Faces of Web3 sat down to learn the story of the DarkMythst. Here’s how it went.
“You cannot kill me in a way that matters.”
The powerful quote above comes from a 2018 Tumblr post where a person asks a mushroom under gunpoint for the name of God. The mushroom replies by taunting its supremacy, enraging and terrifying the person.
The quote has inspired music and spawned many instances of fanart and comic dramatizations. But it is difficult to explain this meaning to someone without them seeing the quote itself.
In the same way, it is tough to tell a story like The DarkMythst’s — from studying to become a doctor to working on a bunch of Hollywood blockbusters and finally venturing to co-build one of the largest black NFT communities — while capturing its authenticity. For this reason, we decided to let him tell his story in his own words.
When I was six, my parents moved from Ghana to the United States. I loved my dad a lot, growing up. He was a virologist at the time, and I could often be found at his office, reading his science books. I was interested in anatomy and the science of molecular biology, and I would look into my dad’s electron microscope and ask myself questions like: What is a cell made of? Why does it have all of that stuff in there? But I was not only interested in science; I also loved drawing and painting. My dad would take me to competitions, and I’d win all the awards. Then, when I finished high school, I got into medical school and enjoyed the path I’d chosen for myself until two events changed my entire life.
The DarkMythst with his grandfather in Ghana (Time period unknown)
First, the Matrix movie came out. I watched it, and the graphics completely blew my mind. The second event happened while on my way to deliver something to someone at school. I happened to walk into the wrong building, and it was a video production department. I saw the lights, the cameras, the people, and the graphics. My jaw dropped, and I immediately sought out the professor and bombarded him with questions.
My dad was destroyed when I went to his office the next day and said I was done with med school. Instead, I wanted to go into graphics and film. At first, he didn’t understand why I’d make such a drastic change after coming this far. And I just said I didn’t know. I walked in there and everything just opened up for me. I had never felt that way before; I had to do this. He was supportive even though he had his reservations. I assured him I would find a way to fuse art with science, whatever that meant.
Before I could do any graphic art, I was driving a forklift for a factory to put myself through school. I hated driving forklifts, so one day, while I was at work, I wondered if the company had a marketing department I could intern in. After finding out who the VP of Marketing was, I asked him to give me a little tour. At the time, I was thinking about how to get myself hired in the graphics design department. I saw that they had a video camera, and I told him, “You guys outsource your marketing, but you have a camera where you can do all of your stuff here.” I said I could help build their facility and studio even though I’d never touched a camera in my life. So he ended up saying, “We have a very big meeting with about 1000 people attending. If you can create a loop on screen for the projection, we’ll see what we can do.”
He gave me about 100 digital logos, and I wondered how I’d use them when I had never touched video editing, graphics or Photoshop before. This was about two decades ago, so tutorials were not much available then. I had to figure this out one way or the other. I watched Minority Report, another cool sci-fi movie, and it gave me this idea to take these logos and have someone stand and do a visual effect where they just throw logos around the screen. I stayed up for 48 hours learning how to use the camera, green screen, do graphics and animation and burn a DVD. I delivered the result to him on DVD. After going over it, he called me and said, “I’m taking you off the factory floor. We're gonna hire you to head and run our video production department.” I was blown away by what I had just achieved.
Road to Hollywood
I did that (video production) for six years until I felt this urge to get into visual effects after the movies I’d seen. I told people, “I think I’m good enough to make it in the movie industry.” And they said, “Yeah right, you're this little dude from Ghana living in this little town from Minnesota. How are you going to get to Hollywood?”
I remember telling them, “Watch! I think I can do this.” So, I quit my job and went to an art school in Florida to learn more about visual effects, and I spent nights teaching myself 3D modeling, sculpting, and whatever it would take to enhance my creative thought. One day, we heard that a team from Stereo D would be coming over to recruit graduates from the school. A friend encouraged me to apply and refused to listen to my excuses of not being a graduate and not having my reel ready, so I went to the audition. After about 3 hours, when the team was packing up to leave, I walked up to one of them and said, “Hey I'm not on the list for the interview, but I heard you were here and I wondered if you would just take a quick look at my work.” Then I handed him my DVD.
He was pleased when my DVD started right away because the team had experienced hitches with those of others who had auditioned before me. They sat down to watch, and even though I nervously explained they were all works in progress, they were impressed. After watching, they looked at each other and asked me if I’d graduated? I told them I still had a year to go. After my audition, all they said was that I was a “very interesting artist”. A few days later, I got a call saying I was one of the three artists picked out of 300 applicants. Because two other graduates and I were selected to get this opportunity in Hollywood, it was a business-wise celebration for the school. So they honored me by graduating me early with my master’s degree!
I moved out to California, and the first film I worked on was The Avengers.
Yes, the freaking Avengers.
The Darkmythst’s filmography
From there, I got to work on 20 more movies. I made films for three years, and I was working on two to four films each month just doing visual effects. So I got burnt out because I was working 70 to 80 hours a week on those films. I had reached my goal, and I was happy with the films I’d worked on, but I was ready to do something different. I was still thinking about it when the company said they were moving to Canada, and that’s how I left the film industry. The next stage in my life proved to me that many things happen for a reason.
A promise kept
I started looking for a job again when someone reached out to me and asked me to come in for an interview, and I did. That was how I became a medical media/creative director, where I work with physicians, surgeons, doctors, & nurses. I have a team of people — both East and West Coast — that do everything from medical illustrations to animation, film and photography.
Remember I told my father that I would find a way to fuse art and science together? Well, this was it. When I told him about my new role, he had a really big smile, and he was glad I’d finally figured it out.
Losing home and finding himself
My father and I have a solid relationship, but it wasn’t always so. I call myself the DarkMythst because, behind every smile, there is a long, dark moment I've faced in life. I didn't have many friends in school, just a small circle. I was an awkward child who got into fights a lot with the racist kids that would catch me at the bus stop or gas stations to pick on me, and I’d never back down. The school would punish me for every altercation though I never started them, which made my folks wonder if I had an anger problem. Other things were circling around me that I felt no one would understand. I felt pushed out, neglected, and I ended up leaving home at 17. This was also about the time that I ‘somewhat’ graduated from high school.
3 months before I graduated, I experienced the perfect example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was hanging out at a party with some kids that had moved up from Chicago. We left the party thinking we were going to a fast-food restaurant, but we ended up at this house where some racist guys had been calling from, threatening to attack and kill everyone in the place we were at. So we got out of the car, a couple of people opened up the trunk and some grabbed shotguns and hand pistols. I thought, “Oh my, what is happening”? As we all marched up to the house, a couple of us who didn’t know what was about to happen dipped off to the side of the bush to get away from it. The next thing, they had riddled the house up with bullets. Fortunately, no one died, but somehow, I got in trouble for it! I couldn't say anything because I didn't want anyone to come for my family and I preferred to deal with it myself. So even though I was blamed for it, I stayed quiet and ended up getting sent away for about a year to a correctional institution.
Imagine a quiet kid in an institution with murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. My golden 18th birthday, when I was supposed to graduate, was spent in a tiny cold room over something I didn't do. It was life-changing, to say the least.
My arrest was big news, so everybody abandoned me when I came out. Nobody wanted to take me in, and everybody thought I’d committed the crime, including my parents. I was alone, roaming the streets at 18. The government put me in a halfway house with 35 to 40-year-old men who had been there for some weird stuff. I got a job at a movie theatre and, soon enough, I left the halfway house and bought a car. I was ahead in my credits at high school, so I was still able to graduate with my diploma, but I received it while in juvenile detention. Since I was considered a minor, I wouldn't have an adult record, so with my diploma, I’d be able to work my way back up and into med school, which is where my Dad and I rekindled our relationship.
Because of the way my life has been, it’s brought me into that artistic method where the meaning behind my art is everything that I wanted and never wanted to experience. So, every one of my art pieces is saying something that I can't say out loud. Even the art piece I did — the Ugly Duckling — is just a story based on my life coming here because that's the first story I heard in America when I came here at 6 years old. They kept calling me the ugly duckling because I was the only black kid in school.
The Ugly Duckling by DarkMythst
I'm thinking about how it’s defined my art now. That's why I feel like my style is so scattered because it reflects me; I'm very scatter-brained. Some people ask, “Why does your art look this way?” It's because my reflection of myself just keeps changing. I look at art I did four months ago and say, “Wow. What was I feeling?” These are stories that you cannot make up.
The African NFT community
I came into the NFT space in February 2021. A friend I’d gone to college with had been into the crypto art and space for several months. He’s not an artist, but he's just into the business of it. He initially wrote to me about it a month earlier, but, like many people, I was confused about NFTs. The second time, he called me and the way he presented it got me interested. He said, “Look, I will buy you an iPhone just to get on Clubhouse and hear about NFTs.” He was dead serious, so I got a little iPhone and downloaded the app. Then, he brought me into a Clubhouse room that was talking about NFTs.
At the time, there were only four people from the space that are big now: Cory Van Lew, Andre O’Shea, myself, and Iris who is the head of Black NFT Art. We were all brand new. It was the first time somebody put me on stage to introduce myself, and I had no idea what was going on. I was learning everything in that first month just by listening to NFT tips. I didn’t have anyone to reach out to ortell me about what NFTs are. So, I spent a month listening and learning everything on my own. I wasn’t selling anything; I was just putting art to just see and to learn how to build myself and my story.
Building the African NFT Community was accidental. I moved past needing to build myself to wanting to sell my art and that’s when I began to notice that there were almost no black people selling their art. I began to ask myself why this was such a struggle. I remember being frustrated because somebody had told me that maybe my art was “too black”. At the time, many black people were tweeting about how they wanted to stop making black art or maybe focus on making black art for black people only.
This was in April at a time when I was working with Black NFT Art. So I said, “We gotta do something about it.” Vintage Mozart, an artist as well, contacted me. He and five other people were in a Twitter group chat, and he said he wanted to create a room called African NFT Community to help the community get exposed. I thought it was a great idea.
That’s how the African NFT Community started. We started with highlighting the women of African NFT, and then we moved on to highlighting different avenues of NFT like illustration, surreal, and 3D. We came into the space and put artists at the forefront, and we decided to make the NFT community know about African NFT by pushing, having rooms, and talking about all these artists. The outcome has been huge!
Stepping back and starting over
At some point, the African NFT community got so big that it became a little overwhelming for me, and I became a little quieter because it brought a lot of attention. I also didn’t feel like I’d found my place here even though the African NFT Community had become so huge. I know in the past month people have probably been wondering, “What is wrong with him?” They've tried to put me in Twitter spaces to speak, and I never go. I know that's being rude but, honestly, I feel awkward and I just don't have the words.
It didn’t help that I got scammed in December 2021 by someone who knew about me and my work. They pretended to be inspired and asked me to click a link. When I did, my wallet got wiped out. Fortunately, I had several precautions to ensure that I wasn’t totally affected. I knew what would happen if I completely lost everything, so I had a hardware ledger and had part of my stuff there. But there was stuff that I lost that I was sad to lose, investments in other tokens that I hadn’t transferred to my ledger yet, and they were rising in price. I lost them all. So I've learned a valuable lesson there.
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Thanks to Success, Seni, and Chidirim for their contributions to this story.