A conversation with Phen Mas

Embark on the captivating journey of Phen Mas who left his corporate job to dive into the world of crypto art and NFTs. From early encounters with Bitcoin to exploring the possibilities of NFTs, their story is a testament to the transformative power of digital art.

With a broad and diverse creative portfolio, Phen Mas is a natural creative problem solver. Phen has navigated the challenges of designing for various platforms and audiences with ease and proficiency. His body of work mirrors a deep passion for design, meticulous attention to detail, and an unwavering commitment to crafting meaningful and impactful visual narratives.

Talk about your journey into this space. What were you doing, and what led you down the rabbit hole?

I originally got into crypto in 2012 when my brother was mining this imaginary currency called Bitcoin. Fast forward a few years, and one of my favorite artists, Andre O’Shea, started talking about these things called NFTs that I had only heard in passing before. I had to know more—and then I found my first clubhouse room talking about NFTs, and you had folks like Greg Mike, Sam from Friends with You, Matty Mo, etc. talking about all the possibilities the technology offered. I hopped on stage and asked questions, and my mind has been racing ever since.

So fast forward about two years, and you have steadily been putting in the work. Can you talk about some of the projects and initiatives you’ve been involved in?

Sure, it’s been an absolute whirlwind—from creating a living on my art to being a community manager for Homies by Cheech and Chong to being a founding member of HerstoryDAO. I have had a hand in helping many artists with their drops and other large companies through NFTY Haus, my little slice of Web3.

How has it been as a full-time artist in web3 during the bear market? What led you to take the leap?

I leaped for a couple of reasons. I was focusing more on my art and NFTs than on my work; it no longer held my attention. Then finally, I had a sit down with an executive, and it just clicked—I didn’t want to be there anymore. It wasn’t them; it was me. I had realized a new life for myself; honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. After 12 years as a commercial artist working with some of the largest brands in the world, nothing has been more fulfilling than working for me. Things have been tight and challenging at times—nail-biting even—but it’s worth it. 

You’ve been very honest about being neurodivergent. How has it affected your work? positively and otherwise?

Being neuro spicy is both a blessing and a curse for me. There are days when I’m super focused and others where it’s tough to put pen to paper, so to speak. It means knowing the most random information and having ideas that hit me like lightning, yet having trouble remembering the last thing I said. Audio apps and text media have made it easier for me to communicate and showcase my work, which I sometimes struggle with socially. 

Phen Mas

You’ve been churning out collections quietly for some time now. Can you talk about a few of your collections and their inspiration? For example: The Distant Memories of an Artist Collection. Here, you’re playing with memories and how they evolve over time. Can you share a bit more about this collection?

My approach to collections has changed over time. When I first got into NFTs, I threw things at the wall to see what would stick. It was experimental. As I got more comfortable with sharing my art, I learned to use it to express meaningful concepts from my day-to-day experiences – visually. Distant Memories was an opportunity to say how my art career had evolved – from being a photographer – to a painter. I was thinking about how, as we grow, we gain new skills, and the space we use to focus on them begins to bleed into the old ones. This is shown by the way paint, which is my newest skill, bleeds into photos I took at the beginning of my career. Also in that collection was a piece called Shared Memory, a photograph of a landscape I painted over and cut into 12 pieces. The idea here is that there are some places and events where multiple people share the memory, and one person can’t own them.

And Visual Equations. There’s a real feeling of geometry to this collection. I’d love to hear a bit more about this one.

This collection came out in the middle of working on Distant Memories – I had just quit my corporate job and had a lot on my mind. I had a lot of decisions to make, and this was my way of processing them visually. I focused on composition and design fundamentals, leaving things intentionally black and white. But like most of my digital work, I added a bit of analog texture.

What is your goal with Nifty Haus?

NIFTY HAUS is my way of giving back to the NFT space by helping artists who want to get into Web 3 but don’t know where to start, and artful companies do the same. The goal is to grow into a group of Web-3 native artists who make a meaningful impact in the space.

Can you talk about a specific piece or a project of yours that holds special meaning to you and why?

Much of my work is deeply personal, but Hindsight was the first time on Web 3 that I was open about my art when I discussed an eye problem. While things appear to be fine now, they were terrifying at the time, and I was unsure whether things would progress. Another is my collection Light Writings, which features photographs of people close to me and stories/poems to match.

How do you see technology such as NFTs impacting the art world?

NFTs have a ton of potential and are what you make them. What they do best is allow you to tell a story that no one can change—a timestamp with no eraser. This technology holds a key for many who have had their story told from the viewpoint of outsiders and stolen from town criers.

How do you use your art to raise awareness about neurodiversity and promote inclusion and understanding?

I don’t know that I have directly used my art to express my being on the spectrum and having ADHD, but every time I show up, it’s a reminder we exist. I am drawn to other creators in more marginalized groups and focus on lifting their voices and making spaces where I can. Despite my own differences, I still have a lot of privilege, and I do my best to leverage that through DAO participation and open communication in my social channels.

How do you hope your art will inspire and impact others?

My work will remind people that art is a basic need and a meaningful way to let your soul out into the world. Our whole lives, there are barriers added to our art by others and ourselves – and I hope my work reminds folks that they are all make-believe, and if it is a sincere inspiration – it will resonate and be valid.

What’s next for you and your work?
I have an exciting year ahead, and while I can’t predict the future, I do know I have an exciting collection planned around the corner and a gallery show in Japan to look forward to. 

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