The following is an amended transcription of the spaces conversation on February 28, 2022 with Brian Morris.
Anaroth: Welcome, thank you for joining us today, I would love to start off by having you share a little bit about who you are, and your journey so far?
Brian Morris: I’m Brian, a Chicago based digital artist. I actually just had my NFT anniversary this week, I’ve been in the NFT space for 1 year. During that last year I have been able to focus on my art. Prior to now, I was a Creative Director and Chief Creative Director at some large firms. I stepped away from the executive creative gigs to focus on making things that I truly love and do them in a way that I truly love to do them. In essence I feel like I’m just a vehicle for making images at this point, thats my job and its pretty amazing.
Anaroth: How do you overcome the blank page? What advice do you have for people just trying to get started?
Brian Morris: Well the first thing to do is just to get started. If you don’t know where to begin, this sounds kind of corny, but you can begin anywhere. You just have to figure out which spot is right for you. For me, I am productivity based. My career has been focused on designing and delivering large projects. I am always thinking about how do we get to the end goal, and then work backwards from there. As I looked at my creative process when it came to art and making images that I enjoyed making, I spent a ton of time literally just looking at my schedule. I wanted to see where in the day I was the most creative and where I was the most productive. So when you ask where do you start? It depends what you need to start on, it depends on how your day and rhythm works, and where your head is at at any given point. Then aligning tasks with that.
A lot of my friends here know that I get up super early. I usually get up around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That’s when I start to draw, I do pretty much all of my drawing from 3:00 to 7:00am. It’s the quietest time of the day, no kids running around, it’s dark, it’s quiet. I can listen to conversations on clubhouse to keep my brain going, or music, or what have you. I’ve figured out that is the time for my brain to come up with new ideas that aren’t clouded by all the other responsibilities of life. The other thing is that I don’t ever really try to start with a blank page. I always try and start with something, the previous days work, or even something completely unrelated. You need to have a starting point, and from there you can go anywhere.
Anaroth: When you reflect on your career so far what has been some of the best advice you have received, and who gave it to you?
Brian Morris: This is a tough one, you know I have learned so much this past year. However, I think that’s just it, I have learned to shut up and listen. And I have been able to learn from everybody in this space by doing so. That’s honestly the best advice I could give, just listen and learn from other people’s successes and mistakes. Maybe you won’t have to go through those same pains. When it comes to making art, the best advice I have is the same that my Mom told me when I was a kid. Make what you love. You are not beholden to anyone when it comes to making images, you can just make whatever it is you want to make. Over the years, I have seen that come through the art, you can tell if someone is faking it or if they aren’t as invested. While making things that people appreciate is important, I think you can see it as a veneer on the work at times and if it’s missing that level of authenticity.
Anaroth: Your current collections are small or 1/1s. How do you decide what to say yes to? Do you have a set of criteria you use when selecting who to work with?
Brian Morris: Actually, Pop Wonder who’s in the room right now, he told me this once and it really stuck with me. I was doing some derivative apes and they were gaining in popularity. I was starting to get lots and lots of requests and I asked him, how do you figure out what you do and don’t want to do? There’s just so much now, and I really don’t want to do all of these. Pop Wonder shared:
What projects do you feel like are going to make you the the happiest? Which ones are you going to look back and say, hey I did that with appreciation, or what is going to help get you to your goal?
Just knowing you don’t have to do everything, that was really, really helpful.
There are a lot of teams out there right now looking for artists. They aren’t just hitting me up, they are hitting everyone up. If you have a style that is unique you will be hit up by a ton of these people. Whether they want an artist for their derivative project, or their 10,000 piece collection. I think what you have to ask yourself, is if you really want to commit yourself to it? I say this because this isn’t like making a poster and then you walk away and never have to look at it again.
If you are building a project, building a collection that is your name, that is your commitment, that is your baby. Don’t sign up to do anything that you are not proud enough to help raise, and build value for, beyond just drawing the damn thing. That advice really solidified my focus a lot, I knew I didn’t want to do a gigantic collection. I wanted to focus on making the best images that I can. That meant being extremely thoughtful and being able to take a week, two weeks, a month, six months to work on something if it is going to make it better. After 20 years in design and leading teams across the country, I lived by deadlines. I don’t do that anymore. I try to live by knowing what is the best quality of work that I can make.
When I transitioned from my corporate life and focused on my art I essentially removed all deadlines from my life. If you are a fan of Cheech and Chong there’s a line in one of the movies where Tommy Chong goes:
I’m not into time, man.
When I was younger, I was like huh, that’s a funny joke. This guy doesn’t believe in time. Now though, I am there. Fuck time. Do what you need to do when you need to do it. When you feel like the best time to do it is. I know that is a luxury right now, but I am soaking it in as much as possible. I am seeing results in my work that I didn’t anticipate, and I think it is because I didn’t put restrictions on myself.
I’d also like to add, during the last year and a half you have had people working from home, and there is no clear beginning or end of the day. A lot of us were working 80–90 hours a week. What is interesting here is that you know you can get up on a Sunday morning at 2:00 AM and work on a powerpoint deck, because you’e done it. Once you kind of free yourself from those shackles of time, and you recognize you are capable of working at all hours of the night, it’s freeing. I know I am capable of pushing so hard on something and making it bulletproof for a presentation. You can apply that same rigor and mentality to creating images, while also being kinder to yourself in the process.
Anaroth: What has surprised you about Art in the Web3 world? Has it changed the way you think about creating moving forward?
Brian Morris: Oh for sure! I think a year ago, when I minted my first piece I was like oh great, I can sell my JPEGS. This is fucking awesome! But now, a year later all that experience design that I have been doing for the last 20 years around building sites, apps, and tools for people to use in their day to day lives that are all digital. My mind has always been rooted in identifying how I can create a great experience for people, whether they are customers, employees, or patients. I’m super energized now because like lightning, we’ve moved to this place where its not really only about the art. It is about giving people something that they can rally around, engage with, believe in, be part of. These are all the same tenants that we would use in experience design. But now they are manifesting in this Wild West style space and I am really excited about what is coming.
I am thinking a lot about how we can create experiences around the act of making art. Taking the act of making art to the Metaverse, and creating a studio space there that people can come visit and be part of. Not just look at pictures, but actually engage with artists. I’m really excited about what that opens up for us. I think it is also important to share a little about the states of art. Pop Wonder and I have talked about this, as well as others, but there are different states of art. There’s the state of art where you are making the art, then theres the state of art where you have finished creating, and then the third state of art is someone experiencing it.
Music though, has a fourth state, the performance state. A musician, they write the song, record the song, and people listen to the song. They have all the three states. But, there’s also that act of going out and performing that song live, people can experience it again, but in a more authentic way. Hearing it being played by the very people that wrote it, performing it and having you remember what made you love it the first time. You get to have a whole new level of experience with it. I think for a lot of visual artists that has been lost outside of painting on secret walls, or some of these jam sessions. I think the Metaverse open up that possibility for all of us to invite the world into that typically very quiet act of sitting painting or drawing. A new arena is literally opening up a whole new state of art for visual artists.
Anaroth: I think it is really important to celebrate successes. Can you share a time in your artistic career or life you are incredibly proud of?
Brian Morris: The biggest one is actually not a painting or a drawing, but it’s Volkswagens. A couple years ago I challenged myself with rebuilding a car from the ground up, nut and bolt, by myself to the extent possible. I did have to sub out some things like paint work, but it was a challenge I gave myself. Literally one year to the day I was driving that car and it’s better than if it rolled off the line in Germany. I am extremely proud of that, I learned so much. Every day was a fucking challenge, I never had the right tool, I had always worked on American cars so a German car was different. I literally didn’t have a fucking metric wrench anywhere, it wasn’t part of my tool kit. So yea, I challenged myself with that and I am really happy with how it turned out. So happy in fact that I am in the middle of restoring a second one now. Yea, that’s the thing I am most proud of because I took something that was in boxes that I pulled out of a barn, and now I drive it proudly down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago.
Reflecting on the process of the building the car too, I recognize it taught me patience, because it’s easy to fuck things up. When working with something mechanical you can thread a bolt, or any number of nightmares. Two second jobs can turn into a three day job if you rush. But that car taught me patience, to slow down and do things the right way. That car was actually the practice car for the one that I am restoring now. I literally said this is the one i’m going to learn on, but i think patience has manifested in me when i draw now. Like if it isn’t working I just walk away for a day. It’s ok, because if I rush it, it isn’t going to go down the road straight.
Anaroth: Lastly tell us what you are focused on, and what you would like people to know about you walking away from this conversation?
Brian Morris: I think I want people to know that I focus on doing things right, making sure that I am as happy with the work as possible. I am really focused on commissions at the moment. I enjoy that process of making something for someone, knowing it is going to land in good hands that are appreciative of it. I have found that is what makes the best work come out of me. I am giving a talk with Chicago Graphic Design Club helping folks get a little more knowledgeable about NFT’s and / where to begin. What questions should they ask to take the next steps forward. I’m really excited about getting more folks rolling in this amazing wave we are all riding right now.
Anaroth: Thank you again for taking time to share your perspective, thoughts, and best practices with our listeners and readers. This has been the Hyype Write Way Spaces, thank you for tuning in.
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