Second Realm

Eric P. Rhodes, Artist

Gary Cartlidge on His Journey from Extreme Sports to Crypto Art


Gary Cartlidge is a UK graphic designer, illustrator, and crypto artist. Also, he’s a very good friend of mine. I’ve been a fan of Gary’s work for years. He’s the only artist that would make me consider buying something off Nifty Gateway. 

How to describe Gary’s work? Well, it’s chaotic. In a good way. Sometimes minimal. Other times maximal. Lots of his work uses digital elements, bright colors, and bold lines. His style varies from piece to piece but you can always recognize that it’s his work. 

That’s why I love him.

What would 12-year-old Gary think of you today?

That’s a funny age, just before I got into extreme sports. I think the 12-year-old Gary would just kick my ass, to be honest with you. He’d be like “you meant to achieve a lot and you didn’t.” I was a really ambitious kid at that age. But those ambitions never materialized into anything.

Your mind works differently when you’re involved in extreme sports. You live in the moment and everything’s about that moment, you know? Being creative at that moment. There’s a purity to it that can’t be found anywhere else, I feel… 

Have you ever studied the psychology of extreme sports athletes?

To be honest, I’ve never really studied it. I just feel that collective experiences – no matter how trivial they seem – tend to morph people into someone else. Look at being a skateboarder. The skate park is a much more inclusive environment than say a basketball court.

People that are into extreme sports tend to be creatives. Skateboarding definitely shaped me. In the early year, going to London South Bank probably subconsciously exposed me to graffiti art. There are so many things like that looking back that shaped up my personality.

Do you consider yourself a kind of lifelong learner?

I was recently considering going back to University. When I first decided to go to university, I felt like such a fraud. A sellout. I felt like I was one of those people that was always learning from home. I felt like I was wasting my time paying for tuition.

At home, I was listening to interviews and podcasts of guys like Elon Musk and learning practical things like computer science and physics. I don’t feel like that today. The way you interpret things today is different from you would when you were 18, you know?

In some ways, I feel like I’m going backward sometimes. The 18-year-old version of me was a lot purer. When you’re a kid, you just have your priorities straight. It’s like, I just want to smile. And play. And Love.

The idea of being shackled is a major theme in your work. Why is it so important?

It’s hard to deal with depression and isolation. So that’s just my way of exhaling if you know what I mean? We, as humans, like to complain about our state. Putting all of that in my art feels like an easier way to say “this is how I feel.”

When I work, it’s almost like a stream of consciousness process. I make the first thing that comes to my head. I’m working on a feeling. I like to put small hints of different things in my work. Also, I like to play with broken space.

Some people choose living, others choose surviving. What’s your take on that?

I feel like a lot of people live that way. Surviving instead of living. For sure. But I think that people that get into crypto art thrive on living, rather than surviving. Our parents lived that way. That entire generation has this obsession with security. And there’s no such thing as security.

The other day, I was listening to some kind of inspirational speech on YouTube. It’s funny how psychologists tell you that you’re ok the way you are and how the Western culture demands that we always strive for better.

If you’re okay with the way you are, you’re miserable. You’re unhappy with everything. You’re suicidal. But you’re just fine.

But it’s human nature to want to be better, wouldn’t you say so?

It doesn’t matter what you do and who you are, but you tell yourself “I want to be this and this.” That’s how we’re programmed. I feel like that’s the trick. The smoke and mirrors. One of the things they do to distract you because you might become powerful.

It’s a trick. That’s how people trick themselves into surviving instead of living. That entire concept of surviving is what’s really funny. You know? No one ever survives. I’m pretty sure that no one in history has ever survived.

Let’s go back to art. Do you feel like too many crypto artists are trying to sell everything they create?

There are many really good marketers in the space. However, when you actually take the time and look at their Rarible accounts, and see how many works they created, you see it’s too much. I know someone that has created 49,000 pieces. 49,000 pieces? Really?

Nothing would convince me to buy into that supply. I’m sorry. I mean, if you earn a lot of money per piece, it makes sense.

Of course, you have people like Robness, who has 5,000 pieces or something. He gets a lot of money. But his style is diverse. You can always diversify your style even more and break it down into smaller collections.

How did you end up on Open Editions with Mozart and Beethoven? How did you land on those?

Speaking of Robness, that’s his influence right there. I was chatting with him during an artistic dry patch. Robness was going back to cyber pop. He told me that these things were hot. I mean, they’re friendly to the eye and people enjoy them.

But I didn’t go back to cyber pop with a wide audience in mind. I really enjoyed working on those three portraits. They were just fun to play with. And their message? You can be whatever you want to be. I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed working on them so much.

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