🤏☠️ The story behind Mark Knol and the Smolskulls

Learn more about his background, influences, NFTs, and where he sees generative art ten years from now...

Today I’d like to share an exciting conversation with Mark Knol. He is one of the most popular artists in the generative art Tezos community, and his Smolskulls can be seen all around this blockchain these days. He has published generative art for a while across multiple platforms - hit et nunc, fxhash, objkt.com - and his collectors are one of the most vibrant communities out there.

You can mint this issue as an NFT on FxHash here.

Let’s get started!

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Can you tell me a bit about your background?

Hi, I’m Mark Knol. I work at Media.Monks as game developer. I am married and have two daughters. I love programming, arts and play guitar. I have contributed to a lot of open source projects over the last few years, especially in the Haxe programming language community.

square.flower.01 is the first minted piece (genesis) by Mark Knol on hic et nunc - March 17 2021.

square.flower.01 is the first minted piece (genesis) by Mark Knol on hic et nunc - March 17 2021.

How long have you been doing generative art, and how did you discover NFTs?

I started doing generative art somewhere around 2008, at the time Flash and ActionScript were the hot things.

I follow some great (generative art) artists on Twitter who were into NFTs already. So I followed it from the sidelines. But it has a lot of criticism and downsides because the Ethereum blockchain is using massive amounts of energy due to mining and transaction validation. I didn't wanna be part of something that is bad for the environment and try to encourage everyone to do their own research on this topic too.

here.and.now by Mark Knol

here.and.now by Mark Knol

Anyway, I think it was Mario Klingemann and Matt DesLauriers who started to tweet about Tezos and hicetnunc.xyz somewhere in March 2021. It was advertised as green NFTs that use a reasonable amount of energy, transactions which waste less energy than tweets, so that got my attention on NFTs again. I respect both artists so contacted Matt, he onboarded me, and not much later my first work got sold on hicetnunc.

From that point, I made a lot of new works again and I think a half year later I grew to be one of the top-selling artists on hicetnunc.

SMOLSKULL by Mark Knol

SMOLSKULL by Mark Knol was the 14th minted collection on FxHash

What inspired you to create the Smolskulls series?

It is a funny story! I have to confess that I never understood the appeal of “PFP projects”. But at a point I was thinking, how would my PFP look like if I create one? When I saw Tezzards (by OMGiDRAWEDit) and Neonz (by Sutuverse), that was a moment I realized it can have a real personal touch of an artist. I decided mine should be a fully coded PFP project, with no image layers. It is a pixelated skull, with a rounded head to make it a mix of pixel art and vector art. It only uses a handful of colors, but there is a lot of variety and nice facial expressions.

ASCII-SMOLSKULL #239 by Mark Knol

ASCII-SMOLSKULL #239 by Mark Knol

After smolskull got released, I wanted to do an ASCII version too, I was scared someone else would do it but also thought it would give more strength to the project. I created a custom character set based on the known DOS font, I even added my own name to it as a personal touch. I also collaborated with Reinder to make the 3d smolskulls, I think this made the trilogy complete!

3D-SMOLSKULL #311 by Mark Knol (animated)

3D-SMOLSKULL #311 by Mark Knol (animated)

Besides the smolskulls, you created new collections like MILL, DISK, and teared locations.locations… How hard is it to come up with new concepts?

I'm always full of ideas. I make a lot of side projects, in many forms. Websites, games, tools, doodles, small test projects and I also try to recreate a lot of things and iterate a lot to make it my own. If something works for me, I keep working on it, but I also have a lot of unfinished projects. New concepts are always hard. In some cases, I keep iterating on what I have already.

teared.locations by Mark Knol

teared.locations by Mark Knol

teared.locations is a good example of that, since I've created quite some grid/subdivision-based projects. Nevertheless, I always try to do something new; work on the algorithm, the composition, the selection of the colors, the placement of the colors, play with the strokes, animation, etc. So many factors to play with!

MILL was a completely new concept. I'm from the Netherlands so I thought it would be nice to have a very minimalistic Mondrian-themed mill project.

MILL by Mark Knol

MILL by Mark Knol

Who are your favorite artists or artistic influencers (gen art or other forms of art)

One major inspiration was Erik Natzke, he kind of introduced me to generative art when I saw his talk on FITC 2008. I never heard of generative art at the time, while I did tinker with code a lot at that time. I was instantly inspired. The curves and compositions he created just with code still amaze me.

A slight lack of symmetry can cause so much pain by Dmitri Cherniak

A slight lack of symmetry can cause so much pain by Dmitri Cherniak (on Super Rare)

Recently I am also inspired by the great artists in the NFT world, Dmitri Cherniak, Tyler Hobbs, Pak, but actually, a lot of ideas that pass by can inspire me.

Incomplete Control #73 by Tyler Hobbs

Incomplete Control #73 by Tyler Hobbs (on Art Blocks)

Where do you see generative art in 5 to 10 years?

I think this is an area in the art that keeps growing as it is related to how technology grows. 10 years ago computers were way slower and you had to optimize a lot of code to put a few thousand pixels on the screen. Now that's less of an issue. So I think in 10 years from now we'll have even greater devices and environments where you can make so much better things. Probably you compose or retrieve datasets in minutes and generate neural network models in minutes, make hyper-realistic 3d scenes that blow your socks off in XR or whatever is invented by then. The sky will be even more the limit. At some point, creativity might be the problem to get "better art" out, if the technology becomes too fast to realize what we can imagine.

DISK by Mark Knol

DISK by Mark Knol

I hope for creators there will be more tools, more environment and it will be more accessible. I hope generative art, nfts, crypto, and what we now try to call "web3" will be more understood.

Any advice for new artists breaking into NFTs / generative art?

Make things you would like to look at yourself. Everything is already done, but don't let that discourage you. Try to make things your own, shape them into something that will make it you. Use the tech you like to use.

I hope that everyone who gets into NFTs or crypto informs their selves. There are a lot of good things happening, but also scams happening. Before you do anything, double-check, think for yourself. Don’t spend more than you can afford. Also try to understand the technology as much as you can, inform yourself.

smolskull.poster by Mark Knol

smolskull.poster by Mark Knol - Airdropped to Smolskull holders

Check out Mark’s complete generative art and NFTs creations:

Until next time,

- Kaloh


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