NessGraphics on Digital Art Rebellion
Alex Ness sheds light on his journey into the world of digital art. As his attitude and outlook on the world change, so does his art. In this interview, we hear about the iMac he never should have sold, his filmic inspirations, and all the Dogecoin in his past. Please note, this conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What was your specific journey down the crypto rabbit hole?
ALEX NESS: I’ve always been a nerd and a geek my entire life. I just love technology. I feel like I get it from my grandpa a little bit, even though we never met. He passed away literally two weeks before I was born. He used to rent out computers when they were the size of a classroom. That was his job– he was super techy and into literally all the same things as me– he was into watches and cars, which are my two favorite things besides technology. So, I got into crypto around 2009, when you could mine anything and make a shit ton of coins. Bitcoin, obviously, was worth literally nothing at the time. I mined about a thousand Bitcoin, give or take. I had the wallet on VMware Fusion on my iMac, holding the original Bitcoin QT wallet… and I lost it when I sold my iMac on eBay. That would’ve been like, 69 million or something– which is so painful– but, it is what it is. I got back into crypto in 2013 again, mining Dogecoin. It’s funny, I have this email to my mom four days after Dogecoin got released saying, “Go look at CoinMarketCap at Dogecoin.” I don’t know why I sent that to her, but it’s funny seeing that now. I don’t remember exactly how much I racked up doing that. I think it was probably five million or so… which, of course, I sold in high school for seven grand.
Q: So you were an early adopter of crypto. When did you enter the NFT world?
ALEX NESS: Funny enough, I was making almost NFTs back in 2013, because on Reddit you could post gifs and stuff, and people could gift you Dogecoin. I was making these shitty little Dogecoin gifs and people were gifting me like 100,000 Doge. It’s funny because they were not exactly NFTs, but a similar vibe with tipping someone for their artwork in Doge in 2013. So, that’s funny. Then I got back out of it, and ended up back in a little bit in 2018. Back and forth, back and forth.
Q: Are there any uphill battles and challenges you’ve faced as an artist that you want to talk about?
ALEX NESS: At the beginning, there were a lot of people who were saying digital art isn’t art. It’s not handmade so it’s not real, and so on. I’ve learned not to give a fuck and just do my own thing. Another thing I struggled with in the beginning was comparing myself to other artists. I thought it was much more about pure skill and I didn’t realize that you also need to market yourself. Unfortunately it’s not all about skill. That was probably the toughest part in the beginning, but I quickly got over that. From there, I started doing really well.
Q: How did you get that grounded? Was it just a time thing or how did you get to that state?
ALEX NESS: It was a time thing. I can’t really specifically pinpoint where and when it happened, but my attitude really developed and it’s been so helpful. There’s no reason to stress about other people. It helps your mental health to not give a shit and stress about other things. Of course, still care about your friends. But remember that this market is huge. Just because somebody else is doing well doesn’t mean I can’t do well too. You know? Stop comparing yourself. Once I started feeling more like that, I started blowing up even more– when I was finally like, “all right, I’ll just do my own shit.”
Q: What would you say your biggest are influences in life?
ALEX NESS: That’s tough. It’s tough to pinpoint my influences because I still really don’t even know. I’m always trying to find more. I would definitely say movies inspire me. I really like to watch them and remember specific things. If I’m going to try to essentially recreate something from a movie, I never actually go back and look at the movie for that. I don’t want to just sit there and just be like, “I like this shot, I’m going to steal it.” It’s more like, “I like the memory of that shot, so I’m going to recreate my memory of that.” It is never the same as the actual shot, because I’m influencing it with my imagined version of what I would have done if I was in that situation. Because of that, my piece ends up being very different from the original thing that inspired me.
Q: Is there a film that you specifically recall inspiring you?
ALEX NESS: The movie Taken. There is a scene in this basement that I just really liked, a basement shot of looking down at a bunch of computers on the ground and descending through a door into the basement. It was just a cool idea. I guess it sounds weird, but I try to think of my eyes as a camera. If I look at something, I cut out the proportion of either something vertical or square in my eye and build a composition just from staring. I do that all day long subconsciously. Sometimes I’m just staring and thinking like, “oh, that’s a cool shot,” as if I had my camera with me or if I was recreating what I am seeing in 3D. It’s just this clusterfuck of ADD, if you will.