If the rest of the year is going to be anything like the past month for NFTs, we’re in for a wild ride! It seems that NFTs are more popular than ever. With the lines about our physical and digital lives blurring more each day, it becomes harder and harder to see the difference.
You can clearly see this in the works of modern 3D artists like Cake One. She makes stunning 3D creations that are hyper-realistic and sometimes I’m even convinced it must have been a photograph! Nothing is further from the truth though, as she creates all of her works in software programs like Daz3D.
The evolution of this type of art is growing rapidly in front of our eyes to see. Within a few years we really won’t be able to tell the difference anymore. I’m really excited, and possibly a bit scared, to see where this technology will lead us.
I’m sure artists like Cake One will will make this experience a positive one by creating many more beautiful works for us to admire. Let’s travel together into the world of hyperrealism, 3D NFT style!
Rei: Hi Cécile! What’s the origin of your artist name Cake One?
Cake One: Hi Rei. Thanks for having me. My name is Cécile and when I was young my brother used to say it as if it was a hard C, transforming it into “Kekile” or “Kek”. At the time I was a teenager and the perfume I wore back then was Calvin Klein, CK one. I mixed the two and it became Cake One.
Rei: Can you give us a little background about yourself and where you are from?
Cake One: I was raised in Paris’s western suburbia, near Versailles. When I was in high school, I could just walk 5 minutes and go to the Palace gardens for lunch everyday and it was awesome. After I graduated, I went to an Art school in Paris, L’academie Charpentier, near Montparnasse for 3 years.
There, I learned Art History, Communication art editing, typography, painting, photography, etc. I worked a bit at a communication agency and found a job pretty quickly in a magazine where I would do layouts and illustrations. French press has been in a bad state for some time with groups buying other groups and then being eaten by other groups meaning the number of magazines and publishers was becoming lower and lower.
In 2002, my publisher was bought by another one and I lost my job after they shut down the magazine I was working with, and it became almost impossible to find something similar. I decided to become freelance, doing logos, illustration and visual identities.
I was already doing some 3D pieces as a hobby, creating images, and selling some 3D assets I was making, and a Swiss company who was doing serious game e-learning came to me asking for 3D scenes. They were creating a website dedicated to fresh immigrants who didn’t speak the language yet and needed everyday situations depicted visually. For 3 years, I did dozens of 3D scenes everyday, using mostly assets from the Daz Store.
Rei: Besides being an artist, name a few things that would define you as a person!
Cake One: This one is tricky because I don’t like labels. It think labels are extremely restrictive. I mean I hardly consider myself as an artist. I do use that word because it helps people understand what I do but when you’ve studied masters for years, it’s hard to imagine yourself in the same category as a Leonardo Da Vinci, a Carravagio or a Andy Warhol.
The fun part is, at their time, they were not considered or labeled as artists in the sense we give it today, they were craftsmen. Artisans. Skilled workmen. I am a woman, a mother, a partner, a dreamer, a utopist, a storyteller, a cook, a cat lover, a problem solver, a virtual photographer, a gamer, I am many things.
Rei: You make beautiful 3D creations nowadays. How did you start with making art and how did it evolve into the style you’re creating now?
Cake One: Thank you. I started by drawing Princess dresses when I was a kid. I have always loved drawing but the truth is, I’m not great at it. When I was in art school, we had live models for sketching, painting and sculpting but the truth is I’m mediocre at best. I remember at the time I had an issue understanding how the light can shape a form, a model.
That’s why I started using 3D character software to be able to position a light source and understand how it creates depth on a shape. At the time, the software Poser was brand new and you could use a wooden mannequin as a virtual character, you could pose it and create different light source and study it, like you would study a live model. With technology getting better, those software got better as well, like Daz Studio, and we have now access to extremely realistic 3D characters, not just wooden mannequins like in the old days.
Rei: What inspires you to create your art?
Cake One: I have grown in admiration of the Italian and Dutch masters who had the power to bend the light to their needs and create unbelievable masterpieces. Leonardo da Vinci, El Carravagio, Vermeer to cite only a few.
The way they master the light, the framing, the expression is for me an ultimate goal to reach. On top of that, I’m deeply in love pop culture, I love the ‘in your face’ way that pop culture often uses to reach its goal, should it be in bright colors, simplicity, focus. I try to mix all of that and create something of my own.
Rei: How long do you work on your art every day and how exactly does this process work?
Cake One: You need to know that I’m a lead artist for Daz3D who creates most of the amazing characters I portrait, and the free software I also use. My work for them is to create artworks for their upcoming assets and figures, that will be used everywhere on their store and on social medias, so I basically I do that all day long, from 8am to sometimes 10pm.
The difference is when I work on personal projects, I don’t have directives, I don’t need to showcase this particular product or use this particular asset, I just do what I want and this is liberating.
You see, I work all day with those virtual models and it’s a bit like a fashion photographer who is booked to make some photos for those new Gucci glasses for an ad. So he does just that, the best he can, cause that’s his job. But this model is amazing and he wants to make new pictures, different ones, different style, he wants to tell a different story.
That’s a bit how I feel using all those assets all day long. All I have seen and used will infuse slowly in the back of my head while I work and I will help to develop alternative stories and situations.
Rei: A great art often speaks louder than words. Do you have certain vibes or stories that you consciously want to portray when you make individual art pieces? Or does this maybe happen more unconsciously?
Cake One: I do a lot of portraits. For my work or for my personal projects. I have noticed that most of those portraits are fierce characters and tend to showcase strength and confidence. Could it be because I lack some myself? I’m not a therapist so I can’t answer that for sure but the imposter syndrome is a reality we have to live with.
I almost never depict a damsel in distress, that story doesn’t interest me much. What really interests me is giving a soul to those pixels. A sparkle in their eyes. Eyes are definitely a window to the soul and this is usually one of my main focus in the portraits. Recently, I released a nude collection with the artistic approach being: “What can you show when you can not show the eyes?” Can you still infuse strength, life and emotion without that key ingredient? So I worked on that concept and I’m pretty happy with the result.
There has always been this tradition of delivering art, may it be visual or musical, with its own story already written. I often hear “What’s the story behind this?” and most of the time, I feel like answering: “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?” Sometimes a story is needed to explain something specific, but most of the time, for me, I feel it is not mine to tell. What I want to do is create a canvas where you can unroll your own story, based on what you see, on what your experience is, on your own life and beliefs.
Rei: When did you enter the NFT space yourself and how do you like this journey so far?
Cake One: I entered the NFT space in November 2021, so a couple of months ago. Almost 3 months to be accurate. Cryptocurrencies are very volatile. They can go up and down by 30% in matter of seconds. It is like time is different in this world. A week feels like a whole year so the emotional rollercoasters you would normally get in several months of your life, you have them all in a single day.
I experience all that from the creator point of view. Not the trader one. If I sell a piece, I’ll be on cloud nine because it’s somehow validating. On the other hand, no sale means a total questioning of everything about myself or my work. I believe one has to be very down to earth in a good place mentally otherwise it can be crushing. I have heard many people wanting to quit because it’s emotionally too much for them and they have the feeling they can’t make it.
That’s where support is needed. That’s one thing I really like in the NFT space. I have discovered a lot of artists and their work and I have connected directly to many of them and we support each others as much as we can. It may look like a competition from the outside but we are here for each other, in small communities, and that is a great feeling.
Rei: You’re currently the leading artist for Daz3D’s NFT project Non-Fungible People. Can you tell me how you ended up getting this position and what it’s like to work on a project of this magnitude?
Cake One: NFP is actually what led me to the NFT space. Ty Duperron, who is Tafi/Daz3d COO, was already a pretty good NFT specialist when he asked me to “make a scene”, so I did. I made several, with different lightings and different cameras etc. At first I didn’t know what it was for. It was just a “what if” idea and I was just creating a portrait. With time passing by, this “what if” idea became a full project, with a full team, plenty of utilities and a real inclusive goal to empower women and non-binary people.
From day one I have loved the whole idea and concept and I have loved that unlike a lot of company or projects who just throw words like “inclusivity” to look good, this project had a lot of women and non binary people in their team, that their lead artist was indeed a woman, that we really cared and included people of all colors or shapes or with missing limbs or in wheelchairs. It did mean something to us and we tried our best to show it.
Daz being the leading company in 3D characters, and Tafi having the expertise in avatars, allowed what could have been a simple PFP project to become a real entry to the metaverse by releasing all the 3D assets to owners, with the possibility for them to modify their characters, export it to other apps as unreal engines etc.
Once my part was done (creating the base scene that would be the support to all of the generative 3D art that Ty and the team would later create) I had the opportunity to create manually 16 unique NFTs, in a way that could have never been done generatively. And just to be sure I made them, they are all hand signed.
Rei: What are your goals that you want to achieve in the NFT space?(Or with making art in general)
Cake One: I feel like for years, even 20 years ago in magazines or now, I have worked behind the curtains, with a lot of people knowing my work but no one knew who did it. The NFT space has allowed me to make a name for myself and associate that name with my work. Past, present or future. It has also allowed me to connect with a lot of other artists, and discover new amazing talents, and even make new friends.
Having the possibility of connecting directly to a new audience is also liberating. Having thousands of likes on an image on Instagram flatters your ego but having someone actually invest in your work is another level. May it be a huge collector who spent millions on amazing art gallery and value your work, a trader that thinks you might get big and invest in you in the hope it will get a lot of value, or someone you know from Discord willing to grab a small piece for cheap because they like what you do and want to support you.
I’m currently the only income of my family and it’s harder to create in peace when all you think about all the time is “How am I gonna pay this past due debt, how am I gonna pay for this, or this etc?” The money I have made so far from my NFTs have been used to pay some of the past due debt that was worrying me so much. I have to say I now create more freely and feel currently very inspired.
Rei: Which artists in the NFT space do you look up to the most?
Cake One: There is so many artists out there, that I love and admire, that do NFTs or not that it’s hard for me to pick a few. What I know is that thanks to twitter I have been able to connect to some that not only are great artists, but also are amazing human beings.
CarlCG is someone I knew from Instagram and I have always loved his work because I believe it somehow connects with mine. In this NFT journey, he has been a guide, a friend, and a rock and I’m thankful for that.
ColinsDoodles ᴺᶠᵀ makes amazing digital paintings with a style of his own. I think he’s very talented, totally under the radar, and he’s also a very funny person.
I would also love to do collaborations with others like Cake Nygard, whose unique style and I couldn’t resist in grabbing one of his Caked Apes piece. I do hope we can collaborate on something together one day. Two Cakes for the price of one.
Same goes with SHAKKABLOOD and KidEight.eth whose work and creativity I really love.
Rei: Where do you think the NFT space will go in the next few years?
Cake One: I wish I knew. I have learned so many things in so little time and there is still so many things I need to learn and understand but i do believe it’s here to stay and will transform our lives. I have heard so many times about how it’s stupid and makes no sense, and that token proves nothing etc.
But if you think about it, the land you are standing on belongs to no one. It’s just a bit of earth. Until someone wrote his name on a piece of paper, and we all agreed that yes, thanks to this piece of paper, this land is is. NFTs are no different, it’s a statement, and the fact it reach mostly the digital worlds doesn’t make a difference in that.
Rei: Could you give me a sneak peak of something new you are currently working on?
Cake One: I have been working since November on a pet project. It’s not fully ready yet, and I don’t want to create and handle dozens of collections in the same time so I’d rather focus on what is already released.
For those reasons, I won’t say much about it but I can show you one of the previews I made already, and tell you it should be a small to medium collection that would be hybrid between collectibles and art, and that would heavily play on your love of mystery.
Rei: Lastly, where can people find more about you and your art?