NFT Culture staff members routinely browse the various NFT marketplaces for interesting art pieces. Additionally, we leverage other social media, and various art publications seeking out work that might not yet be available in any marketplace.
Recently, while on the hunt for something new and exciting, we came across a very striking piece called Arnold Smoking a Stogie on Foundation. The work, created by Pavel Sokov, started as an ultra realistic oil painting of Arnold doing what he does best (looking incredibly cool). Pavel then skillfully adopted the painting for the digital realm in After Effects, by animating a realistic cigar flame and smoke into the digital image.
Not only is the piece great to look at when in need of inspiration, but it also works as a soothing source of stress relief after a long day of meetings. You can almost kick back, crack a cold beer and imagine you are having an insightful conversation with the Austrian Oak. We plan to mount the piece on a tbd digital display on one of the walls in our office.
The work features an additional facet of provenance, graciously provided by Pavel. He shares the process the creation of the piece as well as his back story of why he created the piece in a YouTube video included in the NFT’s metadata (Watch on YouTube: here).
There is a surprise at the end of the YouTube video, related to the owner of the physical painting.
Pavel’s dedication to the piece and his work in general prompted us to put together this interview and feature him on NFT Culture.
Pavel, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us about yourself.
I was always into art, probably on a genetic level. I don’t remember ever liking anything more. However I was not brave enough at the time to pursue art in University. I erroneously assumed it is impossible to make a living doing exactly what I want to do, so I studied business and went on to work in corporate for 2 years. Luckily I realized I could not throw away my life for making someone else’s dream come true so I quit and moved to California to learn oil painting. I became a professional artist immediately, with one of my first commissions being a coveted Time Person of the Year illustration of Vladimir Putin. (I just sold the Time cover as an NFT as well).
Where are you from?
Moscow, Russia. Moved to Canada in 2000, but have lived all over. Currently in Montreal.
What is one thing you cannot live without?
Freedom. Everything I do is designed for maximizing freedom and depending on no one but myself. Even though I work everyday/all day, everything I do is what fulfills my soul and my goals. I stay independent and unreliant on any galleries, and in 2020 I started investing heavily during the crash in order to create a larger degree of freedom in my life. Entering the NFT world is an amazing opportunity for even more freedom for artists across the world. Studies consistently show that the ability to choose and be free is what creates the most happiness, and I can confirm the same.
Who is your favorite artist(s) (Non-NFT)?
I have very traditional tastes that may not ring familiar to most, but realist painters will recognize these legendary names of portraiture masters of the 19th century: John Singer Sargent, Ilya Repin, Anders Zorn. My favorite living artists are Jeremy Lipking, Joseph Todorovitch, Serge Marshennikov, all of which have also started their NFT journeys.
Who is your favorite NFT artist?
Billelis – The level of taste and design is incredible. Really speaks to me with his usage of darker themes, marbles, and golds. Perfect.
What made you pursue NFT art?
I had the thought that the marketplace needs to make room for us oil painters as well. There is likely a strong future of us offering physical works on the blockchain, although that may take time to catch on.
If you could collaborate with one artist (NFT or Non-NFT) who would it be?
Billelis once again. His work resonates with me on such a high level, even the titles he gives to his work. Perhaps an oil painting of his composition?
What are your other passions outside of art?
Stonks and risky options plays. Encountering traditional cultures all across the world (which ends up in me painting them of course, this culminates in my Stories of the World collection). Science. I believe scientists are horrifically under-appreciated although they are responsible for progress in human society and our standards of living. For this reason I have a series called Gravitas which consists of large oil portraits of science heroes that changed the world for the better from Einstein to Buzz Aldrin on the moon. I gotta mint these into NFTs now that I think about it.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I do travel anywhere in the world I want usually, except covid put a wrench in that for the time being. I had plans to explore Chernobyl for the summer of 2020 which obviously got canceled. I will re-visit this once its possible. I want to visit Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Bahrain. I gotta show my gf Japan and Korea which are great places to visit. Tibet is a big one for me. Bhutan is another. So many places to visit! I don’t like the laying around on the beach type of travel, I want to encounter culture and paint it.
We are very intrigued by Gravitas. How would you define success for the project?
I would define success if I am able to use this project to raise money for science and raise interest in our contemporary scientific heroes. I have enough works and connections under my belt now whereby I can start contacting living scientists who are under appreciated. An example would be Jennifer Doudna who I respect for her work in CRISPR gene editing. I have already donated my Jonas Salk painting to the Jonas Salk Institute in San Diego. They will auction it off during their next fundraiser which is likely delayed another year again. The funds will go to fund active science projects.
What process will you use to include future portraits in the project? Other than Buzz, are you primarily targeting historical/non-living scientists for inclusion?
Actually the whole point of the project is to celebrate those scientists that have not received mainstream interest; today’s scientists. No one seems to care about them anymore, because celebrities like Kardashians are more contributive to society apparently? My initial strategy was to paint the legendary and known scientists first to garner interest, and transition into today’s scientists. I will be using my newfound connections to set up meetings with them and paint my own compositions with them. I also plan to contact Neil Degrasse Tyson to work with me on a physical show of the artwork once it’s ready. Very excited about this.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about “Gravitas”?
I am looking for appropriate institutions to collect these artworks. For example George Washington Carver could go to Carver Hall in Iowa State University. If anyone has any connections to scientific institutions please contact me and let me know if we can set up a dialogue.
You have done many commissioned portraits with celebrities and even members of various royal families. How do you manage the stress of the job? Do you ever meet the clients in person? Have you ever had to throw away a piece and start over?
I do meet clients to paint from life sometimes but very rarely because wealthy people are very busy and don’t have 30-40 hours to pose. When I have done this, it has been admittedly stressful, and I think some hair fell off my head. In the end stress is the fake stories your mind creates to scare itself. I don’t experience stress anymore, I have done too many challenging projects to feel anything anymore. Luckily I never had to throw anything away. Oil paintings actually give the artist a decent degree of freedom in correcting and adjusting things. For example when working on a historical painting of Ruler Hamad for the Bahrain royal family, we decided to change the tunic colors and change out the sword halfway through the painting. Since the reference photo was greyscale and tiny, all these details and colors were up in the air. The client and I researched all the resources we could to find the correct garments to paint from. Sometimes the client would discover a more historically accurate example of something after I already painted something. In that case, I just sanded the area with sandpaper, and painted the new garment or sword on top. No problem, no need to stress out.
According to your bio, in your earlier years, you experimented with sci-fi. Have any of these pieces survived? Care to share any of them?
Yes! A lot of them will make their way to NFTs. One of them already has (See Cosmic Grim Reaper with a Plate of 4th Dimensional Space on Rarible.com).
Here are some of my ancient digital works that I have not minted yet. Planning to learn more about after effects to animate them a bit.
Do you have any other upcoming projects or drops that you would like to share?
I am overwhelmed with how much content I want to mint. I want to give the above digital sci-fi and fantasy paintings a second life on the blockchain, bring my Gravitas series on as well, and start offering my Stories of the World paintings as physical oil painting + NFT bundles.
Glory – A new oil painting of my gf, that I will probably make into a NFT soon.
Where can collectors learn more about your art?
Twitter (needs love, I just started it): https://twitter.com/PavelSokovArt
Youtube (has instructional videos of me painting): https://www.youtube.com/c/pavelsokov
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao – (Featured as the header image of the interview) – Available now on Foundation
We’ll just leave this here, from a shared inspiration: