Exercising our talents & sharing our knowledge, unselfishly, to change, bring hope or transform someone’s life is above all, the lasting fulfilment with high dose of ecstasy. Purposely using our gifts to create real and tangible impact in our societies is the ultimate purpose of humanity. Digital artist and photographer, Josh Rossi uses his talents to bring awareness to the real superheroes of our world. With clients such as Warner Bros, Adobe, Nickelodeon, D.C. Comics, and many more major brands, with the help of his wife, Roxana, they transformed children with major illnesses and disabilities into members of the Justice League. The artwork received more than 100 million online views.
The project was created after a Halloween photo shoot of his daughter, Nellee. The digital images illustrate his healthy and enthusiastic little girl as Wonder Woman. The series acted as a catalyst, he was contacted by emotionally inspired parents of critically-ill children around the world, expressing that “their children are the real superheroes”.
Here is my exclusive interview with Josh Rossi to learn about his gifts and talents:
Jupilings – Tell us about yourself and how you got into digital art/photography:
Josh Rossi: When I was a young boy I was obsessed with art. I was born in Florence, Italy where I lived for 7 years. When I hit high school I saw no need to pursue art and so I dropped it and got into other things. After high school I got an internship with a film production company and started getting more into film. When I was 22 I realized that I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing so I needed a change. I decided that advertising was a lot more exciting and chose to go to Miami Ad School and that’s where my passion for photography came in. At school I had to rely on my own skills to produce print ads and online media. I had to convey a message and I didn’t want to just snap one shot and be done. I wanted to include a lot of different elements that told a story. That’s when I started getting into compositing. I realized that I could actually create the images that were inside my head. I never thought that was possible before. I became literally obsessed with ad photography. I would stay up every night until 2 or 3 studying my favorite photographers. I would study every single detail and try to recreate what I saw. It took me a year and a half before I decided to put my style out there to the public. Once I put my work out there for people to see I got a surprising response. People loved it! I dropped my 9 to 5 job and have been working full time doing what I love ever since. Whenever I create an image I try to think of a story behind it. I want my viewer to get into the picture and imagine a whole scenario. What brings me joy is when I can inspire others to do bigger and greater things. I am based out of Los Angeles and Puerto Rico where I specialize in Commercial and Advertising photography.
Jupilings – What is the fundamental principal in your creations?
Josh Rossi: The image has to have emotion in it before it’s even created. You need to envision it and the emotion behind it.
Jupilings – Are you a digital artist that uses photography to express an idea or a photographer who captures the moment of the idea?
Josh Rossi: Digital artist who uses photography to create my art.
Jupilings – Do you have a preference in camera, software or technology ? & why
Josh Rossi:Photoshop, Sony A7r2. The Sony is mirrorless and it’s easy to carry around. It’s very high quality too and is great for traveling. Photoshop has so many options that it lets me do anything I want with an image.
Jupilings – Which photographer has influenced you most?
Jupilings – What is the secret of being a successful digital artist/photographer?
Josh Rossi: The secret is finding the best inspiration you can, practicing endless hours to perfect a look and keep learning.
Jupilings – What is your favourite subject to capture?
Josh Rossi: I love capturing people and landscapes together.
Jupilings – What does women empowerment mean to you?
Josh Rossi: Woman empowerment means to acknowledge the power and strength that they have. It means to allow them to express those strengths and not be shy to show them.
Jupilings – What are your tips about building a brand name as a digital artist / photographer?
Josh Rossi: To build a brand name you need a specific style that people know you for. Not just a better style but something different and new. People don’t care so much about better, they care about new and different.
Jupilings – What do you do to conquer fear or self doubt:
Josh Rossi: I learn to control my thoughts and push those out. Everyone feels fear but few people know how to manage it and push through the fear when necessary. You can’t listen to the voices in your head that create self doubt. Push them out immediately. The more you let them linger the more self doubt will build within you. No one knows your potential except your own self. How can you conquer the world if you can’t conquer your own mind?
Jupilings – What super power you would like to have ? and why?
Josh Rossi: Ability to change someones life just by deciding to do so.
Jupilings – Which movie you would have liked to be the lead actor:
Innocent to sinful, unrestrained to attentive, humorous to gloomy, flirtatious to modest, Ray Caesar, the acclaimed digital artist, unlocks his state of mind and his power of imagination through playful and witty themes. He chose to undertake one of the most difficult aspects of life by laying bare his painful and unpleasant life experiences, acknowledging his fears, submerging into his desires and fantasies through art. His compelling imagery links the dreamy yet self discovery realities to earthly concerns. He opens up the portals of his multi-layered universe and delves deep into his subconscious and emotional states of being.
Ray Caesar’s self observing depictions, challenge us, shake us and impel us in an unforeseen directions, perhaps to a place where we re-examine our own realities and progressively relate to our world with compassion. As he gracefully and brilliantly indicates:
” My work is about defining myself in my own way and then sharing that as Art….what if we all did that ?, share our unique qualities in an effort to find our commonality.”
Learn about what drives Ray Caesar’s creativity and his intentions, in an exclusive interview with Jupilings:
Tell us about yourself and how you got into art:
Ray Caesar: I grew up in south London in the 1960s in a very dysfunctional and abusive family. I began making pictures as a way to dissociate and cope from a difficult reality. After immigrating to Canada I began working at a children’s hospital in Toronto in the medical art and photography dept and ended up, staying there for 17 years. I had always painted and sculpted but during these years, I began to once again make art as a coping mechanism as the material I dealt with at work was quite overwhelming. I then worked for several years in the film industry doing 3D modeling and animation and from there began making art with digital tools.
Who is your protagonist?
Ray Caesar: She is my alter ego and a way for me to present a side of the fluidity or ambiguity of my gender. As a child I used to behave and dress very much like the figures in my work but any expression of that soon became too dangerous in the volatile family I lived with in the 1960s. It was also unnerving to my father that I used to talk to dolls, and that I insisted they would talk back. Years of therapy has suggested this is a form of dissociative identity disorder but I have some ideas of this myself of a slightly more mystical nature. I am comfortable with the idea that my protagonist is a side of my subconscious identity that I had to hide in a paracosm or inner world in order to survive. Today my images are simply a window into that world that has been growing in my mind for over half a century…an aspect of my psyche of gentleness and femininity and also a way to manage a strange but dangerous inclination that in some way has grown up in a separate world from this one.
What is the fundamental principal in your creations?
Ray Caesar: To explore and heal my own fractured psychology through images by creating my story as if it was a book of pictures. To give the suppressed and partially broken aspect of who I am a physical presentation. I take memory and dissociated emotions and experiences and give them physical form not just in a 2 dimensional picture but as a 3 dimensional virtual environment with a 3 dimensional figure. My protagonist is movable physical doll covered textures of my own skin in virtual rooms and clothing and textures from a variety of memories from my own past. I am writing a story of my life in pictures that evoke feelings I can’t put in words.
You have indicated that your artworks are inspired by your childhood, life experiences and your involvement in Sick Kids Hospital which are the inner force, what about motivation, what is the outside force that compels you to create?
Ray Caesar: To personally see a reflection of who I am. To define myself in my own evolving mind image. We have no control in how others define us …we do have a choice in how we define ourselves and that plays into how we ourselves define others. I didn’t start publicly showing my work for the motivation of profit as I have other skills that could have and did satisfy that need. I certainly don’t do this for motivations of ego as I am extremely shy and uncomfortable making my work public and rarely attend openings and have to force myself to post on social media in fits of agony. For me, my work isn’t Art …it’s a presentation of who I am. A method for self expression so I can see myself presented in a way that expresses how I feel. I make it public as I have learned that showing work in some strange way “completes it” …it makes that image part of the greater whole and by doing that ….. its meaning changes with each person that looks at it in such a way that I am forced to look at it again as if I have never seen it before …that has always been its greatest mystery and surprise to me.
When you are creating a work of art, you are forging an engagement with a situation or an emotion. Do you aspire to drive public awareness to activism, in any stage of your creation?
Ray Caesar: There is no intended dogma in my work or social commentary other than a very personal exploration of who I am and it is a very self indulgent process that I need to do for survival. I think of it like a visual diary and personal emotional guide. My work is simply a self portrait of my own mind and self image. It’s about my own sense of fluid gender and my inability to comprehend who I am and where I fit in a world of polarized views. I believe we each need a mind view or image of who we are as a template to build our actions and progress and evolve in a strange world. Although my work is very self indulgent I do think self exploration leads into how we as a species have to define what it is to be a human being. So much of our problems with race and gender and cultural identity stem from the inability to connect as a species and define our long term goals and aspiration (this absolutely reflects my own problems with dissociation ) ….to take an active role in our own evolution by a series of smaller conscious revolutions that build the template of what a human being is and what it could be and should be. If we define ourselves individually as unique complex individuals with flaws and amazing potential and realize that there has never been another person in all human history just like us and no one has ever had our unique experience…..then that’s how we define others! Not by our physical sex organs or skin pigmentation or where we were born, or what familial religion or organization we belongs to. We are a species of unique individuals that are attempting to define our spiritual and practical goals and that’s something every single one of us share. My work is about defining myself in my own way and then sharing that as Art….what if we all did that ?, share our unique qualities in an effort to find our commonality.
What does women empowerment mean to you?
Ray Caesar: As someone who is fluid gender and who has never really felt entirely male or female and lives in a mind that could be described as ambiguous and hermaphroditic, I am fascinated by recent events in a gradual growing realization of enlightened women and men that patriarchy is fundamentally flawed. I would love to see our species grow beyond a system that is based on self centered fear, power and dominance. It’s time for our species to evolve and acknowledge that we all have masculine and feminine aspects to our subconscious psychology. The balance of Anima and Animus is crucial, not just in the individual, but in the very fabric of human society and the way we choose to govern ourselves and interact in a variety of social levels. In my own attempt to reflect this about myself through my work …it is not lost on me that our own personal struggles reflect the greater struggles of our species and society. The empowerment of women is really a foundation stone in the self realization of what direction we need to travel for the species as a whole that can ultimately benefit the whole. It is evolution in progress and from a personal point of view it is amazing and beautiful to witness. In a hopeful way I see our planet as a fundamentally feminine thing. Earth or Gaia is a living goddess, a tangible deity that exists and is the giver of life. This thin strip of atmosphere is like a womb feeding and nurturing and protecting the fragile life that exists within it. Within her is a sea of conscious awareness of millions of species and She is the the sum of all the consciously aware life on this small blue world. She is a tangible touchable living conscious Goddess and we are destroying her through our primitive patriarchal arrogance, our fear and ignorance and our need for power and dominance. This planet is alive and a living thing! …we are part of this life and not separate from it and our conscious awareness is only part of the sum of existence that lives here, life on this planet is more than just us. We are part of a caring protective matriarchal ecosystem called Earth and dependant on her like a child is of a mother. We cannot exist without her and our species will have to evolve and learn to treasure this Eden before we are expelled from it.
What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist?
Ray Caesar: Make the art you love and explore avenues that excite you and that are fundamentally about you. Realize that your own choices and values create your brand as if it is an expression of your world view. If you make what you love someone else will love it too. Network and find people that have the same passion for art or creation that you do and realize you can’t do this all alone. I work with my wife Jane and my friend and manager Belinda Chun as a kind of team or family. We like to think of all this as a collective of different skills not unlike a fashion house or crew of a ship and we call that “Gallery House”http://galleryhouse.ca/. I make the Art, Jane keeps spreadsheets tracking every single piece and keeps me balanced and Belinda then builds a series of partnerships with galleries and dealers and organizations around the world that become a kind of extended family. It’s no longer a world of just one gallery and one artist splitting everything 50/50. We learn to trust these galleries and they learn to trust us and it all starts to work like a functioning engine that creates work, markets work and puts that work in places that visitors and collectors can view it and experience it online and in real spaces like galleries and art fairs and boardrooms and charitable events. It’s not just about me ..it’s about the different parts of the engine that function in tandem that create something of emotional value from nothing but a concept and a piece of paper and canvas. Dior wasn’t just Christian …it was a house and a company of people who believed in something beautiful and worked together to build something that was more than just a dress…they made that dress a piece of art.
What do you do to conquer fear or self doubt:
Ray Caesar: I don’t as these are valid emotions … I use fear and self doubt in a positive and creative way ..it’s not so much the conquering of a thing ( that’s a patriarchal practice ) but understanding that my feelings can create a choice of actions and that’s what I absolutely love about emotions …they give us choice. If I am afraid of something I acknowledge it and calmly look at my choices and use the negative energy in a creative positive way that creates a positive result. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear or the control of it, but understanding you have a choice of calm contemplative action despite the fear. I think a wonderful thing to learn is that fear can actually create calm when you realise it’s a way for the subconscious to communicate to the conscious mind that makes action. I think of all emotions like a unformed energy that can be modified like a lump of sculptural clay into form …it’s only when we take action and that clay is cast that we will know the result. If I doubt myself that means I need to examine why I am doubting myself and sometimes that doubt is a very useful justified thing and sometimes it is an illusion. I don’t just try and be creative with Art ..I try and be creative with life.
What are you thoughts about the blockchain technology specially in support of digital art? Would you consider using blockchain technology platform to reach global art enthusiasts? What are the problems in the Art Market do you want these platforms to solve?
Ray Caesar: One of the reasons Belinda Chun and I developed a different method of working with galleries is that I had so many problems being paid by previous galleries that sold my work. I have had many problems of my work on consignment not being returned. We now only partner with good trustworthy galleries that work fairly with artists and in doing so we make sure we work fairly with them. Blockchain holds a promise of improving that situation by giving greater clarity of any sale and transfer of work in any gallery in the world and letting everyone involved know when and where it happened. I am also interested in the potential for providence in terms of a digital form of certificate of authenticity that can make providence absolute and travel from collector to collector. Blockchain is sort of like a digital Antiques Roadshow that carries the history of each item along with it and that history becomes part of the fabric of the art itself and can ultimately even increase the value or story of that particular object. As a print maker of a unregulated commodity each piece of an edition is very much like printing currency and in doing so one faces the problems any currency faces. Many years ago I was surprised I had absolutely no control over the price of my work …it developed a price based on demand or more accurately, someone’s guess or gamble of its demand. If I held the price down on my work, dealers bought it all and sold it for a higher price. I learned how market creates the price and value of a limited unregulated edition whether it is a stamp, a dollar bill or a piece of art.
What super power you would like to have ? and why?
Ray Caesar: The ability to become consciously aware of subconscious aspects of my own reality and move towards a greater awareness of not just my own existence but a greater awareness of our species and the multi dimensional universe we live in … it’s a super power I am currently learning to cope with and not like trying to cope with X-ray vision or with the difficulty of wearing a spandex mask and tights and high heels and a troublesome cape that tends to get caught in revolving doors.
Which movie you would have liked to be the leading actor:
Ray Caesar: From childhood I always wanted to be Emma Peel in the old British Avengers TV spy series…I loved her outfits and how she finished each show drinking champagne. She laughed at fear and always took humorous control and action in any difficult situation. She was a spy and secret agent, a lover and a sculptor and was probably one of the first strong independent female characters on television. I have modelled myself on Emma Peel since I first saw her as a child in the 1960s….it’s a bit tricky to get into a leather outfit now and zip it all up but I suppose Diana Rigg has the same problem…. I also think that she was the basis for M in the recent James Bond films …in fact in She was even referred to as Emma and Bond himself almost gave it away when he said he was mistaken when he thought M was a random letter.
What is your life motto?
Ray Caesar:: Pick yourself up ..dust yourself off ..and try again….keep in mind the only way out is through and leave by the same door you came in….also Fibre is good but too much Fibre isn’t so good.
Natalie Shau is a mix media artist and a photographer from Vilnius, Lithuania. Influenced by religious imagery, fairytales illustrations and eclectic art world, she taps into the myths, dreams and steers the play of thought to where there is no rational boundary. She explores the complexities of human emotions, by suggesting vulnerability and strength of her surreal and extraordinary creatures. Natalie renders fantasy and reality themes provocatively and elegantly. Besides her personal artistic projects, she rigorously creates artwork for musicians, theatre, fashion magazines, writers and advertisement campaigns.
To learn about her and her vision, I had the opportunity to ask her few questions:
What inner force inspires you to create?
Inspiration is usually the beauty of nature and art (any kind, literature, painting, photography, cinema).
What about motivation, what is the outside force that compels you to create?
Motivation for me is when people like what I create and support my artwork.
Do you aspire to drive public awareness on current social or political issues when you are creating a work of art?
Some social issues sometimes, but political absolutely not. Everything nowadays is extremely polarized. And you are running a risk to get into a lot of trouble if you were to express your opinion, freely. I am certain many people prefer not to talk about what they really think nowadays. Specially when you are a public person.
What is your dream project?
I would be very interested in creating a movie & a crazy photography set based on some dark fairytale.
And, do you have a particular designer / brand / production that you would like to be involved in their’s marketing campaign?
Well maybe Gucci? That would be nice.
Do you have creative patterns, routines or rituals?
Yes, I usually work at night. Daytime I just can’t concentrate.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
Listen to your inner true self.
What does women empowerment mean to you?
Don’t be a victim and fight for your goals.
What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist?
Just a lot of work, people develop styles only by creating and working.
What do you do to conquer fear or self doubt:
In such circumstances, I always think that I have so much while many others don’t even have basic things. So I must not complain.
What are you thoughts about the blockchain technology specially in support of digital art?
Well, I have not yet looked deep at it, yet, however, I am very very happy that there will be more possibilities for artists.
Would you consider using blockchain technology platform to reach global art enthusiasts?
What are the problems in the Art Market that you would like these platforms to solve?
Well the biggest problem nowadays for independent artists is of course how to fund themselves and have the possibility to acquire new materials for their art projects.
What super power would you have liked to have ? and why?
Being able not to sleep. So I could create more and visit many places.
Which movie would you have liked to be the leading actor?
La Reine Margot
What is your life motto?
Stay true to yourself.
Natalie Shau has collaborated with many brands, please refer to her website: https://natalieshau.carbonmade.com/about
In today’s culture, we are inspired or entertained digitally, we are all digitally connected and we narrate our life stories with digital images. So what is digital art? Connecting the dots, science and art have been blended to improve, stimulate or influence our lives for better and at times wickedly. Technology has phenomenally enabled artists to express their imagination with computers rendering ultimate realism to alluring fantasy.
Yet, the anxiety of copyright and monetizing lingers in the digital sphere! Being fairly compensated for a work of art and the happy hunting ground for all and sundry are liberally ideal! Once again, technology is the positive force that reinforces this concept. The blockchain technology provides the artist a favourable platform to protect and be awarded deservedly not to mention conveniently and gives transparency to the opacity of the art world.
Whether the digital and the new media genres are in our computers or part of our living or working space, it is significantly expressive of our culture, social observations or just feel-good indulgence. At the same time, the fluid creativity that appears in digital work and new media from pointing out the inequalities, oppressions, fighting for justice, questioning mindless behaviours or beliefs to inspire and improve our ways of life can be viewed, shared and owned prolifically. Being able to own such artwork that moves you, the provenance is clear, and it might go up in value is appealing to many of us.
What’s more, blockchain technology addresses many critical questions for the artists and the whole art world! It transforms the way art is distributed and owned. It tackles the seriousness of censorship by decentralizing. It gives the sufficient power to the artist over the ownership or use of the artwork specially by institutions or groups of people whose ideas oppose the artist. Galleries & museums are our point of contact to the artist but what about the ones that are located in another continent or are not particularly household names? Blockchain technology means significant change in fairer distribution of wealth and having democratic choice in the matrix of our societies.
Few online art projects and sites applying blockchain technology:
Art and culture are credited for our communities wellbeing, education and enlightening our emotional world. Various types of political statements, beliefs or social values have been produced and communicated through Art, Music or Literature by struggling artists and independent content creators of all kinds. Although, the digital revolution has reshaped the Art and Media industries by introducing different ways of production, distribution and enabling reasonably priced promotional campaigns, still the technology has its flaws. For many artists and content creators working with brick-and-mortar institutions, streaming or other social web-based platforms is a gruelling route. Why? simply, because of the unfair treatment by the powerful intermediaries as they offer insignificant royalty fees, commissions or payments.
Ipso-facto, keeping the torch of artistry lit, requires transparency and incentive. So enter blockchain technology. Progression from the age of information to age of value, the blockchain technology serves the two essential elements for support and creation of art. How? Well, the simple idea behind the technology is that information or anything of value such as music, art, money, IP, deeds,… can be securely stored and relocated on a expansive global distributed ledger or database, run on numerous machines. The principle behind blockchain is to fulfill common needs by establishing trust through mass collaboration and clever code.
The transparency factor is about the provenance and the authenticity of the art of all kinds. A well documented provenance confirms that the piece is authentic, not stolen and the history of the ownership.
The application of blockchain technology for verification and ownership of physical art has been employed by number of companies such as Verisart in Los Angeles, Tagsmart in London and Ascribe in Berlin. They provide certificates of authenticity and provenance records.
The concept of ownership and provenance can be used for digital art. Once the art has a story together with the element of scarcity, it becomes collectible and eventually adds financial value. Beatriz Ramos, a Venezuelan artist and CEO of DADA.nyc , has created decentralized digital art marketplace on the blockchain offering the transparency factor along with a social network where artists speak to each other through drawings.
The incentive factor allows the ethical and fair payment to the artist. The common good practiced at the very best as art lovers reach their “high” from the ownership and have fulfilled their moral imperative by supporting the artist fairly and directly. At the same time, the stimulus is significant for the artists to be in charge of their creative work and gain from their magic.
Jen Mann is a Canadian artist who explores how relationships form and develop. She delves into “self “concept, the realization of being a separate entity and how our shared experiences whether in the form of harmony or conflict, condition our ways of life.
Her compositions manifest the prevalent social trends in digital narratives with incredible hues. The unnatural colours that embody her work relate to her storylines and formulate into strong emotions.
She tackles the existential questions by taking a satirical, intellectual and honest approach to our conventional values.
The concept of real or constructed self identity is portrayed in her creations to make us aware of our cultural attitude towards individualism. She is her own muse and captures her identity in different conditions by being conscious of her interrelationships with self, others and her environment.
Digital art is about imaging the reality as you want. It is perpetual, interpretive and reflects the outlook of different cultures. It allows the artist to connect the dots between creativity, perceptions, desires, popular and high cultures. An art that communicates the unsaid and allows you to experience visually other senses.