Tony Futura is widely considered a talented pop-culture creative, who uses digital technology, imagination and a response to modern society to generate powerful imagery in his work.
How did you get your start in visual art?
Tony Futura: I started studying communication design in 2009. No, actually I started as a graffiti writer in 2000. Since then I was deeply interested in creating images that people see without the need to visit a museum and also in their reactions on my “art”. Graffiti is not art for me. Same as design. If you ask me, I’d say graffiti is fun, design is a tool of marketing. The stuff that I do is both somehow: It’s fun for myself because I love searching for new ideas and to create things I love, also it’s marketing for myself and the creative ideas I do. Instragram is the street that you can find my works on. But I rather would call myself a creative than an artist or designer. Hi, I’m Tony.
What or who are some of your influences and inspirations for your own creations?
Tony Futura: Society is my inspiration I guess. All the stuff we have seen through our whole life, if it’s a Simpson’s episode or that Tamagotchi everyone of us had back in the days. I like playing with expectations and to tell visual jokes through simple images. I’m not different from other people. I watched a lot of TV series and cartoons when I was a child, played football and was quite shy when it comes to flirting. The difference is that I am trying to use all those experiences for my artwork and for telling small stories about daily life, feelings and about our relationships to others, things, systems and to ourselves.
Can you talk to us about your creative process in terms of when an idea may strike you and how it manifests itself to completion?
Tony Futura: Mostly it just hits me from one second to another, like when I am on the web or when I see something strong and simple. But I also seek for famous images of world history, famous photography and art to be inspired by. You can never tell when an idea suddenly appears but you can focus and keep your eyes open, be interested in all kinds of things and ask the right questions about it. I often write notes for myself to not forget ideas and thoughts I collect over the day. Right now there are more than 40-50 other things I do want to make in the future. But I also note stuff like “shopping cart” or “rainbow”, because I feel like I could use their meanings and appearance the next time and if the right moment is close or when I find a reasonable match for it, I can come up with a new idea to work on.
What are some of the tools that you use for your art?
Tony Futura: Mostly just photoshop, a camera, sometimes stock photos, anything digital I can find and use…I am also trying to learn more about 3D modeling but with the short amount of time I have it’s pretty hard. Actually, the ideas I make are way more important for me than the executed images in the end. The idea is everything, I’m not a perfectionist anymore when it comes to the design of the pictures.
Do you consider yourself a content creator based on today’s terminology since your work is online via Instagram for example?
Tony Futura: I am, but I would never call myself such thing. To me, most of the bloggers and so called content creators take themselves way too serious. I’m not a guy that is networking all the time, searching for new contacts to bring myself up. I just love to do what I’m doing and if my work inspires people to think about certain ideas and to discuss about it, that’s all I want. My work is influenced through the internet community, memes and a global knowledge of art, advertising and bad jokes, so choosing an Internet platform to publish my work was just a logical step for me.
I like the down to Earth sensibility you have Tony. It’s about the work first. What made you decide to begin posting up your art work on Instagram?
Tony Futura: It wasn’t really a made decision. It was more like me discovering a new way for me to push my own creativity to create more for the community that #foodporn and #selfie’s, which, in most cases, is just boring narcissism. I wanted to challenge myself and see how my ideas are seen by others. But in the end I just do it to entertain myself. It’s a process of finding new thoughts on several topics and things and to evolve my own thinking.
When did you start to notice you were becoming popular on Instagram?
Tony Futura: That was in December ’15 when I got a feature on Art People Gallery on Facebook and on bored panda. Suddenly, I got up from 7.000 followers to 30k in two days and realized that there must be something going on about me. I Googled myself and found all those features, the comments were pretty much split, some people hated what I do, many people liked it and the websites wrote funny stuff about me, like I was an artist from Berlin, owning a small studio in Kreuzberg etc. which is totally wrong by the way 😄 From that time on I realized that people are watching now and somehow it feels a bit like there’s pressure on my shoulders since I know that my work also has an influence on pop-culture. Funny, because pop-culture is my influence too and so I am a part of all this now.
Have you been approached by brands to collaborate? If so, which ones?
Tony Futura: I can’t name all of them now but the first one was pax vaporizers, who sent me two of their products without having any requirements on that or else (pax, thank you for that, but I am not a weed smoker😄 Also happy socks wanted me to post some of their products, but I would be a complete idiot if I’d sell my soul for some pairs of socks. Since I work in advertising I’m aware of the prices bloggers take and if you can reach over a hundred thousand people, you shouldn’t be payed with some cheap products they give you. That was actually pretty mind opening to me, seeing how many brands and marketers are approaching you to get a piece of the pie you have baked yourself.
Also I got offers from design offices and advertising agencies to collaborate on campaigns, alcohol brands to make posts for their accounts or one+ smartphones. Seems like my work would fit lots of brands, but I would never sell myself for cheap advertising or brands, that don’t care about what I actually do and are just about their own interests and profits. I’m not a whore.
I find it so important for you to say that because there should be a mutual respect established before a creative and brand decide to work together on a project. Do you have a personal favorite piece of visual art that you are proud of?
Tony Futura: Yes, one of my early pieces and the one I use as my profile picture – the yellow fetish smiley mask – is still one of my favorites. For me it means, that you should always do what makes you smile and it still is the basic thought of my work. I got to produce it as a real mask which I want to exhibit one day in an art gallery together with other favorite pieces like the pierced lemons and the house of cards made from iPhones.
When creating a new piece, are you conscious of a story you are trying to tell or does it happen organically until you realize later what it is you are trying to say in a particular piece? Or does each piece have its own unique approach?
Tony Futura: Since most of my ideas are pretty simple, I’m totally conscious of the meaning of every piece. But sometimes it also happens that I can’t really tell why an idea triggers my mind but I feel that there is something that needs to be thought of. I’m mostly just sharing thoughts and comments on actual things like the lifestyle of our western society or our behavior in social media or the internet and because I know the sources of my inspiration and the meaning of our modern symbols I am completely aware of what I am saying and mostly of how people will react on that.
Your work comes off brave and what I mean by that is that it appears as though you do not hold back when it comes to expressing truth in your art work. Can you talk about that?
Tony Futura: I am a pretty honest person, which also got me in trouble more than just one time because people often can’t handle truth. When I show a Barbie doll face with a rubber sex doll mouth, people get offended and tell me I am objectifying women. But I truly am displaying a Barbie doll as it really is: The world’s most manifested objectification of females since the 1940’s. It tells girls how to look, how to behave and how to think and it still is the same after all those years. So, why shouldn’t I mix it up with a proper symbol of sexual objectification to make a truly honest statement about it? This is how my mind works seeing such manifested symbols of our society and I am aiming to start discussions amongst people about those things.
Some have called and considered you a sort of Pop Culture artist or a Surreal artist, would you agree with those terms to describe your work?
Tony Futura: Pop-culture yes, surreal no. My work is not surreal, I am using very real objects and persons for it. I am just combining known parts to a whole new meaning. Nothing surreal about it.
Is your main focus on digital art creations? What other areas of art do you enjoy creating in, if any?
Tony Futura: My main focus are thoughts and ideas. I don’t really care what it is in the end. Digital creations for Instagram are just my main channel at the moment, but I’m working on realizing certain pieces as sculptures and prints for a real exhibition. Also I used to illustrate a lot but since I am very curious about any other way of creating I am always looking for new possible ways to make ideas work.
What would you want your art work to best be remembered for?
Tony Futura: For cleverness and honest thoughts towards modern society.
What are your future goals with regards to your art work, Tony?
Tony Futura: I am working on the realization of my concepts for an exhibition some day. Also I am starting to sell prints of some motives, but I want to keep it limited for now because my stuff is already available for the masses online, real prints and pieces should be as limited as possible but I need to collect money to realize future projects, too.
My future goal would be like selling enough stuff to be able to think much bigger like Kaws and Jeff Koons, that would be perfect. I think there is still much potential for my work but in the end money is still a basic need for me to do all this. Good thing is that I’m employed and that makes me kind of free but also takes a lot of time from me and the projects I want to do, but we’ll see what the future brings.
What advice do you have for other digital artists?
Tony Futura: Always try to put an original idea into your work. You can have all the skills in the world but without a concept of original thoughts behind your images they will always just remain something like a beautiful girl without a brain: looking awesome but getting boring after a while.