The best of both worlds with Lisanne Haack

February 17, 2022 / Christina Garcia

Image courtesy of Lisanne Haack
Image courtesy of Lisanne Haack

Lisanne Haack is a Brazilian contemporary artist based in Barcelona whose abstract, expressive compositions are characterized by free-flowing brush strokes with dimensional paint application in a range of evocative color palettes. 

Transcending the physical canvas, she uses creative digital techniques to mimic physical materials, blurring the lines between the digital and physical art worlds and seamlessly working across the two. 

The gestures and emotion of her hand remain a constant theme and demonstrate the possibilities that are available when artists embrace new technology.

I had the privilege of talking with Lisanne about her journey, process and how she uses NFT technology to suit her needs while remaining true to her fundamental love of art.

What is the significance or meaning of creating art in your life?

You can answer this in a philosophical as in a very rational way. I look at it as an unknown mystery myself, because as a kid I was much more into math, physics and all these engineering kind of subjects. I look at it as maybe something that was always there, and I just needed to let it get out. After the years it was always present, hidden or in little things, until one time it took the control of my life and there was no going back. A lot of artists say that art showed them how to live and there is a reason why they all say that, because it is true. Art for me, in any kind of form or ways, shows me how to live, if it’s through failure or success, pain or pleasure, it is the most pure and genuine way of showing life as itself.

What’s your definition of abstract art?

Since I come from this very rational way of thinking, I was used to setting or following rules. When you find something that doesn’t tell you that and even more it doesn’t ask you anything, you kind of fall in love with it. It gives you freedom, it can be whatever you want it to be, it is timeless. It can change, it can stay the same, in fact, it’s not actually the painting that does something, it’s you. It has something very philosophical in it. Or, it can have or mean absolutely nothing, it’s just colors on a canvas, an object, or whatever and you just look at it cause it’s aesthetically pleasant. For me abstract art is this and that is exactly what I love about it, it’s free of any concept or description, no matter how hard people try to put a label on it, it doesn’t have one. 

Lisanne Haack, lighter mess, Oil paint and oil pastels on stretched primed canvas, Non-fungible token
Lisanne Haack, lighter mess, Oil paint and oil pastels on stretched primed canvas, Non-fungible token

You’re from Brazil but lived in Munich and now reside in Barcelona. Has living across the world or any city in particular influenced you creatively in a special way?

When I moved to Munich almost 10 years ago, it was always a dream of mine. I found moving to Germany as a way to improve my design skills already started in Brazil. It was not easy, and it was definitely not was I was expecting, which is totally fine, it made me realize the real hard work you need to do to achieve that. I must say, I never found the inspiration needed while there, I found it by actually trying to escape it, if it was with movies, music or on socials connecting to people around the world. When I look back, I know it was something I needed to go through and I am grateful for it, if you never try you never know right? I traveled through some countries in Europe but the one that really got my heart was Spain. I think I was searching for somewhere to feel like home and I found that in Barcelona. It is very different than Brazil but in many aspects, it reminds me of it a little bit—the sun, the culture, the colors. I could say that Spain is what is bringing my inspiration to flow but to be really honest, it was, and it will always come from my own research, no matter where I am in the world, connecting to people, digitally, physically, going to Museums, watching movies, listening to music, this all influences me (but of course, a sunny place is always better).

You have a background in architecture and design. Was there a gradual evolution into becoming a painter or did you always practice it?

I definitely evolved to accept that I was an artist. We tend to get this pressure from society, especially while in Germany, that you need to be successful by working on something that will get you money no matter what that is. You learn to survive, not to live. For me, art was always there, so I “chose” the next best possibility to use my creativity and rational thinking in a profession. The first years working as an architect were hell—boring projects, my brain was hurting from all the ideas I had and couldn’t really use because you needed to “fit in”. Until one day I worked in an office that gave me complete freedom, I designed everything how I wanted, they truly believed in my ideas. That made me see the world differently. This little flame started to grow, here you see the importance of a single person truly believing in you. While working in this area, I was always painting aside as a “hobby”, to let all this pressed creativity out. It taught me a huge amount of color combinations, and that together with my interior design skills started to bring me further [into painting]. Before, I was spending 90% of my time working and 10% painting. There was a time when this completely changed without me even noticing. It just took over and there was nothing I could do. There was the point I accepted, “I am an artist and from now on I need to think how I can turn this into my profession.”

On that note, can you tell us about your evolution into creating digital paintings and minting NFTs?

Digital creations are nothing new to me at least. I started creating with the software Paint as a kid—I think as a lot of people did. Later as a teenager, I started creating with Photoshop and Illustrator. I always liked the process of creating digitally. That is why I was later very good in architecture and interior design. Everything that involves computers, digital art, etc., I was always interested in. I came into the NFT subject last year because of a friend that I met on Instagram. It was late for most of the scene but still pretty early compared to where we are now. Since the only digital art I was creating were for projects from my work or university, the only art I was doing for myself were my physical paintings, so they were the first ones that I got the idea to take a picture and mint them, offering the physical painting together with the NFT. After a few weeks into the space, I noticed how wide digital art can be, and I started with some 3D creations, something that I was already using in my [professional] work. Since I love working in the computer, I learned that quickly and found myself developing a new technique, too. Slowly I was bringing the style from my physical paintings into the digital space, which made me think even further, until I merged completely into the digital creation. I am still a traditional painter and will always be, but why not use the best of both worlds, right?

I’d be curious to know your thoughts on minting NFTs based off of pre-existing physical paintings. How do you view those physical pieces? Do the NFT and the physical painting exist as one piece or do you consider them editions of each other? I’ve noticed collectors are hesitant about owning an NFT if its physical counterpart exists and is separately held by an artist or another collector. How would you reconcile that? 

My first NFTs had the physical painting included, which didn’t bring the attention I was hoping for, to be honest. I started minting the physical NFTs simply digitally modified—I always wrote what it was based on and [whether the physical] painting was included. Later I got some inquiries which included the creation of the physical and as a bonus the NFT with it. I never had problems with it and I don’t think it should be. In the end it is your art and you can do whatever you want with it. If you want to sell the painting only as an NFT and someone else has the painting, if the owner of the painting agrees to it I don’t think there should be a problem for the NFT owner. Nowadays I have this kind of “rule” when selling an NFT that includes a physical painting with it: the collector can redeem the painting and will be shipped no matter where in the world OR the painting stays with me, will never be resold and will only be used in exhibitions which can even add more value to the NFT itself, more people see it, so adds the interest upon it. The collector has until one year to redeem the painting.

You’ve listed your artwork on several different platforms and I’ve noticed several artists that do the same! Is there a meaningful distinction between all of them or is it a way to have your art reach more people? What’s some simple advice you could give to artists or users who are new to all the platforms and may not know where to begin (KnownOrigin, Rarible, Objkt, and so on…)?

This depends on how much you can invest to mint your art. If you are a young artist with not much income, I would definitely recommend starting with Tezos. Now a community that is growing amazingly is Solana. The gas fees are very low and step by step you can build your floor up and if wanted, merge to the Ethereum space. I wished I had known more about it when I started because it was a mess for me. I tried everywhere and after a while was learning how it actually works and which platform truly helps you promote your work, too. I absolutely love Known Origin. The community and artist support are amazing, the platform works well, but you need to apply for it. If you enter, I am sure you will feel at home. I had some collections on Opensea because of the lazy minting which is great when you don’t want to spend that much on gas fees. The platform per se isn’t great, but it is needed. I am currently minting there because it is one of the best options that supports your own smart contract, [a feature] that I hope all other platforms will include soon. I dream going back to [Known Origin] with my own smart contract.

Lisanne Haack, "IT'S ART _011", Digital composition using Photoshop and Blender, Non-fungible token
Lisanne Haack, "IT'S ART _011", Digital composition using Photoshop and Blender, Non-fungible token

I fell in love with the colors and composition of your piece “IT’S ART _011” and was so impressed at how dimensional and real the paint strokes were rendered. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your process in creating this digital painting?

Thank you so much! This is an interesting series—until then, all my digital creations were based on my physical paintings. There was a time when I was sick and couldn’t really paint but had the urge to create, so I decided, “why not paint completely digitally?” I started to paint on my computer in Photoshop, and after it I brought it to Blender where I created the 3D organic forms upon it, adding depth to the 2D painting. After I rendered it, I brought the painting back to Photoshop, editing and painting more to create this layered effect.

You’d mentioned that you liked working with the iPad and Apple Pencil. Are there any more tools you typically work with?

It was always a dream of mine to draw on an iPad and thankfully to NFTs I was able to purchase one recently, so this is something I have been doing for only the last 2 months and I am absolutely amazed by it, I love it! I love 3D sculpting too. I started with Blender and went to Zbrush after it—you have a little bit more freedom and your computer doesn’t crash as much as with Blender while sculpting. Beside the digital tools, I am an oil painter. I wasn’t until 2 years ago; before that it was always acrylic. I was afraid of oil painting, to be honest. I thought only real masters of realism could use it, until I studied a bit more and tried it out and it was the best feeling ever.

What kind of artwork do you like to surround yourself with, if any?

Art that stimulates me visually. Since I come from the interior architecture field, I am obsessed with color combinations. I tend to fill my space with everything that pleases my eyes and can be inspiration for my own work. It ranges from realistic paintings to very strong abstract ones, or from a chrome designer coffee machine to a white round table. For me, it needs to have aesthetic, even if it only makes sense to me.

Is there a theme, subject matter or message that you like to explore in your work?

Not particularly, to be honest. I play with colors and want to free myself from any meaning that this could have. It means something to me but it can mean something way different to others, so I try to not get stuck into giving a message. Friends come to me analyzing my paintings, saying they see this and that and I get surprised every time. It’s amazing how every person can interpret something different, when I didn’t have the intention for it to.

The #LisArtPuzzle is a really creative way to connect with your collectors and combine digital and physical artwork! Is this something you continue to be interested in?

Absolutely. I am always looking for ways to interpolate this collector-art connection. You can collect, you can play, you can redeem the physical piece; you have many options in one purchase only. Art is also about relationships, so for me it is important to build them with the ones that connect to my art.

How do you want people to experience your artwork?

Connected. To keep in mind that you don’t need to find all the answers to your life in a painting—you can just admire it, read it, unread it. I want them to feel whatever they want to feel.

What has your experience been like as an artist in the NFT space?

Like a rollercoaster, really. It’s…intense. It is a lot of learning—different from the off-chain world. It is a very fast learning environment. One month feels like a year, a year feels like ten years and so goes on. It can be very overwhelming. I had numerous burn outs and I am not proud of it. You are always trying to catch up, but you need to hit the breaks sometimes and just focus on creating. If not, you get lost in always trying to interact with others but not with yourself. So as a piece of advice, take care of your time, manage it, and don’t overwork it. Other than that, it has been a bless!! It changed my artistic life completely. I have never felt more connected to art and artists in my entire life. I’ve gotten to know amazing artists that it would probably take ages to meet outside of this space. My art was exhibited in places I couldn’t even be [in person] but others could see it. I have met the best supporters. And this is only the beginning. I am seeing more artists coming from the traditional world into NFTs and that fills me with joy, seeing that they are open to it—a lot of my off-chain friends weren’t—and entering the space. Even bigger and experienced artists saying how amazed they are by the community, that they are truly excited for the coming years and happy to be part of it.

Is there something you would tell artists who are new to NFTs and curious about minting that you wish you’d known when you started?

Take it easy and mint only your best work, not just everything you have. You can get pretty excited seeing the sales and wanting to catch on, but you will only succeed that quickly with luck. You can show your process and other pieces, but what goes out there is your signature, so you need to think twice and build it up. I made the mistake of just throwing my art in the space and hoping to sell, but it is all learnings. There was no one to say what was right or wrong, and that doesn’t exist now either. We can help each other but in the end every artist will need to understand what works better for them and their art. Patience…I know it can be frustrating, but it is definitely the key.

Do you think there are any misconceptions about NFTs and the crypto art space? On the flip side, do you think there are ways in which the crypto art space could improve?

A lot probably. I try not to focus on what they are really saying or making up. I am an artist, I try to keep on with the market, but I am far from having a wide knowledge on all the crypto subjects. Like everything else, there are up-and-downsides, there are scams like in the off-chain world too. But one thing is inevitable, and no one can deny it: the power of having ownership over your art and not depending on 3rd parties is absolutely amazing.

In the following years I am sure there will be improvements, but I also feel a lot of people will leave the space, leaving the ones that truly believe in the power of NFTs. With that, we can build it even stronger. One thing that we need to remember is that there isn’t only the NFT space in the world. There is still an off-chain world, and we need to get back and integrate with it. It is one of the reasons I will never call myself an NFT artist. I am an artist, I use NFTs as a method to exhibit and market my art, like I use galleries or exhibitions, or my website, and so on. NFTs are changing the artistic aspect as with other areas too, but what I see people doing is putting all their hopes in it and being disappointed if it didn’t work out like they planned or [anticipated], then they start talking badly about it. 

What are you curious about right now?

I am curious about where this year is going. About meeting even more people and getting inspired by them. Trying even more techniques and experimenting a lot. About how the platforms are going to improve so artists have even more control and are better curated in the space. How the digital galleries are going to evolve too. In addition, how the off-chain world will integrate themselves into the NFT space.

This might be an intimate question but given your love of film and music, is there a playlist you can share with us that you like to listen to when you’re painting or a film that always inspires you?

David Lynch movies are a huge inspiration to me, not only visually but psychologically. The guy is a genius [and has a] “do whatever you want” thinking, and that is exactly what I like to do when creating. I recently created an “easy going” playlist with Brazilian tracks to feel more at home, but normally I listen to my alternative playlist that has over 1000 tracks and will be my heritage. I have been building it up for many years now. While listening to some of the songs, it brings me back directly to a specific phase of my life where I added the song to the playlist, so it’s kind of my comforting, nostalgic zone.

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