HomeNFTsInk, Animation, and Our Future Cyborg Selves — Interview with Skeenee

Ink, Animation, and Our Future Cyborg Selves — Interview with Skeenee


These ideas are unexpected, and they keep popping into my head. The ones that touch me the most become an obsession that I need to live out.

— Skeenee

Pen and ink artist Skeenee is known for blending meticulous skeletal anatomy studies with animation. In today’s conversation, he shares his journey from a graffiti artist to animator to tattoo artist to on-chain art mainstay, discussing the philosophical implications of technology in art and life.

Skeenee’s labor-intensive ink art requires hours of planning and preparatory sketches; it’s a medium that will not forgive a mistake. Skeenee has built his life around the meditative act of putting marks on paper, so his skill with such an unforgiving medium has blossomed to allow him to create truly massive works considering the meticulous effort required. 

In his latest series, CYB0RG5: L1F3 R3L04D3D, Skeenee has departed from his usual run of animal skeletons to bring to life five transhuman skulls. As technology only accelerates us toward an unknowable future, the vision from Skeenee’s new drop is anything but techno-optimistic. 

Visit Skeenee’s MakersPlace profile

Brady Walker: Welcome back to the MakersPlace interview series. Today, I’m joined by the artist Skeenee. Nice to meet you. Perhaps you could introduce yourself to our audience.

Skeenee: Yes, hello. I’ve been involved in this space for a while. MakersPlace recruited me back in 2019, and that got me hooked on crypto art. 

BW: Could you tell us where your crypto handle comes from?

S: I’ve used that handle for as long as I can remember, starting with my time as a graffiti artist—well, more vandalism than art when I was younger. Then it became my gamertag. I’ve used it on the internet since I was around 14 or 15. It just looks cool, which was good for when I used to tag it while doing graffiti. Plus, I used to be very skinny—not so much anymore.

D34TH PR00F by Skeenee

BW: You have these artworks behind you. My first question from my list is, who are the cyborgs?

S: They’re a vision of our future selves. I’ve always been amazed by our obsession with technology and how we’re moving away from our nature. A cyborg represents this future vision, I guess.

BW: There is something about our obsession with technology that could be our undoing. It’s interesting to note that these are not flesh-covered humans becoming transhuman; they’re actually like skeletons. They’re dead, yeah?

S: Exactly. We’re forgetting who we are because of this obsession with technology. It’s becoming divisive. Technology should be a tool that enhances our lives, but instead, we’re becoming slaves to it, with social media being the prime example.

Piranha Skeleton Study by Skeenee

BW: I have a lot to say about that, but let’s focus on why you chose to draw cyborgs, given that your work at MakersPlace is focused on animal anatomy studies.

S: The anatomy studies were a series that I started in 2017. It’s the series that got me noticed online and recruited to MakersPlace. I’ve always liked drawing skulls and bones; it’s appealing to me. So I guess it’s just a natural evolution of that style.

BW: What was the process of creating these pieces like?

S: Well, it was quite challenging. I’ve always wanted to create these pieces, but since I worked with ink, it’s been tricky. I used to use a fountain pen, which limited my work. It took a while to find the right medium and tools. A few months ago, I finally found the right tools. I use the same tools I used as a teenager for graffiti, but now I use a Posca instead of a fountain pen, allowing me to work on a much larger scale.

Creature of the Night | Werewolf Skeleton by Skeenee

BW: Was there a specific drawing or design process, or did you just put it out into the world?

S: I do a lot of pre-production. Having worked in animation, I’ve carried over the habit of extensive pre-production, which involves lots of sketching and refining the design repeatedly until it’s just right. I start with a quick thumbnail, which I redraw until I’m satisfied. Once I’m happy with it, I draw it on paper. After that, I paint it on with a Posca. Then I break it down in Photoshop, digitally refine it, and animate it. This is the process I follow.

BW: Do you have an experience in mind that you try to create for collectors, or is it more about satisfying your own creative urge?

S: It’s more instinctive. Sometimes ideas just hit me and I need to get them out of my head. I don’t really start with a collector in mind. These ideas are unexpected, and they keep popping into my head. The ones that touch me the most become an obsession that I need to live out. That’s what works for me.

Re-animated Dog Skeletons by Skeenee

BW: What role does story play in your work?

S: For some pieces, the story is important, but not so much for this one. It’s more about the concept and the visuals. I have other series where the message is clearer. In this series, the message is more instinctive. I don’t think too much about it; I let things happen naturally. The visuals are what really strike me.

BW: I’ve seen a lot of your work and worked on many of your past drops at MakersPlace. Your style is instantly recognizable. However, I was surprised to see how different your work on SuperRare is—it’s more colorful and playful, which seems to draw more from your background as a tattoo artist. Can you tell me about this different style?

S: I constantly use all the techniques I know and love to jump from one state to another. It might seem confusing to collectors, but for me, it’s about experimentation. I haven’t settled on one style because I believe all my styles share something common—you can tell they’re my works. I really enjoy creating with my hands, which is why I returned to the techniques I used in my Reanimated Ink series at MakersPlace. This recent site is an evolution of that. By combining voice and animation, I’ve incorporated what I learned from all my animated styles. This experimentation has led to using mediums that allow no room for error; you misalign, and it shows, which really appeals to me.

Re-animated Flamingo Skull by Skeenee

BW: Are these your first physical pieces with color?

S: I’ve done several colorful pieces before, especially on MakersPlace, like the birds and beasts. And long before crypto art, I painted on canvas. Some of those early works from 2019 ended up on Super Rare, I think. Switching from monochrome to color isn’t new for me; it’s something I’ve been evolving towards for a while.

BW: It’s evident this isn’t your first time using this technique; it looks refined and well-executed. You started your career as an animator, spent 15 years in the industry before becoming a tattoo artist, and then moved on to on-chain art. Can you discuss the shift from animation to tattooing and what influenced this career change?

S: Animation was my first love, something I pursued from childhood despite my family’s disapproval. I had to teach myself drawing as my family saw no future in it. After university, I saved enough money to study animation in Vancouver. 

Returning to Europe, I found the job market challenging and ended up doing commercial animation and Flash games—work that gradually eroded my passion. I was effectively prostituting my skills for commercial gain, which stunted my artistic growth and left me disillusioned. 

One day, while getting a tattoo, the artist shared her fulfilling experiences traveling and meeting other artists. That conversation made me realize I was wasting my potential on unfulfilling work. I quit soon after, found a mentorship in tattooing, opened a studio, and rediscovered my joy in creating art.

UPGR4D3D by Skeenee

BW: What are you proudest of in your work as an animator?

S: There are a few commercials I did that I like. They’re just commercials, but I liked how they turned out. They’re cool.

BW: And as a tattoo artist?

S: As a tattoo artist, I enjoyed working on pieces where I could apply the skills I cherished. My style at MakersPlace was similar to what I did in my early tattoo days. However, I didn’t have time to build a client base focused on my preferred style. Most of the time, I was doing walk-ins, which often just wanted basic lettering or whatever was popular on Pinterest, which I really hated. But the few pieces I did in my own style—I really enjoyed those. Then the pandemic hit, and everything changed abruptly.

BW: What keeps you coming back to the studio?

S: I love to draw. It’s not just something I like, it’s something I need to do. If I don’t, I get depressed. I’ve created this space for myself; it’s very meditative for me to lay down ink. I’m happy with that. It’s just easy.

BW: Is your studio in your house or away from it?

S: It’s on the ground floor of our building, and our house is on the first and second floors. We bought it six or seven years ago and have been renovating it. Thanks to the last bull run, I managed to save some money, and my wife and I always wanted to live in nature. I found a place in the middle of nowhere in Spain, and we’ve been renovating it for the last two years. We’re about to move there, fully into nature, away from Madrid.

Sloth Skeleton Study by Skeenee

BW: How did you end up in Spain?

S: I love Spain; it’s a cool country. My grandparents had a house here, so I’ve been coming here on holidays since I was young. I fell in love with the country as a child. Spain offers a good balance between life and work, fun is important here. There’s a sense of community that seems lost in the north; people care about each other here. It’s laid-back, which suits me.

BW: Do you have any rituals around your work?

S: I try to wake up and sketch to warm up my hand. I particularly enjoy drawing the human figure, although it’s something I’ve never fully mastered. So, I start my day with some loose figure drawing over coffee for about 15-20 minutes to get my hand warmed up before I really start working.

BW: Do you listen to anything while you work?

S: When I animate, I need full concentration and can’t afford any distractions, as I need to keep track of many parameters. However, when I’m drawing, which I’ve been doing for over 30 years, I find it meditative. It’s best when I think about nothing at all—then I’m truly in the zone. I can listen to music or anything really, because it doesn’t interfere with my work. It’s a very satisfying process.

CryptoBull Skull | ETH edition by Skeenee

BW: It’s quite physical, almost athletic, going into a flow state. Even as a writer, I find the best work happens when I’m thinking the least, despite needing to put words on paper.

S: It is tricky. I’m very conscious of each line when I’m drawing because each line has its own personality. I do all my lining in one go without stopping. For some, I double line to give more personality, which adds flow and makes each line distinct. But when I’m lining, I have to force every thought out of my head. If I start thinking about something else, my lines diverge from where my attention should be, which can ruin them. It’s about being in the moment; it’s the essence of meditation.

BW: What is your favorite book?

S: My favorite is a series of French graphic novels called Les Humanoïdes Associés. Many are by Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s a science fiction series where different authors create comic books in the same universe. That’s the one I really enjoy—the whole collection, like ‘Humanoids Associated,’ it might be called in English. It’s a French series.

Dead-end Job by Skeenee

BW: What is your great unrealized project, your most ambitious project that you haven’t yet tackled?

S: There are so many projects I haven’t finished. It’s mostly a matter of time. When I used to do animation, I also learned a bit of coding while making Flash games. I’m interested in creating generative art pieces that would be a mix of physical and digital elements. I’ve done all the pre-production, and most of the code is ready, but I’ve never had the chance to put it all together. It’s a big art project I’d like to finish now that I have the means, and I’m sure everyone’s waiting for it. Finding the time and energy is the challenge, though, especially since it would come at the expense of time with my kids.

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