Marco Mori creates art intended to spark a reaction. The German 3D artist, known for his provocative caricatures and witty animations, is inclined towards the “weird” over the “normal”. He spoke to Nina Knaack about his newfound artistic freedom and ability to earn a living by creating whatever he feels like.
As a child, Marco was not the typical artist. Rather than doodling away on every piece of paper that he could find, he preferred to be outside. Most of all, he enjoyed playing sports, especially skateboarding and football — motifs which now appear across his 3D animations. But Marco's flare for creativity did not materialise out of nowhere.
Whilst playing outdoors with his friends, Marco began to make videos, and soon became interested in playing with imagery and composition, as well as experimenting with black and white effects. “I enjoyed making short clips of our adventures,” he recalls. “In my teen years, I also did some photography. But I didn't take anything too seriously back then.”
“I learnt the most I ever have just by putting in the hours.”
— Marco Mori
When Marco went to Augsburg university to study interactive media design, he found himself having to produce work in 3D. “At first I hated it, as we had to use a super complicated program called Maya. It took ages to produce visually pleasing outputs, so it didn't stimulate me at all.” Nonetheless, Marco developed a taste for the creative output; Maya was not the tool for him, but it was 3D designs that he wanted to create.
With the knowledge of what without the answer of how, Marco set out on a quest to find the right software to bring his visions to life. It was only when he discovered the Cinema 4D suite that he became, in his words, “hooked on creating in 3D.” He recalls, “there was a great community of people using it, helping out new members. I started to watch a lot of tutorials and finally got into the process of learning animation properly.”
Marco started to post his work to Instagram and, in 2016, began a daily render challenge. “I had to finish a project every day and upload it,” he recalls. “I would recommend it to every artist and designer, because it forces you to create. I learnt the most I ever have just by putting in the hours and pushing myself to try new things.” As he grew on social media, his inbox became flooded with job offers. “That’s how my life quite suddenly consisted of working in 3D full-time.”
“It's the weird combinations that make you want to look again.”
— Marco Mori
Marco attributes his success in no small part to his transition into designing body-figures — specifically those that move in provocative ways. “At the very beginning, I just animated super random things,” he admits. “When you first start as a designer, you do not have any experience in creating complex stuff. I began with spheres, cube-like shapes, and some landscapes. But I didn’t really feel connected to these geometric forms — or static things in general. And so my audience didn’t either. I realised that I had to make stuff that was more personal, exuberant, and relatable, to show the viewer what I’m really about.” Laughing, Marco adds, “it turns out that making digital 3D humans was also not that hard — especially if you make them a bit weird on purpose.”
‘Weird’ is the key word for Marco. “I love integrating strange, human-like figures, and things that are generally just odd. It's the weird combinations that make you want to look again — or that is what I hope for, at least.”
Marco continuously sources inspiration for his creations, absorbing all the minutiae of his day-to-day life. “Talks, music, films, books, you name it. I soak up everything I see, and often bring it back into my work somehow — especially the things that capture my interest because they are somewhat abnormal.” His creations have also been influenced by the motion graphics designers, Esteban Diacono and Antoni Tudisco. “Their work was like nothing I had ever seen before. When I first came across their videos, I was so in awe that I watched most of them about fifteen times — and that is exactly what I want to achieve with my videos as well.”
However, earning a living from his independent creations alone seemed like a distant dream to Marco. After university, he worked creating commissions for clients, developing his own work on the side. That all changed at the end of 2020, when he saw that other 3D designers were selling their private work for significant sums. “I had a whole body of autonomous work ready to be sold. I realised that this was my chance.”
Marco had first bought Bitcoin in 2012; there is little that he hasn’t seen in web3. By connecting with other artists and collectors, he quickly identified the potential of NFTs for digital artists like him. “I felt that this was the future of living, so I quit working for clients to focus solely on my autonomous work.” He recalls the joy that he felt after this creative liberation. Now, Marco earns a living by doing what he enjoys most: making strange, humorous, and often outrageous animations, bound to catch the viewer's attention.
“I just facilitate a starting point for the imagination.”
— Marco Mori
“My art doesn’t really have a special meaning,” he explains. “I don't come up with a bigger story to surround every piece of work. There would be no point, because, in the end, everyone has their own interpretation anyway — and that’s the way I want it; it’s a personal experience, and I just facilitate a starting point for the imagination.”
Marco has been reaping the rewards of his newfound creative freedom since minting his first NFT. “How great is it when people really like the things that you absolutely love to make? It’s the biggest win-win situation that you can hope for as an artist.” As with many other 3D designers, web3 gave Marco the opportunity to focus exclusively on his own projects. “I don’t make any work for clients anymore. I find it amazing that I can sell my autonomous work as NFTs, and live off that.”
Now that Marco is no longer obliged to work to the deadlines of others, he enjoys taking his time on his work. So far, he is most satisfied with Aquaria. “It felt so good to not rush this project. For the first time, I reworked the smallest details over and over again to make the result as close to my imagination as possible. I am super happy with the outcome, and better understand the value in not hurrying a process.”
Alongside Aquaria, Marco’s 3D animations have been exhibited on the big screens from Time Square in New York, to Plaza de Callao in Madrid, to Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. But the best feels like it is yet to come for Marco Mori.
“I had a whole body of autonomous work ready to be sold. I realised that this was my chance.”
— Marco Mori
Nina is passionate about telling the stories of artists and documenting their artistic processes, so that they can focus on creating. She’s written for a range of cultural magazines in the Netherlands, her homeland, including 3voor12 and the Groninger Museum. Her work as a contemporary art historian has seen her work at Museum Voorlinden, the Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Today, her main and ever-increasing focus is on the digital art world, and she is fascinated by the endless possibilities of web3 and how crypto artists are pushing the boundaries of creating without gatekeepers.
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