The importance of having fun in the oversaturated art scene

By Arseny Vesnin, Designcollector Network
Editorial is open for submissions:

With artworks and sculptures that intrigue and surprise, Whatshisname is one of the most ironic names out there for an artist. For over fifteen years, Sebastian Burdon has been taking the creative industry by storm as a contemporary artist specializing in sculptures, prints and public art projects. His first piece on SuperRare, POPek Balloon Dog 23k Gold, is currently open for bidding.

What was your path to doing what you’re doing now?                                                                            

My path started very early, at the age of 7 when I started creating images from pixels in the text tool on Atari 130 XE. I later moved to Amiga 500 and software called Deluxe Paint after which I discovered 3d graphics and was obsessed with it. I wanted to do anything and everything to do with 3d graphics. That led me to study IT which started in Warsaw and finished in London. My first job was in a video game company, later I did architectural visualizations and rapid prototyping as well as 3d animations for TV and advertising. All that experience allowed me to acquire vast knowledge of digital art and design and quickly started working with established contemporary artists here in London, helping them achieve their vision. I was designing 3d printed sculptures and video art for them. At the same time, they encouraged me to pursue my own creative vision as I was always pitching to them a number of my own ideas for sculptures. This work gave me an in-depth look behind the curtains of the art world and I quickly understood that this is where I belong and decided to start making my own work.

When you were growing up, was creativity part of your life, and how did you decide to focus on filmmaking?

Creativity has always been a part of my life. It was probably mostly seen on my school desk which was covered in all kinds of drawings and doodles. The movie industry always fascinated me, especially the visual effects sector. It was one of the reasons why I moved to London because this is where all the best visual effects companies are based. I even worked on one indie movie and a few TV adverts, however, I quickly realized that this type of work requires working in large teams, sometimes even hundreds of people. This was a big issue for me because I work and design best when I am by myself.

Did you feel different at the time you realised yourself as an artist?

It was never one moment but a gradual transition from commercial industry to art. I can definitely feel the difference between now and then but there was no one major step but the series of little steps during the long transition.

Did you have an “Aha!” moment when you knew that sculpture and arts were what you wanted to do?

Historically sculpture was related to a lot of manual labor and years of practise due to limitations of materials and tools. Nowadays a lot of it is done on a computer using 3d software and 3d printing. I think my biggest “Aha!” moment was when I realized that I am skilled enough to create my designs in 3d as well as turn them into a physical 3d model. That was a total game changer for me. It affected my future decisions of creating more art. The second part was to learn everything I need about the physical production of editions ie. Mould making, casting, finishing etc. Luckily I already worked with artists and managed to learn quite a lot from them.

You created a POPek as a response to the art market oversaturated with Jeff Koons works. Was it a breaking point in your career? How does it influence your way of doing work now?

I created POPek as a response to the art market oversaturated with an image of the same upward standing balloon dog. At first, I wanted to make a parody of Jeff Koons’ work however during the design process I quickly realized that taking a different approach to the figure of a balloon dog allows for many possibilities. While Jeff Koons approaches the subject from the perspective of the balloon party toy. I approach it from the perspective of a real dog which is always moving, playing and jumping. This approach resulted in a number of different balloon dogs in various poses. Little did I know that this figure would quickly take over the world.  I am trying to apply this approach to my other artworks. The “Gone” series of prints represent faded, blurry silhouettes of pop culture characters. Instead of using an image of an existing character, I would take an opposite approach and strip it from colour, line, shape, details leaving only the basic, colorless, blurry general features which imply the character.  

Do you collaborate with other artists?

I rarely collaborate with other artists. I did only a handful of collaborations and they all went very well. The POPek balloon dog figure lends itself very well to all kinds of customizations, however, I am not actively on the lookout for collaboration but rather focusing on the next designs.

As a creative person, do you ever have those moments where you feel like everything you create is just bad*? (*corrected by artist:)

I typically approach my work with a different mindset. During the design and creation process, I am often not happy with the result, but at the same time, I assume that if I am not happy then it is not the final result. I would then change it and refine it until I am satisfied with it. Sometimes it means starting over a number of times. Sometimes it means I just need to put this design aside and come back to it later or not at all. There are many designs, sculptures and prints which has not seen the light of day because I rejected them eventually. My process is quite complex and artworks get rejected on many different stages, sometimes at the stage of sketching, sometimes during the 3d production, or after creating 5 different prototypes. I don’t have a problem rejecting the project when it is not working because I have a notebook filled with other ideas that I want to execute and I am sure that some of them will work.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do? Who has encouraged you the most?

Yes, they are very supportive. The nature of my work is fun and relaxed therefore we always have a good time with what I do. I am typically very self-driven and don’t need much encouragement. I am often eager to create something new and can’t wait to get it done. It often results in working very late or until dawn. I am sure every artist can relate to that 😊

Did you have a mentor? Who was it and how did they inspire you?

When I was a teenager, I always looked up to the band Green Day. I was amazed by the fact that they can do what they love, have fun and at the same time be successful at it. This inspired me to pursue a design career in 3d graphics. Later on, when I was living in London, I worked a lot with Mat Collishaw who inspired me to pursue a career as an artist. During that time he was my art mentor and commented on some of my ideas, designs and early sketches. I observed his way of working, his process of creating, changing art and then changing it again. It was one of the most valuable experiences for me before I embarked on a solo art adventure.

Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community of people?

Creativity always inspires more creativity and a community of people is  a great example of it. I often get inspired by looking at the work of others. Some great ideas are born just from discussing ideas and exchanging opinions. I met with many artists in their studios and each time this visit was overwhelming for me because there are always too many inspiring bits of information. Sometimes those can be a combination of colors, a different way of making things or different process etc.

You’re already successful and “well, an established artist*”, what made you pursue NFT art as a medium? (*corrected by artist:)

NFT lends itself very well to my work especially in terms of digital art and 3d graphics. It doesn’t seem like a huge step or a major change but a natural progression for my work.

What inspired the work in your first NFT drop?

The first drop is a 24k gold POPek balloon dog that only exists in a digital medium, therefore it works perfectly in the NFT universe. It is an expansion and continuation of my work. I feel like this artwork completes the circle of creating digital designs in 3d, to have it then produced as an immensely popular physical artwork to eventually finish as a non-fungible token. I think it is a perfect chapter to the balloon dog saga.

What are your short plans for the next NFT drop?

It is not yet decided. This could be the only drop I’ll ever do or I might do monthly NFT drops. I think there is a certain balance between a number of works and desirability and my goal is to walk that thAin line.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Make a lot of art and then make even more, reject 80% of it and only focus on the best ones. Make a lot of mistakes, learn from them. Don’t be afraid to start over if it doesn’t work out but most of all

“Don’t be afraid to be successful”

If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?

It is difficult to answer because everything I did was a part of a journey that led me to where I am today. Every work I did, every person I met had some influence that added to the thousands of touchpoints of personal development. I made many, many mistakes on the way however I typically learnt from them and they affected my future decisions. There are no big regrets but big lessons learnt. I don’t think I would have changed anything major or done it differently. I think it is all in our mindset. I am trying to avoid the mindset of blame, denial and regret, but instead focus on taking responsibility, accountability, and learning from mistakes.

Do you have any unrealised or unfinished projects?

Many, many, many of them. I try to focus only on a very few selected projects at the time. Some of them are not right for now but I know that they will be successful in the future. Some need a bit more work and some are just very time-consuming. Creating new work is a long process. I am currently working on sculptures that will be released next year or even a year later. Luckily I am now more organized than a few years ago therefore I can plan ahead and not get too overwhelmed by it

Author profile

Arseny Vesnin (Twitter: @designercollector), founder of Designcollector Network (2003) and curator of the Digital Decade initiatives, exhibitions and online collaborations. Interdisciplinary mediator guiding artists and communicating the future of art. Based in St.Petersburg, Russia.

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