Navigating Art, Culture, and Web3: An Interview with NFT Creator PaperBuddha

The journey of an artist is never just about the finished product. The amalgamation of experiences, inspirations, and even mistakes along the way tells a story just as compelling as the art itself. ​​​​​​

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing PaperBuddha, a digital artist whose unique aesthetic and approach to community building offers valuable insights for those trying to break into or expand in the world of NFTs.

The Significance of the "Offerings" Drop

In our discussion, the topic of PaperBuddha's recent drop, "Offerings," warranted special attention for its unique blend of influences. The drop synthesizes elements from Pulp Fiction, Buddhist art, and the Wayang Kulit shadows, creating a signature style that can be seen across all of his work. 

"As a lifelong Western practitioner of Buddhism," he explains, "I aim to make Buddhist art resonate with a Western audience. This coupling of Buddhist imagery with American pulp fiction creates a nostalgic feeling while invoking a sense of wonder and awe. The combination of those elements are what create my signature style and can be seen in all of my work.”

Blending Counterculture and Spirituality

The artist's background in underground art scenes, LSD culture, and Buddhist practice adds another layer of complexity to his work. To understand how these seemingly disparate elements influence his art, he says, 

“A lot of LSD, meditation, and a knowledge of Buddhist art history go into the creation of each piece. Those things are still very much a direct influence on the art itself. The background in counterculture allows me to connect with collectors and participate in emerging industries like crypto and web3.” 

The Challenge of Digital Nuances

As with any digital art, the transition from a small to a large screen can affect its perception. PaperBuddha emphasizes that his digital art is created with large displays in mind, challenging the notion that the transition to a larger screen can distort digital artwork. So, how does he ensure that his pieces retain their essence on larger displays? 

"Communication is key," he asserts. "My work is all created for the big screen. I often find myself advising collectors and viewers to ‘turn the brightness up’ and ‘put it on that 72-inch display.' The bigger, the better."

The Influence of Buddhist Practices

Buddhism isn't just a spiritual belief for PaperBuddha; it's a transformative lens through which he views his art. When asked about how Buddhist practices have influenced his work, he shared, "I could teach an entire college course on this topic," underscoring the profound impact it has had on the themes and narratives in his artwork.

Incorporating Wayang Kulit Shadows

For those unfamiliar with Wayang Kulit, PaperBuddha offers a window into its significance. 

“Indonesia is a very special place for me. I have multiple family members living there and the culture has inspired me for decades. Wayang Kulit is this really cool ‘theater’ that plays out in the shadows of puppets. 

The story is told through the shadows projected on a screen (think of making shadow puppets on the wall with a flashlight when you were a kid). I use shadows in my work to add a layer of storytelling while also giving the work a sense of psychedelia. I felt the shadows in my art could serve a dual purpose.”

Strategies for Audience Growth

PaperBuddha boasts a remarkable social following of over 24,000 people. So, what's his secret? 

"It’s a contact sport," he states. "I make contact with one person at a time and find I perform best on social audio platforms including Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse and podcast interviews. My growth strategy is very long term and I am building my audience in an organic way by finding people with similar interests. 

Platform Choices and Community Engagement

Choosing the right platforms to showcase art and engage with an audience can be daunting. PaperBuddha's strategy is rooted in reciprocity. 

"I love reciprocal relationships! The more a platform can support what I am doing, the more I want to work with them. Some platforms do nothing to help with artist support, discoverability and exposure so I try to stay away from them. The ones that go above and beyond are the ones I work with as much as possible.”

Lessons from Expanding Too Quickly

Like any journey, mistakes are inevitable. When asked about his experience with community growth, PaperBuddha mentioned one critical lesson: "Building too fast. During the last bull market I may have gotten a little carried away with the frequency of my drops and speed at which my community was growing. I wasn't able to give new members of The Temple (what we call my community of collectors, friends, and supporters) the attention they deserved as they found their way to our Telegram and Discord channels.”

Staying True While Catering to a Broader Audience

One of the challenges artists face is balancing artistic integrity with audience preferences. When asked how he strikes a balance between staying true to his artistic expression and catering to the preferences of a broader digital audience, PaperBuddha tells us his pragmatic approach: 

“I lean into technology to capture a broad audience. I have collectors that have bought work purely because it was generative art or because it was minted with a certain ERC standard and not because it is Buddhist or collage-centric work.”

Wisdom for Aspiring Artists

For those looking to make a name for themselves in digital art, PaperBuddha's advice is threefold: Be authentic, move with purpose, and build relationships. 

"Art alone isn't enough; you have to give people a reason to engage with you and collect your art," he underscores.

The Importance of Community Feedback

The role of fan feedback is invaluable for any creator. PaperBuddha finds motivation in messages from fans wanting to learn more about Buddhism or joining his community

"Those are the things that really keep me going on tough days," he concludes.

NFTs, Web3, and Ownership

The transition to NFTs has provided a fresh perspective on art distribution and ownership for PaperBuddha. “I was not a professional artist or collector prior to the world of NFTs. My perspective on art distribution and ownership is informed from web3 first and foremost. I am just recently learning about the traditional art world and the more archaic models for D&O.”

The Artist as a Business Owner

One aspect we haven't yet explored is the role of business management in an artist's journey. How important is it for creators like PaperBuddha to be in control of their business? 

To this, he opines, "I think it is super important. My collectors and community depend on me to provide accurate information and an enjoyable experience." 

This sense of responsibility extends to his selection of business partners and technologies. By conducting thorough research, PaperBuddha ensures he's in full control of his business, aligning it with the community's expectations and his artistic vision.

Incorporating these final pieces into the puzzle gives us a holistic view of PaperBuddha's journey — from inspiration to art creation, from building a community to managing a business in the fast-evolving world of NFTs. Through a blend of cultural heritage, spiritual practices, and modern technology, he is carving out a space that transcends traditional art forms while still being deeply rooted in them.