Second Realm

Eric P. Rhodes, Artist


Hosting a NFT Podcast, Teaching Math, and Being a Crypto Artist With Darren Kleine

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Darren Kleine began exploring the Blockchain some five years ago. Initially, he was making some extra cash as a ghostwriter for various marketing companies. Eventually, he wound up on Cointelegraph, working as a freelance writer. 

Through Cointelegraph, Darren met several figures that introduced him to the world of crypto art. It didn’t take long for him to try his hand at it. 

As DKleine, Darren posts his work on numerous platforms, including SHOWTIME, KnownOrigin, and Hic Et Nunc. As you can see from just a glance at one of his profiles, he does a lot of different work, but his main area of interest is zombies. 

Political zombies. Crypto zombies. Pokémon zombies. You name it, Darren has done it.  

He’s also the host of the Non-Fungible Podcast – NFP With DKleine – where he interviews artists, collectors, and innovators in the crypto market. If I remember correctly, I was one of his first guests and we had a great time. 

So much so that the guest appearance motivated me to start the podcast you’re listening to today. Talk about a full circle. 

What would Darren at the age of 11 think of himself today?

He’d probably go, “wow, this guy’s a giant nerd.” Something like that. 

But the difference would be, when I was 11, I was really self-conscious about my appearance. I mean, I looked like a giant nerd even back then. I was skinny, wore glasses, and braces. Plus, I was into drawing comic books and not into sports. I wasn’t all that popular.  

But today, nerds are cool. Nerds run the universe. Just look around you. 

You collected and drew comics?

Yeah, I was really into collecting back then. My parents wouldn’t give me an allowance. Not a momentary one, at least. I got paid in comics.  

I collected a ton of stuff, but being from Canada, I loved Alpha Flight. You know, Wolverine was one of the early characters that showed up in Alpha Flight. My brother got me into comics. He and I were always into art, together. 

After a few years, we started drawing our own comics. We would get our mom to photocopy them, so we could sell them to our friends. You could say that we had our own comic book company. Although, I don’t think the company was really profitable. 

My mom spent more on photocopying than we earned from sales. 

Were zombies something you were into as a kid?

Zombie Pikachu, Darren Kleine

I know this will sound surprising, but no really. I didn’t read too many horror comics, and I certainly didn’t create any zombie characters. Most of the stuff we have done back then was superhero-related. I remember one of my favorite characters to draw was Captain Spiral. He had the ability to spin so quickly that he would cause a tornado. Silly things like that. 

What makes zombies so attractive to you now?

I think it’s all about taking something, corrupting it, but still finding something redeeming in it. There’s always a humorous element to the zombies I draw. It makes me laugh at least. 

When you look at it superficially, it’s a pretty dark theme, you know? Death. Reanimation. It’s very morbid in a way. Resurrection, Pet Sematary style

But still, there’s something really funny about them. I do a lot of that in my work. Take something that’s considered good. Break it down. Make it good, in a different way.  

When did you start writing?

I had some really cool teachers back in high school. They taught me about structure and style, plus they taught me how to deliver something that’s enjoyable to read. I think that’s pretty important. Writing is almost like a conversation, you know what I mean?

That’s what I remember most about high school. Working with my teachers. Learning from them. Being like, yeah, I can actually do this. I never really pursued it as any sort of work outside of school. I wanted to become a teacher, myself. 

You’re a math teacher now, right?

Now, that’s semi-correct. I was both a math and an art teacher. I studied at the University of Alberta. That’s where I got my art degree. The funny thing about teaching art, when I was working as a teacher, I didn’t do any actual art. I always felt too tired. 

Did teaching about art helped me with my art? Not really, no. But I helped me in terms of working with kids a bit. But I didn’t understand kids until I had some of my own. I was a young teacher, too. I started working when I was 23 so I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, most of the time. 

When did you discover the blockchain?

Zombie Rogan, Darren Kleine

OK, as a teacher, I have a lot of free time. During the summer, I have 8 weeks off. I tend to get bored easily. One summer, I decided to learn how to write. When I start working on something, I tend to get obsessed about it. I started writing every day. 

Every day, I would research a topic, and write about it in-depth. One day, I started digging around, learning about cryptocurrencies and I was like, holy crap, there’s so much stuff about it. There’s this thing called Bitcoin, which you can buy, sell, and buy this thing called Ethereum. 

My mind was blown. That was way back in 2016. After a while, I started ghostwriting for numerous companies. Freelancing lead me to working for Cointelegraph Magazine

How did you get into crypto art? 

Robness. He’s the man that got me into all of this NFT stuff. 

I was writing for Cointelegraph, when I did a piece about trash art called “Immutable Trash” in which I interviewed Robness. That began my journey into the world of NFTs. Once I saw how easy it was to start making your own NFTs, I started thinking about dipping my toes. 

Fast-forward to today, I’m a writer turned artist. Although, I’m not much of a writer at the moment…  

You also have your own podcast, right?

Yeah, I have my own podcast. It’s called NFP – The Non-Fungible Podcast – and I use it to, well, introduce others to NFTs, talk to different artists in the field, and learn more about the community myself. I’ve been doing it for a year now.

It’s been great so far, even though it has prevented me from writing as much as I would like to.

Now, I’m still on great terms with Cointelegraph, but when you’re recording three to five podcasts a week, writing in-depth, well-researched articles isn’t really possible. I have so much time for so many things, and I really enjoy podcasting.

What do you prefer, creating content or creating art?

That’s a good question. Basically, it always goes back to art. Yeah, it always does. I’ll be totally honest here. The podcasts are always inspiring me back to art, you know what I mean?

Like, after I talk to someone like Robness or yourself,  I get inspired. Sometimes, I figure out how to finish a piece I was working on. Other times, I get a brand-new idea. 

Talking to other artists simply gets me motivated. I don’t know if I’m an extrovert, but I really get charged when I talk to people. It also really helped me during the pandemic. 

How does it feel to be a part of The Guild?

It feels great. It’s a huge honor to be a part of it. I was really excited when Danil Pan asked me to join The Guild. When I look at some of the people who are in the guild, I can’t really believe I’m in this group of artists. It’s just a weird feeling for me.

Maybe I should explain what The Guild is? It’s a collective of phenomenal NFT artists, who collaborate on pieces and support each other. While it’s not all about the money, a month ago, one of The Guild’s collaborative pieces, “Pandora’s Box” sold for $1150,000. 

I think that’s a good indicator of where The Guild is in terms of respect, right?

Does it feel good when someone buys your piece? 

Amazing. Pretty amazing. I mean, I appreciate when someone likes one of my posts or retweets something I wrote, but when someone goes out and gives money for your work, I feel like, honored. It’s such a gratifying feeling, because it’s a gesture of respect. 

As I said, money isn’t everything, but it communicates something. It tells you what you’re doing has value and that people appreciate it. Money is another social layer. 

For instance, I sold one of my zombie pieces to a guy who randomly listened to my Gary Vee interview. He happened to see me tweet an image, and he was like, “I want to own it.” That was the first time this person bought an NFT. What a gift. What an honor. 

What do you think about ROI collectors?

I mean, I have this free market mentality that tells me that it’s completely fine to be in it for the money. It is what it is. Some people in the NFT space look down on collectors who are in it for the money, but I think that’s their choice. 

They can be in it for the money if they want to. 

On the other hand, if someone wants to be in it purely for the art, then go ahead and do it. There’s a group of people who want to create art for art’s sake. That’s why the Gary Vee situation happened and why so many people were dogging him for trying to make money. 

Where do you see NFTs in 10 years?

In 10 years? Not sure. But I’m excited about Ethereum. I’m really looking forward to Ethereum 2.0. I think this thing will go further than we ever imagined it would. I can see it eating a lot of these other alternatives. There’s so much development in the space right, I can’t really imagine how all of it will look in a decade. 

Follow Darren on Twitter and Instagram. See his art on OpenSeaRarible, and Foundation. Subscribe to his podcast on Spotify

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