As a kid, DeeKay Kwon, like many of us, doodled his way through boring classes in school. But unlike the rest of us, the South Korean-born artists is now one of the most successful animators in the world.
With a style that celebrates 1990’s and 2000’s gaming culture and draws a major influence from his homeland, DeeKay’s NFT artworks have sold for hundreds of thousands and even a million dollars in ETH.
Snoop Dogg, also known as NFT collector Cozomo de’ Medici, said that a 1:1 NFT artwork he purchased from DeeKay in 2022 named “Life and Death” for 310 ETH (or around $1 million) was “a defining work of this era.” More recently, in August 2023, DeeKay partnered with Snoop to launch the artist’s first-ever open mint artwork on Base. The sale earned $100,000 in the first hour after launch.
Though DeeKay has claimed in previous interviews that he’s not a particularly “productive” artist, his growing portfolio of mesmerizing work says otherwise. Last week, we caught up with DeeKay to learn a little bit more about how he got into the NFT space, what inspires him, and some advice he has for artists who are interested in Web3.
Here’s the interview:
Tell us about how you first got involved with animation and why it’s important to you. Did you always want to be an artist?
I have always been fascinated by frame-by-frame drawing and animation since childhood. Witnessing drawings come alive through animation was the coolest thing for me, so I naturally picked up a pencil and started drawing, attempting animation. Although I never understood what it meant to become an artist, I knew I loved drawing, so that’s what I focused on.
How did you first enter the Web3 and NFT space?
A friend already involved in the NFT space introduced it to me. Initially, I didn’t fully understand, and I ignored it for about a year but decided to give it a try around January 2021.
What do you think NFTs can do for artists?
It’s a new path for artists, and it’s about time something like this exists. I believe anyone interested in art as a kid grows up as an artist but slowly loses their artistic side while working corporate jobs.
In the corporate world, there are regulations and rules to follow, but art is about creating your own rules or having no rules at all. It’s pure expression, but artists have no choice but to lose that as they face the reality of creating art that makes money.
Where do you find your inspiration as an artist? What is your process like from idea to creation?
Ideas come randomly. I try to consume everything as much as possible, not just about art but anything I see or hear. Anything happening in my life can be my inspiration or motivation. I focus on a story that people can relate to and feel something when they look at my art.
Did your experience with the 2007 financial crisis lead you towards, or influence your decision, to get involved with Web3, cryptocurrency, and NFTs in any way?
No, not at all. I was never money-driven. I didn’t even have any stocks before entering the NFT space. I solely focused on working for clients and getting paid check by check.
What has been the most surprising thing for you about NFTs and Web3?
The NFT space can be both beautiful and ugly at the same time. There are amazing artists and collectors here purely for the love of art, but at the same time, there are too many speculators looking only for financial gain.
What was it like to have Cozomo de’ Medici, aka Snoop Dogg, purchase one of your NFTs?
It didn’t feel real. It was probably the most insane thing that ever happened to me. I still get goosebumps thinking about that day! It made me realize that I can be an artist, not just a designer or animator working corporate jobs.
Much of your work is influenced by the gaming aesthetics of the 1990 and 2000s. The Web3 tends to draw a lot of inspiration from these nostalgic games of the past. Do you have any opinions on why people in Web3 are drawn to this period and particular aesthetic?
I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing most people in the NFT space grew up during those times. Those were the days when we were kids with zero worries and only cared about having fun. We miss those days as adults, and I try to escape from reality to be in those past days, even just a little bit.
It might sound unrealistic, but I wish we could all live in a world with no money worries, where everyone gets paid equally. We would focus only on what makes us who we are, what we want to create and express, and create beautiful culture as much as possible.
What is the vibe like in South Korea regarding NFT artwork?
There is room for improvement in how people view NFTs as art since it’s more known as just another crypto token for investment. Small groups of people are enthusiastic about this technology and art, and I truly hope it grows bigger. I hope to be the one who can lead the way to show that NFTs can also be considered art.
Do you have any advice for younger or unknown artists about how they can successfully enter Web3?
This advice can apply to any other field. Find what you enjoy and do it as much as you can. If you’re enjoying what you do, you’ll naturally do it a lot. When you do it a lot, it becomes a practice, and naturally, you become good at it. When you’re good at something, opportunities come to you from all directions. This is how I live by it, at least. Simple.
Thank you for reading. Below are some Rarity Sniper interviews with NFT artists: