Beeple is a graphic illustrator, animator and multimedia artist who has been creating a new piece of artwork every day ( “everydays,” as he calls them) for 11 years.
After the free, public-use VJ loops that he created went viral, he was asked to create concert visuals for top musicians such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Eminem. Meanwhile, his surreal, futuristic illustrations have garnered a client roster that includes companies such as Apple, Nike and Louis Vuitton. We talked to Beeple—who appeared in our 3.4 Art Quarterly: Storytellers Edition—about his art philosophy and creative process.
At the top of your website, there is a simple phrase: “The best I can do.” Is this your life motto of sorts?
Not really, I think it’s just more a reflection of “this work is the best representation of what I can do at this very moment.” I think it sort of speaks to the mindset you have to have when doing everydays. It’s not gonna be perfect, it’s just gonna be the best you can do that day.
Music appears to be an important part of your work. Do you listen to anything while you’re creating? How has it guided you professionally?
I always listen to music. It definitely gives me a lot of energy and really helps me get into a good flow. I think my love of music, particularly electronic music, has really influenced the type of work I’m drawn to because it has a really DIY aesthetic. You don’t need a huge team; you just need one person with a computer. I like that idea.
I get the sense that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Is this something that has come naturally to you or have you had to work on it?
I think it’s something that comes naturally. I feel like the industry is too stiff and people take themselves way too seriously. We’re just trying to make cool shit that people like looking at and that hopefully brightens their day a bit. No reason to get butthurt about anything beyond that.
When you find yourself experimenting with new techniques, is that desire born out of personal curiosity or do you have a competitive streak?
I think there is a bit of both. I definitely want to be able to do everything other people can do, and when I see someone do something awesome, it inspires me and makes me want to push harder to do something even better. But I think there is also a lot of, “Hmm, wonder what this would look like?” too.
The sci-fi influence in your work is really strong. What are some of your favorite movies within that genre?
I think, like most people, obviously Star Wars is the biggest influence. It’s hard to overstate how much that has informed how I view science fiction. Of course I love recent work like Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, etc. But I think Star Wars is still by far the biggest influence.
Your work so fascinatingly always feels like a still from a movie, like the scene you’ve created is a part of a much larger narrative. Is this intentional or is each piece an isolated image?
I have some sort of vague narratives in my head, but they are usually fairly open and ambiguous. I don’t have a script or any sort of hard story; it’s more like a bunch of a visual experiments concentrated around some different concepts or themes.
Would you ever create a feature-length film or a narrative-based short film?
My work is definitely moving in a more narrative direction but, to be honest, making a feature-length film still feels like an absolutely impossible goal. I don’t often collaborate with other artists on personal work and I have pretty much no experience managing teams, so I’m not entirely sure how that would work.
A lot of your pieces contain direct references to big corporations such as Apple, Facebook or Disney. Do you want viewers to take away any specific social commentary or are you just playing with vague futuristic possibilities?
Yep, definitely just trying to present one possible outcome or future scenario, and usually it is a bit more tongue-in-cheek than I think most people assume. I don’t think these are evil companies, but they are very big and very powerful and a lot of their decisions can have real impacts on our everyday lives, even more than governments in many cases. I think it’s fun and interesting to imagine how it might look if things go awry.
Do you find that your work reflects your personal life in any way? Do periods of intense stress look one way whereas periods of joy reflect another aesthetic?
Absolutely. The everydays are like a journal and I can absolutely see what was going on in my life translate directly into to the work. Sometimes it is super direct, reflecting what I did that day, and sometimes it’s a bit more abstract with connections only I would recognize.
You’re an inspiring figure for a lot of artists, both amateur and professional. Who are the people that you look up to both personally and professionally?
There are honestly too many people to name. I see people doing amazing work all over the world and it reminds me on a daily basis that I have a long way to go still.