royalty feature that enables an artist to continue to earn income on resales, which could become a real revenue stream to support some artists.
However, I’m hesitant to be too optimistic. There are still problems to solve in the technology and problems from the traditional art market that carry over to the NFT world like gatekeeping and discoverability. I think one of the gatekeeping elements in the NFT space right now is that the on-ramp is not only steep if you’re not familiar with the technology, but it’s also pretty hard to find. And once you figure out the “how”, as an artist you face the same challenges around marketing yourself, finding the right audience that appreciates your work, and, maybe, deciding how your values and art overlap (see James Jean’s entry into NFTs), all things that you would face in any market.
Personally, Orcanauts has been my NFT learning experience, and I appreciate that behind the scenes, the team cares about how we can funnel the possible success of the project (don’t count your chickens before they hatch!) towards others. I’m hoping that sharing some of the process I went through and the lessons I’m still figuring out will be useful to other artists too.
That sounds great! Do you have any specific tips for aspiring NFT artists?
Although the below might not be of interest to veteran Orca users, I thought it only appropriate to share some resources I found helpful, from the perspective of an artist trying to understand how I might fit into the NFT world or how NFTs might fit into my art journey.
- A Crypto Optimist and a Crypto Skeptic Walk Into a Podcast Studio
- James Jean’s entry into NFTs (and in his own words)
- NFT artist pplpleasr: How crypto changed my life
- What is Crypto Art and Why Should Motion Designers Care
Thanks again, Cori. Orcanauts wouldn’t have been possible without you, and we can’t wait to see them come to life later this month! ✨
If you’re as excited about Orcanauts as we are, be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest info. 😉 Sea you there!
Disclaimer: The content of this communication is not financial advice and should not be relied on by any persons as financial advice. This communication has not been provided in consideration of any recipient’s financial needs. We have not conducted any financial assessment based on the personal circumstances of any recipients. All persons are encouraged to seek their own independent financial advice prior to taking any further action.