Next Up: John Lê’s Journey From Comic Books to Solana’s Top-Selling Artist

BY Matt Medved

January 11, 2024

Comic books were the starting point for John Lê’s digital art career.

Renowned for his contribution to “GIGA” from Vault Comics, Lê has developed an instantly recognizable style marked by signature linework, futuristic subjects, and nostalgic, dream-like color palettes. Lê found his way into web3 in the summer of 2021 and was quickly inspired by the nascent digital art revolution taking place.

Since minting his first artwork on Solana, the aptly-titled “The First Edition,” in July 2022, Lê has ascended to the forefront of the blockchain’s fast-growing digital art scene. At the time of publication, Lê was the highest-selling individual artist on the Exchange marketplace, with over $2.2 million in total volume across more than 4,700 sales.

Every week, nft now’s Next Up unveils a new artist from our curated list of ascendant talents who have been making significant waves throughout Web3. This week, we’re excited to spotlight Lê’s journey from the printed page to the blockchain’s digital canvas.

Credit: John Lê

nft now: How did you first become interested/involved in digital art?

John Lê: For me, digital art began to become a necessity in order to keep up with production deadlines for both freelance and comic book work. After a short while, I realized that most of my work process had naturally converted over to a digital practice. As for digital art in web3 and NFTs, that began at the tail end of summer 2021. At the time, I was finishing up my debut creator-owned comic, “GIGA,” and started to understand some of the flaws of how business is conducted in that industry. As I started learning more about web3 and blockchain technology, I began to see many ways this emerging industry could provide more autonomy for independent artists and decided to dive all the way in. 

“Some of the recurring themes of my work are loneliness and solitude, sometimes accompanied by hope and embrace.”

JOHN LE

How would you describe your art?

On the surface, I think that my influences of science fiction, 70’s French/Belgian illustration, and Japanese illustration are pretty clear. Blend that with the root of a kid who grew up in Southern California with a deep love for hip-hop and graffiti, and you have me. Beneath the surface, I think some of the recurring themes of my work are loneliness and solitude, sometimes accompanied by hope and embrace.

Credit: John Lê

What’s your process like? And where do you usually find inspiration?

My process is a bit more like sifting through sand than it is like building a structure. When I start something new, I try to treat a blank canvas as a valley of sand where I will try to uncover my next piece of work by drawing loosely and refining it as I get a better understanding of what it is I want to draw and more importantly, what I want to say. As someone who is infatuated with art’s ability to communicate with those you will never meet, I try to exercise my discipline in thinking more about what I want to say than thinking about what I want to draw. As for inspiration, I think the root is probably the most important to understand. Having lost my father at the early age of 10, the only thing that saved me was stories. Whether that story came in the form of a movie, novel or a song, it was stories that made me feel less alone than I actually was. I think I continue to do that in my work – save other lonely kids through stories.

Credit: John Lê

What are the biggest challenges facing rising artists in web3?

I think the biggest challenge facing artists in web3 is discipline. Like every tech innovation from the synthesizer to digital art and now web3 to AI, discipline, and discernment becomes that much more critical for artists to exercise for the betterment of their body of work.

“I think the biggest challenge facing artists in web3 is discipline.”

JOHN LE

What advice do you have for rising artists in this space?

My biggest advice for artists in this space is to view web3 and NFTs as an air fryer. A very convenient and efficient tool in the kitchen, but not something where everything you cook must go through just one tool – otherwise, your entire dish will taste flat and lack textures and flavors. Each tool has a purpose, and web3/NFTs are no different in their current state. It’s important to remain curious and find the right tools for each task. In addition to that, find your audience without losing yourself. 

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