When it comes to art and technology, the idea of ‘exploration’ splits into two camps – representation and integration. Many artists venture into new technological territory by representing the innovation and the activity happening in the space. Others, like Trevor Jones, dive headfirst to take hold of a promising development and explore ways to integrate it into their work.
Since transitioning from his position at Art in Healthcare to start his personal creative practice, Jones has been able to dedicate his efforts full-time to art and has been met with great acclaim. Jones recently showcased a series of augmented reality oil paintings in Edinburgh at the Dundas St. Gallery that was specifically focused on a cryptocurrency theme, with works of art titled “The Hodler”, “The Bear”, and “The Bull”, clear nods to the cryptocurrency community. This is by no means his first foray into utilizing technology in his art, and we’re excited to speak to him today about his creative trajectory into the cryptosphere.
The Creative Crypto (CC): Hi Trevor, tell us about your background and how you entered the blockchain space.
Although I’m not at all a ‘techie’, as I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with an MA Fine Art in 2008, I’ve been fascinated with technology for a long time. It’s possibly due to me leaving the little Canadian village I grew up in to go backpacking in 1996 (I didn’t even have an email at that time!). I ended up settling in Scotland after three years of travel, so I was keen on exploring more effective ways to keep in touch with my family and the people I had met along the way. I initially became involved in the blockchain space in June 2017 by investing a little money into cryptocurrency just to dip my toes. I was also curious about blockchain and its potential as a disruptive technology. With my slow but expanding understanding of blockchain, the crypto community, and investing, I began to see the disruptive similarities between this technology and augmented reality and how my artwork, like crypto, tends to be perceived negatively by traditional establishments. By the end of January 2018, I began to conceptualize a crypto-inspired exhibition of augmented reality oil paintings.
Demonstrating Jones’ AR Painting work with his CreativMuse App
(CC): What excites you most about the applications and prospects of blockchain?
I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’m a blockchain expert because I’m not! However, of the little I do know, I’m excited about how it can be used to increase privacy and make various sectors more efficient such as business, government and local councils, hospitals and healthcare. Of course, decentralization and transparency are exciting, but at the same time; I have no idea how society will be changed (for better or for worse) if the technology is implemented and mass adopted too quickly. I need to know more before I can really comment properly.
(CC): Tell us a bit more about your key blockchain-centric artworks.
As I researched cryptocurrency I began to discover connections between the crypto phenomenon and my art practice. Over the last 7 years, with regards to my tech and augmented reality oil paintings, I’ve encountered cynicism, skepticism, and apprehension from other professional artists, as well as disinterest and occasionally even disdain from commercial gallery owners and the art establishment in general. It’s possible that these reactions are founded upon lack of understanding, the fear of change and of the unknown, or perhaps it’s just indifference. Regardless, it has been an uphill battle as I’ve worked progressively towards establishing and educating my own growing and ardent market of buyers and patrons.
I also expected that by creating an entirely new body of work inspired by cryptocurrency, of all things, that I would confuse and distance myself from the art establishment even more… and I was correct in my assumption. Therefore, I really focused on creating artwork that those within the blockchain and crypto community would hopefully be excited about. Titles of paintings include Satoshi, The Agony, The Ecstasy, The Genius, The Entrepreneur, and the Hodler. A short video was created in tandem for each painting to better express the meaning or feelings related to the artwork. Viewers can download my app CreativMuse (Android, Apple) and scan the artworks to engage the AR features. I never get tired seeing the look on someone’s face when they scan one of my paintings for the first time. It’s absolutely brilliant!
(CC): What are you working on now and what can we look forward to in the future?
Good question! The plan was to further confuse my market and begin working on the theme of Mixed Martial Arts/Cage Fighters. I really was! I would absolutely love to travel around North America and Europe visiting gyms and training centrs to film, interview, sketch and paint world famous UFC fighters. However, after the recent success of my “Disruption” exhibition, it would be a bit silly to end this journey now. The Scottish Blockchain Group organized an evening event at the gallery and I met a lot of interesting people who were also very interested in my work. I have three meetings set up next month with people in the tech/crypto/financial world to discuss how we could collaborate. So, the UFC fighters project may have to take a back seat for the moment. I see so much potential for my art with inspiration from blockchain, so yes, I’m going to continue down this path for the foreseeable future. I do have some creative ideas now to move forward, but I just want to think over them for a little while longer to ensure a clearer path when I begin to paint.
(CC): I noticed you actually accept payment in crypto. Do you feel like true artists that support cryptocurrency should do this?
Absolutely! It makes complete sense. If you’re creating work aimed at a specific market, and yet you don’t accommodate payment for this work in the preferred method, then you’re only shooting yourself in the foot.
(CC): How important is it for an artist to keep up with emerging technologies, and why has this been so important to you in particular? Is this a personal preference or do you feel that more artists should be keeping up with tech trends?
I know some very successful artists here in Scotland who are absolute dinosaurs, so immersing oneself in emerging technologies is not the be-all and end-all. To achieve success as an artist; there are other more important factors to consider including the quality of the work, marketing plans, organizational skills, confidence in talking about your work, time management, discipline and perseverance, a thick skin… I could go on and on. However, saying that, I think if an artist is interested in art and tech collaboration then by all means dive in! The commercial art sector, in general, is quite conservative. As a result, separating oneself from the ‘rest of the pack’ by creating exciting, topical, and technologically advanced art is a very smart move, in my humble opinion. At the same time, by doing so you severely reduce the size of your buyer market and so you better be good at networking and connecting with potential buyers, writing press releases, and marketing, considering the average art punter off the street is not going to be interested in the least with what you’re creating.
So why is it important for me to focus on a tech element with my work? Very simply, I get excited about being on the ‘cutting edge’ and pioneering new ways for people to engage with my artwork. I want my work to be remembered. I want to be unique and I want my own USP (unique selling point), even though at the beginning this decision made it much more difficult to earn a living as a visual artist. I’m happy to say that since stepping down from my ‘day job’ 4 years ago to focus entirely on my art career, my work and ideas have improved, and the prices of my paintings continue to appreciate in value. So in the long run, I did make the right decision. I do believe that fortune favors the bold.
“…I’ve encountered cynicism, skepticism, and apprehension from other professional artists, as well as disinterest and occasionally even disdain from commercial gallery owners and the art establishment in general. It’s possible that these reactions are founded upon lack of understanding, the fear of change and of the unknown, or perhaps it’s just indifference… I’ve worked progressively towards establishing and educating my own growing and ardent market of buyers and patrons.”
(CC): For new creatives looking to get into the space, what would be your motivational message?
As an artist, it’s so important to produce both a great concept and quality artwork. You’ll receive much more admiration if you can develop both. Don’t be gimmicky, and don’t let the art suffer just because you think your idea/concept is pure genius. Continue to develop your technical abilities as an artist and respect from the community and potential buyers will follow.
Thank you Trevor for joining us on this interview! We’re looking forward to future innovative work and be sure to follow his practice on his website.