In Conversation With jvmi

In Conversation With jvmiIn Conversation With jvmi


In Conversation With jvmi

In Conversation With jvmi

Semi-pseudonymous artist jvmi’s ”swatches” series ranks as one of the top-selling collections on Base. As a front-end developer at Ethereum layer-two Optimism and a streetwear designer, he relies on his technical coding skills and graphic design expertise to create dynamic digital artworks. His ultimate vision? Crafting an art world in which viewers are encouraged to get closer with digital pieces. 

“I often find myself getting too close to paintings at exhibits,” jvmi recently told OpenSea. “About a month ago at SFMoMA, I was so close that a security guard had to remind me to step back.”

That moment sparked an epiphany about NFTs for jvmi. He thought about their potential to encourage interactive digital art — something that hasn't quite existed before. For the first time, jvmi says digital art can be collected and experienced in a way that feels native to the forum on which they were created, i.e. the internet. He hopes to champion art that is primarily experienced on a screen and built for interactive engagement in public settings, not just passively observed.

“It makes sense to focus on the online sphere, where the primary medium for consuming art is a screen,” he said. “That’s art designed to be rendered by a computer, embracing its native digital form, rather than merely replicating a picture that could exist both physically and digitally.”

In this interview, we explore the San Francisco-based artist’s approach to design and blockchain, plus his thoughts on the future of digital art. 

Note: This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

OpenSea: Let's begin with your background and inspiration. Could you share the journey that led you to become an NFT artist and how your experiences have shaped your style in the NFT space?

jvmi: Sure, I entered the crypto space about three years ago. From a young age, I always knew I wanted to pursue art full-time, but it was challenging to see a clear path to support myself with it. During my college application process, I discussed this with my counselor, who, due to my own misunderstanding, recommended computer science. I thought it was the same as graphic design, which it is not. The mix-up actually introduced me to coding, though, which I grew to appreciate as another form of creativity.

After college, I became increasingly involved in digital art. It was about three or four years ago that I began to merge my art with programming. This combination of skills eventually led me into the NFT space. Inspired by several artists I admired just before the 2021 hype cycle, I decided to explore and create in this new space, which has been an incredible journey.

OpenSea: I love that story; it shows that even when someone’s path takes unexpected twists, they’re still on their unique journey. You can’t really mess it up and we’re meant to find what’s meant for us. Your accidental entry into computer science is a perfect example of that! What was one of the first things you coded, and when did you realize you could merge coding with graphic design as a form of creative expression?

jvmi: The integration of coding and art wasn't immediate for me. It was a gradual process. Initially, I saw coding and art as distinct from each other. About three years ago, I began to merge them. My introduction to digital art began in school, where I taught myself to use Adobe Illustrator and similar programs. Later, while working at a development shop that provided technical support for artists launching their NFTs, I recognized the potential of combining art with code. At that job, I realized coding could enhance NFTs beyond static images and enable rich, interactive experiences. This realization opened up new possibilities for what I could create by combining both skill sets.

OpenSea: On that note, congratulations on “swatches” ranking as the eighth top-selling artist on Base (at the time of the interview). What was the inspiration behind this collection?

jvmi: Well, traditionally, my art was more hand-drawn. On the code side of things, I was able to create programs that took the hand-drawn traits and build collections that way. However, I had never really gone into the form of generative art. I had always been super inspired by generative artists and launching artists, but I hadn't really done a project like that myself. One of my big inspirations was Snowfro, creator of Chromie Squiggles and Art Blocks. So, I basically wanted to create a project that was fully generative, where nothing was hand-drawn and everything was generated by code. That was the constraint that I set on myself before I created "swatches." And then, I wanted to see what that would end up doing. That's how the start of "swatches" was, I guess. 

Chromatic swatches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Another thing that was super cool that I was really inspired by in the beginning of the collection was this concept of embedding an iframe into an NFT in order to make it interactive. So, with "swatches," there were two main things guiding my decision: one, I wanted to do a generative art collection and then two, I also wanted to do something new where the generative art is interactive. Those were the two main inspirations and themes I was working with when I was first starting to create "swatches." And then I just built it over time and it really turned into this larger collection that we see today, but really was surrounded by those two principles.

OpenSea: You created swatchpunk using Jordan Lyall's profile picture (PFP). Tell us that story. 

jvmi: We've been internet friends for a while and thought it would be a cool collaboration. With the swatchpunk piece, I aimed to create a low-stakes and fun one-of-one. I wanted to use Swatches' visual language to convey a popular image that everyone recognizes, like a Cryptopunk, and combine those two elements. 

OpenSea: Nice. Now, you've programmed the revenue split to divide the revenue from swatchpunk sales 50/50 between you and Lyall. Is that managed through a smart contract?

jvmi: Yeah, so swatchpunk is deployed using Zora's Creator Tool. It has an option to split creator royalties, which is all public information. 

OpenSea: I remember when I first learned about using smart contracts for creator earnings splits. At the time, it seemed like one of the most attractive features of web3. Do you think artists are now fully utilizing the capabilities of smart contracts for this purpose as much as they could be?

jvmi: I haven't seen too many collabs like that. I mean, that's what I've been trying to do recently. It's like, "swatches" is a big collection that took a lot of time to create and now put out, but as an artist, I don't only want to do really high-profile work. I want to work in all different types of domains and sizes for collections. So one of one is a perfect example of a thing that didn't take me eight months to build but it's also a piece along the story and is showing what I want to put out there so that's where the royalty split comes in, where it's more of a collaboration. I would love to see other artists take a similar approach where we just pull out on something and then it's split if you like that because a lot of my early creative background was in and deeply inspired by streetwear culture so that's also how I got into NFTs, too. One of my favorite streetwear brands is The Hundreds, and they are super forward in Web3 and NFTs. In streetwear culture, collaborations are a big thing where two not necessarily different but complementary parties come together and create something cool. So I think that would be an awesome type of culture or model to bring to web3 as well, where it's not everybody creating in silos, but we're all collaborating together. The token splitting thing is a perfect tool to make that happen.

OpenSea: Now, pivoting to your vision for the future, what do you see as the intersection of art and blockchain? Where is it heading in the next few years, and how do you plan to evolve with it?

jvmi: That's something I actually figured out more recently, and kind of where I want to put myself and how I want to grow, mainly with this idea of interactive art and art that's native to the internet. I frequent museums a lot. One of the things that doesn't mesh well with me in a museum is that I always go way too close to the paintings. About a month ago I was at SFMoMA, and I was really getting close to the painting. The security guard told me I need to back up and basically stand a good distance away from the painting. That idea really gave me an ‘aha’ moment there, where I envisioned what "swatches" could be in real life and what the message really is: interactive art. Art that hasn't existed previously in the sense that, before, we had pictures and videos. 

There's a real, untapped market to create interactive art, in my opinion. I think that goes super well with where web3 is and where we're headed as an industry. Never before could you collect digital interactive art that is almost native to the internet. So it makes sense to double down in the online sphere.

Pastel swatches. Image courtesy of the artist.

OpenSea: What’s an example of how interactive art could look?

jvmi: Just the concept of someone going up to a piece, and the piece obviously is visually cool, but only when that person really interacts with the art piece is when the true art is revealed or kind of happens in the interaction. The future should be natively built for the internet or built interactively. That goes well with my skill set that I built throughout my life. This type of art is only possible because of artists coding it. It unlocks a lot of cool different possibilities.

OpenSea: So more interactivity? More live minting, more interactive events, more live reveals — just using the technology to code in different kinds of experiences as opposed to a static piece?

jvmi:  Exactly.

OpenSea: Nice. I’ve always felt that too. People don't understand why NFTs matter, but then they’ll attend an event like the traveling Vincent Van Gogh immersion. To me, I envision events like that using NFTs, in which interacting with projected digital files unlocks points or exclusive pieces of art, or at the very least, the artist can put the exhibition on the blockchain to demonstrate provenance and show who is owning or renting it out, etc.

jvmi:  Yeah. I mean, my opinion on NFTs is that many of them have utility attached that people are collecting — not for what's actually in the metadata, but for external promises made by teams about future developments that aren’t deeply connected to what’s in their wallet. I'm generally not very bullish on that kind of thing. I believe that the more we focus on creating true art that has a genuine use case — understanding that NFTs are digital art, where you can convert physical stills into digital images and put them on the blockchain — the better. The more inherently digital the piece, the closer it is to its native environment. Innovating in this space interests me because then you're not selling an illusion; you're genuinely offering art. I've always been skeptical of producing NFTs that are anything more than what they appear to be, which is why I want to focus on making the art itself appealing.

OpenSea: Totally. Well, awesome. I’m excited to see that vision come alive for you. Thank you so much for your time today. It's been super nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

jvmi: Thank you. You too, Megan. Take care.

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