Welcome to my fourth Cosmic Convos! If you’ve read my previous conversations then you know that I’m a big fan of science fiction and especially the subgenre cyberpunk. Movies like Blade Runner show a not-so-distant dystopian world where big corporations rule the world and the line between people and technology blurs. While this may not seem appealing to most people, the big cities and landscapes that such films portray do have a certain appeal to many people including myself. The often neon-lit cities are as big and beautiful as you can imagine and you can explore endlessly.
An amazing artist I found through Twitter takes you into such worlds. Her work combines science fiction with a psychedelic influence and sketches moments of a dystopian world. I immediately fell in love with her work when I saw it and am completely absorbed in the worlds she creates when I look at her art. Plus a lot of her work has a purple hue, if you know me you know I love purple, haha! I can’t wait to let you read my conversation and discover the world of Dana Ulama together with me!
Rei: Hi Dana! Although I’m familiar with your art, I don’t know much about you yet. Can you please tell me more about yourself in general?
Dana: My name is Dana and I’m 33-year-old digital artist. I am half German/ half Syrian and I’m currently living in Cologne. I originally studied fashion design but it wasn’t right for me so I dropped out – I applied to a Design Academy where I later received my diploma in Communications Design. I moved to Berlin where I worked as an illustrator and graphic designer in the smokers & 420 industry. I quit my job in 2019 and started freelancing as a digital artist.
Rei: Let’s talk about your art! When exactly did you start making art? Were you always interested in the same style as you make now?
Dana: I’ve always loved to draw. I cannot tell you when I started because I feel like I’ve done it forever! My earliest memory of me drawing was in kindergarten. I was always heavily influenced by pop culture, TV and music.
As a kid I was mostly interested in making fashion illustrations and drawing mangas (I was a HUGE Sailor Moon fan) and later I started to get influenced by the culture around psychedelic art and music and my work became more trippy. I never really planned for a specific style, I guess it just develop naturally. I didn’t know I was going to end up doing animations – about two years ago I was convinced I would end up in package design or typography. Honestly, I just do what I feel like and see where it takes me. I love that about my job.
Rei: How much are you working on art each day? Does it take a long time to make your art and how exactly does this process work?
Dana: I spent most of my time drawing in Procreate. If I have a good flow going I can spend hours without a break just drawing – which actually led to my current arm injury and that’s the reason why I have to take it easy. Drawing can be a very addictive process for me but I love it, it makes me happier than anything. I’d say my artworks take somewhere between 8 and 30 hours to finish.
My main focus is the drawing itself but about a year ago I started teaching myself some simple animation and ever since then most of my work ends up being animated in Photoshop or After Effects after the drawing is complete. Before I discovered Procreate earlier this year I was mostly using illustrator to create vector based artworks.
For me Procreate made the process of creating perspective drawings a lot easier which is why my work this year has been more focused on skylines and urban sceneries. All in all, I would say I use a wild mix of softwares.
Rei: I see science-fiction, cyberpunk and, as mentioned, even psychedelic inspiration in your art. Do you have any specific sources from which you got this inspiration?
Dana: I grew up with Sailor Moon which probably influenced the style in which I draw faces. I try not to draw in an anime style but it was the first style I ever drew people in and I think it’s hard to get rid of.
When I was in my early 20s my biggest influence was definitely psychedelic music like Goa, Trance and Psychedelic Rock, also movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or other movies about drug use (I’ve had a few experiences in that area myself). I feel like it was through those psychedelic experiences that I also became more interested in science-fiction, aliens and space stuff.
In recent years I’ve been mainly inspired by electronic and experimental music, particularly Dreampunk, Vaporwave and Lo-fi and films like Akira, Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell.
Rei: You often sketch very dystopian worlds. What message or feeling do you want to convey with your art?
Dana: It’s less of a message and more of an atmosphere that I would like to convey. For many years I have dealt with anxiety whenever I left the house – I can get inspired by random street corner of whatever city I currently live in, but I see it all through a filter that makes everything look slightly more surreal.
Colours are very important to me. They add more to the atmosphere than the details in the drawing. I love using purple in combination with neon tones – it feels dreamy yet artificial, which works perfectly for urbanscapes.
I guess some of my drawings are dystopian, which is the cyberpunk influence – but sometimes I just want to take the viewer away to a different world, get a break from reality. I recently started experimenting with alien typography, every text can be open to interpretation and it gives me a chance to break away from the typical Tokyo or Hong Kong-based cyberpunk skylines.
Rei: Do you have other artists who look up to and inspire you?
Dana: There are so many, I cannot name them all but some of my biggest influences are Kidmograph, Xsullo, Seerlight, Maddog Jones, Deathburger and Baka Arts.
Rei: Your work has only been sold on the NFT platforms for a few months now. When did you start this adventure to create NFTs from your work and how are you enjoying it so far?
Dana: I’ve minted my first NFT on Tezos in June – it was soooo wild ever since. I had done weeks and months of research on crypto and NFTs and I’ve had a huge respect for the entire crypto space and was almost afraid to join, since I’ve read mostly about how hard it is to sell a piece, or get accepted to one of the major platforms or about scammers.
But shortly after I was invited to Foundation I was just blown away by how successful I was – I expected not to be noticed at all or sell anything and as I’m typing this I’ve sold 19 out of 20 NFTs on Foundation. And I’ve learnt to love the community so much!
I always thought I was shy and not the kind of person to do a lot of chatting but Discord and Twitter turned out to be my favorite places on the Internet – I’ve met so many wonderful people and creators I feel like it would not of happened without NFTs.
Rei: Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve in the NFT space?
Dana: My goal in general was always to be able to make a living with my art. NFTs have given me a great deal of independence – I used to depend on client work and like many other illustrators or artists I often thought about creating an income by printing merchandise – which is something I never really liked to be honest. I don’t like to see my work on phone cases or T-shirts.
Before NFTs I would create an illustration and there was always just one question in the back of my head: Is this suitable for mass production? This is no longer relevant for me. I can now focus on quality and on my own vision and create it anyway I want, I no longer have to worry about whether it looks “commercial” or not.
What I am looking forward to is having a chance to collaborate with other artists – I’ve met so many amazing people in the space.
Rei: Judging by your art, I see that you are already thinking a lot about what the world might look like in the near future. Tell me how you envision the world for the next 25 years. How would this look like to you and what place would NFTs have in this world?
Dana: NFTs are still at the very beginning and I’m sure they will have a tremendous (positive) impact on the entire art and an entertainment world. The hype might fade away but I’m convinced NFTs will remain relevant for serious creators and collectors.
But it’s hard to predict where the technology will take us – I wish more people would take an interest in a decentralized web but the past has shown us that the majority of people choose convenience over privacy and security and right now the crypto space can appear intimidating to some people: it takes research and work to manage your tokens and avoid scammers.
I still feel somewhat new to the world of NFTs but educating myself has helped me overcome certain fears that I had. I am more afraid of the amount of information that companies like Google have stored about me than I am of scammers in the crypto space.
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Art admirer turned NFT collector.