1) How did you or get started on your journey?
My affinity for typography without a doubt stems from experiencing the legendary Graffiti film “Wild Style”, which as a kid I desperately wanted to watch with the naive intentions of picking up some fresh BBoy moves. What I did moonwalk away with, is a lifelong affection for graffiti writing, freeform lettering styles and calligraphy. As an adolescent, I would pick up spray paint cans, hop on my BMX bike, began to scribe my tag around Lawrence MA. As thrilling as it felt executing my new found signature with an aerosol quill, nothing replaced the anticipation or excitement from sitting back in my parent’s car as they drove to the market unknowingly cruising by my “Little’D” spots. I still remember how my heart would race, as my eyes would secretly squint at the scenes from a crime of a child.
When my family relocated to Miami in the late 80s, I found myself adopting a new neon culture, right through the glitchy 90s. Now, pushing a skateboard around town, with design paint markers in my pocket, I systematically kick flipped this radical outlook of what art can be. I came to a realization that once you are an artist at heart, given any medium and location, one can paint a fresh canvas from your imagination, to form a meticulous bond with an estranged environment.
It was summer of 1995, as I was rushing out of a Miami Metro train station trying to get to Wolfson Campus admissions office by the deadline. Through the corner of my eye, I couldn’t help to notice that I was walking along the same direction of an old Graff rival.
I didn’t expect any static, based on the fact that at this point we were older and in college, well almost that is. For what it’s worth, between having friends in common, who have gone to prison for graffiti, gang-related activities or actually been shot dead, for being in that wrong place at the wrong time – theoretically, at this brief moment, he and I were in the same gang. We both looked straight at one another with respect, not only acknowledging each other but for realizing we were both in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
It was at this pivotal moment, where one question changed the trajectory of my career and for that matter, my life for decades to come. “What computer classes are you taking?” He asked me as I was fumbling with my admission papers in a bookbag full of abstract drawings and loose-leaf poetry. Computers? “I’m taking art classes and creative writing”, I confidently replied.
His response still echoes in my mind to this very day. “You’ll have to start designing on a computer so that you can upload your art to the Web.” His advice rattled my psyche, and from that singular moment, I knew I was set on course for a digital quest.
I landed an entry position as a graphic designer at a bohemian web agency on Washington Ave, in South Beach in 1999. During my tenure at the agency, our client projects consisted of Design Miami, MTV, Nickelodeon, Sony Music and the US Dept of Commerce, to name just a few.
During Y2K, I registered and launched techmental.com. Circa 2005, after multiple administrative discussions, I was kindly asked to resign from Alaskan Star Interactive on the grounds that I was running TechMental Media, full time from their office. The amount of real-world business experience I was able to absorb during my time at ASI will forever be my digital compass.
2) Where do you see yourself in the future, in relation to your work?
Transcending all energy from the 2D to 3D Immersive AR VR content development, while creating sound partnerships with likeminded crypto artists and blockchain collectives.
Steadfast to designing on-chain / off-chain Non-fungible tokens, where I strategically merge the gap between analogue and digital art assets.
Continuing to influence Graffiti Writers and Street Artists to push their artistry into a decentralized realm. Where independently, the artist controls the rights of ownership through smart contracts, while solidifying monetary streams. In stark contrast to just uploading their flicks to Instagram, to wait on likes and follows, while Zuckerberg cashes in.
Expanding my role as a Blockchain liaison as I educate Art galleries and Museums who have yet taken their first frozen lake step onto the Crypto Art scene.
As of 2021, I’ve designed and worked on hundreds of websites, graphic design flyers and multi-media projects on many facets. The 20th anniversary of techmental.com was celebrated by publishing a fresh new interface featuring a Crypto artist community.
3) Tell us about your favourite artists, NFT any projects you are keen on and why?
I would like to cache a few bytes of memory and pay homage to those who set the path before us. Laurence Gartel is hailed as the first graphic artist of the digital age. He was working at the University at Buffalo, Media Study Department on analogue system computers when he met video guru Nam June Paik. Nam June Paik went on to write the introduction to what is thought to be the first book on digital art: “Laurence Gartel”: A Cybernetic Romance” published by Gibbs Smith in 1989. Gartel’s vision was to create electronic images by capturing them with a still camera from a monitor image, as there were no digital memory devices or software to store the image created. Gartel taught Andy Warhol how to use the Amiga Computer to create the album cover for Debbie Harry (Blondie). It was a moment when “Pop Art met Digital Art”. @gartel with gartelmuseum.weebly.com. As well as Art Crimes (graffiti.org) founder Susan Farell and Brett Webb (@brettwebb) who in 1994 launched the world’s first global graffiti artist online digital archive/website.
Lee (@leequinones) + Skeme (Instagram) + Mode2 (Instagram) – These three aerosol agents were heavy influencers through my youth while looking for subconscious art guidance. I cherish the quality of work they executed on walls and subway trains back in an era where “getting up” was punished heavily, even if your life and freedom were on the line, the forbidden art was worth it. These three artists are still very relevant, as well as active in the art world today.
I consider Aleksandr Rodchenko the father of typography. He had an authentic analogue typesetting skillset that was achieved way before digital desktop publishing was dreamed of. His immortalised constructivist graphic design style has been the official propagandist template within art, politics and commercial advertising for over a century. If you like Shepard Fairey, you’ll love Rodchenko.
NFT Crypto Artists:
There are so many NFT artists pushing the creative envelope past the imaginary margins, and that in itself is what keeps my curiosity lurking within this avant-garde community.
I’m fascinated by Generative Art, NFTs that are triggered by an action of the token holder or preprogrammed variables, where the actual art is autonomous in nature. I catch myself daydreaming of programmable art. Satoshi’s Coin 1/1. — by @toomuchlag. This dynamic NFT contains one wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC). By burning the art piece and giving up ownership, the current owner will instantly receive the value within. The burn will transform the asset into its second state, and transfer it back to the smart contract, where it will remain for eternity.
I enjoy getting lost in the depths of these socially conscious pixel murals by Hidden Forces.Who’s the Controller Now? . An update of Diego Rivera’s famous fresco, Man at the Crossroads. Destroyed for political reasons in 1934 by the Rockefeller family. Repainted in Mexico City and renamed – Man, Controller of the Universe.
4) Talk us through your creative process..
Pushing pixels past midnight has been a nocturnal routine going back to my video game conquests. Battle torn Lizards who take refuge in our fuselage are star witnesses of an auditory system, continuously exhaling Electro synths. Old Venetian window frames of a tropical bunker, off the shores of Biscayne Blvd find themselves trembling deep into the early morning. Neon factory blades hiss Ethereum algorithms into the metaverse, while acoustically layering over the ever-increasing decibel of an iron kettle reaching its climax. Hanging succulents prepare to inhale exported vapor waves and by proxy completing an Orgasmiktron cycle. Liquid Crystal Displays flicker as I immerse into the crypto-sphere, and become one with the token.
5) Any other exciting developments you need your public to know about?
I am looking forward to participating in the inauguration of the Vegas City Arts Village. Decentraland hosted an Art Gallery Builder Comp and #TokenIsland a Virtual NFT Gallery, I was selected to design among other creators to populate a 2×1 blockchain plot, for 365 days, rent-free. These virtual worlds are very expensive to obtain, and I intend to aesthetically make the most of this opportunity. Currently curating not only my own NFTs in Decentraland but also collectables from an array of Crypto Artists that will be available for purchase on Techmental.dcl.eth.link. I’ve recently launched a series of OpenSea collections under TokenMental, where I will be curating off-chain artists and graphic designers who have yet to delve into the Metaverse. By owning the responsibility of tokenizing, marketing and cultivating these artworks, I’m hoping to incite interest and demand from NFT collectors – whereby proxy these off-chain artists will be inspired to not only keep producing art but to ultimately join a crypto art community where their art already resides.
6) Anything else (NFT & Art) related that you want to be featured?
Crypto Art Music #NFT Auctions & Exhibitions @ALTSpaceVr + 2D/3D + Mac & Pc
A collective of talented Crypto Artists, Producers and Visionaries.
WHUT! When friends transcend into family, who turnaround and transcend into the Art Department. His body of work includes an urban mix media style that invokes stickers, collages, tags and stencil art. Adhesive Artist / Street Artist / Graffiti Writer.
Written by : Written by TechMental & prepared for publication by Benny Steele