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In Conversation with Owen Moore cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Owen Moore

by Sarah Rossien

Owen Moore is an artist and creative developer based out of Vancouver. With a bachelor’s degree in interactive multimedia design, his career has included making interactive mixed media software for marketing and educational purposes. More recently, he has worked in the visual effects and animation film industry, developing workflow automation solutions. Now that he is working independently full time, he’s keen to bring this experience to his generative artwork.
Sarah Rossien: Hey Owen! It’s so great to have you back on Art Blocks. Before we get into your upcoming project Flux, let’s start out with your background. How did you first get into making art?
Owen Moore: Growing up in the 1990s, and as a young child, I was amazed by the emergence of 3D animation. While watching a behind the scenes segment for the TV show Reboot, I realized this was my answer to the proverbial question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” When I was a teen, I was fortunate enough to afford my own PC, got a copy of 3D Studio Max, and began learning to make animations any chance I could. I had always been creative, but exploring the arts was not something I was exposed to while growing up in a rural mining town where the stereotype of the struggling poor artist prevailed.
After leaving for university, I began learning basic design principles in classes, but more importantly I would attend the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). There, I reveled in the broad range of styles, processes, and messages that artists could create in the medium. It was there that my interest in an independent creative life was born and would spur my practice of continual self study and experimentation.
Owen Moore_2014_Video game prototype.jpg
Owen Moore, 2014. Video game prototype.
SR: What a great start. Sounds like OIAF played a large role in pushing you towards the path you’re on today. And how did you discover blockchain art?
OM: Back in 2017 a colleague and I were brainstorming software startup ideas when the topic of Ethereum smart contracts came up. At the time I knew very little about them, so he pulled up CryptoKitties as a recent example of the tech being used. It was a novel experiment in my mind, but I didn’t fully grasp the forward thinking potential the project represented. Owning a digital art token and why that could be valuable simply wasn’t apparent to me at the time.
About four years later I was browsing LinkedIn looking for new opportunities when Tim Riopelle (an artist from a studio I had worked at) shared some posts about his experiences creating art and selling it on Ethereum via SuperRare. His artwork was beautiful, and his success was inspiring. It dawned on me that the adoption of this new technology could be the renaissance needed to enable independent digital creatives to thrive: something I had dreamed of much of my life. Spending time learning about blockchain technology, NFT marketplaces, and decentralized ideology further convinced me this was something to pursue as a serious career opportunity.
SR: And you were right! So when did you start pursuing generative art specifically?
OM: I just started about a year ago. I’ve been programming for over a decade in making interactive applications, websites, video game prototypes, tooling, and automation. Outside of work, I continued to learn software like Blender and Unity in an attempt to bootstrap creative project ideas, but due to a mix of inexperience and time constraints, nothing ever really took off. 
My moment of discovery occurred when Preslav Rachev posted in a Go programming language subreddit an e-book titled Generative Art in Go along with samples of his work. It simply never occurred to me that I could use my programming skills alone to produce creative works; yet here was a clear guide to use a language best known for building scalable backend services for artistic purposes. I bought the book and was immediately hooked. Having learned the photo sampling technique, I created my Photosynthetic Series shortly after as my first ever generative artworks and felt a whole new creative world was opening up for me.
Owen Moore_04 SDF_2021.jpg
Owen Moore, 04 SDF, 2021. Minimum viable art study series.
SR: I’ll have to check out that book. Well, let’s shift into your journey with Art Blocks. This is now your third project on Art Blocks. Your first, Spaghettification, released in July 2021 and Quarantine launched in October 2021. How has your creative practice changed over time?
OM: Aside from reorienting my creative focus towards generative artwork, I’ve found that I’ve been going through a process of self-discovery in terms of figuring out my new identity and what kinds of messages and mediums I want to work with. In the past, I mostly thought of goofy or exciting things to pass the time but lately I feel inspired to share my own insights through my work and make completely unique ways to show them. I feel that Flux marks a beginning of conscious effort to present a view of something personal to me through my artwork.
From a more practical perspective, I’ve been bringing my experience optimizing art workflows in the film industry to my development cycles. There is a real need for thousands of samples when making a generative script to better understand the domain, probabilities and composition of the series as a whole, but there’s only so many times one can press “F5” to see new results. Thus, I created an open source tool called Token Art Tools that enables easy exploration of features and automates image generation in a user friendly way. I use this tool nearly every day and am proud to say a few other artists have worked it into their practice.
Owen Moore_Quarantine _13_2021.jpg
Owen Moore, Quarantine #13, 2021.
SR: What a great tool. You mentioned that Flux marks a beginning of conscious effort to present something personal to you in your artwork. I’d like to hear a bit more about this. What was the inspiration for the project?
OM: While learning how to do ray marching in a shader to produce 3D images, I began playing with the algorithm to better understand it. After heavy modifications, I discovered I could “unwrap” the form into heavily distorted views producing soft gradients. Adding in a bright specular light to the mix resulted in energetic-looking highlights. It reminded me of experiences I have had while learning a meditation practice under the guidance of a spiritual teacher many years ago. I would find myself visualizing ribbons of energy that brought deep relaxation and healing properties, and I attribute this practice to helping me overcome serious mental distress as a young adult.
I’ve since learned about the scientific evidence showing clear mental health benefits for anyone who practices meditation in its various forms, which validated the positive effects I gained from the experiences. I knew that this was the kind of message I wanted to share and that through a mix of audio and visuals together using this style the motif would be clearly visualized.
SR: That’s really interesting. I spent an extended amount of time with your testnet outputs and certainly felt the meditative effect from your combination of audio and visuals. What should collectors look for in Flux as the series is revealed?
OM: First impressions will be made on the initial static frame but it’s my hope that collectors will take a moment to engage with the animated experience by taking a period of time to enjoy each one. Various forms and subtle differences in the visuals and audio will emerge as each piece slowly cycles and eventually repeats over a long period of time. It’s my intention for viewing the series to act as a facsimile for being mindful during meditation where your thoughts come in and drift out of your awareness as you passively observe them.
Owen Moore_Flux _0_2022.jpg
Owen Moore, Flux #0, 2022. Live view
SR: I’ll second that and say that it’s worth each viewer spending an extended amount of time watching and listening to your outputs. In my viewing experience, I found myself noticing and being drawn to new things each time. Is there anything else people should know to better understand the project?
OM: The visuals rendered are directly linked to the audio being synthesized as the artwork slowly animates over time. Ensure you’re listening with high-quality speakers, because each work could have anywhere from pure tones with plenty of bass up to very high frequency vibrations depending on the shape of the visual forms and luminosity. My intent was to incentivize viewing and connecting with others by sharing what you see in each edition and so the features are meant to broadly describe attributes for easy filtering. There are notable qualities that will only emerge under certain conditions or time frames within a work and are not tracked.
SR: Thank you for sharing that. Do you have any recent accomplishments you’d like to share?
OM: Recently earned the “#1 in Diamond League” achievement in the Duolingo app while studying Mandarin. I can only say basics like asking where the bathroom is or requesting water to drink, but I enjoy telling my girlfriend—a native Mandarin speaker—that the achievement means I’ve become fully fluent. She’s still skeptical of that claim though. 我爱我的非常可爱女朋友.
SR: Wow that’s impressive! Sounds like you’re keeping busy outside of your creative practice. What is the best way for people to follow your work?
OM: I’m most active on Twitter and maintain a personal website with details on each project and links to my other social media and web3 profiles.
SR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak. I’m looking forward to Fluxs release and can’t wait to see what comes out of the minter!
Top image: Owen Moore, Risen, 2021. Photosynthetic series.

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