CAN Review – Ashton Dame, otherwise known as ‘Kreature Kastle’ creates wonderfully intricate artwork with an aesthetic that is somewhat reminiscent of Pendleton Ward’s ‘Adventure Time’, but distinguishes itself with an abundance of colour that blends and diffuses into strange glow effects. The line work is also very finely rendered and gives the viewer an abundance of details to pour over. His work ‘Midnite Sushi Garden’ is described as ‘An ode to late night sushi’, and depicts a number of anthropromorphic sushi that have come alive. The characters are incredibly playful and there is a sense of wonder in the eyes of many of them.
‘Shop ‘Til U Drop’, depicts an otherworldly marketplace where alien creatures barter for goods. This is an animated piece with some subtle motion in the gesturing main figure and a camera zoom that reveals more of the scene. Again, the subtle mark-making line work is very effective and adds a soft tone to the scene. The colouring is vibrant and the background is depicted with a bright glow that blurs any forms into indistinguishable areas of coloured light.
The final piece ‘Synesthesia’, is a dense and roiling mass of imagery with bright pastel colours that delights the senses, and challenges the viewer to spend time discerning the various creatures and objects that are present within it. The description of the animation provides a detailed definition of the condition of Synesthesia where sounds and colours are affected.
Ashton’s detailed interview below reveals the rise of a young artist who has thankfully found his feet in the cryptoart landscape. I would implore everyone to explore his various website links below to fully appreciate his work and view the animated artwork in all of their technicolour glory.
Ashton Dame (Kreature Kastle)
What is your background as an artist in general?
I grew up in the 90’s with parents who always encouraged creative pursuits and being generally curious about everything, so I started making art from a very young age and just kind of never stopped haha. I went to school in a smallish town in Indiana, and was one of the few kids there who was into drawing a lot, so I was fortunate enough to have a number of supportive/curious friends growing up that gave me enough confidence to make the decision to go to art school and keep doing it.
After high school, I moved away from home to Indianapolis to attend the Herron Institute of Art & Design where I went on to get my BFA in Printmaking. After school I went through a bit of a reality-check disillusioned phase, not sure what I wanted to do with my degree, while working as a manager at a pizza chain. Eventually I needed some kind of a change and decided to move closer to family I had in Ohio where I got a job sweeping floors and cleaning toilets at a local Whole Foods lol. After a while I moved from cleaning floors to being a fishmonger in the seafood department, to eventually becoming the Store Graphic Artist where I managed all the sales signage and design within the store. So it took me almost 3yrs out of school but that was my first creative job! It was during this time working at a grocery store in Ohio, that I would go home and work late into the night on my first choose-your-own-adventure webcomic on Instagram called ‘Quest of Death’. The comic was a TON of fun to work on and took my drawing skills to the next level. After over 400 original illustrations and tons of effort put into the Quest I chose to quietly suspend it in order to take a break and figure out my next steps as I was beginning to get bad signs of burn-out from juggling full-time creative work and a demanding personal production routine for a comic I was happy to create but was doing it for no money and had to focus on paying some bills/debts. Through my Wholefoods marketing position i managed to transfer from Ohio to New York City, where I have remained for the last 4ish years.
Presently, I no longer work with Whole Foods and have since transitioned on to create digital content for various consumer packaged goods brands (Skittles, Snickers, Orbit Gum) where I picked up my experience working in After Effects and Cinema 4D. The one thing that has remained constant throughout all that time has been my personal creative practice. When i’m not at my day job, i’m typically working on the next “big idea”. Even when I was a kid I was doing that. I have always kept a social life, but I seemed to make a little more time for that creative because it was just so fun and such a great form of meditation and self-therapy for me in a way. Right now for me the most exciting new frontiers have been developing my world-building concepts into larger scale projects that could one day take the shape of an animated series or possibly an RPG game. That has translated into a lot of script-writing practice and visual development research lately which has been a neat learning opportunity. Beyond all that, Cryptoart is now in my life in a big way and has given me enough pause to stop and learn all I can about the space as well as to indulge in some much needed social time and collaboration with other crypto artists and collectors.
What is your overall process in generating art?
I picked up a lot of my drawing proficiency habits from working on comics so I think it felt natural to just keep the same basic approach over the years which goes something like : Sketch out an idea > Draw the idea refined in pencil > Ink over the pencil with microns > Scan > Digitally color in Photoshop > Add final animations and audio in After Effects.
How would you describe your art in your own words?
I’ve always made work through the lens of the fantasy genre since it’s the content I consume most in my personal life and has always provided me with my own form of comfort and a feeling of security during times of stress. At its core that’s pretty much what i’m all about trying to achieve in my own work—to provide some kind of fun mental comfort entertainment zone for others to observe and participate in; even if it’s just in the form of a quick laugh from something stupid a character says or an abstract piece that doesn’t make any sense at all. Fantasy escapism + humor + reverie.
Favourite artists / influences?
All of these things have had a big impact on my work (in no particular order) : 80’s-90’s era cartoons and anime, Paleontology and dinosaurs, dragons and traditional fantasy monsters of all kinds, mythology especially in relation to stories involving beasts and gods, Ridley Scott’s Alien movies + H.R. Giger art were huge to me as a kid, The Dark Crystal, stand-up comedy and comedy overall, anything by Tolkien when i was in high school/college, all the Studio Ghibli work i can get my hands on, art history and the historical origins of things in general, music of all kinds but especially anything instrumental or classical for working, Tove Jansson’s Moomins series, L. Frank Baum’s Oz books and their illustrations, the collected Little Nemo comics by Windsor McCay, Brandon Graham’s comics work, Jeff Smith’s Bone series, a variety of books by Haruki Murakami, The Wind in the Willows books and art within them, RPG video games of all kinds but most especially the Dragon Quest franchise and the original vanilla Elder scrolls Morrowind. Aside from all that I have also grown up spending a lot of time in the woods and outdoors camping and have always had a big interest in cooking so those things find their way into my work as well.
How did you discover the new blockchain world of Crypto Art and NFTs in general?
My good friend that I went to art school with actually has been involved with NFT’s since the early Punks and Kitties days, and he got me into it around November of 2020. If not for his advice, I likely would not have got into NFTs at such an interesting time. We had a lot of our introductory courses at Herron together, hung out between classes, and were both involved in work study programs within our school so we have been in the same orbit more or less all this time. He has already collected my physical work for years so I trust him a lot and even then was STILL incredibly skeptical at the beginning. After about a million questions and doing my own research for a few weeks, I decided to give it a go. I began selling a lot of my older work on Rarible, just testing stuff out and learning when gas prices were much lower. During this time i was able to mint a ton of stuff and spread around a lot of cheap things and freebies as gifts that got my work into the hands of some seasoned innovators in the NFT space which i’m really grateful for. During that time I was able to make some new connections in that way with som genuine people dedicated to cryptoart. Nowadays i’m getting some of my good friends involved in the space and minting exclusively on SuperRare as I really enjoy working with their team and the professional/accessible curated approach they have going.
Has the digital nature of cryptoart NFTs changed how you approach your art practice?
From a work-life balance perspective I have maintained mostly my same working habits due to me just getting the best results that way. Mentally though, for about a month it really changed the way I had to perceive value as a concept. Then I had to re-learn how to apply that new value system to my own work and how that relates to where I am in my life right now career-wise and personally as an artist. When the presence of a lot of money is suddenly made known/available to anyone out of the blue it can play some weird mind games with most people, let alone artists. As you observe some of your peers and other people in the cryptoart space experience meteoric sales numbers—it can get very easy to play the comparison game and get that deep FOMO feel, even if you previously never struggled with that as an experienced artist. Luckily, thanks to lots of talks with my own personal friends in the space and a few key collector’s insights from the community I was able to come back down to the normal state of healthy content production that I have already been vibing with all these years and not let it get the better of me. The subject matter of my work and the way I create is largely the same, only now with crypto I have this sudden access to tons of new artist friends and connections that were seemingly hidden from me before. On top of all that I no longer feel like my work is just laying around doing nothing in a vacuum on social media, and this way it at least affords my work the ability to be presented in a long-lasting curatorial format that can help me generate a legitimate side income; which is pretty freaking game-changing for working artists of any kind. Exciting stuff!
What if anything, has surprised you about this new area of art practice?
The immediacy at which I met new people and how supportive and kind they have been in helping myself and others get onboarded with the whole thing was truly inspiring. The excitement amongst artists right now is palpable, and is the closest thing I have experienced to an art-movement. It inspired me to dig deep and reach out to my own artist/musician friends who I know personally. I wanted to get them into it and to collaborate on exciting new projects together. For the longest time I have wanted to work with some of my friends but we never found the right excuse to do so. Suddenly we are all coming together during a pandemic and making things we have been putting off for years and that’s really cool!
How would you like the field of cryptoart and nfts to evolve over time?
I hope to see a strong bond continue to form between the mediums of 2D and 3D crypto-artists/collectors. A scene where influential artists/collectors in the space are continuing to band together to rise up into structured roles more akin to CURATORS and STUDIOS—to help guide collectors and other artists en masse to achieve some truly wild things. I hope to see marketplace platforms furnish collectors with creative ways to more transparently share info about themselves in a way that suites their anonymity while still giving artists and other collectors an even greater chance to learn. This whole crypto-art thing has the potential to take on some really cool systems like artist-residency programs and contract-based work for artists, that if done skillfully and in a professionally structured way, could help normalize freelance creative work as a more sustainable/stable career option for creatives in the future. I would like to see NFT enthusiasts of all experience levels brush up on basic art-theory 101 and look into curatorial practices in the art world that already exist (both flawed and functional), and find ways to improve/implement them into the crypto universe with greater efficiency than was ever previously possible.
How can access and information to this new field of art practice be encouraged?
1.) Patient research into conceptual understanding of the subject FIRST to understand how crypto functions on a basic level. 2.) Due-diligence in the form of making new organic connections with artists and collectors as they naturally form over time. 3.) Lots of patience and loads of empathy towards incoming artists, seasoned veterans, and newly minted success stories alike –we’re all in the dark figuring it out together. 4.) Once you have a sufficient understanding of things, consider reaching out to someone you know personally who you could help get into the space who might find some kind of benefit from it or can use their skills to help make the overall system better.
Anything you’d like to say that this form hasn’t covered?
Thanks to everyone for following and supporting my work all this time and guiding me on this wild journey ❤️