Lisa Orth Interview

“A Stitch Is Fine” by Lisa Orth

Who are you?

I’m Lisa Orth, a visual artist currently based in Seattle, WA.

When did you start making art?

I grew up in Washington state, just outside of Seattle, and started making art at a young age. I obsessively drew comic book and superhero characters, earned money doing calligraphy for my parents’ friends, and painted murals in peoples houses. I was lucky in high school to have art teachers who encouraged me to take my art seriously. I wanted to be a painter and fine artist, but knew it would be difficult to support myself with just fine art. I thought that it would be fun to learn graphic design. My teenage dream was to design record covers for my favorite bands, and have that support me financially so I could do painting in my spare time.

I went to college for graphic design, and soon after graduating, went to work doing design for Seattle’s local music magazine, The Rocket. I was so excited to work there, as The Rocket was really the hub for everything music related in Seattle at the time. I started designing posters and records for local bands, and soon found myself working for Sub Pop records as their first Art Director. It was there that I designed Nirvana’s first records and their now iconic “logo”, which consists of my typeface treatment for the “Bleach” record.

I worked for quite a few years doing graphic design and art direction for different record labels, publications, and art organizations before starting my own design firm with my best friend. I was the Creative Director and she was the Technical Director. But we both learned how to code html and had a thriving business designing websites in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, right when the internet was first taking off. We ran the business together for over a decade, until I got tired of spending all my time in front of a computer. I left the business and spent a few years doing random fun shit; DJing, putting on queer dance parties, playing in bands and experimenting with different art styles. In 2009 I got the chance to learn tattooing, and dove obsessively headfirst into it.

“A Center Near the Edges” by Lisa Orth

When did you start making generative art?

Weirdly enough, I can thank Covid for giving me the time to discover generative art. When Covid hit I was in Los Angeles, focused mostly on my tattooing career. When the shutdowns started, I found myself with ample time to explore other artistic realms that I’d put on the back burner. I started painting again, making music, and having fun with digital art. I moved back to Seattle in August 2020 and spent the majority of my time doing digital art and discovering the new world of NFTs.

Some of the generative artists that caught my attention early on were Joanie Lemercier (who turned me on to clean nfts), Kazumasa Teshigawara (Qubibi), and SVADA. I minted my first NFT on Hic et Nunc in April 2021. A bit later I discovered GAN art, and started doing AI generated stuff. I got some friends excited about AI art as well. We formed a collective and put stuff out under the name Plastic Dreams.

We were doing AI generated art using python scripts and Google collab, and that was really my first foray into creating art with the help of code. My friends gradually fell off doing the project with me. I continued putting stuff out myself under the name, until I decided to dive a little deeper into the generative art realm.

“HE WORE A MASK” by Plastic Dreams

I remember reading an interview with SVADA on Marcelo Soria-Rodriguez’s site and was just fascinated to learn that their beautiful paintings were created with code. I just had to learn more! When I get curious about, or want to know how to do something, I become hyper focused on figuring whatever it is out. My girlfriend would use the term “obsessed”, and I guess I can’t really argue with that. I have an innate curiosity about anything related to artistic creation and really just have a compulsion to learn everything I can. Like, I can never understand when people complain that they’re bored… How can you be bored with so much out there in the world to learn and discover?

At first my mind was just really boggled by trying to figure out what I even wanted to learn… like, should I look more into Python, MaxMSP, Blender, Open Frameworks, Touchdesigner…? When I narrowed down what kind of generative art I was really drawn to, it was usually 2D, more graphic stuff. Processing seemed like the most straightforward tool for that kind of work, so I decided to focus on learning p5. Plus I absolutely love Daniel Shiffman’s “Coding Train” YouTube videos, he is a fucking treasure!

What are you seeking?

I’m a believer that there’s more to this universe than we have the capability of currently understanding, and that through manifesting creativity we can connect with others as well as the unknown. As a human and an artist I’m intent on seeking those greater truths.

“Between Stations #97” by Lisa Orth

What do you love the most about generative art?

Oh wow, there are so many amazing things about creating generative art… I love learning the new language needed to communicate with the computer. I love the intricate problem solving. It’s so amazing how once you get your generative algorithm figured out, you get unlimited artwork with minimal effort. Maybe most of all I love the idea of collaborating with the universe through the use of the random() function. You’re leaving these aesthetic decisions entirely up to fate, or random chance, whatever you want to call it… and sometimes those outcomes are really mind-blowing!

Why did you join FxHash?

I discovered FxHash the week the platform launched, and right away I thought it was so brilliant. My immediate thought was OMG how cool it’s like art blocks but on tezos, and with no gatekeeping. Although I hadn’t done any long-form generative projects before, the site was really welcoming. At the time all over the site it said “Warning: this is an experimental beta site”, so I thought, why not try it out as an experiment. I minted “Folding”, which ended up being project #9 on the platform. It’s so cool to be among the very first artists on the site!

Your works have gained amazing traction on FxHash so far. Was this expected?

To be honest with you I had no expectations at all when I started on the platform. I’m so grateful for the warm welcome my art has received and the amazing response from collectors and other artists. I feel like I’ve found this amazing and supportive artistic community and it feels really great to be a part of.

Also I had no idea when I started how much I would love creating long-form generative pieces. It’s so exciting, and a little scary, having the output of your code going directly in the hands of collectors. You have no chance at all for curation or intervention, so it really is out of your control.

“Winter Jacket #99” By Lisa Orth

What is the process of creating a piece?

Usually I start by having a rough idea of something visually, maybe inspired by some analog art I did, or something I saw in nature, or just an abstract concept of some kind. Inspiration’s never really the hard part… that would be figuring out how in the world to translate that inspiration into code. In most cases, on that journey I’ll end up accidentally utilizing some bits of code that maybe don’t work for my original intent, but instead create something beautiful and entirely unexpected. Then off I go down a rabbit hole of exploring where that can take me… For me the process is all about experimenting. Where I start a project is almost never where I end up with it. I’m just hoping to surprise myself and create something I find beautiful, and that doesn’t necessarily look like artwork that I’ve seen before.

How do you know when a generative piece is “complete”?

Honestly, what happens is I’ll keep working on a project until I get that “a-ha!” moment. I’ll muck around with the code for ages, doing revision after revision. Then at some point I’ll hit the refresh button and suddenly it’s fucking beautiful. At that point I know I have something worthwhile to share with the world, and I just need to technically fine tune it.

Do you have any creations or specific mints that stand out to you?

It’s so hard to think about favorites. But there is a strong tie and progression from the projects “Between Stations” to “A Stitch is Fine”, and those 2 stand out to me as really beautiful connecting points. I plan to keep experimenting on that path and see what else happens.

“Between Stations #58” by Lisa Orth

What do you have planned coming up?

Hopefully many more FxHash releases, and the occasional mint on whatever Tezos platform looks good at the time. I’m excited to see what happens with Versum when they launch.

Anyone you want to shoutout?

There are so many amazing and talented artists in the field! I’d rather just give a general thanks to all the incredible artists and generative pioneers for their inspiration. There’s so much love and support in the community, I hope to be able to give back what I’ve received.

Anything else?

Not that comes to mind, but I’m always happy to answer any additional questions that might come up!

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