Learning, Playing and Creating Something Meaningful
An Interview with Johnny “KMNDZ” Rodriguez
January 13, 2022
Have you always aspired to create art, or did you discover your calling later in life?
I had it in my head that I was going to be an artist by the fourth or fifth grade. At the time, comics were my world being young and unaware of the options one had as a creative. I remember getting lost in my drawings as early as at the age of two. I think I was drawing hearts for my teacher by kindergarten.
Did you study art as a student or are you self-taught?
Self-taught by definition, but as my homie Woes puts it, “always a student”. My intentions were to study art formally, but my plans quickly changed once I got picked up by Disney at 19. It’s hard to argue with a good salary, a gold pass to the park, and no student loans.
What artist or artists informed your development? And what artists do you look to now for inspiration?
There are many artists who have informed my development over the years, Bill Waterson, Lane Smith, William Barbera, Ed Valigursky, Ub, Lucas, and many others. For inspiration in the NFT space it’s pretty much everyone. I’m inspired by friends who were supportive of me when I entered the space and continue to be gracious with their time for others like Steven Daily, Brian Romero, Russ Morland, Mumbot, Brian Morris, Alison Bamcat, Popwonder, Jeff Soto, Anthony Hurd, Popil, Ekundayo, Mike Maxwell. So many of these artists have inspired me with their sheer will and determination. Artists that I absolutely geek out on when I see their work today? Phil Hale, Jose Parla, Ian Francis, Ashley Wood, and of course all the Old Master of History.
What was a pivotal moment in the evolution of your work?
All of last year was a chain of big moments for me. Learning about NFT’s and looking into my bag of tools to realize I possessed everything I needed to enter this space to learn, play and create something meaningful. It all lead to my desire to concentrate for the past 10 months on creating a fully fleshed out collection which became Little Beasts.
Tell us about your process. Do you begin with an image or a concept?
Concept and story always come first for me and establishes my commitment. Then I allow it to guide me and inform my direction as I draw and think of new ideas. Maybe it’s a simultaneous process. I think most of our brains work on multiple channels at one time. The most important thing for me is not to be married to any one process.
What informs your work? As a visual artist, are you inspired by music, film, science, literature or other art forms?
Anything and everything informs my work, especially personal interaction and experience. It’s what makes my work uniquely mine. However, Science and Music are my best friends when it comes to inspiration.
What was the most challenging project that you worked on?
That’s a hard question, but I’d probably say branding Disney’s online presence at the beginning of my career. I was so young and didn’t have the tools or confidence I have now. It was the best learning experience of my life that set the foundation for everything that has followed.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
That there’s no blueprint, and that it is unrestrictedly mine while creating it. I can figure things out as I go and enjoy the process. There’s rarely a project where I’m not having to puzzle-solve the execution.
How do you think NFTs will change the future for artists?
The space is so new and constantly evolving, but that’s the very thing that makes it exciting. If I’m taking a snapshot of where we currently stand, I’d say it is giving the artist a new medium to create within, apart from traditional design studio or painting studio. I have a handful of friends that have either quit or stopped taking work from studios to concentrate on their personal work. I think having a new way to create and have your work seen and sold to a broader audience is liberating, and hopefully a pathway towards financial independence for more artists. Equally important for me is that it gives artists, yet another means to support one another. We’re all holding hands through this ever-changing space and are finding new strength in that support.
Johnny ‘KMNDZ’ Rodriguez