OZBREN Talks Crypto-Art, Being Self Taught & The Meaning Behind His Creations

by Rubén Palma
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OZBREN is a 24 year old self-taught artist based in Thailand, but is originally from the United Kingdom. Using 3D software, he creates warped scenes with claustrophobic perspectives to show the audience an angle they had not previously considered. Before he became a full-time artist, Ozbren worked as a primary school teacher.

These past couple of years he has made a name for himself on social media, having several of his artworks gone viral. Through his work he depicts a dark and gritty world, leaving the viewers curious as to what the story behind them is.

Hi OZBREN, thank you for sitting down with me. Here we go, first question! How does a regular day in Bangkok, Thailand, look like for you?

Honestly I am chronically online so my days would be mundane to read lmao. I wake up, grab a coffee on my motorcycle, chill with my cats, water the plants, make art all day while talking to my friends on Twitter/Discord, watch a movie late at night.

If you asked me that question a few years ago the answer would be more chaotic. But I live a peaceful life now, and I let my past experiences live through my art.

I’m curious and while we’re on the subject. I know you’re originally from the UK. What brought you to Thailand?

I just got stuck with what I wanted to do with my life, and the UK just didn’t feel like home anymore. So I decided reset my life and move to Thailand. I had no real plan, but it worked out well in the end.

I landed in the country with a backpack and $500. I spent the rest of my money on the one way flight out here.

You’re completely self taught. I think a lot of people are curious to know what the practice process was like for you to get so good. When did you start to play around with the different graphic design programs? And which programs do you use now?

It never really felt like I was practicing something for the sake of consciously getting better at it. I just used to mess around on Photoshop and other programs as a kid, it was fun to me, so it never felt like I was actively trying to learn a new skill. I just learned different softwares naturally by experimenting over the years. Nowadays I use Blender + Photoshop for all my work.

Ok, so what made you gravitate towards digital design/art, and not more traditional art like painting for example? 

I suck at painting/drawing traditionally and I don’t have the patience that a lot of traditional mediums require. I like to bash stuff together digitally, make rapid changes and iterate quickly. Plus I’ve been glued to my PC since I was young so it just came more naturally.

The Bald headed characters in your pieces. Who are they and what do they represent?

The lore behind the bald characters is pretty interesting and I’ve not talked about it before. When I started with 3D I used a shitty macbook to create all of my scenes in Blender, and this machine physically could not handly hair particle systems. Blender would crash everytime. So I just decided to roll with the bald head and it eventually became part of what makes my style recognisable. After a while I was able to get a new PC, and I made a few characters that had hair, but I was too attached to the bald look. I feel like bald heads can feel more surreal than people with a standard head of hair if presented in the right way, either way it’s part of my style now. Recently I shaved my head IRL to bring myself closer to my art.

While we’re on the subject. I’m curious about the cigarettes which is a recurring thing in your artworks. What’s the story there? And do they symbolize anything specific?

I’m often trying to depict the gritty atmosphere of drugged out British nightlife, and cigs are a just a part of that environment. Cigarettes help to maintain my art’s ugliness, I don’t want it to look pretty.

You’ve recently previewed an animation for the first time. Is that the next feature in the OZBREN universe, or what’s the plan with those?

As for my animations, I have made quite a few in the past but I’ve recently been exploring new work flows and styles. To me it’s important to always experiment, and not get too comfortable with style. So yeah you could say this is the next chapter/era for my art!

OZBREN NFTs are flying off the shelves on the various big platforms like SuperRare, OBJKT and Foundation. When did you get into the NFT game and where do you see NFTs in 10 years, compared to the traditional art scene as we know it? And what will be more popular?

I’ve been into crypto since my late teens, and following NFTs since Beeple made the headlines a few years ago, but I only felt like my art was ready to be tokenized in early 2022. In 10 years (hopefully sooner) nobody will be calling them NFTs. We will just assume that somebody’s artwork, whether it’s physical or digital, will be tokenized and available on-chain. Just like we don’t go around saying “Have you listened to the new MP3 by so and so?” – we just call it music. MP3 is just the wrapper that points to the music. An NFT is just a wrapper that points to the art. The NFT scene and the traditional art scene will not have to compete for popularity, it’s just new tech that makes art collecting more accessible. The scenes will inevitably merge over time.

Your style is raw and unfiltered. When you sit down in front of the screen to start on one of your artworks. Do you already have a vision of what you want to create? Or do you go with the flow?

I mostly have a rough image in my head, or at least a simple concept before I start my pieces. Throughout the creation process lots of things change, I’ll have an idea for a different camera angle, or colour palette – it’s much easier to visualise and iterate these changes once I’m actually in the software.

What song do you listen to the most right now?

Nothing specific, but I listen to breakcore and 90s jungle mainly!

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