Humans of Web3 is a simple series. Behind every protocol and platform is a rich mix of dedicated, passionate people; devs, designers, engineers, founders, managers, miners, the list goes on. Seriously. The list never ends. Look at what we’ve built with just this limited number of people. Now imagine what our ecosystems will look like when our friends, families, and neighbors join. This series is about celebrating people, no matter where they are or what background they come from. This series is about the future of web3 and the people ushering it in.
Jacob Hanson, a multidisciplinary artist based out of Tampa, Florida, has done it all (including some lovely designs for Radius). It is difficult to distill his life into a few defining moments. His artistic journey has been marked by so many moments of growth and humility. Perhaps the most compelling thing about Jacob’s journey, however, is the convergence of his creative interests into a career that feels perfect for him.
Jacob started his creative career at the age of 20 doing graphic design for startups. He quickly recognized that role wasn’t for him. “I realized that a majority of the perks would be a fridge with beer in it or a foosball table, and I wondered what I was doing.”
Wanting a more physical connection to his art, Jacob pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture and functional art. The body of work and skills he’d developed during his degree imbued him with an adaptability that was essential for his growth into an interdisciplinary artist. Shortly after graduation, when Jacob was 27, an opportunity presented itself in New York and he took it. He had many friends out in the city who’d built a community for themselves and wanted him to join.
“NY was tough, I got by with a lot of support from my friends. Whether that was finding me jobs, bringing me onto their shoots, or even setting up photoshoots in the apartment and taking family portraits of all our friends…Every time we had a party we knew we had to document it. I brought out lights, bounce flashes, everything.”
The pivotal moment for him came as a Production Assistant on the set of a high-end photoshoot. He recalled a moment with photographer Roe Ethridge, when he noticed that Roe used the same camera sensor as Jacob did. This made him feel that his path of being an interdisciplinary artist was much more approachable.
“When you boil it down, it's a camera, a computer, a background, [and] a model. I felt way more connected to the process [after realizing this]. It seemed like a possible career path. Maybe not as a photographer, but at least living in the ecosystem.”
Unfortunately, the NY hustle quickly became unsustainable. “I felt trapped, like a cog in the machine. I knew that as soon as I had the opportunity, I had to leave NY.” Despite his desire to leave, Jacob clearly has many fond memories of living in the city. When asked about these, he laughed. “I think that’s because the pictures turned out so good. All the stuff we didn’t capture was the hard stuff, the hungry nights.”
After two years in the city, he got an offer to join the graduate program in sculpture at Indiana University. Compared to New York, which was a constant struggle of leaping from job to job and making ends meet, graduate school was a stable time of reflection. “It allowed me to crystallize so many ideas I had about why I was doing art, how the world sees art, how an academic community sees art, what its greater function in education is. I mean, what are the goals of an artist?”
Between teaching college freshmen creative drawing and working on his thesis project, he began fleshing out his plans. It became increasingly evident that staying in academia would disconnect him from the rest of the world, or people outside academia.
“Making art for a group of very committed individuals is great, especially when you need feedback and you want to improve or level up, or draw from experience from all the makers…but it does feel removed from the real world, from connecting with other people…I’m making things that I want to go out in the world and live, [I want for my art] to connect with somebody and they want to bring it home, and I felt there was a disconnect there.”
During the last six months of his Master’s program, Miami called, and he desperately wanted to answer. He had great memories of working on an installation during Art Basel and felt magnetically attracted to Florida. The culture, the art, and the community were so vibrant; it resonated with him deeply. His excitement was palpable as he told me, “I was a depressed midwesterner who was making conceptual, hard art, and Miami [was] so flashy, the street art was ‘what you see is what you get’.”
By the end of his program, Miami became less feasible as an option. The cost of living was rising exponentially, and the pandemic created instability. Regardless, Jacob knew Florida was calling, and he was determined to make it work.
His search ultimately landed him in Tampa. He worked on photoshoots in Miami and South Beach for various clients, doing swimwear launches and social media promotions. In spite of his extensive portfolio, and his varied skills, the creative work was irregular enough to require supplemental income. After a brief stint at an Art Materials store, building a granular understanding of the tools artists use, he found the perfect job.
“I was looking at all the skills, the application requirements, and [I remember thinking] they should’ve just put my name on it.”
Jacob Hanson joined the Home Shopping Network in 2020, building and maintaining sets for all their needs. He immediately felt a connection to the work because he’d been on both sides of the lens, as photographer and builder. Above all, the work afforded him the stability to keep growing and tackle whatever challenge is next.
“I get to work 4 days a week, with later, longer hours each day. It's this fun adaptive new work style. With creative projects, at work and at home, the more time you can throw at it the better. Elongated dedicated hours, whether it’s working those long hours four days in a row, or having three whole days off, really helped me to focus on my projects.”
Jacob now owns a home in Tampa, with a dedicated studio space that he uses to paint for clients or continue illustration work for organizations such as Radius. When asked to encapsulate his artistic journey, this is what he had to say:
“In the end, the support of my friends, the interest, enthusiasm, and encouragement from them, [was key]. I owe so much to that. And then also, those gut check moments, where you’re like, here’s the opportunity. [In order to become] a multi-disciplinary artist…I took a couple classes on photography, I taught myself a lot, looked up a lot of stuff, and learned a lot through experience. But to get and have those [high-end] jobs, and work in that realm for a small amount of time, it's like holy crap. You get opportunities to do new work, like the Radius illustrations and there’s fear. There’s always risk, there’s always doubt, and it’s just strange. But there’s also motivation, to be prepared ahead of time, to show up, and to just get the work done.”
Jacob Hanson is a set production magician, multidisciplinary artist, and capitalist deconstructor extraordinaire. He’s also passionate about food scarcity and the right to food. Check out his website here, his Instagram here, and his Radius profile here.