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NFTs and Digital Art - Zack Ritchie shares his experience

Tell us more about your story, how did your passion for illustration come to be and how did your venture take off?

I was always into the arts. Since I was very young, I would draw on practically anything, from walls to napkins. When it came to pursuing a career in art, I had originally studied Fine Arts however, something in my heart and mind told me to be r

ealistic and move to a graphic design course.

Out of school I had worked at a graphic design company for more than a year. Shortly after, I decided to go freelance and explore the world as a self-employed designer, its been five years since then and I haven’t gone back to a job setting. I started freelancing as a general graphic designer offering services from logos, business cards, website design, booklets, adverts and marketing ideas. Over time I automatically found myself narrowing down the types of projects to commercial illustration. Illustration excited me, it’s a creative ay to capture a brands experience that photography just can’t capture. This lead me to creating work for brands such as Martini, Red Bull, Campari, CellMark, Iniala and many more.

During my commercial illustration period I was devoting time to personal projects, creating art to help me generate more deas for clients. lead to the creation of a project and solo exhibition called Malta’s Got Character, humanising Maltese culture into a satirical lot of cartoon characters. This project took over my life and I have fully stopped freelancing to pursue this IP and brand.

Your work is strikingly particular as it moves away from traditional media. How is your artwork brought together and to life?

ly and simply. As an artist, I feel we all go through the dilemma of needing to find a style to stand out and be recognised for. It's a very big commitment to stick to and can cause distress. I love diversity, trying new things, learning and exploring. My way around this was Beppe, one of the characters in “Malta’s got Character”. Beppe is a template for me to explore style, narrative, medium, material, NFTs. To me he represents possibility, so I see the world through his eyes.

Beppe The Prickly Pear. Will we be seeing more of him?

Beppe Cactus is symbolic of my curiosity to explore. He is always curious to learn, make new friends and explore new projects and collabs. One of my biggest dreams is to have a monument of him in bronze, a sculpture that captures Maltese culture and our environment as cartoons. The first opportunity that presented itself was the Marsa Junction Project. This was a great learning curve as at the time it was very outside of my comfort zone and required a lot of input from architects, structural engineers, 3D designers, contacting suppliers, estimating timelines and health and safety requirements. This project taught me a lot about the power of connecting with others and onboarding some of the best local talent. The project unfortunately was rejected and the only feedback given was that it was too cartoonish. My dream still stands strong.

How would you describe your experience with NFTs and how is it different from the traditional market?

When looking at digital art through the lens of value, it has been utilised for the creation of adverts, graphics communication and games/branding. No one would consider a digital artwork on pair with traditional arts. A digital artwork could be duplicated at easy, there is no way to keep track of how many people copy, paste or have files. NFTs offer proof of ownership from the original creator and can be checked via the blockchain who created the artwork and where it has been passed on, bought and sold. Now Digital Arts can be seen on pair with fine art paintings, they can be seen as digital assets to be utilised in 3D games and worlds, skins and much more.

This excited me, as I am a digital artist, who originally spent most of my time in the marketing and advertising industry, therefore I could see the potential and immediately started exploring. For one, the NFT space drives on twitter. It is the place to be to learn about new projects and also meet great people. The people in the space are not like traditional artists, they are very friendly and welcoming, they want to help you grow as they grow. I felt very welcome and plan on building more relationships and projects in the next few years. Special thanks to my friend Johan for opening me up to NFTs and how to get started.

As I was learning about NFTs through my close friend Johan and on clubhouse, I started sharing what I was learning on instagram. My brother Kane and I, saw a niche where nothing was being shared about NFTs on instagram, so together we co founded NFT Club - a page where we educate about NFT and promote great talent.

You recently, had a collaboration with Charles and Ron, how did you find the experience? Is fashion something you would consider continuing to work in as an industry?

I have always admired Charles & Ron and their vision. I felt it aligns with Beppe. We have a love for the Maltese island and express it both in our unique own way. Collaborating with Charles & Ron was one of the most pleasant experiences, they allowed me to be me and they did what they do best - create art that people wear and stand out. Charles & Ron are forward thinkers, they like to try new things and have a very open mind which resonated with me. I am curious to explore fashion and branded clothing in the near future. Who knows? We might even have another collab in the near future.

Which part of job do you like doing most and which do you like doing least?

The most exciting part of what I do is coming up with big ideas and following through to executing them. This has built such a pleasant sense of self-confidence to achieve my goals and bring my aspirations to life. I also love connecting and meeting people. What I am eager to improve on, is managing larger projects and bringing on extremely talented locals who specialise in their field.

Throughout your journey so far, what were three of the most defining moments for your career?

The three most defining moments in my career were the creation and exhibition launch of Malta’s Got Character. The proposal of the Mars Junction and Getting into Web3 and NTs space, collaborating with some of the leading communities.

If you could go back five years, what advice would you give your younger self?

Show up every day, create the art that you want to see in the world, the art and work that is truly you. Don’t follow the rules, be patient and collaborate with a lot of people, artist, brand that you can bring value too. And most important be patient, ask for whatever you want in life and follow up with. Time just hasn’t caught up yet.

What’s next? Are there any further dreams to be achieved?

My next big dream is to have Beppe and the Maltese characters as bronze monuments located somewhere inspiring on the Maltese island. I wish to collectively build Malta’s very own Disneyland of characters and stories and inspire locals of all ages that you can do what ever you set your mind too!


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