Winning with NFTs & AI: story of artist Anna Dart
How traditional artist finds her path in the digital world since 2020
Barcelona, Spain — March 8, 2023 — In honor of International Women’s Day, we have the privilege of sitting down with Anna Dart for an exclusive interview, where she shares her insights and experiences with us.
Anna Dart is a true Renaissance artist. She is a painter, curator, futurist, NFT early adopter, and advocate for sustainability and social responsibility in the world of new tech. As a co-founder of Exquisite Workers, Anna is at the forefront of the cutting-edge art project that fuses innovation with Surrealism, and promotes female empowerment and artists´ patronage since 2020. Her talent and vision have been recognized by the art world, as evidenced by her recent win at the first Claire AI Contest and the nomination at NFT.NYC Awards as the “Best traditional artist turned NFT artist” next to Takashi Murakami and Trevor Jones, both in 2022.
Anna is also a pioneer in the world of digital fashion, having co-created the world’s first digital-only garment on the blockchain, based on her minimalistic traditional paintings. Her motto is “Art with frames, life without them,” and she embodies this ethos in everything she does.
This is the first full interview with Anna Dart, and we are excited to learn more about her journey as a female artist and her thoughts on the future of NFTs and AI art through 20 questions.
Let´s get started.
1. When you were growing up, what did you aspire to be?
My childhood proceeded calmly with a lucid quiet tempo. Curtains billowed with butterflies while I rested in my bed upon receipt of a cherished letter. I played Beethoven and was enamored with the first brushes I won at the kids’ art competition.
My family loved to conversate about the sky and traveling, while I read The Little Prince and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When I was around seven, I drew with colored pencils right before the New Year’s Eve bell rang because I felt the importance of creating art to freeze time.
“My first dream was to become a dancer. And if this and everything else fails, to be a mermaid.”
2. What is the main idea or feeling you aim to communicate through your art?
Since a young age, I have been practicing traditional art. Nonetheless, professionally speaking, it all started in 2012 when I began showcasing worldwide.
Over the last eleven years, I have been working on cross-pollinating the disciplines of visual and performing arts, fashion, high-tech, and creative collaborations to explore the place of human emotions and memory in the challenging process of global virtualization. Searching for my place in the interaction of the physical and digital, I also looked for the most eco-friendly form of art. I enrolled in performing arts, which was my passionate dream.
“I started to paint bigger and to capture the flows of consciousness and movement in color.”
I found myself engaged on a deep level with Gaudí’s architecture. I learned that the worlds emerge from the sparks of the ideas, and that inner strength and nature are the biggest sources of inspiration.
“I believe art should be innovative and also bring us back to its origins. Art should celebrate the sovereignty and communication of a human with a human beyond time.”
Gaudí´s masterful work, denied by the people of his time, is greatly appreciated these days. In the early 20th century, Gaudí’s world like ours was developing fast and unpredictably. As we delve into the always-online era, Gaudí grappled with the transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles living in the new industrial landscape. The challenge in both occasions is to move with the times and face the unknown.
“In 2020, I understood it was a time for me to set apart the brushes and go with the time.”
3. Can you describe your creative process and approach to making art? Where did everything start?
I remember a day when I went to the art supply shop and could only buy one color. I picked that one and only black watercolor that became my companion for many years. The color I chose as a magic wand produced the gray sort of ink with blue tones of a burnout photo. Empathetic, nonjudgmental, noble, the gray met my craving for sophistication. From the mysterious, uncontrollable watercolor shadows, magnetic characters arose. They spoke intelligence, spirituality, kindness, also provocation and distance.
These early works were my prediction of what the future will look like in the new digital reality. We will be searching for a deeper universal human connection in the complexity of phygital life, managing new mental health challenges and solitude. My art resonated with a wide audience and was exhibited in Germany, in the oldest art fair in the world Art Cologne, and many other countries. I used to say, a day without a painting is a day without a date. I painted on paper and granted my early collectors the experience of planting trees. My portfolio of paintings and art-prints is exclusively available at SINGULART gallery, the largest online gallery from Paris, France.
Entering the Metaverse, we are going to face lots of challenges. And it is essential to make a statement about what kind of future we look for. I would like a future that is culturally rich, warm-hearted, and fair to all people and the Earth, the future of active positive engagement and liberating experiences.
In 2020, award-winning Roger Haus established Exquisite Workers, a tech spin-off of the Surrealist’s “Exquisite Corpses”, co-created daily on Instagram among 1K artists from around the globe. The idea fascinated me immediately and we started to work together.
The result of our ongoing collective work with hundreds of fabulous artists between 2 and 94 years old is the longest-living piece of art crafted in real-time online. It is also a space for creative exchange full of diversity, beauty, and opportunities.
The Exquisite Corpse technique is a Surrealist method of collaborative art-making that originated in the 1920s. It involved a group of artists working together to create a single artwork by each contributing a section without knowing what the others had created.
The result was often a strange and seemingly nonsensical composition, but this was precisely the point of the exercise: to allow the unconscious mind to take over and create something with an emphasis on chance and randomness.
“In times of change, we shall challenge the status quo by developing fresh models, novel forms of co-creation, and new sources of artistic thought, and the Surrealists were skilled at it.”
With Exquisite Workers, we opened a life-changing conversation: What would the great Surrealists present to the world if they had shared the experience of virtual realities? And what can we do to be better ancestors? If the great masters lived now, I guess some would eternalize their colors in digital fashion and integrate AI within their creative processes.
4. Would you speak a bit more on your relationship with colors?
Since the beginning of my artistic career, I have been painting exclusively in shades of gray. However, in 2018, I begun to experiment with acrylics and has incorporated a wide range of vibrant colors into my work.
“Color is an expression of the openness and freedom, a metaphor for life in its entirety. Color is a way of celebrating our existence in all its richness and diversity.”
It was with these new colors and our work at Exquisite Workers that I dived deep into the digital realm which leaded me to fascinating explorations into the world of digital-only clothing and AI art.
5. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received in your artistic career and how did you apply it in your work?
One of my mentors said: stand for your idea until the end, the smallest it might seem. I almost washed away in the sink the artwork which recently won the award at the first Claire AI Contest in August 2022. It is “Fu Mar AI” which combines watercolor and AI outputs. This artwork was highlighted in the featured page by SuperRare and collected by Claire Silver in January 2023.
In “Fu Mar AI”, myself from 2012 meets a future self as I combine watercolour and AI outputs. The feelings I wanted to contain in the reimagined piece are best represented by the poetry of Kara Jackson’s “The World Is About to End and My Grandparents Are in Love” which speaks about the destruction of the modern world and how this has ruined the chances of having a love like our grandparents do.
6. Who or what do you draw inspiration from in your artwork?
I am inspired by those artworks which revolutionized human experience, disrupted the rational order of thought, created new artistic language, and influenced the way we see the world today.
Gaudí´s last civil works are sensual poetry in stone and a revolutionary statement. For the first time, Antoni Gaudí invited people to go to the roof and have a walk, finding themselves in the middle of the extraordinary spectacle of senses, nothing less than the “Star Wars” film.
“Gaudí knew about the Metaverse more than we can imagine. If one day we spend as much time in the virtual realities as in the physical world, I want this new reality to be the imagination of Antoni Gaudí.”
7. Can you recall your initial reaction upon first learning about NFTs?
Back in 2020, in Zurich, Switzerland, we met Morgan Deane, an international lawyer and a thought leader. He drew our attention to the fact that Exquisite Corpse, because of the dependency of each shape on the previous and subsequent shapes, was an artistic representation of blockchain itself. We felt so much excitement about NFT art as if we were traveling into outer space.
With Exquisite Workers, we framed our journey of discovery as the «NFT to stay» mission and committed to creating 504 unique NFTs from May 2021 to May 2022 inspired by the greatest surreal masters and cosmos discovery.
In early 2021, we selected a group of emerging and renowned digital artists to contribute to the chain of 2D, 3D, and AI-generated images specifically for this collection. For many this meant to become their first experience with NFTs.
For each edition or planet, one Surrealist artist was assigned to the crew: Yves Tanguy, Leonora Carrington, Hieronymus Bosch, Joan Miró, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Pablo Picasso, Remedios Varo, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte. We celebrated them each month and shined a light on their imagination of cosmic proportions. We aimed to write the collective letters to the future, setting the fundament for the largest library of Surrealism in Metaverse.
“The extraordinary collaborative work of our artists is a mirror of probably one of the most important moments of contemporary art history.”
The First edition of Crypto Corpse found its place on the front page of OpenSea, one of the largest marketplaces where we minted most of our collection. For the Black Hole edition #196–291 Exquisite Workers used the prompts from the Inktober Festival to create a sequence of illustrations with a deep meaning. For the BeInCrypto Star, 100% Charity edition #187–195 Exquisite Workers created arts that corresponded to 9 predictions of the future written by the world´s thought leaders. In this edition for the first time, we collaborated with the digital fashion house The Fabricant. For the Super Real Star edition #493–504 on SuperRare, each artist was assigned a Surrealist mentor to literally interpret their work: all 12 Surrealists finally came together.
At the start, we were conscious this was not a one-day project. We are incredibly humbled to work with so many brilliant artists and generous collectors and partners.
We are proud that the stunning NFT collection is ready now and we received several nominations at the NFT.NYC Awards in 2022 and exhibited across the globe, including the Barcelona Picasso Museum and COP26, the biggest Climate Summit with the competition for climate action that I curated.
I hope you like our visual alchemy, collect the piece you like most and join us for the next adventure which this time will be dedicated to the AI Art.
8. Do you remember the first time you heard about the AI art?
Yes, one of the initial participants in the Crypto Exquisite Corpse was the greatly talented Jenni Pasanen. In 2021, Jenni minted her first AI artwork on OpenSea within our collaboration trusting in me as a curator. She also shared with Exquisite Workers her AI-collaborative process which became the revelation for many, including myself.
Every time an artist collaborates with AI, we tap into a higher level of intelligence and find ultimate understandings through shared neural networks. AI allows us to create images from a description in natural language and surprises us with all sorts of outcomes. Free and unpredictable as watercolor and unbounded as space, AI helps us expand the boundaries of imagination and make possible mysterious meetings of artists, styles, mediums etc. Finally, traveling in time is possible.
I see AI art as a collaboration that grants us a stunning multiverse of options. AI-based programs will soon make movie-making available to the open public, predict style trends, and clothes to be worn both in physical and virtual reality. Difficult to imagine how far this can take us as a culture and even as civilization.
When machine and human come together, there is this human making choices, expressing the unique story creating what the tools provide you with. The key here is when you try this new media and you feel this excitement, remember this emotion, maintain it. And when you leave the screen and go out, keep this emotion alive, for every single thing that you do, during the day.
I am greatly interested about those who never really expressed their artistic side, because of this barrier of their art skills, how they will share their world with us. AI gives us assistance to express ourselves without judgement, so it becomes a friend. You can share your thoughts and ideas and see what comes. It is a communication in which you are listening to the answer and respond. The point of it is all about listening. I have a painting which is called, “There is a skill in sharing, and there is an art in listening”. I think we should be open to all perspectives and media and be empathetic about different kinds of opinions.
The process of AI learning is an ongoing journey and we are witness to its fascinating evolution. The way in which AI is discovering and understanding the complexities of the human hands, for example, is a fascinating and intriguing aspect of its development. The way AI perceives the hand with ten fingers which are small cylinders is a unique perspective that adds to our understanding of both AI and the world around us.
“This learning process is not just about technology, but also about the beauty and poetry of growth and discovery.”
I hope this accessible no-code tech will be used with the people and planet in mind, preserving our cultural legacies. We shall all be together to understand the new reality of AI. We are arriving at the epochal moment before the next leap into the universe in which humans and tech merge.
“There are certainly similarities between working with hundreds of people across the globe as we do at Exquisite Workers and tapping into the collective consciousness working with the mind of the machine.”
9. Which of your artworks holds the most significance to you personally?
It is the Digital Dress #17 from Season #2 of WoW Fashion. It is one of the most exciting artworks of 2022 and a result of a fascinating collaboration between the female-focused community World of Women and the decentralized digital fashion house The Fabricant which leads the fashion industry towards a new sector of digital-only clothing.
World of Women members are united by a unique avatar collection that showcases only the faces of their enigmatic female characters. Applying state-of-the-art tech and creative vision, The Fabricant and co-creators were invited to imagine how the avatar bodies and digital dresses would look like — the extension of the collectibles for the Metaverse.
Digital-only Fashion refers to clothing and accessories that exist only in the digital realm. This includes items like virtual outfits that are used in video games or other online environments. Because Digital Fashion exists only in the virtual world, it cannot be worn physically. However, you can use it as a filter in apps such as Snapchat or Instagram, which allow you to superimpose virtual items onto your photos or videos. Additionally, some online environments, such as avatar-based virtual worlds (e.g. Decentraland, Voxels, Digital Village, Oncyber, etc.), may allow you to “wear” Virtual Fashion within these environments. In this case, you would use a VR headset to interact with the space and see yourself wearing the e-garments.
Digital Fashion has no history, no seasonality, no norms to follow, and no gravity. Digital Fashion is sustainable and enables a closer understanding of reality and a faster response to everyone’s needs. In Digital Fashion, we are all the creative agents of our self-expression and can curate our virtual identity in real time. Digital Fashion breaks free from the constraints of normality as it is created from the most surreal materials. The limit is our imagination.
As any fashion garment has a style or look, materials, and colors, digital garments do too. For The Fabricant Studio, we submitted several material designs on behalf of the Exquisite Workers. These fabrics are based on my traditional art as we applied digital imaging technology to scan the painting and create a digital version of it.
“For the first time, physical art became digital couture and a bridge between two realities. Digital dress is the new canvas.”
In Summer 2022, The Fabricant Studio workshop was open for 3 days for everyone to become a Digital Fashion designer. The participants had a chance to choose between 24 colors, 20 materials, and 27 modes of garments. Their exclusive combination is the customization of their master dress which happened online instantaneously. From possible 300K variations, 2665 have been picked and introduced on the blockchain through a smart contract that featured everyone participating making it eternally rewarding. Once the combination was selected by the participant, or co-creator, it did not repeat.
The collection is closed and is limited to an edition of 1/1 meaning that the items are scarce and highly valuable. Like flowers, these exceptional collaborative e-dresses have opened their petals to shine.
“Turn” painting has become one of the first-of-the-kind fabrics based on traditional art. It is a part of my ethereal collection on canvas “The Verb I am” first exhibited in Barcelona in the home of eco-fashion Friday´s Project and interpreted by dancer Lydia Ayllón and actor Jaume Viñas in a live performance.
The title “Turn” refers to the basic movement in dance, but also to opening yourself to the new realms of possibilities. “Turn” fabrics takes you into depths of imagination and Barcelona melting architecture and fills the Metaverse with the beautiful warm colors of the Mediterranean.
The dress #17 Emerald Elven Cape was co-created in the first seconds when the Studio went live. I feel lucky that this exact combination of tender yellow color and the sophisticated dream-like Cape model with “Turn” fabrics was the example dress in the promotional video of Season #2.
This exceptional collaborative digital dress is made in a way that accurately captures the details and qualities of the original painting. It is an example of using technology to preserve and showcase traditional art and reimagine it in the limitless spectrum of innovation.
Our submitted fabrics became the most popular in the Season #2 and were exhibited in a museum in Seattle, USA, and in the Amsterdam Central Station, the Netherlands. Such shows and collaborations are a great way of highlighting the intersection of art and technology for an open public.
10. What emotions or thoughts do you experience while you’re in the process of creating art?
Excitement that I participate in this history-making moment.
11. What are your predictions for the future of the NFT art scene?
The use of digital technologies and innovations must have a lasting impact on the system of change. We exist in relationships and I like that the NFT art scene triggers collective experiences. NFT space is about discovering people who are connectors and building ecosystems.
Back in 2020, I predicted that in the future in each big city there will be a Museum or Gallery for digital collectibles and immersive experiences. Now in 2023, we are seeing this happening. There will also be more and more interest in digital fashion.
“In the nearest future, the digital wardrobe will be no less significant than the physical one and utterly artistic and surreal.”
12. Is there any contemporary artist or thought-leader you admire that you would like to collaborate with?
Krista Kim, Refik Anadol, Roope Rainisto, Roger Haus, Kyle Gordon, Jenni Pasanen, Jason Silva, David Cash, Lily Illo, and InfiniteYay. I am glad that with some of them I had a chance to collaborate and exhibit already at the large scenes.
13. What tools or techniques do you use to bring your artistic vision to life?
Technology is automating, personalizing, and speeding up the art space. For the AI art practice, I refer to all sorts of generative AI art models to express my vision in a way I could not foresee before. For Digital Fashion, CLO 3D is a tool that provides an intuitive, interactive 3D solution for garment design. You can perform 3D design tricks like adding folds and layers to a 3D design or making it look like the garment is in motion. It gives you a wide range of options for sizing, color schemes, and styles. For my painting and illustration practice, I use Procreate in addition to watercolors and acrylics.
14. What thoughts do you have in mind when you mint your arts?
I think about mindfulness. After deploying thousands of smart contracts which provide us with an innovative system to perform art and culture in a decentralized way, we might gain more awareness of the importance and power of words and our data. Words are not just descriptive, but generative. They transform and create events and perceptions, and the blockchain will keep them forever.
“NFTs mean eternity.”
15. Can you describe your vision of an ideal world?
Art with frames, life without them.
16. What do you think about anonymity in NFT space?
It is not the new thing. A century ago Antoni Gaudí rarely gave interviews or allowed himself to be photographed, and he also chose not to show his face in public. By remaining anonymous and focusing solely on his work, Gaudí was able to maintain a sense of humility and dedication to his craft.
There is no doubt that anonymity is more relevant in the age of hyperconnectivity and ubiquitous cameras. With cameras and other sensors integrated into wearable devices, it may be more difficult to maintain privacy in public spaces or even in our own homes.
What I like most about the virtual reality and other immersive technologies is that the artists can create and showcase their work without revealing their identity, providing the creators with a sense of freedom and experimentation.
17. Can you walk us through a typical day in your life? What activities do you like to do?
I like to keep up to date with the news on contemporary art, tech, fashion, sustainability, open calls, share opportunities with friends, meet collectors, travel, do yoga, meditation, and go dancing and drama festivals.
There is a Weekly AI Collective Twitter Spaces on Mondays in which my colleagues and I organize very interesting conversations with AI artists and share tips and news in the articles on Medium.
18. Are there any new projects you are excited to share or currently working on?
Certainly. I invite you to discover my new AI art on Foundation and Objkt.com. I have some AI art releases and dedicated shows this year that are exciting. I want to give everyone the opportunity to own a piece of my artwork releasing some open and large editions. I am also looking forward to releasing my traditional art legacy on my Manifold smart contract on SuperRare.
At Exquisite Workers, we also have some amazing news. We have released the Exquisite Workers Calendar for 2023 to keep the annual tradition alive. The Exquisite Workers Calendar has 12 colorful pages to bring joy to every month with awesome illustrations. The Calendar features 106 amazing creators and their artists’ accounts to follow.
The artists each interpreted the CryptoNovo avatar in their unique style, following the loss of the original CryptoPunk avatar. The Exquisite Workers artists participated in a social campaign to help the community member regain their digital identity. The participating AI creators are Roope Rainisto, Born in 1929, Roger Haus, Moonchild, XenoCat June, Grebenshyo, Marina Ahmadova, Mielconejo, Neroscarface, Prostov, Robinson St. George, and Time Traveler AI.
19. Do you have any favorite travel destinations or places you like to visit?
I explore both the physical world and the Metaverse. My recent significant journeys outside the screen were to the Vigeland Mausoleum and Kistefos Museum in Oslo, Norway, and the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, Denmark. It was remarkable to assist at the Hofesh Shechter dance workshops and shows in Luxembourg and go to the native town of Pina Bausch in Wuppertal, Germany.
I like to interact with my surroundings while traveling. Almost like graffiti, I make my arts appear in unusual places: over the trunks of the old trees in the middle of a giant Swiss forest. Once I spread dozens of my paintings with rose petals over the ancient stage of the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, Lyon. By doing these live performances, I shake the timelines and rush into the impossible. I also like to bring my paintings to the fine-arts museums and introduce them to the great masters.
20. Finally, choose one color.
It is still the gray. Thanks for the questions and this beautiful moment together, Exquisite Workers. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me on my way, helped me support others, and for giving me courage to follow my dreams in art.
Connect with our guest Anna Dart
About Exquisite Workers
Exquisite Workers is a hub for the cultivation of the next generation of innovators, to celebrate their artistry and voices shaping new understandings in pursuit of a better, more just world. From their passion for Surrealism, Exquisite Workers builds the culture of the Metaverse because virtual worlds are the reflection of our dreams. Exquisite Workers believes that artists should be the ambassadors of cultural legacies and be at the forefront of innovation.
Do you have any questions?
If you have any questions or if you want to work with us, feel free to contact us. For business inquiries or any personal reasons, you can send us an email via hello[at]exquisiteworkers.com (Replace [at] with @, this tactic is to avoid spam). We are always available and happy to help artists and collectors like you.
Would like to try the AI tools and do not know where to start?
No problem! We invite you to explore the AI tool Box by Time Traveller AI, AWAIC communite member. It is a great thread on Twitter which covers the major AI tools such as DALL-E 2, MidJourney, Stable Diffusion (with prompts and examples of outcomes). 🔥
You are also welcome to discover our previous articles.
You are also welcome to discover our previous articles. And don’t forget to give us your 👏 if you liked the article!
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