About The Artist
The FOMO is real. June 4th – 5th 2021 there was one place in the world I wanted to be but couldn’t – The Bitcoin Conference. But unlike many, it wasn’t necessarily to visit the Nakamoto Stage. Sure, Max Kaiser shouting “Fuck Elon” was awesome. Jack Dorsey talking to Alex Gladstein about the importance of Bitcoin was life affirming. Jack Mallers announcing the first nation state to adopt bitcoin as a currency was mind blowing.
But the real pilgrimage I wanted to make was to the Bitcoin 2021 Art Gallery.
My personal modus operandi is to Champion art that is changing the world – Bitcoin art. I truly believe that as Bitcoiners we not only need to give the world logical reasons to adopt Bitcoin but an incredibly rich culture associated with its values for that brave new world to inhabit. A well thought out argument with fancy words can sway opinion in the short term, but culture is like the Bitcoin blockchain – robust, powerful and immutable.
That’s why I wanted to be in that gallery. Chat art with the incredible Bitcoin artists and experience their work. In essence, visit the cypherpunk Lourve. Due to the government restricting my freedom, I was unable to make the journey. However, nothing was going to stop me from getting an interview with its curator and Bitcoin artist Tommy.
"Bitcoin is for everyone. Privacy is for everyone. Just liberty and freedom."
Booking the Birdman
Many artists I interview have to hold down fiat jobs to make their Bitcoin art careers work. Not Tommy. He has the incredibly enviable orange coin day job as Art Director for Bitcoin Magazine, something that is not lost on him: “I think I’ve told myself that 1000 times that, you know, I can’t believe that I kind of just fell into my dream job,”. Starting off as a graphic designer, he worked his way up to get where he is today. Part of his role is managing the art, look and strategy of the magazine. Once a year though he is the mastermind behind the Bitcoin 2021 art gallery, this year involved an appearance from a certain skateboarder called Tony Hawk.
"If you’re working in some sort of Bitcoin facet or world, and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, I think you should stick with it."
At the Miami event the legendary “Birdman” was doing his thing on the vert ramp as well as signing limited edition skateboards designed by many prominent Bitcoin artists such as DJ J Scrilla, Lucho Poletti, Marcus Connor and Bitko Yinowski. Tommy’s piece ‘END FIAT’ featured as one of the limited decks in a cool design that perfectly melds the world of skateboard art and Bitcoin Art: “It’s pretty simple. You’ve got your Eye of Providence, right there, the pyramid just getting obliterated by the Grim Reaper”
As I write this, I can hear the cries of some Bitcoin maxi purists, questioning the logic to book a pro skateboarder to promote a Bitcoin event other than a bit of ‘star power’ and gimmickry. Firstly, they may be surprised to discover Tony Hawk was stacking corn back in 2012 and is more OG than they are. Secondly, and more importantly, the adoption and association of other countercultures full of anti authoritarian individuals could be one of the keys to unlocking mass adoption as Tommy explains: “I think counterculture movements like skateboarding, and street art, are low hanging fruit to become tangential to Bitcoin”
"People are gonna make art forever. Art about freedom is a common theme, right? So Bitcoin art, we’re gonna see more and more of it."
Man behind the mask
With the chat completed around the day job, I wanted to learn more about Tommy the artist. Studying his pieces on his website reveals he is an artist with many different styles. This ranges from graffiti throw up of ‘0XD9B4BEF9’, to caricatures of Biden in ‘WTF’ to anime Ghost in the Shell-esque imagery in ‘Swell’.
“As an artist or a designer, you’re kind of always trying to figure out what your style is.” he says when I question him about the variety. “I don’t know what my style is really, other than to just do what it is I’m thinking of, most of the time quickly. And then just kind of see how it turns out and try to polish it as much as I can”.
"Whenever Tommy plays with the ‘V for Vendetta symbol’ is where his art really shines. It oozes a cool cypherpunk aesthetic that illustrator of the dystopian comic, David Lloyd, would be proud to call his own. "
A key element that is a recurs in his pieces is the Guy Fawkes mask, appearing in works such as ‘1.3 BRRRR’, ‘聡 M-SD1-P’ and ‘1.1 BUZZ” 1/1 GIF 833 X 833PX’. “I think the Guy Fawkes mask is one of those symbols related to Bitcoin that it’s a fight for everyone’s freedom” he comments. Whenever Tommy plays with the ‘V for Vendetta symbol’ is where his art really shines. It oozes a cool cypherpunk aesthetic that illustrator of the dystopian comic, David Lloyd, would be proud to call his own.
Recently he sold a 38” x 38” canvas of the mask created in acrylic, charcoal and ash. A year in the making, the piece was initially named ‘Untitled’ until a shred of a Dollar bill with the words ‘For All’ fell to the floor whilst he was working on it. He glued the fiat cutting to the canvas and changed its name to ‘Untitled (For All)’ as it “just kinda all made sense…Bitcoin is for everyone. Privacy is for everyone. Just liberty and freedom.”
Back to the Future
Being so close to Bitcoin art professionally and personally, I wanted to ask Tommy his opinion on the future. Are NFT’s the way forward? “Art can be an NFT, but just because something’s NFT doesn’t make it art.” he states “The NFT side of things should be as exciting to anyone as the development of side chains or protocols. The art itself is completely separate in my mind.” He’s also very bullish on the growth of the Bitcoin art movement “Art is going nowhere. Everyone’s going to make art. People are gonna make art forever. Art about freedom is a common theme, right? So Bitcoin art, we’re gonna see more and more of it.”
"It’s going to be a Renaissance."
As our time was coming to a close, I wanted to know what art can we expect from Tommy in the future. “I planned on keeping all this kind of close to my chest, but I guess I’ll leak some ideas to you” he says jokingly. “If I had it my way I would be travelling all around and just doing murals, and then immortalising them on Bitcoin. I want to see if Liquid [NFT protocol] is the way to do it.” I’m really excited to see more of his work, particularly in large format. There is a large space on the side of a house in Wales if you fancy it Tommy. Just saying.
Post conversation, reflecting on our words, I was bursting with bullish Bitcoin art energy. Talking with Tommy made me really excited about the future of our culture, as our current artists in the space develop and new ones enter. Slowly but surely we are changing the world. “It’s going to be a Renaissance” Tommy said. I wholeheartedly agree with him. Bring on the brave new era.