Bard Ionson: An Internet Dweller Inspires a Path to Crypto Art
2700 Toilets Make Happy Green Bug & the Mission to Increase Royalties for Crypto Artists Everywhere
Rare Digital Bird, Episode 6
Crypto art, NFT, and Artificial Intelligence Artist, Bard Ionson, talks about how a group of crypto artists succeeded in increasing royalties, gathering 2700 toilets to make Happy Green Bug, his inspirations from literature and artists like Nam June Paik & more!
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KNOWN ORIGIN https://knownorigin.io/bard-ionson
Table of Contents
0:00:00 Coming Up!
0:01:35 What’s Rare Digital Bird?
0:02:01 We’ve gone mainstream and the hype is real
0:02:54 How to filter out the noise
0:03:16 Why it’s so important to filter out the noise and the hype
0:04:24 About Bard Ionson
0:05:59 Bard’s talks about his love for tinkering with technology
0:08:12 Bard talks about the artist that’s been a huge inspiration to him 0:10:49 Bard takes us through the different processes he’s used to create his works
0:13:58 An interesting list of inspirations
0:17:45 How art replaced Bard’s old beliefs
0:21:36 Everything you wanted to know about Bard’s Happy Green Bug and his use of toilets
0:23:24 Bard talks about Duchamp’s Fountain and his Fountain Project for artists to remix
0:26:11 The video version of Happy Green Bug
0:27:13 Bard shares his experience with different crypto art marketplace platforms
0:32:07 Lack of transparency regarding curation
0:33:30 How expensive gas (transaction) fees are
0:33:56 3 pieces of advice for artists wanting to enter the world of crypto art 0:35:52 Splitting payments with artists and charities
0:39:22 How Bard gotten into blockchain and crypto art
0:42:37 Bard’s big beef about royalties & resale rights
0:43:31 The history of royalties & the group of crypto artists who helped increase royalties
0:45:17 The problem with Ethereum and royalties
0:47:33 The need for usability (search, organization) and a cleaner, more museum-like interface
0:50:40 Collaborations with Gemini Rising, Async.art, MOCDA, UCL; working on art for VIV3, taking on rockets; and supporting crypto artist daughter Liza Grace
0:59:50 How to contact Bard
You can read all this, or you can click HERE instead for Episode 6 of the “Rare Digital Bird” Series — with closed captioning!
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[00:01:35] What’s Rare Digital Bird?
Hey, peeps! What’s up? I’m Ann Marie Alanes, and this is Rare Digital Bird — a series about artists, their creations, and their experiences — both good and bad — using blockchain technology.
In Episode 5, we discussed how blockchain and the cryptoart community are taking digital art collaborations to a whole new level. Guide your cursor up here for the link to Episode 5.
[00:02:01] We’ve gone mainstream and the hype is real
Today I came across a video by a YouTuber I followed for some time. I’ve never seen her talk about art or collectibles — physical, digital, or crypto — and so it initially surprised me to see that she created a “What’s Crypto art?” video. As someone who has been involved not just in crypto art but also blockchain, going to and coordinating nerdy blockchain meet-ups, and also cool crypto art design and music events since 2017, I’ve become quite protective of the blockchain and crypto art space, so seeing Grimes and Logan Paul all over the news representing crypto art pains me a little. When these things happen, you know that crypto art has hit the mainstream, which is so exciting and I am absolutely grateful for it, but hype is also at an all-time high in this space.
[00:02:52] How to filter out the noise
And when there’s a lot of noise, it’s important to have the right filters. So, please allow me to help you filter out that noise. If you haven’t already, check out Episode 4 for the crypto artists, collectors, and enthusiasts who have put in the real work. And be sure to follow and support them. And also, remember to follow the crypto artists mentioned throughout all the Rare Digital Bird episodes.
[00:03:16] Why it’s so important to filter out the noise and the hype
These artists are influencing the very crypto art platforms you want to sell your art on. For example, as you saw at the start of this video, a group of crypto artists worked together to increase royalties from 5% to 10% as a standard across all the main crypto art platforms. That’s a big win for artists. I repeat, that’s a big win for artists. How could you not want to be a part of something like this where your fellow artists are taking a proactive role in standing up for all crypto artists’ rights and succeeding? The crypto art community is amazing. And for those of you — yes, you — newly entering the space, it’s so important that we follow, lift up, and collaborate with the right people, the ones who are making a real difference for you and all artists in the crypto art world.
Now, if you’re an artist who’s considering exploring the crypto art world, or if you’re a blockchain dev interested in creating something better that artists will want to use, consider clicking on the Subscribe button and the notification bell.
[00:04:24] About Bard Ionson
For our sixth episode, I am truly honored to welcome today’s guest, Bard Ionson. Originally from Colorado and currently residing in Virginia, he is a creative technologist and programmer by trade. His affinity for tinkering with old technology was reawakened in 2012 when he came across an internet dweller piece by Nam June Paik. His AI and machine learning art, oscilloscope animations, and glitch scanography reflect topics around money, spirituality, politics, literature, art, and culture, and is often infused with hidden layers of meaning and multiple dimensional backstories. His works have been in a number of solo and group exhibitions, including Miami Blockchain Week, ETHDenver, CADAF NYC and CADAF Online 2020, the Ampersand Hotel London Electrorent Launch Event in 2019, and much more. You can take a closer look at his body of work by visiting the Ethereum-based platforms Async, SuperRare, KnownOrigin, and MakersPlace; the Flow-based platform VIV3; and his virtual gallery in Cryptovoxels.
He’ll be talking about the interesting process behind creating his newest Async art piece, “Happy Green Bug.”
Ann Marie Alanes (AMA): Hi, Bard. How are you?
Bard Ionson (BI): Hi. How are you?
AMA: Alright. How about you tell me the story of how you got into art?
[00:05:59] Bard’s talks about his love for tinkering with technology
BI: Okay. It’s been a slow, kind of a long, journey to being an artist, but I kind of look back on my childhood as more of a tinkerer. I would take apart things like old telephones and hook up my train transformer to it, just experimenting with things, taking things apart, putting them back together. So more of a technologist in a way. So, I eventually got a computer, which was a Texas Instruments computer, and started learning how to program on it and typing in programs from magazines in those days. So I found out how to make pictures, how to make little graphics, pixel graphics basically, on the computer, and then transcribe music into it, so I had music and pictures playing. But I never thought of it as being an artist. It was more of programming or making something just to make something creative.
And then I went into the programming field, so I’ve been working in a career as a programmer and mainly doing boring business applications, financial applications, billing systems, things like that. But all my life, I’ve been going to art museums and looking at art and enjoying just being a connoisseur of art, I guess, kind of just enjoying looking at it. And I’m a big fan of public art and just having it where everybody can see it, from all economic stratus. So then just being absorbed in it for a long time. And then I couldn’t draw, terrible at drawing, so I never thought that I could do art.
[00:08:12] Bard talks about the artist that’s been a huge inspiration to him
BI: And I ended up going to a resort that was full of artwork that my in-laws had taken us to. Twin Farms was the name of the resort, but they have art everywhere, like three pieces of fine art in every room at least. And they had a piece of art. It was a set of three televisions all arranged in a sculpture that looked like a mask or a robot, and it had one of those funnels from a gramophone that the sound would come out of as the nose with a light on it. And there were these videos running on the TVs, like the psychedelic MTV sort of videos. It was a piece called “Internet Dweller.” And so it piqued my interest, one, because of the technology, the old TVs. I was kind of into the whole tech, taking things apart. And then it was about the internet. It was one of the first artworks I had seen about the internet, which was right in my field of what I did for a living. But this was a piece by Nam June Paik, and there’s 13 of these Internet Dwellers made out of TVs. They had one there at the resort. So, that’s kind of where I started diving into learning about Nam June Paik and his art, his philosophies, and the way he made art coming out of the Fluxus movement and a lot about how anyone can be an artist and everything is art was kind of his mantra. And his art was playful. You could interact with it. A lot of his art is…you can touch it. He intended it to be touched and manipulated, although they don’t like to do that anymore.
BI: So it’s not as fun.
AMA: Yeah, that’s not fun. Well, that’s awesome. That must have been really eye-opening for you. And I know that you’ve gotten into all different types of new media art, like artificial intelligence, and glitch scanography, oscilloscope art, and electronic sculptures, glitch video, things like that. Can you take us through the journey discovering those different types?
[00:10:49] Bard takes us through the different processes he’s used to create his works
BI: For some reason, I came across on the internet a piece of software that turned pictures into oscilloscope drawings. It was an open source piece of software called Rabiscoscopio. And then that piqued my interest about how to use sound to make pictures. And so I went on eBay and got myself an old oscilloscope for $30 or something and just started playing around with that and drawing. I used some sound software to manipulate sounds and make animated images on the oscilloscope. And then we had a broken scanner and I took it apart. It got wet. I took it apart, and then I started using the scan bar to scan things. It was a bar that comes out. I just waved it over my face.
AMA: That’s cool.
BI: So I have this self-portrait that I’ve sold for two ETH or something.
BI: But I scanned it over my face and it made a glitch. I call it glitch scanography, but it’s because the scanner got wet a few times and then it broke, and I just use it to scan things. It came from an idea from another artist who used a scanner bar, a big one, and he would point it at trains and subways, and as they ran by, he would turn the scanner on, the scan, and it would scan the train.
AMA: Wow. That’s cool.
BI: It’s really cool how he did it. I can’t remember his name, but that’s where I got the idea from. So, I like taking old technology apart and breaking it, breaking things. I’ve been a software tester also. The whole objective there is to bang on things until they break, see what bugs are in the system. So, a lot of my art comes out of that. With the artificial intelligence also, I don’t use it like you’re supposed to use it. I try to tweak, break it, or make it do something that’s unintended. Some of the most interesting art I’ve done is art where I…even in After Effects, I did some stuff and did it all the wrong way. They’ve got a 3D module for doing 360-degree videos, the 3D type stuff, and I just started using it and threw in variables randomly and produced some really interesting work that way. So, sometimes it’s about just experimenting. Experimenting was trying something that was never intended for it to be used for.
AMA: Very cool.
[00:13:57] An interesting list of inspirations
AMA: So, you have a really interesting list of people who inspire you: other artists, poets, authors, even, I think, a character from the League of Gentlemen, if I’m correct. Barbara Dixon? Or am I…? Is that…? Oh, no. Okay. All right.
BI: No. I don’t remember that one.
AMA: I do remember you mentioned Barbara Dixon, so I wasn’t sure if she was a novelist, an author, or…
BI: It was an artwork that I saw at Twin Farms.
AMA: Oh, an artwork. Okay.
BI: Yeah. She did a picture of Henry VIII.
BI: Like a full oil, just very classical. It was a very classical painting of King Henry VIII. It looked like a period piece, but then with spray paint, she just put SOB over the top of it.
AMA: Oh. Okay.
BI: So it’s very classical-looking, but then it had this graffiti on it.
AMA: Yeah. That’s cool. That’s really cool. Yeah. You have all kinds of different inspirations. Can you tell me more about those, or even what inspires you on top of who inspires you?
BI: I’ve been very interested in literature. In college, I enjoyed my liberal arts classes more than my computer classes. So, in college, I was introduced to authors like Willa Cather, who is a famous American novelist, and Flannery O’Connor. She wrote very grotesque novels and short stories from kind of a religious background. And then from Willa Cather, I liked her, and others, I liked that there’s just the imagery. It would paint a picture with words, so it’s very descriptive of a setting or a period of time. And then some of the other people I’ve been influenced by is Jacques Ellul from the philosophical point of view. He had a philosophy that he believes that all power is evil inherently. It’s like the idea that all power corrupts. And the power he was talking about, it’s the power of technology, the power of money, the power of religion, the power of government, anything that can exert a force over somebody else. And so that kind of influences a lot of the artwork I make: the idea that technology, a lot of people feel it’s a tool, so it’s neither good nor evil. It depends on how you use it. But he was of the mind that power in itself can change how you use it or how you feel. I like to think of like if you hold a loaded weapon, a gun, you might be more likely to use it just because of the power you feel from it. So, those are kind of some of the more from the literature side of things. Somehow they subliminally feed into my art, even though they didn’t do visual art. It’s more the literature.
AMA: Yeah. I feel that gives your art a lot of depth.
[00:17:44] How art replaced Bard’s old beliefs
AMA: You also talk about spirituality, struggling with that, and how art replaced your old beliefs. Can you tell me more about that?
BI: Sure. I come from more of a conservative, evangelical Christian background, so I went to Christian schools or high school. And it was more of a sheltered upbringing. Things like no movies and rock music was kind of out-of-bounds, so I missed a lot of cultural references. But I ended up reading a lot of books instead. And so I went to college and I went to more of a… I also went to a Christian college, but it was more liberal, more open thinking, and got introduced to more of the ideas around universalism, that God will let everyone into the afterlife, everyone would go to be with God, and more of those ideas kind of coming from Jacques Ellul’s, along those lines. Another author named George MacDonald. I think he’s one of the greatest fantasy fiction writers. He’s like one of the first fantasy authors, a Scottish guy. He wrote a book called “Lilith” and a book called “Fantasies.” But it was set in sort of a spiritual world, sort of in-between place. But he was more along those lines that God will redeem everyone. He has an idea in one of his books that it’s a fantasy fiction story, but the archetype in the book, it’s like a Satan figure. And Satan rebelled against God and fell out of heaven, according to the Bible. But in his story, God, at the end, he works to redeem Satan. He actually tries to…he works on Satan to become redeemed into the light. So, it’s kind of an interesting philosophy from a religious point of view. But I’m getting off track a little. But through this, all the time I used to spend maybe in prayer and meditation at church kind of changed into making art instead. So the art is more of a prayer or meditation now. I can’t really explain how it happened exactly, but kind of a conversion between one thing into another. I enjoy making art. There’s kind of a flow to it. Tons of repetitive tasks, you kind of get into a flow, a meditative state of making something, so I find that therapeutic.
AMA: Yeah. I think this would be a good time for us to now start talking about “Happy Green Bug.”
[00:21:36] Everything you wanted to know about Bard’s Happy Green Bug and his use of toilets
BI: Yeah. This is on Async Art, and it’s a layered artwork. And all the layers in this artwork are from artificial intelligence, and these are actually all images of toilets. I took 2700 toilets and put them through an artificial intelligence training routine which takes eight hours or so to run. And then, out of it, I generate random images of things. And in one of the images, this Happy Green Bug showed up. My daughter really liked it and was excited about it, so I decided to make it a focus of a piece of art. And the person who buys the layers will be able to switch out the backgrounds and change the size of the bug. There’s a second bug, a red bug, that shows up too, an angry bug. But all the backgrounds are also from the same data set, the model of the toilets. So you can switch out what you want the backgrounds to look like and the expression of the bug. Because I ended up with multiple images of the bug, all with different faces, what I interpret as faces.
AMA: I like how the background even looks like a leaf…
AMA: …the bug is on.
BI: Yeah. I’m not sure where that came in from all the toilets I put in. I don’t know how I ended up making a leaf.
[00:23:24] Bard talks about Duchamp’s Fountain and his Fountain Project for artists to remix
AMA: I know that you talk about hidden layers of meaning. So, maybe you could talk about how “Fountain” is underneath all this.
BI: All this artwork that I’m generating from the toilet model is coming from…I put it all in another project called Fountain. It’s at fountain-art.com. But right now, it’s like 502 different images and videos that I’ve hand-selected from the model. I can generate billions of images, but not all of them are very artistic, so I pick out the ones I like best. And the meaning behind Fountain is actually from another artist who displayed an artwork called Fountain. And he tried to display it, but they hid it in the corner behind the partitions because it was just a urinal that he had put out. And they hid it and didn’t think of it as art, which is where the idea of readymade art comes from: from Duchamp. And so, that was kind of the inspiration for the whole thing was taking all these toilets. And I decided to be more gender-neutral and used toilets instead of urinals. Because one of the aspects of Marcel’s art was he was kind of male-centric, and I wanted to be more gender-neutral in that way. But this toilet art from Fountain, I put it out as NFT art, so people can buy it. But I’ve also distributed it as a remixable art. So, any other artist is allowed to come. I made a license for it, remix license. So any artist can come copy it and integrate it into their own artwork.
AMA: Oh, wow.
BI: As long as they modify it somehow. They can put it in their art or do a collage of it. There’s a whole genre of artists out there called remix artists. They just take other people’s work and make a mix of it. It’s sort of like an electronic collage.
AMA: That’s so cool.
BI: So, that’s why Fountain art is there. So this artwork called Happy Green Bug is sort of a remix of that art in Fountain.
AMA: I see.
[00:26:11] The video version of Happy Green Bug
AMA: And you wanted to talk about the video version?
AMA: So, how is that different?
BI: The video version, they call it a special latent block. It’s like a mechanism in artificial intelligence with generative art, GAN art, in that you can kind of morph between images within the model. So this is morphing between multiple images and creating kind of a video. It kind of morphs between states. And then it’s a looping video, so it loops around and you can see it kind of morph into other things. And this will be available. I’m putting it out on SuperRare.
BI: And it’s just another version of the same images. I’m just manipulating them in a different way.
AMA: Very cool.
[00:27:13] Bard shares his experience with different crypto art marketplace platforms Benefits of the crypto art world vs. non-crypto art platforms)
AMA: So, you mentioned SuperRare. I also know that you’re on KnownOrigin, MakersPlace, Async. Why don’t you tell us, in your experience, how they compare, the culture and community around each of those, your experience regarding those?
BI: Okay. The first platform I was on was SuperRare, and I might tell a story about that later. But SuperRare is where I’ve sold most of my art, so it’s kind of where I gravitate to. And most of the community I’ve been involved with were on SuperRare first. Actually, Hackatao helped me by putting my art in his art show in Italy in 2019 and kind of helped me get started. And a lot of friends I’ve made there, like Robbie Barrat and others, we all communicate on Discord and have conversations. And we’ve done collaborations with each other, kind of play off of each other’s art. At least not so much recently, but in the beginning, in 2018 and 2019, there was a lot of crossover influence between artists, where we would kind of pick up ideas from other people’s art or copy what they were doing and change it differently.
The other one is MakersPlace. It’s a little bit different. The main thing I see is they take credit cards as payment, not just Ethereum. SuperRare, they take Ethereum only. And the way they manage gas fees is a little bit strange right now. Not to get too technical into crypto, but there’s a transaction fee when you put art out. And with SuperRare, you just pay it directly through your wallet. But on MakersPlace, there’s like a two-step process where they will pay it for you if it’s under a certain amount. But if it isn’t, you have to do an additional step to pay for it. So, there’s like a two-step process to put art out, which is a little bit annoying. I’d rather just pay for it directly instead of waiting on the processing.
And KnownOrigin does additions, so you can do more than one. You can make an addition. You can do the same artwork but sell it five times or 10 times. Through experimentation, I found that one of one art works better for me. Anytime I make an addition, I sell, like, half of it, and then the other half sits there. So if I make an addition of 50, I sell 25. If I make an addition of two, I sell one. If I make an addition of five, I sell two.
BI: For some reason, I don’t know why, but it was good for promotional purposes back in 2018. I put out free art, so I made an addition of 100 and just put it out for free for anyone to come get. Async, of course, is totally different because it’s all layers.
BI: It takes me longer to make art on Async, so I don’t release as much there. It takes a long time for me to produce something that looks good on Async that communicates something. It takes me a longer time to build it, so I have fewer works on Async. Another one I’m recently on is viv3.com. But they’re on the Flow network, which is a whole new blockchain, from Dapper Labs, the people who did CryptoKitties. They built their own blockchain. And there’s no gas fees there. So, that’s a new place I’ve sold, like, six pieces now there. And it’s different. They aren’t as mature. The platform doesn’t have a resale market yet, and they don’t have a Flow wallet yet, so it’s very much in infancy.
AMA: You did mention a challenge with MakersPlace. Are there any other challenges that you’ve seen, or other benefits that you’ve seen working with these different platforms?
[00:32:07] Lack of transparency regarding curation
BI: I guess the method of their curation is sometimes not transparent. There’s a lot of artists on the waiting list for all of these platforms, and it’s hard to know what they’re looking for. And it changed over time, I think. I was on in 2018 and I got introduced through articles by Jason Bailey to SuperRare. But early on, they were begging for people to come. And then, as people caught on and people were starting to sell work, they got more and more people. And I think their criteria for judging art changed over time. I don’t know exactly what those criteria are, but it’s just a question in a lot of people’s minds. “How do I get on there? What are they looking for?” Those kind of questions.
AMA: Do you think that would be helpful to be more transparent?
BI: It would be interesting to know, I think, at least how they judge art or if they have a curator that’s a trained artist curator, just to know a little bit about… I mean, it’s probably very subjective, but it’d be nice to know a little bit about what they think or what they’re looking for. Although, it may influence artists to change their style, I suppose.
[00:33:29] How expensive gas (transaction) fees are
BI: The biggest thing right now is just the transaction fees on Ethereum. Especially for artists who are just coming online, it’s pretty expensive to get started. Whereas when I started, it was like a dollar to put a piece of work out, and now it’s like $50.
AMA: Yeah. That’s definitely a challenge.
[00:33:56] 3 pieces of advice for artists wanting to enter the world of cryptoart
AMA: So, with those things in mind, what would be your advice to artists coming into the blockchain space?
BI: I think it’s good to have kind of a portfolio of sorts. I know a lot of artists that are more established or doing client work or commissions might have a lot on Instagram, which works. But it’s good to actually get something sold. But there’s platforms where you can just sign up and they don’t have a curation process, like OpenSea and Mintable, just to start pushing some stuff out and see if you can get a few sales and a body of work going.
BI: The other things are just it’s worked for me just to stick with what I know how to do, my own style, which is not…I don’t do a lot of drawing or hand drawing work. It’s mainly computer manipulations of things, more of kind of generative programming art, which is becoming a lot more popular. It’s surprising how the generative art community has started building things on platforms like Art Blocks and others where you write code and it makes pictures. And I think it might help to collaborate. If you want to get on SuperRare, one advice is to try to see if a SuperRare artist will collaborate with you. I don’t know if it’ll help because I don’t know what SuperRare is looking for, but at least you get your name on a work that is on SuperRare.
[00:35:52] Splitting payments with artists and charities
BI: A lot of artists do, like, 50/50 splits. So when I collaborate with someone, we just split it 50/50. And I put it out on SuperRare, I take the first payment and then I pay out of my wallet to their wallet. That’s another difference. On KnownOrigin, if I put a work out there, I could put a collaborator’s wallet address on it, and it automatically will send it to them when it sells.
BI: And that makes it easy. I wish more platforms had a way to add collaborators.
BI: I’ve sold work that way for charity. If I want to support a charity, I’ll do a percentage split on it and put it in KnownOrigin.
AMA: Oh, that’s so cool.
BI: And then it will automatically send it to their wallet, if the charity accepts ETH. There’s not a lot out there, but there are a few.
AMA: Yeah. What charities have you done 50/50 with?
BI: Code to Inspire.
AMA: Oh, cool.
BI: They teach girls in Afghanistan how to code.
AMA: Wow. That’s so great.
BI: And they have an Ethereum and Bitcoin address on their website, so you could just take it and start putting money to it. And then I did one for COVID relief to Big Brothers, I think. They had a special COVID program and an Ethereum address. And then I did one for some environmental organization. I can’t remember the name.
BI: And I currently have an artwork out called “Close Our Eyes,” and it was on display in Washington, D.C. at a gallery called Art Enables. And I’m donating all the proceeds from that work to arts at Art Enables. They have a gallery where they bring in disabled artists and they get them exhibition space, and then they sell art on their website, and they do training, and they have an artist-in-residence program. They do an outsider art exhibition every year, so they accepted me last year to their exhibition with this piece. It’s an AI work from my oscilloscope. I took oscilloscope images and ran them through a next-frame prediction model, and it made these patterns that look like what I see when I close my eyes and I’d rub them.
BI: You see, some people see, photons in their eyes when they close them. So it’s a simulation of that.
AMA: Oh, wow. I didn’t know you could see photons in your eyes.
BI: Yeah. It’s a biological thing
BI: Bio-something. There’s a scientific word…
AMA: So interesting.
BI: …for it. There’s actually photons that are generated from the neural network behind your eyes.
BI: And so, when you close your eyes, some people could see these strange patterns of lights in their vision.
AMA: Wow. That’s amazing.
[00:39:18] How Bard gotten into blockchain and crypto art
AMA: I actually wanted to ask you about how you got into blockchain. You did mention Hackatao. Is that how? It was through Hackatao?
BI: No. I met Hackatao…it’s a husband and wife team. I saw their work on SuperRare. But how I got into it was I came across Jason Bailey’s article on blockchain art and I started investigating it. And I was interested in blockchain micropayments for another artwork I was working on. And then I found this guy named Robbie Barrat who was the first SuperRare artist, and he did this neural network art, artificial intelligence art. And then I submitted some art to SuperRare, and they said they liked it, and they kind of accepted me. But then I sent them some more art, and then I never heard back from them. So I wasn’t sure if they liked it or if it was not what they really wanted. It was more political art. So then I went back to the drawing board and I saw that, at the time, an artwork sold at Christie’s and it was the first AI artwork sold at auction. And the group that made it, Obvious was the collective that had created it. They actually copied Robbie Barrat’s code from GitHub, in his models out of GitHub called Art-DCGAN. They copied that and used that to make their artwork and didn’t give Robbie any credit for it.
AMA: Oh. Uh-oh.
BI: So I took Robbie’s code and I started feeding it my oscilloscope art. I set it up on a server on Amazon, on Amazon Web Services. I set up a GPU server and got all the software installed, and then ran my oscilloscope art through it and produced some very interesting works. My first works on SuperRare are from that process. And then I tweeted about it, copied Robbie on it, and Robbie tweeted right back, “Oh, I love it. This is great.” I gave Robbie lots of credit on it.
AMA: Oh, that’s great.
BI: And then I wrote an article, a post about it on Hive or on Cent, somewhere. And then I emailed SuperRare back, John Perkins, I believe. And he said, “Oh, I already read the article. It’s great. Come onboard. Send us your art.”
AMA: That’s good.
BI: So it was kind of a recommendation from Robbie that got them to move on, putting me on board.
AMA: Oh, that’s awesome. Shout out to Robbie.
AMA: I know you had given us advice on artists coming into the crypto art space. What would your advice be for blockchain developers or new crypto art platforms that are being created?
[00:42:37] Bard’s big beef about royalties & resale rights
BI: My big beef right now is just royalties, resale rights, resale percentages. I was part of a group a year back or so. A bunch of us artists got together on Discord to talk about how to promote royalties. SuperRare started out with a 10% royalty scheme. That’s an initial offering. And then, over time, they put it down to 5%. And there was a collector, WhaleShark, I believe, who said we should go back to 10%. And a bunch of us artists said we should go back to 15%. “We should go to 15%. Forget the 10%.” So, we all got together on the Discord group and started putting together ideas for how to promote royalties.
[00:43:31] The history of royalties & the group of crypto artists who helped increase royalties
BI: And I kind of took on the task of research. So I put out all the research I could find about the history of royalties back from 1920. It came from the French art scene. There was this famous artist who died, and he died poor. His family was poor. He died and his family couldn’t support themselves, so his kids were destitute. So another famous artist drew a political cartoon of his family sitting outside looking at this artwork being sold for a huge amount of money, and it was their father’s art. The title of the piece was called, like, “My Father’s Art.” So they were destitute, but he had this art sold for this big amount of money.
BI: So, in European culture, there was a huge push towards royalties. And it’s still there today in the EU. The EU gives artists royalties if it’s over a certain amount. It’s like 2% or 5%. So I did all this research. Other people like Sparrow and Lawrence Lee, Coldie, there’s a whole bunch of us. They did more of the upfront PR work talking to SuperRare and KnownOrigin and others. So they went around and tried to get all the platforms to standardize on a percentage, and it came down to 10% is what kind of fell out of the whole thing. That’s kind of the backstory on it.
[00:45:15] The problem with Ethereum and royalties
BI: But right now, each platform, the royalties only work on the platform, for the most part. So if I saw something on MakersPlace and somebody goes to OpenSea and resells it, that royalty doesn’t flow back through the contract because the Ethereum system wasn’t set up to manage royalties in that way. So, that’s my big thing is trying to promote the Ethereum developers to actually go fix the contract system to pass the royalties through. Right now, SuperRare does do it with OpenSea. They negotiated a special contract where the royalties, I’ve heard, will go through under certain conditions. If it’s not an auction, the royalties will be passed back through to SuperRare and then back to the artist. But there’s a proposal out for the Ethereum developers to go add this feature to the blockchain in an update to Ethereum.
BI: I’ve heard other artists I’ve worked with that were part of the royalties collective have gone to other places. Like Mintbase, I think, they’re working with Near, another blockchain called Near. And they’re talking to them to bake the royalties into the system from the start. So, it’s just the idea of putting that feature set into the contracts from the beginning so they flow between marketplaces.
AMA: Yeah. I wonder how difficult that is to do, or if it’s pretty easy.
BI: Yeah. I haven’t learned blockchain programming. I think it’s fairly complicated for Ethereum to go change that, and all their developers are busy trying to get Ethereum too out.
BI: So there isn’t a lot of focus on it because ETH too is important, also because it’ll lower the gas fees and other things.
[00:47:33] The need for usability (search, organization) and a cleaner, more museum-like interface
BI: Another advice for the platform developers is just make the user experience more artistic, I guess, or more aesthetically pleasing. A lot of platforms are kind of cluttered. I kind of like a clean interface. I like the SuperRare interface. It kind of highlights the artwork, and everything else kind of is in the background. Just get some UX, user experience. And part of it is usability too, being able to search the art and sort it.
BI: Being able to find. You can’t find things. The search features don’t work or sorting it the way you want it to.
BI: Or collect. If you’re a collector or an artist. I want to arrange my work in a certain order, and there’s no way to arrange my art on the wall per se. It’s just as they decide. Their algorithms decide to order it, or it’s ordered by time. Because I have a series of work that I’d like to put together. I have two or three series going, but I don’t put them all out in order.
AMA: Right. Yeah.
BI: So, I like the artistic presentation. Don’t make it look like a store or eBay or something like that.
AMA: Mm-hmm. Are there any other even non blockchain-based or crypto art platforms that you’ve seen that also looks more artistic to you?
BI: I’m thinking I’ve seen some good stuff on some of the museums.
BI: Like the Met. I guess it’s just coming from the mindset of a museum or of more the artistic, having that perspective, having not a programmer making it, designing it, but an actual person from the art world or involved with art. Nothing’s coming to mind of examples at the moment. It’s like I know what I like when I see it.
AMA: Yeah. I understand your concern with being able to rearrange things on your page. I know MakersPlace does that.
BI: Oh, yeah. Yeah, they did add that. I set mine up that way recently.
AMA: Yeah. And you can search really well through their website. And I have noticed some other websites, it’s really hard to find certain artists as well.
BI: Yeah. I like MakersPlace’s interface too.
BI: It’s pretty clean.
AMA: Yeah. I guess we can talk about upcoming projects or current projects that you’d like to talk about.
[00:50:40] Collaborations with Gemini Rising, Async.art, MOCDA, UCL; working on art for VIV3, taking on rockets; and supporting crypto artist daughter Liza Grace
AMA: I know that you have involvement in the “I Want My NFT” documentary.
AMA: The UCL research project. You can talk about that too.
BI: Okay. Yeah. I’m working with a documentary group out of Canada called Gemini Rising. They’re working on a documentary called “I Want My NFT,” but it’s from the perspective of the documentarian and her son and how they discover NFT art and cryptoart. So it’s kind of from their own perspective, but they’re highlighting artists that they like. They found a group of artists. They picked the artists by what art they produced. So they contacted me because Christa likes my art. It’s a whole group. It’s like 13 artists. And then they’re going to have some critics of cyptoart, and then they have some collectors of cryptoart are all in the film. And they’re doing it all COVID style through Zoom. And we’re working on a collaboration on Async Art. We’re doing a whole layered piece. I think we finally decided maybe to do like an art salon.
AMA: Oh, okay. Who’s we? Who’s involved in the Async?
BI: In the art project?
AMA: Yeah, for Async.
BI: I’m afraid I’ll miss everybody’s names.
AMA: Is it the 13 artists that you’re speaking of?
BI: Thirteen artists, yeah.
AMA: In the documentary? Okay. Oh, wow. That’s interesting.
BI: I think there’s more than 13 in the documentary, but 13 of us decided to help out with the collaboration.
BI: Which is going to be in the documentary.
AMA: Oh, I got it.
BI: So they’re going to show us collaborating on the art.
AMA: Wow. Okay.
BI: So you’ll see work in progress.
BI: So I think there’s a whole bunch of people: Coldie and Sparrow and a bunch of other… Lawrence Lee is in it. So they did an interview with me, and then we’re doing this collaborative art also. And it’ll be released on Async probably, I don’t know when, later this summer.
BI: I’m also in an exhibition from Museum of Contemporary Digital Art in coordination with the University College London. They’re doing a study of abstract art and how people remember it being in a gallery space. They built a virtual gallery, and it randomly puts up our art. I have two art pieces in it. It randomly puts up art, and then they have people virtually walk through the gallery, and then they answer questions at the end to test their memory, and the placement of the art, in the order. Because then you think, “Does that impact how they remember things?”
AMA: Oh, interesting.
BI: So, it’s a study of memory and art and visual placement. I’m probably not describing it completely correctly.
AMA: This is that UCL research project that you’re talking about?
BI: Yeah, the UCL project.
AMA: Are there any other projects that you want to bring up?
BI: Yeah. I have some works in progress for the VIV3 platform.
BI: It’s based on some of my work from the Art-DCGAN system of coins. I took 20,000 images of coins and images of cryptocurrency coins, like the logos, and I ran them through Robbie Barrat’s Art-DCGAN. And I’m re-releasing a bunch of new artwork based on it onto that platform. And then I’ve been also working on rockets, so I made a model of rockets.
BI: So that will be coming out. So more rockets will be coming out soon. I have rockets launching.
AMA: Okay. Yeah. I know that you did a large, or not large, but several gas mask type of pieces.
AMA: So your focus now is rockets.
BI: Yes, rockets.
AMA: So we should see some works on that. Okay. Is there a reason why you chose rockets? Is it because of SpaceX and all the different things that are happening right now?
BI: It was on my list of things to do from about a year ago. I just thought it would lend itself well to artificial intelligence.
BI: It’s like a simple object and it’s moving in one direction mostly. So it’s a simple concept, but I thought it would work with artificial intelligence to manipulate in different ways. And part of it is just the SpaceX thing and going to Mars and the Mars Rover right now, and the whole idea of the crypto thing of “to the moon.” I’m saying “To Mars.” So I titled my first piece “To Mars” instead of “To the Moon.”
BI: So it’s kind of crypto-related and space exploration-related.
AMA: That sounds exciting. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention or talk about just in general?
BI: I’ve been working on art with my daughter. She’s an artist also. She’s in the first year of college, my oldest, and she’s been doing a lot of watercolors. And she started doing crypto art on MakersPlace.
AMA: Oh, wow.
BI: So I’ve been teaching her some of my techniques for VCR glitch art.
BI: So she’s done some stuff with tigers, and she’s working on some stuff with frogs right now. So she’s started to… She hasn’t really sold anything yet, but we have some stuff out on MakersPlace for sale. And then my other daughter is also doing art, more drawing. But I’ve been kind of collaborating with both of them on different things.
AMA: And is your younger daughter also going to be doing crypto art, putting her art on the platform?
BI: No. She’s keeping it to herself for right now.
AMA: Okay. And how can we find your elder daughter? What artist name does she have?
BI: It’s Liza Grace.
AMA: Liza Grace. Okay. Liza Grace on MakersPlace.
AMA: That should be easy to remember because it rhymes.
BI: And she’s the one that liked the Happy Dream Bug a lot.
AMA: Ah. Okay.
BI: And she was inspired to do an Async. She wants to do an Async artwork with me of the life cycle of frogs.
AMA: Oh, wow. So she seems to be interested in animals and frogs probably specifically?
BI: She’s going to go to Virginia Tech for a degree in environmental science.
AMA: Oh. Okay.
BI: So she’s an outdoors person. She likes to be out in the woods finding things. When she was little, she would go out into the…we have a little bit of forested area behind our house. She liked to go out there and find…she liked to pick plants to eat.
BI: She has a book on foraging, so she likes to go out and find things to eat out in the woods.
AMA: That’s so great. That’s interesting. Very cool. So, people know how to find your eldest daughter. How about you?
[00:59:50] How to contact Bard
BI: My main website is at bardionson.com.
BI: And most of the links to my platforms are there. On most everywhere, I’m just Bard Ionson. So, on MakersPlace, SuperRare, KnownOrigin, Async, just search for Bard Ionson. I kept the same name everywhere. And Twitter and Instagram, it’s all the same.
AMA: Okay. Great. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your story and your knowledge with us.
BI: Yep. Well, thank you for doing this for me.
AMA: Yeah. You’re very welcome.
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