With his decidedly cuddly style, Adam Levine’s (aka Adamtastic) art may feel more suited to a Pixar cartoon than crypto skeptic Molly White and others who call out serious scams and wrongdoings in the industry. But the artist, 42, found a way to use the “softness” in his work to depict White’s empathy. After all, she’s only calling out the bad guys to help others avoid their traps.
Read more: Presenting CoinDesk's Most Influential 2022
“With this portrait, I have taken Molly to be the central figure who sees that the world is burning and has so much empathy for everyone in it,” Levine said. He even sees some of himself in White. “We're both, in our own ways, trying to help people,” he said. “I'm not in here trying to scam people – I'm making art for charities, because I believe this technology can help more than just artists; it can help people in the world.”
More: An NFT of this image, created by Adamtastic, was sold at auction on Coinbase NFT. A percentage of the sale went to oneearth.org.
How and when did you first learn about NFTs?
I first learned about NFTs [non-fungible tokens] at the end of 2020. I was scrolling through Instagram, and my friend Bryan Brinkman had posted some art. I went down the rabbit hole, and Bryan was generous with his time – we got on lots of long, late phone calls. I took tons of notes and was hooked.
This was before NFTs blew up. It was exciting. It was also during lockdowns. I wound up getting engrossed in all things NFTs, learning about the technology, meeting so many people, which Clubhouse helped facilitate. There were so many of us artists learning at the same time and helping each other out. It felt like a community. I'd be up all hours of the night talking to people, and if one of us learned something, we’d share with the group. We could see the huge potential for what we all hoped would be an art Renaissance in modern times.
What was your first ever piece of NFT art and why did you decide to make it an NFT?
I've been making art my whole life, whether it's illustration, painting, digital, physical, even sewing, crafting. But I really wanted to make things for this space, and not just put up a random piece of art that I'd made. [My first NFT work] was about how I felt growing up with ADD – always a little out of place.
I ended up making two companion pieces in a series called “Fitting In.” The first was “Drifting.” I had always been called “weird” and would retreat into my imagination. This was a love letter to everybody who feels the same way. As a kid, teachers called me out for daydreaming. That was seen as a negative thing, but as I got older, I saw it as more of a superpower.
What were some of your main considerations when creating your “Most Influential” portrait of Molly White and the skeptics?
My first exposure to crypto was positive – through artists and NFTs – even though I know there's bad actors. I did a deep dive on Molly and some other skeptics, and she's not wrong. Her perspective was really eye opening. I wound up going down rabbit holes she had pointed out.
These last [few] weeks really proved out what she's been sounding the alarms about. I feel awful for everybody who has been deceived and taken advantage of. I wanted to approach [Molly’s portrait] from a place of empathy. Initially, I had her as more of a warrior figure, which she very much is, but all of that comes from her good nature of wanting to protect others.
Where do you see yourself going in the NFT art world moving forward?
I want to stick to my mission of spreading joy and uplifting others. There's so many NFT projects that are just trying to make a buck. I'm trying to build communities organically, even if they take longer and they’re smaller. They’ll be built with people who care for other people.
I see this technology as being able to help others. I've had opportunities to donate to charities prior to NFTs, but never at scale. This past year, raising just shy of $100,000, all going to different charities just from making art, showed me that even in a bad market, we can still have an impact.
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