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Defaced on finding his way and building an icon through NFTs

Taking inspiration from Jim Henson and Shigeru Miyamoto

With the rise of NFT artwork over the past year, many artists have floated my way through the Twitter content rivers. One of those people was Defaced, whose colorful, geometric designs always transport me to an alternate dimension and draw me in with characters that I can’t help but feel for.

Defaced, like many digital artists, got his start in graphic design, initially developing his skills making branding packages for Call of Duty streamers and eventually getting a job out of high school for a small tech company. He quickly realized that if he wanted his time sitting behind a computer to mean something, he’d have to make a change. After a quick stint back in school, he jumped into the world of freelance design. A bet that paid off, as within the year he’d be working for the likes of Apple and Namco. His freedom then allowed him an early shot at the NFT market, which in time would give him the money to invest back into his art and fuel his next big project.

I talked with him about the development of his style, his thoughts on NFTs, and what inspires his work.

Tell me a bit about Starman. What went into making this character? What does it mean to you?

Starmaker is the name of the project in its totality. Starman came about whilst creating a piece in Cinema4D. I designed the character in hopes to initially create a memorable silhouette, it later became a recurring element in a lot of my work.

As I continued to create more work, I found myself using Starman more and more as a reflection of myself a lot of time. The character was heavily inspired by the works of Jim Henson and Shigeru Miyamoto. Starman’s meaning will grow to reflect my development, but at present Starman is meant to encapsulate the contrast between childhood, the creative process, and the fear of the unknown.

How would you describe your relationship with your own art, if you had to describe what it’s like? This is one of the more experimental questions I’m trying out.

Love / hate I think is the main one, because I try and do a piece daily. Some days you’re like, “I’m going to take the day off.” So like a couple of days ago, I saw my mates all day, then I came in, I was like, “Well, I might as well just spend an hour trying to make something.” Then it’s either the best hour of your life, where it all comes together seamlessly, or you’re banging your head against a wall and it’s just shit, everything looks shit, I’m a crap designer, I can’t put anything together.

When you get into that, I suppose it’s a sort of semi-flow state where everything sort of slots together nicely, and especially my style is quite heavily shape-based. It’s almost like Lego how it’d all click together. You’re following the instructions, and it’s all like bang bang bang — that’s a great feeling. When you’re sitting there for two hours looking at references and you’re just like, “What the fuck should I make?” and you’re searching for ideas, that’s where I struggle.

When did you start that daily practice, and how has it worked out for you?

For a couple of months now, I’ve been really consistent. I remember last year when I was coming back from France and I was trying to get fucking Wi-Fi to post something, so it’s definitely been a year of trying to be as consistent as I can really and hold myself accountable.

I think just pushing through it on a daily basis sharpens your toolkit. Like if you’re a plumber, you can’t just turn up to work and go, “I don’t really know what to fucking do, I can’t fix this toilet today.” It’s like you’ve got to fucking do it, you’ve just got to make something, just do something. Even if it’s shit, and you put it online and someone will go, “Oh, that’s fucking cool.”

When do you have the most fun making your work?

I think it’s when you sort of get into that flow and everything comes together and it feels easy, almost like you’re not even trying. That’s probably the most fun part. Then at the end, I really like seeing people’s responses to it. Art in itself is quite selfish, how much time you have to spend alone, and it’s just all about you. So when people can enjoy that, that’s satisfying.

When you pull back, what’s your favorite way to relax and unwind and gain inspiration? Or they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I like playing Xbox and stuff, but it’s just seeing my friends or my girlfriend and going out for a meal and chatting. There are no fucking screens there, you’re just conversing or exchanging ideas and chatting. It just sort of switches you off and gets you into a different mind space because when the thing you love is tied in with your career and it’s tied in with your finances and social media, and when you’re on your own, it’s quite daunting just reading Twitter or something.

Because the NFT market is on top of the crypto market, on days like yesterday when the market went to fucking shit big time, you can see people really fucking scared. You’re just taking in too much, you can’t process that many opinions. When everything’s tied up into a big knotted ball, you’ve just got to put it to one side and go have a fucking burger or something. You realize it’s not the be-all end-all, like we live on a fucking floating rock in space. It’s like whatever happens, fucking happens really, at the end of the day. It’s alright, nothing’s going to happen to you that badly which can’t be figured out.

What’s your experience of NFT’s been?

I think I sold my first NFT on September 30th last year. I think one ETH was £300 or $500 USD, something like that, so I was like, “Oh, that’s good money.” Then I just thought, “Okay, I’ll just mint five other things just straight off the bat,” and I was like, “Oh, these aren’t selling like the last one.” I had no idea about the sort of scarcity idea, and I didn’t have any fucking clue about that, so that’s been a learning curve and adjusting my brain to analyze the market, analyze the business approach, and supply and demand and what makes stuff valuable, what doesn’t.

Now I have been able to make some ETH, I’ve been able to put it aside and invest into a bigger project and make something cooler, and hire people to make stuff I can’t do, like 3D modeling or like a dev or some more artists to work on something, sort of building a team and go, “Okay, we’re going to go fucking big on this one.” I think as more artists figure this out and put two and two together, I think there’ll be bigger projects and there will almost be like events, and you’ll have artist events.

The main thing for me is having a financial incentive to pursue a career in art, wherever that may lead and whatever opportunities you get from that, and however long it lasts, just making the most of it and being able to make good money doing something which you fucking enjoy. That’s like my top pillar stone, because my dad lost his job due to COVID last year, and that puts things into perspective. People can complain all they want about the carbon footprint, but there are people in Brazil who I know who lived in not great condition and they’ve been able to get into better conditions, and some artists I know who come from abusive households have been able to get out and save themselves.

Are there any core inspirations or some things that hold a special place in your heart?

Yeah, definitely. I think Mario, that’s probably one of my top ones, and Shigeru Miyamoto and design philosophy, and all of the characters from Mario and their design. How they’ve withstood time, that’s like one of my top ones, and game mechanics and just bashing the fundamentals into it. The simplicity as well. All of that shit just shakes about in my head. Jim Henson as well, the Muppets and Sesame Street and that sort of design philosophy, and even how he was as a guy and what he wanted to teach kids. I think the two are big influences on how I want to make stuff. Kaws and Murakami are inspirations as well.

You mentioned Henson as an inspiration, and I saw you on set (in a white bodysuit!) with Starman. What was that experience like? How has Henson impacted you and your work?

The experience was surreal, the day was intense but overall a great memory. I felt like an imposter at times as all of the people making it happen were all there just for me and my art.

Henson is one of the most overlooked artists in my eyes, the amount of people he has reached through his characters and storytelling is nothing short of impressive. To me, he represents pure creativity and vision. He has impacted my work by demonstrating how following an idea to its end can be potentially not just impactful on you but many others.

Can you give us a hint of what’s next for Starmaker? I saw someone say it’s the next Mario, which bodes well for following your inspiration. I’ve already seen artists make their own pieces of him. Seems like he’s already striking a chord.

Next for Starmaker will be actually dropping the first NFTs on SuperRare as my genesis drop on there. I’ll be dropping two short films including 3D animation and scenes from the studio. One of the NFTs will be accompanied by an arcade game, the collector who wins this will then have the choice to release the game publicly. Both NFTs will have a box of physicals exclusive to each NFT, including an art book, vinyl disc, bronze figure, and comic book.

What role do NFTs play in this mission?

NFTs are the key that unlocks the door. Without NFTs, this wouldn’t even exist as a possible career path. Try finding a job where you can direct films, create games, make artwork, supervise the manufacturing, and at the crux of it create worlds from your imagination — that job doesn’t exist without NFTs.

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