Art is Existence: An Interview with Robert Bohn, Founder of the Boneheads
We sat down with this prolific artist, animator and creative to chat classic cartoons, the future of art, and what it means to live a life fully committed to the arts.
We all encounter art on a daily basis.
Whether it’s the tablet, phone or PC you’re reading this on, the road signs on the street or the bowl you ate your cereal in this morning, everything you see around you has met the eye of a designer. A creative. Those that shape the world around us.
It takes a real enigma to commit your existence to this cause. From physical items and elaborate sets to top-draw animation in a funky, cartoon-inspired style, our guest today has truly done it all – Robert Bohn.
Facebook Watch. Adult Swim. Sundance. Broadway. Hollywood – Rob’s work has reached all four corners of the earth. Now, he’s on a mission to conquer the digital space too – and the WAX blockchain is his battleground of choice.
Read to the end of the interview for our Robert Bohn Interview Card!
Pssst… there’s three hidden claim links within this article. Happy hunting!
Hydro: Hey! Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into NFTs?
Robert: First, thank you kindly for interviewing me. I’m overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and interest in my work!
I’ve always been an artist. Left home at 18, aimed at NYC. Studied animation at The School of Visual Arts. I have been making animated content since 2000-ish.
For ten years prior to covid I worked full-time in fabrication,building props and sets for Broadway, while making animated shorts and freelance content on the side. In 2018, Facebook Watch produced a 21 episode animated series I co-created called Liverspots and Astronots. It’s about a retirement home in space, with a pretty sick cast and production team – stellar artists all around.
In 2020, I had the opportunity to go to Sundance with an animated film I helped produce called Eli. Over a long, crazy weekend and a hungover, groggy car ride to the airport, our crew developed the SWAMS character, and when I got home, I developed the character into a 3 minute short and was lucky enough to get it featured on Adult Swim. They later commissioned two more episodes – Episode 3 is scheduled to premiere this month.
My process is fluid and one thing is always overlapping another – it’s a constant motion. In between Sundance and SWAMS, I’ve been developing two other animated series – one called Pine High and another called Endo and The Shadow of Man.
During research and development on Endo I discovered the language of crypto and started using it in its development. The deeper I dug, the more it unravelled and enlightened me, let’s say. As Broadway shut down and I found myself home-schooling my three kids, I jumped into the crypto/NFT world 100%. It was easy to convert my digital art and animation into NFTs and it became a way to experiment and evolve some of my ideas, both old and new.
That’s sort of it in a nutshell – there are a lot of layers, folds and wrinkles in all that info!
What got you into art in the first place?
This is a question that’s asked a lot. There’s no answer other than I was born this way. It wasn’t a career choice or a dream job, it wasn’t some shot-in-the-dark college move – art is existence for me.
It’s not a choice. I don’t get to shut the observing brain off, or tune out the sounds, rhythms, and vibrations around me. The colours don’t go away, the thoughts are always moving. I’m constantly cataloguing and deconstructing forms and enjoying the beauty all around us. This is no choice – this is ART baby!
There is no rest, no vacation. I don’t remember a time without these practices, processes and procedures.
I feel you! Has there ever been a time when your penchant for art has waned? If so, what helped to rekindle that fiery spirit?
Not gonna lie, I had to look up the word penchant!
There are definitely moments of depression and dark holes – it’s a fluctuation. Waves, peaks – “making it” as an artist is a battle I have often. It’s a battle with the ego really. There’s this ideal world I construct in my head and sometimes the path crumbles or it’s the wrong direction to go in, sometimes not even reasonable or obtainable. I get frustrated, exhausted and I’ll crumble.
I’ll often put certain pieces or ideas on a pedestal, thinking they’re masterful works, when in reality, they’re duds. At times, I get so wrapped up in this ideal – an illusion I’ve created. It’s humbling to fall, but I sink into a dark place because of it. The energy gets used up, the lights go dim – I lose that connection as a conductor of that energy. My self-worth is diminished.
At that point, I’ll pack up all of my projects and “bury” them for a while. This is when I garden, read a lot, work on my house, trying anything to distract myself. I quietly observe the world, taking notes and removing myself from my work.
Eventually, I return with a clear and levelled head and assess everything again. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to destroy the art if it represents the wrong head space. Discoveries are often made in this way – about myself, about my work, about the world around me – and this puts some fuel in the tank and redirects me.
I require an ego check to refocus on the fact that it’s the art that makes me happy, and the process is what I live for. The product doesn’t matter as much – how it’s received doesn’t matter too much either, I am glad people enjoy it and are receptive – but talking about the process, my tools, and sharing my experiences of creating the art is what’s most important to me.
The journey can often be fruitless and straining on my family life as I get fully submerged in my work. To be honest, it often feels selfish to be an artist. I disappear into my own world, pushing myself to crazy extremes. It’s difficult to balance being a father in one room and an artist on the verge of a creative breakthrough in another room.
Luckily, I have a lot of love and support from my wife and children, and they encourage me to do what I love. This sparks my soul the most, helping me to keep going, and picking me up when I’m down. As long as I can keep it balanced in some form, I can justify my art mania!
Perhaps this is all a bit too much. It’s definitely more than I would normally share, but I feel a need to communicate some truths about myself and my work.
You recently hit the halfway point of your Boneheads collection. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
My work is all character driven, and inspired by the greats; Looney Tunes, early Nickelodeon, MTV, 80s/90s content, et cetera. I always start my concepts with characters, and from there stories and environments just evolve.
Over the years I’ve gathered a lot of material – some fit for larger ideas, but some just existing without a home. So, I draw inspiration from these reservoirs, these collections of symbols, concepts, processes, styles etc. and adapt them for the NFTs space.
Most of the market is focused on generative characters at the moment – they’re different, but they’re all the same. I get it, it’s just not for me.
My twist on that idea is 100 totally unique characters; unique motions, animations and art each time. I like a lot of colour, electricity, visual vibrations – it’s an assault on the senses, which is how I remember cartoons from the 80s/90s. I’M BRINGING IT BACK!
Also, I’ve learned to keep the mints low. If I can afford to buy them back, I burn what I can to keep the quantity scarce and the value high for collectors.
You’ve mentioned a few of your inspirations. Are there any particular personalities that have informed your development? Who do you look to now for inspiration?
There are certainly guides, teachers, gurus, spirits – many people who have taught me a lot about using the technology to my advantage. They’ve taught me about building a positive community; I still gather information regularly as I navigate through the space every day. It’s so new and fresh. I think the art is shaped through the experience. It seems like everything is changing daily – you definitely have to be aware and adaptable to stay relevant.
As far as my art goes, I look outside the NFT space at traditional works and artists – seeking ideas that can be adapted to fit into this new arena. This is where I find the most inspiration.
How did you come across WAX?
Bosak led me to WAX. I emailed him and he converted me from OpenSea to AtomicHub. When I arrived on WAX, I was adopted by many great teachers and supportive communities. Although there was a long period afterwards where we didn’t talk, myself and Bosak eventually communicated again and ended up collaborating.
What made you jump from OpenSea to WAX? Was there a particular facet of the WAX community that made you switch?
Initially, the only person I knew in NFTs had been listing music on OpenSea, and he suggested I mint some stuff on there. I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it, I just sort of stumbled along, and it felt like I was losing a lot of money and time. I was trying to find anyone who was mildly interested in buying my work but had no idea about social media and marketing at all.
I randomly emailed a bunch of people. Bosak responded positively to my work and I decided to try WAX. Again, at first, I had no idea what I was doing and was minting the same thing on both blockchains. I had no idea that was frowned upon – it was pretty sloppy. Eventually, I learned and delisted all of my ETH work to focus on WAX – it was much easier and way less stressful. I started by dropping $50 into my wallet, and eventually I was actually earning something.
The moment I was directed to Telegram and all the various WAX communities was a huge change for me, and it opened me up socially to talk about myself and my work.
I spent, and am still spending, a lot of time building on WAX and exploring. I’m still having tons of fun experimenting, but I eventually learned that I had to expand in order to reach more people with my art.
I’m now building on OpenSea again alongside WAX, and with a little more practice and knowledge I have been able to share work in both places successfully. I have a LOT of ideas and experiences to share, and an insane drive to be creating something new every day.
There’s been an explosive rise in artists exploring the NFT space. What have NFTs brought you so far, and how do you think NFTs will impact artists in future?
Artists in the WAX space are super generous – the low/no fees certainly helps – and its super fun to share your work with everyone and get the odd surprise in your wallet. This really helps to build the community.
There are so many different personalities in the space – it’s so diverse, with people communicating from all around the world. I truly think that WAX features some of the best of the best. I think the majority of consistent artists here are taking a chance on a long-term vision. These artists are forming the culture of the future – yes, some are making a lot of money too – but I see a lot of people supporting each other also. Everyone moves together.
When I think of future artists, I think of my kids, my nephews, my niece – the next generations. I like to think the moves we are making now will help impact their worlds – the influences we pass along, the traditions, the cultures, the stories we’re telling. I think these things are lost in modern times, but can transcend through art. I would hope these artefacts will be available and formative for future artists, builders and visionaries.
It’s terrifying to think about what the world might look like in the future. Art might not be able to save it, but art has the ability to retain its beauty, even if the world goes to shit.
Do you think NFTs are helping us to reconnect with art and emotion in our daily lives? What effect do you see this having further down the line?
Hmmmm… we spend a LOT of time in front of screens entertaining ourselves – art has been there all along. I don’t think we ever lost our connection with art or emotion.
NFTs are the next form of art on the newest wave of tech. They are part of the new art experience – the new galleries and museums. I believe this will be the new normal. In time, we will exist simultaneously in both a physical space and a digital space, with VR or AR perhaps, as we transition to spending more time in digital spaces.
This past year has proved that, logistically, for most people, they can work from home, leaning on deliveries and shopping online. Yes, we are naturally social beings, but we don’t need to physically exist in a building together to interact or experience something real. NFTs, or an evolution of them, will occupy all of these new digital spaces with us no doubt.
What’s your favourite NFT that you’ve designed so far, and what’s your favourite piece of non-NFT art that you’ve made?
My favourite pieces that I’ve designed are the Lupe and Bosak collabs. I pushed those as far as I could – an example of what is possible in the space. I hope people get inspired by them and push their own work further.
In my Boneheads collection, I like most of them – a couple I cringe at haha – but a couple I kinda wanna explore a little further. Once I start to incorporate animation into them, they evolve, and I can see worlds building up around them.
As for non-NFT art, I enjoy making animated shorts. SWAMS has been one of my favourite focuses this past year. I love the character – he truly feels alive to me, and it’s fun to explore his world.
I also have a couple large paintings in my basement I enjoy very much, and through fabricating for Broadway, I have several favourite builds; automated metal stages, Guitars for Waitress, trees, houses, giant animals, cars, jeeps, army trucks, desks for School of Rock, artillery & weapon caches for Book of Mormon etc. – all super cool stuff I’m proud to have been a part of, and some of the best physical work I’ve created for sure.
What about your favourite NFT from another artist, and favourite non-NFT work of art?
In no particular order; I like the early Da Prankster works, love the CryptoFlash pieces and his release process, Lupe’s Dust Miner is very good, Virtual Dream has some real beauties – it’s impossible for me to pinpoint just one as my favourite!
Favourite non-NFT work, it’s just as hard to pick. Works by Andrew Wyeth, Philip Guston, Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein, Kubrick, Holy Mountain, Chuck Jones – that’s as far as I can narrow it down. Going to the MET or Smithsonian or something, I’ll get sucked into most works. I worked at a bookstore in NYC right out of college, in the art & photography department. I absorbed and learned to appreciate a little bit of everything.
What hopes do you have for the future of your art, both on and off the blockchain?
I’m working hard to get another animated show together, something on a major platform, with a dedicated team. I always wanted to make Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead etc. as a kid, and I still want to do that I guess.
As for on chain, alongside Boneheads, I’m slowly constructing pieces of art & characters on ETH that will be part of the Endo series I have been developing. I’m working towards selling the parts, props, characters and concepts as a way to fund the production of pilot episodes or a feature film.
Anything you’d like to add?
Nothing to add – this is a lot of gobbledygook from a pickled brain. Thank you to anyone who has made it this far!
It’s quick-fire time!
Favourite cartoon series, and favourite episode?
Looney Tunes up to late 60s…? Impossible to pick a favourite episode, but Bugs and Daffy are definitely my favourite characters – and the greatest ever created in my opinion.
One unusual fact about you?
My favourite game is one I invented with my brother-in-law – Extreme Bocci. It’s like mini-golf mixed with curling – very fun, but very serious and accurate.
No limits or boundaries, the road or the neighbour’s roof is fair play. There are slap fights, bonus rounds, trick shots, and general bocci fuel mayhem. We’ve been playing for 10 or more years. There’s a trophy, a cowbell of shame, and a 40+ bullet rule board. We play in all seasons, all weather, day and night.
You can invite three characters, real or fictional, to dinner. Who do you choose and why?
Imagine sitting with Farley, Sandler, and Spade, eating fondue or something. That trio has made me laugh the most in my life. It would be weird to put 3 random heroes’ together at a table; it would require real effort to communicate naturally, but I know Farley, Sandler, and Spade would be like sitting at the kids table.
If you could give one piece of life advice, what would it be?
I think about this a lot, more so wondering what my elders would tell me.
Don’t waste time – it’s limited. Hang on and appreciate the people and things you love. Be present with them. Your time is up before you know it.
What is your purpose in life?
There is no purpose – we just live. We are no more important than the plants or bugs. I know I can nurture, I can love, teach, guide, learn, sacrifice, cultivate, I can create and share – this makes the tough times more bearable. For me, and for others, that is the job of the artist.
How can we follow you and your work?
From all of the interviews we’ve done so far, I don’t believe I’ve spoken to someone as dedicated to their craft as Rob. Every bone in his body is committed towards living a life in service to, and in aim of, art – and we all benefit from the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
I see a lot of myself in Rob – that similar level of energy, drive and motivation that envelopes anyone consumed by their passion. I cannot wait to see what Rob can bring in the second half of his Boneheads collection, where his future lies in the NFT space, and where his next off-chain project will take us!
To celebrate this interview, we have our Robert Bohn Interview Card, dropping this Saturday at 22 UTC!