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Ellen Sheidlin, a renowned artist, creates paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations. Her uniquely styled works are watched by millions, she has created projects for some of the world's biggest brands, and now even plans to launch the first NFT collection on TON.
Durov's Code asked her about the life of a digital artist and learned about the tools she uses in her artistic activity. Ellen also talked about her attitude towards NFT and Telegram, migration and travel, as well as her love for St Petersburg.
— Where are you now? Tell us about the place. Recently, we have noticed that you went to Dubai. What are your about the region and the city?
— Now I'm in Istanbul, a city of cats clambering up steep streets with unpainted, ungroomed walls, and smiling people. But for some reason I feel a strong sense of melancholy, especially realising how great the city, now plunged into poverty, was under the Ottoman Empire. But I don't feel like a stranger here, I think we like each other!
I quickly find props for the shoot and assistants – it is the coolest sign. After the start of the "special military operation" I decided not to return to Russia and stay in Dubai. My arrival there coincided with the disconnection of Russian banks from SWIFT, the incredible plunge of the Russian currency. Almost all Western brands left the Russian market, which put my commercial contracts on hold and turned Dubai into a very uncomfortable city in a practical sense.
Dubai, for all its ostensible austerity and religiosity, is probably the most vulgar city I have ever been to: minarets and mosques can coexist with brothels, business cards with girls wearing some explicit clothes and phone numbers are piled up in the streets, shopping is a major attraction and shopping centres are insanely huge.. What is striking, however, is access to new technology in the country, all the bureaucracy in the country is digital, corporate taxes are probably the lowest I have ever seen, there are almost no traffic jams, and there are many convenient services which make life easier.
Talking to the Russian-speaking community, I realised that 99% of people here are highly educated and incredibly passionate about cryptocurrencies, metaverses, NFT, start-ups, everyone has a dream to bring to life their project and make money. You learn and get inspired pretty quickly here, you get the illusion that the whole world talks only about blockchain. But then you come to Europe, where there are still many places where you can't pay with Apple Pay, and cryptocurrencies are completely out of the reach of most young people.
I'll definitely come back in the autumn, my exhibition is scheduled at a cool digital gallery in the city centre, I will be presenting a big dynamic NFT canvas there!
— You like travelling a lot. Tell us, how does this help you in general and with your creativity in particular?
— When I come to a new place I always try to find someone to do a collaborative project with; it's especially great to make art with local talent, to offer myself to galleries, to send and receive requests from clothing brands, and I also adore vintage pieces – it's how I infuse my aesthetic.
But I miss St Petersburg, it's a dream city, probably the best place to create great things. Although it is too bad that the state is stealing the future from the city and the privilege of living there from me. Hopefully, very soon, I will no longer be forced to travel and will return home.
— First of all, I'd like to understand your position on Telegram channels. I found @sheidlina, is it run by you? If so, could you tell us how you decided to start it.
— Me, my husband and another girl from my team run the channel. I decided that it would be easier for me to understand the NFT world by teaching and learning at the same time, and it is also the best opportunity to create a cool community of people who help each other with support and advice.
And also, I don't want to allow Russian-speaking artists to be disconnected and isolated from the global art world, I think NFT is the best way to stay visible and influential without being censored by Western institutions.
— You started with graffiti on VK. Later on, you moved into photography and then started to experiment with creating real paintings. Now we can see that you are interested in NFT. Can you tell us how you got there?
My husband was studying to be an art curator in Italy, and one day he just came back from university and started to tell me quite emotionally that there was a new technology he had been told about in his class that would change our lives and make my digital art more valuable.
Later I received a request from an American gallery to take part in the first NFT exhibition in the world. An auction was held there, and my work was sold for $25,000.
I have now gathered enough information, skills, beliefs and meanings to build my first collection. It will be launched on the TON Diamonds Marketplace, which will be a launching point for digital artists and the highest quality NFTs on the TON blockchain. This approach is very close to my heart, and that's why I decided to place my first collection there.
— In interviews you shared that it had taken you 8 years to study photography to become Ellen Scheidlin. Can you tell us what path you have taken with NFT now? Has it taken you that long?
— NFT is just a new tool and a way of expressing what I already know how to do. It took me some time to work up the courage and find the right motivation to finally take the process of making the collection seriously. I also found the right people with incredible talent who covered the areas of the project in which I lacked experience and professionalism.
One can have a sense that it's too late to start something, or too early. In the end, I realised that there's no better time than right now.
— If this is not no secret, tell us, how you are creating these unique works? It would be very intriguing to know which devices you use, which programmes, etc. Your tips and life-hacks can definitely inspire our readers!
— I try to stick to the "made with my hands" approach as much as possible, there is a puzzle principle in the photos. "How can I bring this to life?"
I've always been fascinated by the process itself i.e. finding solutions without using post-processing software. It's more fascinating, your brain is always engaged. I have an idea that women grow out of the ground, they are my metaphor for flowers. I bought artificial turf and cut holes in it, then braided pigtails and put flowers in their hair. And now the flower-girls are already singing songs and I really believe and live the story. Here are my tools: a construction shop, a flower shop. My advice to creative people is to live the story, combine even a fictional world with the real one. Draw in the real world or immerse people in your stories with your voice. There has to be something material left of us. Only digital is not about us.
As for the software – I use Adobe. My most favorite friends are Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Primer Pro, After Effect. I use a Wacom tablet to draw, an Adobe software package is installed there, so I bring to life all my graphic projects on this device.
For quick sketches I have an iPad, but all the editing and photo processing is made on iMac and MacBook. I know how to use Zbrush, but I prefer to outsource complex projects to professionals who will do it faster and better. It is impossible to cover all areas, but it is definitely possible to think globally, to create brilliant teams in which I can delegate all parts of the production process to other people, as did the great Renaissance artists.
— I wonder, what is your attitude towards NFT. What do you think about this technology and how do you see its future?
— It is impossible to talk about the future of NFT technologists without mentioning cryptocurrencies, metaverses and web3, since all these are links of a single chain that is still in its infancy. We are not even at the beginning, but in the very beginning of this world, which will surely revolutionize all aspects of our life.
Like bitcoin, crypto art will undergo a lot of stress tests in the next ten years. It will cause criticism, hatred and thousands of questions. I have no doubt that very soon crypto art will no longer be just science fiction but rather something normal.
There will be institutional changes, expertise will appear, artistic value will become more meaningful and rationalized, and labor and talent will become the main grounds for big sales.
— You once said that you had to leave VKontakte due to some negative aspects of the platform. But now it's everywhere [in Russia], how do you feel about this? What social networks and platforms do you use?
— I realized I had to leave VKontakte when I saw the statistics of criminal cases under the article "extremism" filed on the basis of messages, videos, photos and comments left on this social network. The social network does not stand up for its users, it turns a blind eye to the injustice of sentences and absolutely does not meet the requirements laid out by the first team of creators. It's just a corpse without a head that moves by reflex, gnawed by corrupt state businessmen. VK has no future.
Telegram eats up most of my battery. In general, the messenger itself is almost universal, all work chats, news, English courses, bots, memes are there. Now there is also a TON wallet, I even sent some money to my friends on the app.
Next comes Instagram (owned by Meta, which is recognized extremist organization in Russia), which is my visual online gallery where I share my creativity, and Pinterest as a source of inspiration.
— How do you live through everything that is happening around us? What are your emotions?
— Everything has already happened... We have experienced the most terrible event in the history of our country over the past 30 years. Since February 24, our country has been on the edge of the abyss, I feel fear, horror, despair. Now the main thing is to save ourselves, to survive this tragedy, to help show the world a different image of our country, to show that we are different, we have nothing to do with what is broadcast on TV.
I believe that we will survive, that we will survive and just turn over this dark page of our history. I love my homeland, my St. Petersburg, the people of our country, my family. My dream is to live and be happy at home.
— Often, you have said that you wanted to make St. Petersburg the center of art. Are there any other plans? Has your position changed? I noticed that in your last video you regretted that St. Petersburg had not become a place of attraction for world art. Your last video on YT was released almost six months ago and it was just about renovation in your apartment in St. Petersburg. What is your current position regarding this place? How do you feel about it now?
— It has not changed, St. Petersburg is absolutely my city, the best place on earth. I want to go to the district of Petrogradskaya, I want to wander through the halls of the Hermitage and the Russian Museum with headphones and listen to Tsvetaeva's poems, ride a bike on Krestovsky Island, walk down the Rubinstein street with friends. Once I think about this city, about how many things important for me and my life happened there, about the bridges, buildings, people inhabiting this city – I get goosebumps.
I will never love something more than St.Petersburg...
We will definitely construct an image of the future for it, rebuild the broken ties and create new ones, ridding our city of stupid and incompetent politicians who have been raping it for many years.