$WHALE written interview with PXLPET
1. How would you characterize your art style and the PXLPET project?
The PXLPET project started as a collection of cute pixel art pets with repeating pastel color pallets. My goal was to create an unique art style by using as few pixels as possible. In the beginning the pets only had around 50 to 70 pixels. Maybe that’s also the reason why sometimes people were wondering if they just purchased a pixel cat or a dog. Or if the white bar between the eyes is the nose or the mouth. (haha) But the exact anatomy of the pets wasn’t too important. What was meaningful is that they looked adorable and the uplifting feel they transported. Later on, the project evolved and I started to implement different types of media such as 3D art, I composed some music and animated them. The PXLPET project also characterizes through the different editions and concepts. Separated series like “ABSTRACT EDITION” or “HOME EDITION” invite to collect and are a fresh challenge for me to always find a new twist on the theme. It is not uncommon for my art to have a slightly thoughtful taste even if it looks as if it was made for children. I just think that art is an outlet for me and, like children’s series mostly have a moral, I also try to combine my works with philosophical messages in a subtle and humorous way. I want to encourage the viewers to have their own thoughts and also to enrich the sometimes serious everyday life.
2. You have a very organic progression into the crypto art space. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how you got here?
I started drawing flowers, clouds and the sun as a child and continued with monsters and graffiti as a teenager. I was 20 years old, when I began to work on my design skills almost on a daily basis. I remember that I really struggled to find a job I felt passionate about. At that point the dream in me grew to earn a living with my creations. The problem with money though, is that you need clients. Making your own art or art for a client is a significant difference when it comes to passion. Art was my holy playground, the place I could go to relax — no pressure and discipline needed. I didn’t want that playground to be messed up by other kids. Yep, one could say that’s a pretty childish way to see the world but somehow that resistance, that I couldn’t arrange myself with 9 to 5 jobs, was what kept me dreaming.
No compromises anymore, right? Nope! Eleven years I worked on my design skills almost every day for several hours. Contrary to my dreams, there were even times I did it alongside my 9 to 5 job. No sandpit or slide in sight. My relationship to art was, how should I say? Complicated. How paradoxical that I basically worked to escape from work. I didn’t even ask myself if it’s still fun. In my freetime I came across websites like Redbubble, Spreadshirt and co. These are primarily webpages where you can upload your designs and get them printed on shirts and smartphone cases to make some cash per sale. On Fiverr I sold customized pixel art profile images to name a few shaky attempts to walk in the art world.
At that time, being a bored web developer, when I found a blogging platform called Steemit, where users can make small cryptocurrency donations with their likes. That was basically my first interaction with some kind of crypto. It is now more than three years ago since I posted the first PXLPET there. Soon a collaboration with Marble Cards and Cent followed and I began to notice that growing trend in the artworld which is now called crypto art. Shortly after, I discovered a bunch of websites that dealt with digital art. I immediately uploaded my pieces on marketplaces like Rarible and MakersPlace and promoted them on Twitter. My first NFT on MakersPlace was sold for 35 Dollars. Man, I was so grateful! I worked on new PXLPETs every free minute and started to sense that fresh air sitting on the swing in my imaginary playground of art again. If I’m being honest the corona-related lockdown didn’t affect me that much because already months earlier I voluntarily went into self-isolation, together with all these cute pixel art pets.
In my opinion the organic progression in the crypto art space developed because of my continuous output of new works and the relationships I made. I really have the feeling that artists and their collectors grow in that familiar space together. So it happened, for example, that WhaleShark became aware of my art and started to buy my work. He also offered me building rights for a small plot of land in Crypto Voxels. I was very grateful and after I showed him my first virtual gallery, he was so nice to give me building rights for a parcel that was six times the size. Crazy times. This is how the PXLPET Palace, a huge virtual gallery with a collection of my works, was born. That’s just one event I am very thankful for which finally put the PXLPET brand on the map. Since then, I’m creating ideas how to place these little pets in varying themes and I’ve been delighted about the organically growing follower numbers and sales.
3. Your work comes across as very authentic while also incorporating elements of gamification and collectibles. Can you tell us about your approach to balancing this and how it stays so genuine?
When it comes to collectibles a big part of my creative process is to put me in the point of view of a potential collector. That may sound like people pleasing but the taste of that imaginary collector is basically my own. I try to reconnect to the feeling when I first unlocked a new character in Tekken after hours of button smashing or spending my pocket money to open my first pack of Pokemon cards.
Even if I think a lot about concepts in the end, not the thinking but probably the feeling is what makes my pieces appear authentically. Over time I created a corporate identity. I built a PXLPET universe with its own design rules which I just can’t break anymore. No matter which new theme or edition I decide to try this time, the way my art communicates stays the same and I think that’s why it stays so genuine.
4. Story and lore play a big role in many of your works. What compels you to craft and share these narratives?
Apart from the fact that I am also dealing with what I’m going through in life, with my art I want to bring my own approach to art closer to the viewer. For a long time I paid little attention to this approach and the relationship to my art myself. I would like to give the viewer directions where the journey in my images could go. Not to create rigid images in their mind, but rather to encourage them to fantasize. Fantasy is a good thing and I want people to explore their own imagination. I really want to open that door for them.
In contrast to the art of music, which most of the time automatically gives the listener an emotion, I would say that visual art is an intellectual and emotional process in which the viewer has to take the time to find own feelings in the work. I came to know people who really couldn’t relate to anything in my art and that’s okay, too. I’m just sometimes not sure if they were open enough to connect. I also think if you will take your time to resonate with these types of things you will also start to connect more to yourself and in reverse with your surroundings. With my descriptions, and sometimes just the title is enough, I want to at least give small hints to help people understand my art world and then leave them to themselves and their own journey.
5. You’ve recently experimented with VR, Crypto Voxels and Async. With your background in game design and obvious love for the medium, do you have any plans to further leverage the smart contracts to explore more interactive elements for PXLPETS?
Oh yeah, this VR world was a crazy experience for me and also the possibilities of Crypto Voxels and Async and their new take on art fascinate me. I am getting more and more familiar with the whole tech aspects of the crypto world, but I have to admit that I am not really a tech guy. If there will be other intuitive platforms such as Async and Crypto Voxels, I will definitely give it a try. I always keep my eyes open anyway.
6. Have you given any thoughts to returning to game design with an NFT focus? Can we look forward to a PXLPET game world to explore in the future?
Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to make a very complex game. My programming skills are not sufficient for that. In fact, people often send me PXLPET game ideas and they always excite me but due to my experience I know the amount of work of creating a game. On top of that I am working by myself, I don’t have a team (haha). But I will definitely keep it in mind though.
I have already taken a look at the Sandbox game, where you can build voxel worlds similar to Crypto Voxels but you can still integrate game mechanics. I wonder what will be possible there in the future. Yeah, I can actually imagine that at some point I am going to create a small PXLPET world over there.
7. You’ve talked about having to explore your emotions to break the paradigm of process oriented work and find yourself as an artist. Can you tell us more about this and where you find yourself now in this journey?
Oh yeah, I have been on quite a journey through my inner world over the past year. As already mentioned, I wanted to escape the boring world of full time jobs and therefore worked many hours on my art almost every day. That’s how my art has become a business model without me being aware of it. Everything was just about productivity and the big goal of becoming self-employed. Whether it was the Tumblr, Instagram or Twitter posts that had to be created every day in order to generate reach or the monotonous web and logo design, everything was driven by being effective but rarely about joy. Creating websites and stock graphics was just a means for the purpose to get money and so I didn’t even notice that I basically had no real, but much more an “employmental” relationship with my art. I found myself on a market treadmill as a service provider always thinking what people would like about my art. Well, then crypto art came.
With crypto art a dream really came true and I can’t thank the community enough for giving me such a warm welcome. Now it was no longer the case that I had to sell something to customers — collectors just bought what I loved to create. That was huge! I got closer to my dream of making a living with art until I eventually started my own business. With a bit of time and sales settling in, I calmed down and took more time for myself in order to discover my confused approach to art. Anyways, the thoughts of productivity that I cultivated in my mind for years showed up pretty frequently. I found myself very thankful but also with bloodshot eyes focusing my goal, working, isolating myself, searching for the most creative excuses not to relax and, of course, being still in the treadmill of productivity. In reality it was a combination of fear to go back to my tiring job and that self-love-lacking voice, telling me “you’re never enough!”, that kept me pushing which didn’t let me enjoy the goals I already reached. I have just to do this and that to be able to feel the joy! So that’s what it means to live the dream, right? Reaching my goals had a strange aftertaste so I had to reorientate myself.
Just as long as I have been with art, I have been dealing with philosophy, Buddhism and spiritual topics in general. What I became aware of from the knowledge I read in books and my repeated self inspections was the lack of acceptance towards myself and life. I basically wanted to fix almost everything that was happening on the inside with actions on the outside. My dreams could fool me until I got hold of them for a few moments and realized that work was a means to an end to escape from the present moment which couldn’t replace the journey inside me.
I had acquired various beliefs that sabotaged my life and often still do. So I no longer try to run from myself, which for me is almost the same as self-acceptance. Taking care of myself even if I fail, instead of beating me up, even if I win. In my mind, I’ve built myself my own prison of beliefs and therefore projected these same conditions onto my art. Is it good enough? What will the others think? That can sometimes even prevent me from starting with the creation process itself. Even while I am writing this interview a feeling of self-doubt arises here and then, but this is my old conditioned drive. That drive which is always searching for the next goal and wouldn’t ever stop anyways. As long as I sense that, I can accept it. No need to fight these thoughts and emotions. If I’m being honest, they brought me to this point and made me what I am. Compared to the path of productivity that I described earlier, my new approach almost feels like giving up. It may sound negative but what I mean is to stop the fight with yourself and the forced self improvement. Instead I try to be clear what my motives are and possibly fine-tune it with self-love.
Productivity and acceptance are by no means mutually exclusive. I’m still pretty productive, while my art becomes less and less a product. My attention for the progress, to get somewhere with my art, becomes smaller and the focus on the process, the joy of doing itself, is getting bigger. Making art sometimes becomes almost a meditation process which doesn’t leave much time to argue about the fear which constantly wants to teach me that I won’t get it this time or that I have to finish it on time. It sometimes feels so natural and magical and I never felt that in more than ten years of doing art. My art does not have to meet any standards, it should simply embody what it is. No need to compare me with others. So here, too, my increasing self-acceptance is transferring to my work. On my current journey I find myself doing the same thing as always, I create, but it feels like a whole other reality because my point of view has switched.
8. What advice would you give other artists intrigued about the crypto art space but uncertain on how they fit in?
Cryptoart is such an open space I am not even sure why someone shouldn’t fit in. My art got so much appreciation in the metaverse which I haven’t felt in any other community before. In the end you shouldn’t make your art just to fit in anyway. Just do what you love and be crazy enough to believe in your art even on bad days. Collectors who resonate with your art will eventually buy it. Twitter and Cent are good places to get noticed, to stay up to date and find your own place in the space. But as in any other area, continuity is rewarded here, too.