Who are you?
Hi, I’m Mark Knol. I work at Media.Monks as game developer. I am married and have two daughters. I love programming, arts and play guitar. I have contributed to lot of open source projects over last years, especially in Haxe programming language community.
When did you start making art?
I always had a passion for drawing, art and computers since very young age (when computers only had green colors). After my education in graphical art and multi-media in Amsterdam, I was mostly creating corporate websites. To get inspired, I went to a conference called FITC. There I saw some people (Erik Natzke, Joshua Davis) doing creative coding and the moment I saw that I was blown away, inspired and knew this was what I wanted to try too. Have been creating a lot of visual experiments and generative artworks since then and published lot of works on different platforms.
When did you start making NFTs?
Personally, I think NFTs are the medium to publish/sell my art, so I prefer to say “I make generative art” over “I make NFTs”.
I follow some great artist on Twitter who were tweeting about NFTs, most were on Ethereum based platforms. Like everyone else, I had some crypto and tried to trade a bit. I’m always curious about new technology and want to know exactly how it works. So I read up a lot about the blockchain, trying to grasp the concepts and figure why people were so excited about it. Later I learned about smart contracts and the possibilities it could create, like decentralized marketplaces. But at same time I learned there is lot of critic and downsides to the blockchain, scams and it is using massive amounts of energy when mining is required (mostly Bitcoin, Ethereum). This had put me in a conflict, because I care about the climate and burning energy breaks my developer heart. I don’t wanna be part of something that is bad for the environment and try to encourage everyone to do their own research on this topic.
Anyway, I think it was Mario Klingemann and Matt DesLauriers who started to tweet about Tezos and hicetnunc.xyz somewhere March 2020. It was advertised as green NFTs that use magnitudes less energy, transactions which waste less energy than tweets. I respect both artists so contacted Matt, he on boarded me and not much later my first work got sold on hicetnunc. From that point I was inspired to make new works again and I think a half year later I grew to be one of the top selling artist on hicetnunc.
How did you find out about FxHash?
I was tipped by a member which I knew from hicetnunc discord. The fxhash website just got released and I went to the discord to read about it. I think it had less than 50 members at the time. But I was thrilled, because I wanted something like artblocks.io on Tezos for long time. Gotta admit, the website was very polished already, the process was clear, there was even documentation go get started. It was impressive, given the newly released web3 projects I’ve seen before were relative slow and had “special” ux 😉
On FxHash you are most known for your smolskulls. What is the story behind them?
It is a funny story! I have to confess that I never understood the appeal of “PFP” projects. But at a point I was thinking, how would my PFP look like if I create one? When I saw Tezzards (by OMGiDRAWEDit) and Neonz (by Sutuverse), I think those were moment I realized they can be very good looking with very personal touch. Just like a lot of developers/artists, I make a lot of projects which I never finish. Sometimes I just start on a blanc canvas, sometimes continue on some old, then work on something silly for a day or two then throw it away. You know the drill. I made the Smolskulls project a week before fxhash. I mocked it first in Photoshop and half way I was like; OK I can program this within a few hours. When the working prototype was there, I was unsure if I liked it, so honestly I was about to delete the whole project. But my brother was optimistic about it, so advised to keep it. But I had no idea how to publish properly it (custom smart contracts, objkt integration, website) and the idea I needed to do all kinds of marketing and maybe start some discord to launch such pfp project.. if you look into those efforts, that’s not something that attracts me in any way.
So when I saw fxhash, I thought, if there is one moment to release this project, it’s now. And so it happened.
After it got released, I wanted to do an ASCII version too, that would give more strength to the project (an to be honest was also scared someone else would do it). I created a custom character-set based on the known DOS font, I added even added my own name to it as nice gimmick. When both projects got sold out, I had strong desire to have a 3d version too and got big help from the best for that. After the 3d version I decided the trilogy of smolskulls was complete. At time of writing, the original smolskulls project has the biggest edition count on fxhash, the ASCII smolskulls is first ASCII project and the 3D series are one of the coolest (ok I’m biased) 3d pfp project on fxhash. So I’m very proud of it.
Are there any skull traits that you fancy above the rest?
I was surprised how the smolskulls were picked up by the fxhash community. Some gave them names, like the punisher, the gray gang, blood eyes and what not. There are even custom emojis added in the disord. It’s great that they work very well on small resolutions. There were some “bugs” (things I missed during testing) that caused very funny results; a few have no eyes (actually that’s a gray eye on gray skull) or sometimes the eyes or mouth is so low it creates weird holes. Some gradients result in new colors when the eyes are very squeezed. Those are unexpected side effects where people seem to hunt for. The more you look at it the more you like them. Beside all those weird ones (which I never realized they were possible) I think I like the fire eyes a lot. That’s when the eyes have a gradient from yellow to red.
From the ASCII smolskull series I found one mint that only has red/black colors and looks completely faded, very dark. I bought it on the secondary market. From the 3d smolskull series, it was super cool that only one(!) golden has spawned. This revealed last moment, so it was also very exciting for me and Reinder! During testing we were speculating (like real devs do) something might be off with the randomization (this turned out to be true actually). Anyway, I like the dark background with the “army of skulls” most from that series. That uses an algorithm that repeats content in a shader, which normally might not be the most interesting effect, but works very well if the skull rotates.
What was the process for creating your other generative artworks?
So, mostly I start with shapes, then figure the colors I want to use, then think how to position them to make compositions. While this isn’t the most straight forward way to work, it helps to think about multiple elements of an artwork separately. I feel there is still much to learn here.
What do you love about generative art?
For me generative art started a decade ago to learn ActionScript 3. The Flash community was vibrant at the time and still has special place in my heart. I love programming. I really like to create things with code. I’m the type of programmer that doesn’t want to use libraries, but invents everything again on my own again just for the sake of understanding; to see if I can do it too. That always leads to something. There are always new things to learn, coding challenges, art challenges. When you do generative art, it can be very technical, but also conceptual and creative. This is also a reason I like creating games. It brings lot of disciplines together.
Where do you see yourself a year in the future?
Of course, I will create more artworks and keep sharing them. So many ideas and concepts I want to try out, so hoping to actually create them too. I have a some ideas that things I haven’t seen done before just yet. And I’d love to do some more collaborations. And sometimes I dream of making art full-time.
Out of all the mints, do you have any favorites?
Oof. Tough question! I like a lot but also dislike a lot 🙂 Well, I am just going to list 3 random projects that I really like: I was blown away by “Garden, Monoliths” by zancan. You just know so much time and effort is put in this artwork to get to this point. When you see each mint of this artwork, they are all amazing works, as if they are handcrafted pieces. But I also really like “Breakfast” by Kelly Milligan. It uses 2d physics to create compositions. This inspires a lot, very creative concept that works fantastic. Fractal Cubes by Reinder Nijhoff is also an amazing project. It is using real-time pathtracing. If you’re not familiar with that concept, look it up, then you’ll understand why this is great, given that it runs in a browser. Very technical when you dive in the code, but looks insanely good. Big fan of Reinder in general, he’s the creator of turtletoy, a known member on shadertoy and I was very happy he collaborated with me on the 3d smolskulls project.
Anyone you want to shoutout?
Big thanks to everyone who likes my art and keeps supporting me. I really feel appreciated. Also shoutout to ciphrd and the fxhash team, this platform is a dream! I also appreciate that they have the courage to take things down when it is needed, a mindset that is needed more in crypto space.
I am looking forward to everything that will happen in the web3 world, it feels as exciting as when I started programming. I hope that everyone who gets into NFTs or crypto informs their selves. I see lot of good things happening, but also scams happening, because the fear of missing out seems big. Before you do anything, double check, think for yourself. Don’t spend more than you can afford. Also try to understand the technology as much as you can, inform yourself.
If people want to follow me; I’m @mknol on twitter.
Thanks for this interview!