The emergence of blockchain technology has created a whole new world of possibilities as well as newfound inspiration for a new generation of young artists.
Interested in pursuing a career in the creative field, California-based artist Zack Wolfe began doing artworks as a freelance illustrator and then earned a degree in visual communication design. After extensive experience working in advertising and web design, he is now the Digital Marketing and UX Design Manager at Arts Help.
In this interview, Zack talks about the ways in which the future of technology has shaped his art, his experience having his work showcased at Coachella, and what it was like to sell his first artwork as an NFT.
First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an illustrator?
My name is Zachary Wolfe and I’m from Ridgecrest, California. I began my art career in high school [where] I started taking art classes, and by my senior year I was freelancing. I was doing album covers, personal illustrations for people, etc.
After high school, I began working for a marketing firm, where I was part of the design team. We were doing e-commerce stores, designing websites, ads for social media, pretty much anything visual. While I was doing that, I was going to college at Cal Poly Pomona, [where] I got my Bachelor’s in Visual Communication Design.
While I was at Cal Poly Pomona and working for this ad firm, I was also continuing to do freelance design and that’s when I met Mo (Arts Help Founder). I DMed the Arts Help account on Instagram, they responded and we talked for a while and I got a feature on an Arts Help story. From that, me and Mo started talking and working together. Fast-forward 4 years from that first DM, I’m now at Arts Help working on ads, web design and a lot of creative projects.
Why did you want to become a visual designer?
I guess my real passion is creating artwork. I really like illustrations, but I tried to find a middle ground where I could not be on the streets but still be able to create. I found web design and general creative direction as a safe route for me, but [it] also fulfilled my need of creating.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite or most memorable projects with a brand?
For the advertisement agency that I worked for, it was me and a small team and our goal was to build little pop-up shops and just grow them as quickly as possible. This was probably the second or third website that we created and there was just amazing growth. We reached a million in sales in the first month of the store opening so that was an amazing project for me, just being able to see the scalability that a company can have done correctly.
Besides working with brands, you also do your own illustrations and some animations. What are some of the inspirations behind your style and also the themes of your artworks?
At the start of my illustration and freelance career I was really hoping to do a lot of album covers. I listen to music all the time, so I thought drawing the rappers and artists that I enjoy would help me get in that direction. After a while, creating album covers lost its magic for me. I found myself spending hours every day drawing musicians I didn't even listen to just for some growth opportunity, although some artists may not mind doing this, I came to the conclusion I'd only create art for myself, even if that meant I wouldn't have as much outreach. It's hard being the face of your own business, there's a clash between what you want to do and what sells, I ended up leaning towards what I want to do.
I think the metaverse and cryptocurrency explosion really influenced my work. It got me thinking about what a digital world would look like, and how life would change if technology got too advanced. I seem to lean more towards the dark sides of things, I imagine a world that forgot about nature, and the sparse nature that's left is treated as some sort of artifact. The way things seem to be going doesn't look too far off from that either. I hope I'm wrong!
A big inspiration for my artwork is Beeple of course, he was one of the first NFT artists that emerged. He set a world record for the highest sale in NFTs and that was an eye-opener to me, about how much money really goes on in that universe and what the potentials are as an artist. Victor Mosquera, a digital/visual artist, is another artist that really boomed with the NFT space. A lot of his artwork revolves around this kind of spiritual/highly technologically advanced society so his work really spoke out to me.
You’ve sold some of your works as NFTs. How did you first find out about this new way of selling digital art and what has the experience been like for you?
In the beginning of my college career I was looking for ways to afford rent, so I was always on twitter, on everything, looking for ways that artists sell their artwork, and I came across a post that was talking about NFTs. At the time I had no idea what that was, it was pretty early in the space, but I thought I’d look into it more. I ended up posting an NFT that week. It sold for maybe 150 USD, but at that time that was a huge deal for me. It was mainly a learning experience.
That was in 2020 and it was super exciting, that was really the first time that I sold an original artwork. Before that it was all freelancing, making projects for other people, so it was really cool to see one of my personal projects into someone else’s hands.
I haven’t posted an NFT in a while. After I learned about the negative impact [of proof-of-work], I was waiting for a good opportunity, a platform that I feel like my work should live on.
And how do you feel now having participated at Coachella with one of your illustrations this year?
That was amazing. I never would have dreamed of my artwork being somewhere that big. That was a really cool experience.
The company was POSTed. My work was shared with them and the team really liked it so they contacted me, asked if I wanted to go to Coachella and check out their booth and invited me to create—It was recreations of little sketches that people made during Coachella
Finally, do you have any general advice for people interested in getting involved in the creative field?
I think the main thing is: don’t stress about it. Just make what you enjoy making and people will follow. Don’t try to make yourself fit into a space that you’re not comfortable with. The main goal is to make things that you enjoy and the money and whatnot will come after.