In an environment too often populated with big egos, cliques, and reactionary drama, Andre Oshea is a much-needed dose of humility and thoughtfulness in the Web3 world. The 3D artist, animator, and musician has made a name for himself in the ecosystem through NFT drop partnerships with the Academy Awards, Netflix, and the Grammys. But before carving out a lane in the crypto art sphere, Oshea made a living through client work with companies and figures like Snapchat, John Legend, Adult Swim, Vogue, Tidal, and more.
Oshea’s style contains clear echoes of his personality; his works are often vibrant but never overbearing, and infused with contrasts of light and color that are accompanied by a deceptively poised energy. Frequently outfitted with a kind of retro-futurism, Oshea’s work is at once a balm for the soul and a stimulant for the mind — not an easy tone to strike.
The artist also has a mind for giving back to the community. Last year, Oshea teamed up with the crypto artist and musician Heno to release a 111-piece NFT collection that donated 50 percent of its proceeds to the Restorative Justice Initiative, an organization fighting the trend of mass incarceration in the United States.
Having just released Index Grids on Wildxyz, an abstract NFT collection of pixelated grids whose appearance evolves across four phases as they move between wallets, Oshea is reveling in the way the Web3 community is engaging with a project he explicitly designed to provide a new window into NFT market dynamics.
We caught up with the Christie’s-selling artist at his home in Atlanta to talk about Index Grids, the insights he’s gleaned from an NFT art market in decline, and the role and controversies of artificial intelligence in the creative sphere.
nft now: Congratulations on selling out Index Grids; it looks like collectors are already playing around with the interactive element of the collection. What has it been like watching this project evolve so far, and is it different or similar to what you had expected when you created it?
Oshea: It’s different than what I expected, and that’s because I feel like it exceeded my expectations. The general energy around the drop [and] its interactivity is all really cool for me to see. I’ve never done a drop that’s been this dynamic. Just seeing how that activates a community has been really cool. [A collector] sent me his Index Grid to send back to him [to see it change].
That was a cool gesture. It’s an ongoing collaboration between artists and collectors, but also realizing that this can be a collaboration between collector and collector. I was hoping that people might flip it on secondary or something. But people are transferring it to their burner wallets and back and asking Discord servers if they should transfer it or not.
nft now: This is your first purely abstract NFT release as contrasted with the more representational or figure-based work you do. What led you to the desire to do something a bit more conceptual?
Oshea: It started with a bit of personal reflection, thinking about the type of artwork that I personally appreciate and realizing that the art that I love is not always the same art that I put out. Not that I don’t love my own artwork, I do. But examining my history as an artist, I became a career artist via freelance work, and in a lot of ways, you need to make tangible artwork for freelance.
That resulted in a lot of my work being tangible; the subjects being relatable. But in the background, I’m usually working on very conceptual and abstract work. I think that it became a very intentional shift to lean more into these conceptual ideas that we have and come up with in moments of reflection. For Index Grids, in particular, the reflection was in the relationship between the art, the artist, and the art market.
Everybody right now is a bit more privy and sensitive to the market’s ebbs and flows. That was just something that I felt it was significant to comment on. A lot of artists instinctually feel this relationship and have negative feelings toward it. But I think that that’s a flawed perspective because it’s only one side of things. The other side is that the art market can provide you with the opportunity to live off of your art. And the art market needs art in order to survive. And I think there’s a really cool opportunity to collaborate in between those moments.
nft now: Do you feel there is a bit too much cynicism about fine art NFTs these days? It’s telling that you released a highly conceptual project at a time when the state of the NFT market is struggling.
Oshea: This is difficult because I think that the relationship at its core has stayed the same. But it’s going through a rough patch, right? And in a relationship of any kind, when people are going through rough times, they’re not usually the best versions of themselves. I think that that’s what we’re getting from the artist and the art market — I don’t think that we’re giving our best selves to each other.
Artists feel slighted by the market because the market is down, and the market is going to have a difficult time coming up if artists are reluctant to release art. I honestly feel like [Index Cards] came to a head at a very organic time. Everything has a way of aligning the way it’s supposed to. I feel like the timing has been very divine.
nft now: If the solution for artists is to keep creating and not get worn down by tough market conditions, what is the solution for collectors? What kind of responsibility do collectors have in such situations?
Oshea: I would say to keep collecting art. Now, I do understand that it’s harder, there’s less disposable income to collect art, but I think that also comes in the form of supporting in different ways. For me, the other value that I would want from my collector base is for them to champion the project, for them to talk about it, and to make memes about it.
I have this idea about the secondary market that you need to price pieces to sell, otherwise, they won’t and then the project ultimately doesn’t look as successful. So, collectors need to also be good partners and not overprice the work. And maybe don’t be afraid to let go of a piece because that’s sort of what is driving this market.
I don’t want to [encourage] quick flips, but there is an opportunity for you to have a more free-flowing relationship with your art. You don’t have to necessarily own a piece for 20 years to maintain its value.
Andre O’Shea makes art for people who wanna escape reality & build the future pic.twitter.com/P8vGvjzAe5— andreoshea.eth | AI Animator (@andreoshea) March 9, 2021
nft now: AI art tools have proliferated in recent months, and in some ways, you represent what might be, at least for the time being, a kind of rare breed. Many existing artists reject the tools outright by claiming an ethical high ground, while people who’ve never created anything before are flocking to them. You have embraced them fully, however. What has that transition looked like from your side as a creative?
Oshea: I’ve been really excited about AI. Since last summer when Midjourney started rolling out. For me, it was a very similar transition that I went through when I discovered 3D. The ideas I had before all felt limitless now. You’re being tugged in two directions. One, you feel this sense of limitlessness, and you feel so excited about the work you could be creating.
On the other end, I was nervous that people were going to say, ‘Wait, why are you using AI? Your artwork is too good for you to use AI,’ or, ‘You’re too much of an artist to use AI tools.’ I’m just trying to explore this limitless feeling. I’m trying to explore the depths of my imagination. I’m trying to tap into the collective consciousness of humanity.
Once you start to use [these tools], you realize that it takes genuine skill, the same way that it takes drawing, painting, or 3D animation. And you realize that it has artistic merit in and of its own, and then you can’t be mad anymore. And so, I just decided to go all in on it, and the results have been amazing.
I think the value-add of AI is that this is the collective consciousness of humanity. It is a way to tap into that in a way that we’ve never been able to before. I think the internet represents a collective consciousness because we can see everybody’s thoughts. But with AI, in theory, you are generating from everybody’s thoughts, right? AI models are built up of images from all over the world. If 75 percent of pictures of dogs are golden retrievers, the collective consciousness is associating golden retrievers with ‘dog.’
Now, it doesn’t always do that. But I think that it offers an inside look at what humanity has documented over history. I think that’s really curious. That’s the first layer of the value-add for me. The second layer was, ‘How does this collective consciousness transcribe intangible concepts?’ How are we breaking down these concepts?
nft now: How are these AI tools starting to seep into your artistic process? How are you integrating them into what you’re doing and what you want to do in the future?
Oshea: They’re almost like a layer of special effects. When I create, like AI animations, I’m typically creating a layer one, baseline 3D animation, and then the AI animation is layer two. And I allow AI to have some control; I just give it some rough parameters.
When it starts to spit out images, I iterate on top of those. And then, if I need to, I might have to go back and edit the original 3D animation. I use it as an addition to the original animation for things that I don’t know how to do or that I don’t have the time to create.
nft now: If you look at comments under AI art posts on Instagram or Twitter, you often see people enthusiastically expressing their love for a work but then walking back that enthusiasm after learning it was made with the help of AI, almost trying to make an effort not to like something they clearly enjoy. What’s at the core of that dynamic, in your view?
Oshea: When I see that happen, I think that’s somebody who’s trying to preserve the time and effort that they put into learning their craft. And I am sympathetic to the people that feel like they’ve spent a decade learning how to watercolor paint and AI can do it in 10 minutes.
It’s a bit off-putting to see all of your efforts seemingly go undervalued because someone else can recreate it. However, I do think that response is going to change because people will realize that they don’t have to spend a decade learning their craft. And if they do, it’s because they truly love it.
I’m a 3D animator; I’m not a writer. I’m not a novelist. I’m not a screenwriter. It’s not in my wheelhouse. However, I appreciate things like movies a lot. I appreciate things like comic books a lot, just for their artistic value. And I may have the motivation to create a comic book, but I don’t know how to write comic books. I don’t know how to write character dialogue. But that doesn’t make my pursuit of that dream any less valid.
I think once people realize where AI can take the art that they have spent a decade learning, all of those perceived barriers will fall down because they’ll start to realize that this is really cool. This is really powerful. I can do things I never imagined.