Spotlight: Luís Otávio Madruga - When Brazilian Arte Urbana Meets Digital NFTs

I think every new form of art, or even art format, tends to be compared or contested, but every legitimate movement will remain and conquer its place.

Hello! Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Luís Otávio, 40, known as Madruga, and I'm a graphic designer and visual artist from Rio de Janeiro.

I work creating a visual identity for graffiti exhibitions, projects, and festivals, among other developments, always with the freedom to seek an original result.

With the beginning of the pandemic, the Brazilian cultural sector stopped altogether. Projects, events, and possibilities, in general, were left without a forecast to happen, that is... without work.

In the midst of this reality, I start to hear about something called NFTs.

It took some time for me to get more information and understand a little more about this universe, but the possibility of my work having access to people all over the world and being able to produce and market it using only the tools I had at home was an attractively convenient thing given all the isolation measures and the break in the cultural sector.

What's your backstory and how did you start?

I started making Graffiti in the 2000s, the same time I started designing college, which led me to do work that always mixed these two activities. So I can say that the professional opportunities that have arisen in life have always been somehow a consequence of Graffiti.

During some years, I moved between set and design agencies, I always had contact with Graphic and digital media, and about ten years ago, I decided to be my own boss.

I always seek to create original works of art with a lot of graphic influence, and within this process, I always valued having an identity, a unique style.

I wanted my signature to be a drawing, and that's why I created a character, an icon/logo that aimed to populate everything public space in Rio.

It became a kind of obsession, and I've been painting and applying it in different media over the years since.

When I heard about NFTs for the first time, I had no idea what it was; it seemed very far away because I had never dealt with cryptocurrencies. I didn't know what a token was, nothing like that.

But I read that it was a new, growing market, which allowed you a certain autonomy. So it was something that I had to mature a little bit in my head until I took the first step forward.

At the same time, my friend and artist Nicolau Mello (@mello_nicolau) was already getting involved with NFTs and told me to watch some Lives on the artist Uno de Oliveira's channel (@unodeoliveira) on Youtube. I remember one he did with Alexandre Rangel (@AlexandreRangel), who is also a great Brazilian artist, in which he talked about Hic Et Nunc and his experience in the NFT world - this made me better understand how this strange, new universe worked.

I come from Arte Urbana, more specifically from Graffiti; I picked up the entire beginning of the graffiti scene in Brazil, mainly in Rio de Janeiro, where I was born and still live today.

I remember that 20 years ago, many questioned the authenticity of graffiti artists as artists and whether their artistic content was really art...I think every new form of art, or even art format, tends to be compared or contested, but every legitimate movement will remain and conquer its place.

Madruga: Spray Can

Take us through your creative process of conceptualising, making, and minting your work

I always work from my apartment in Santa Teresa, the city's bohemian district and stage of various cultural events. Usually, I'm with my daughter for one week, and then I'll be free for the next. It's more or less at this rate that my production of NFTs follows.

Normally, in the week that she is not with me, I try to complete about two works and with at least one job half-ready for another week. When I'm with my daughter, I dedicate myself more to her and create the idea of the next work of art.

I always start a job with an idea ready in my head, but inevitably things change and present themselves during the development process.

Still, I think the work that precedes the execution is an arduous and very important task - creating a concept, something that communicates with people, that conveys a purpose, or that makes some sense... It's good to know where you want to go when you're producing, and without that, I'm lost.

I like the idea of collectibles, and since the beginning, I have created small 2d animations of my character with several different personalities in an 8bits/beads language, which I titled "Dot Morphosis Series" - this was the first work done exclusively for NFT.

Madruga: Dot Punk [Part of the Dot Morphosis Series]

Besides, I'm inspired by pop culture elements to create a collection or an isolated piece, and the last one was a series of vintage video games.

The concept of unity is very important to me, so I try to keep the same style, regardless of the topic covered, in all my works in the middle of NFT.

Madruga: Game Boy [Nintendo Collection]

What do you do to increase the visibility and collectibility of your work?

I think that in the NFT market, the artist must have a certain versatility of skills and have not only artistic talent but also a talent to communicate. You have to create, execute, publicize, market, and relate to others; it's an accumulation of functions that we must deal with.

For me, it's something new, and I'm still getting to know this market through "trial and error", which is still one of the biggest ways of learning I have.

Engaging with the community that does what you do is very important because art must have a concept, and the artist must also have content. Nobody will buy your work just because you did an NFT; usually, people buy the story that comes with them.

Meet other artists you can exchange with, see what people have been producing, organize artistic actions. Supporting the community is not just buying an NFT from someone you like; it's getting involved in a way that helps the thing grow because that's how everyone is included.

Madruga: Super Nintendo [Nintendo Collection]

What have you learned about NFTs and the NFT space since you've entered, and what is your focus for the future?

I started NFTs because of the possibility of selling my work, and I never imagined there was an active artistic community. Every day you learn something new, I started doing NFTs a little over two months ago, and the feeling I have is that it feels like two years.

I see NFT as another art format, a new one with distinctive characteristics. I don't think I'm an artist of this or that, and I think labels suffocate us in a way; I'm an artist, and I identify with certain languages to apply my art with NFT being one of them.

I think for all kinds of art outside the box, we tend to compare it to "conventional" art, and nowadays, I think it's different things. Each art form has its adjectives and singularities and different ways of being presented and absorbed. So we must not look for answers from one system to another.

Creating NFTs allows me to carry out authorial work without having anyone charging or telling me what to do. I think that added to a good financial return is very close to an ideal work situation.

Therefore, I see myself continuing to create works always in pursuit of that goal.

Madruga: Brainstorm

What platforms/tools do you use?

I've always used the Hic Et Nunc platform as I identified with the system, in addition to being made by the guys from Brazil. I felt well received in the community, and it works very well for me, but I've been thinking about venturing into new platforms.

I mainly use graphics software such as Photoshop and Illustrator, Premiere, and mobile applications to make my art. My creative process is kind of crazy, but the hard thing is to have a good idea; after that, to be able to execute it, all the resources are worth it.

Which books, people or resources have had the most influence on you?

A great stimulator for me to enter the universe of tokens and blockchains was the artist Nicolau Melo, my personal friend, who introduced me to this new format and its possibilities.

I tend to be more interested in artists' works with similar styles, mainly artists from my city who share the same real-life reality as me.

I like the artists’ works:

Among many others.

Madruga: ATARI 2600

Advice for artists who are just starting out with NFTs and the crypto space:

Do your job for yourself, be true to your essence, and trust your convictions.

Seek to make friends and create a support network where you can engage with other artists, exchange information, get references, and organize artistic actions.

Not everyone will like your art, this is common in any art activity, and it doesn't mean it's bad. It took me three weeks to sell my first job on HEN, for example.

However, persistence is necessary at any time, in difficult times and those of glory.

Keep the focus that little by little, you will get to know your audience, and your work will find the right collector. I think this is something that develops over time, and I see myself in this development.

One way you can do this is to think of works that add up and can be presented together as a collection. The way you present your work is a factor that influences the sale, so think of the best way you can do it.

Knowing how to price your work is very important too. I think the general basic idea is the more copies, the lower the price and vice versa. It would also be best if you try to understand the platform's unique characteristics.

One very important thing that I don't think you should do is raise your prices absurdly, especially when your work starts to sell. This can cause you to lose your momentum, which is exactly the opportunity to build your audience and increase the reach of your work.

Once you feel your work is established, you can start to increase your price.

Have fun with what you're doing. I think the feeling of happiness when seeing a finished job is the first indicator that you're on the right path.

Madruga: Pixel Pirate

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can see more about my work on the links below:

Short Questions:

Country of origin: Brazil

Where is based: Rio de Janeiro

Define your style: Graphic

Years of experience in art: 20 years

How much has NFT earned so far: Not enough to live of it.

Describe yourself in one line: Artist who like new things.

timongty Timongty, Founder of Galleseum
🌏 Indie Maker (currently exploring the crypto space and metaverse). Enjoys chilling and making cool stuff