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Anonymous cryptopainter Is Anonymous No More & His Resume Will Blow Your Mind
Richard S. Lee on his transition from Hollywood film making to crypto art
In late April & early May the Bored Ape Yacht Club made waves across NFT twitter. So much so that it was hard to keep track of who was who, with all the new avatars on my feed.
As part of my interview with the BAYC team, I put out a request for people to post their before & after profile pictures:
That’s when I first came across an account called painter_crypto. He replied with this:
I was absolutely blown away by the Elon Doge piece. It led me to look into the rest of his work. This thread summarized my new found enthusiasm for his art:
We struck up a friendship and he eventually made this incredible piece utilizing my CryptoPunk and NBA Top Shot collection:
A print is now hanging in my living room:
Little did I know who was actually behind the work. Until now.
On Monday cryptopainter set Twitter ablaze by choosing to forego his anonymity with this announcement:
Quite the impressive resume!
Q&A With cryptopainter
Richard S. Lee was kind enough to answer some questions for us. We talk his experience in film & television, interest in crypto, internet anonymity, and more. What follows are his answers in their entirety, with minor edits for clarity.
TSF: What is your background, how did you first get into the film industry?
Richard: I started off in the video game industry after graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena as an illustration major. My first job out of school was at 3D Realms as a concept artist on Duke Nukem. After a year, I was recruited by legendary artist Stephen Martiniere to join his concept team at Midway Games in Chicago as an environment concept artist. After almost three years at Midway Games, 600 of us were laid off when Warner Bros. games acquired Midway Games from our parent company Viacom. That's when Hollywood came knocking and told me to come back home to Los Angeles.
TSF: What was your favorite film or TV show to work on?
Richard: I would say my favorite film I've worked on would be Hugo because we had many countless all-nighters on that show. We literally almost killed ourselves and the result was rewarding since it ended up winning an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
TSF: How did you first learn about crypto and what intrigued you about it?
Richard: I learned about crypto back in 2016 at an underground poker game. I was very fascinated by the protocol and utility aspect, I knew it was the future. Back then, Bank of America wouldn't allow me to buy any crypto and Coinbase was this weird thing that was tough to use so I had friends buy me tokens.
TSF: What led you to make the leap full time into crypto art?
Richard: I walked away from the film industry right before Covid to paint about the history of crypto. I started painting about different crypto projects in a series titled, "Moon Parties." (None of these are for sale) I wanted to educate people about crypto through my art so they won't miss the boat. One thing led to another and Snoop Dogg found one of my paintings from a Wall St. Bets forum and reposted it on his Instagram. That's when things really started to take off. I dipped my toes into the NFT space as a collector before downloading Twitter and deciding to throw my digital brush in the ring.
TSF: Why start off as anonymous and how was that experience?
Richard: I started off anonymous because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in this space or not. I'm also a shy person by nature so attention is something I have never been comfortable with. Also, my attorneys don't like the fact that I have an entire series of art dedicated to bashing the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Lastly, I wasn't sure if I was going to retire from art completely because the film industry burned me out for the last 14 years. In hindsight, my passion for crypto and the NFT space helped me not quit painting. Thank you everyone.
Being anonymous was anything but easy. A handful of friends and old colleagues knew it was me and I would receive funny messages from producers reminding me not to break any NDAs.
TSF: What led you to shed the anonymity and how has the reaction been so far?
Richard: I came to realize being anonymous kept me at arms length from the greater community. People always wondered what my background was, where my skills were from, if I'm a girl or a guy, etc. My identity was becoming a topic along with my art and that's something I didn't want to happen. I wanted people to enjoy my art and not wonder who I am. I also want to be a positive influence on other artists out there who are thinking of giving up.
Now everyone knows who I am and why I'll be turning down 99% of the interviews, sorry I'm shy still.
The reaction has been beyond amazing! I think I've gained twice as many followers in one day on twitter than when Snoop Dogg posted my painting on his Instagram.
TSF: You’re the first artist I’ve notice explicitly leverage other people’s IP and then pay them royalties. What is your thinking behind that?
Richard: Yes! This is a very important topic for me in the NFT space. I've noticed a lot of apes letting other artists use their IP for free. Coming from the film industry, this is absolutely ABSURD. If you own the IP, you can license it and make a little bit of money (studios make a lot.) If a studios pays an artist for their work on a certain movie, said artist gets paid. The studio owns the rights, not us. I have paintings I can never show unless I get written approval and legal clearance. Most of the NFT space has it all backwards and people will get sued unfortunately when the space matures later.
I am doing it the right way and am hopeful other artists and collectors follow in my footsteps. Every single painting I sell is approved by the law firm I have on retainer. I usually spend around $1200-$2000 per painting on legal fees to protect myself and the collectors from any copyright infringements. Paying the owners the proper royalty for using their IP is the right way for this space to become mainstream. It also brings two distinct communities together while raising the floor price via a revenue stream while hodling.
When I feature other people’s IP, I make it very clear this is a one time thing and any subsequent work, like that before it, is also a one off project and deal. If I want to come out with a collectible toy line for their IP, they'll get paid again on that deal as well. If I want to paint them in another painting, it'll be another licensing deal.
TSF: What are your long term plans in the space?
Richard: My long term plan is to absolutely crush it and have my crypto art hanging in museums long after I'm gone. Most people don't understand any of my paintings at present, but I’m confident down the road, taking them in at a museum, they will.
I'd also like to help out with projects such as NFTyourcity — helping talented artists who are struggling to sell their work. I mentioned earlier that I started off as a collector and I only buy from artists who I consider relatively unknown, yet are extremely motivated and talented. I want to have a positive impact in the space and an NFT purchase can change an artist’s career trajectory. This space is definitely not for the mentally weak. Being anonymous in the beginning helped me go through this and it was mentally tough even for myself as veteran with over 30 featured credits.
Big thank you to Richard. Appreciate him taking the time to speak with the Space Cowboy. Until next time, I’ll see you crazy punks & apes in the metaverse.
Be sure to check out the cryptopainter:
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