Behind the JPEG: PRguitarman
The Nyan Cat began as a fun profile picture, soon ascending to a historical and viral internet sensation, but how?
Harking back to the year 2011, you can probably recall a great number of memes that were important to you or that you remember. Within this catalogue of memes, it is likely that you will mention the Nyan cat. Since the GIF surfaced on youtube, the flying rainbow pop tart cat has become the epitome of cartoon memes. It has been viewed and shared hundreds of millions of times and has seen derivatives, cameos, and mentions across some of the most influential pages, shows, and websites. The mastermind behind the Nyan Cat is Chris Torres, and in this article, we will find out a little more about his background and story!
Shall we address the elephant in the room? Back in February Chris sold his Nyan Cat on Foundation for 300 ETH. Foundation is a marketplace on the blockchain where creators can list their work. As of today, this figure is closer to a million dollars. For anyone outside of the NFT space, this would seem ludacris, possibly angering. So, let me explain why it is valued so highly and what NFTs are all about. Digital artwork is traceable for a start, ownership is verified so that you know exactly who had it last and where it came from- forever. You can also be sure that the artwork is valid, and authentic, something that may be difficult to determine as with physical artwork. NFTs are not just assets or tokens, they are contributory to a growing culture and world. Fans have the chance to directly support their favourite artists, and this synergy is one of the primary reasons as to why NFTs have been propelled to the heights that they now maintain.
For Chris, NFTs have provided him with a platform to profit off his work, that priorly, he distributed at no cost. With the pandemic hitting hard for many, Chris was furloughed, and later made unemployed. But since his introduction to the NFT community, his life has changed. He has been able to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time artist, again highlighting the significance of NFTs and their ability to change lives. With over 25,000 Twitter followers, Chris is still as creative as he was in 2011, displaying his love for cats online and continuing the legacy of the Nyan Cat meme. He is currently selling variations of the Nyan Cat in an iconic, hand-drawn collection found on both Open Sea and Rarible, enabling long-time supporters the chance to cross paths with a piece of internet history. With secondary sales reaching 1ETH, there is still a huge demand for his legendary animations and there are no signs that this will slow down any time soon! Chris opened up the meme economy back in February with his groundbreaking auction, and since then many successful NFT memes have followed, but do they trump the Nyan cat? Probably not!
Below Chris answered a few of my questions about his career, his famous auction, and his plans for the future. Tune in folks, you don’t want to miss out on this exclusive interview with the Nyan Cat creator himself!
Before designing as an artist, what was your background and experience?
I’ve actually been doing art for 20 years now, so before all that I was just a teenager haha. However, I’ve been an experienced IT technician, have worked at a terrible hotel where all sorts of crimes occurred and even a restaurant host. All through it all I’ve had art on my mind and I’d spend all my free time drawing little doodles on everything.
Since starting as an artist, can you sum up your journey since then?
It’s been a long voyage for sure. There have been highs and lows, but I feel the experiences in my life have only made me wiser to the world and only given me more creativity. For most of the journey I’ve focused on helping my family as much as I can, even when money was scarce. I will say that before joining the world of crypto and NFTs things were a little tough. Covid had just started and my employer at the time had to close their doors, meaning I was furloughed and living on unemployment. I feel like I’ve been blessed since then, and now things have changed for the better and am now in a position where I can help others again, too.
Can you describe your inspiration behind the Nyan cat, when did the idea first strike you and when did the design first receive recognition?
The original idea behind Nyan Cat was always with my cat named Marty. He was a beautiful Russian Blue with steel/green eyes and was totally spoiled. Unfortunately, he crossed the rainbow bridge in 2012 but I’d like to think his spirit lives on in my art.
The night I came up with the initial design was back in late March during a charity doodle drive I was hosting for the American Red Cross. People in the chat room suggested “cat”, “rainbows” and “breakfast pastry” so I randomly threw all the designs together and based the colors off Marty. It was a simple doodle and honestly I didn’t think much about it, until that night when I decided to give it a try as an animated pixelated GIF.
Once I had finished the gif I posted it on Twitter and went to sleep only to wake up a few hours later with dozens of emails inquiring about my artwork. During the day more emails poured in. After a week the emails just kept coming in faster and that’s when I knew there was something special going on.
Where did your love for cats stem from, can you tell us about your cats at home?
I’ve always been a big cat lover at heart. I lived with a guy that had 2 cats for a while and they were just the sweetest things, so eventually I got one of my own (Marty)! I eventually adopted a second cat named Shorty, a beautiful Maine Coon who is still with me today and also a very spoiled baby. 2 weeks ago I actually adopted 2 more cats, a brother and sister, after a long dispute with the company handling them because they were threatening to split them up to two different adopters. They don’t have official names yet but the two are just inseparable and it makes me happy knowing they’ll always be together.
What were your thoughts, feelings, and emotions during the Nyan cat auction that sold for 300eth on foundation?
Absolutely wild! I knew Nyan Cat was big but didn’t know how highly revered it is in the Crypto/NFT world. I actually took the original GIF and completely remastered it/fixed existing errors from the original before listing it. That winning bid was actually a life-changing moment for me that I’ll probably never forget. It inspired me to become more creative with my art and it’s helped me reach my dreams of being a full-time artist.
Tell us, how did the Snoop dog x NYAN cat collaboration materialise!
I still can’t believe Snoop wanted to work with me! It was actually a really cool experience. I can’t reveal many details but it was a pleasure working with Snoop and team. My friends still can’t believe I collabborated directly with Snoop Dogg himself. It’s something I’d never thought was possible before until now.
The NYAN cat collection has traded over 600 ETH on open sea, did you ever expect your design to become such a viral meme hit!
It’s funny, when I first started the Nyan Cat Collection there was a little uncertainty on its future. It was a new collection and only had a few limited pieces. However, I’ve learned SO MUCH since starting and feel my works have only gotten better over time. I’m excited to bring more very slowly throughout the year to keep a balance of rarity and fine art.
I hope collectors of the pieces see the hard work put into each piece, as I work hard to make sure each one is as unique as possible. I was actually advised to make my two lastest drops into 1/1s, the Vaporwave Nyan Cat and Biker Nyan Cat because of the quality of work that was put into them. I ultimately decided on an editions piece, and both of them sold out seconds after going live.
Do you have further plans for your page LOL COMICS, could we expect to see cartoons or comic books on the shelves in the future?
LOL COMICS has always been kind of a hidden gem of sorts. At its core, the comics are a way for me to vent about things happening in my life. It’s a therapeutic process creating each comic, and to be honest the timing is all over the place. I once went years before making a new LOL Comics. Sometimes I’ll make one a day. It really is all over the place. However, it’s awesome knowing that there are people still reading my comics today that have been here since their debut 20 years ago.
I’ve been toying around with the idea of releasing some of my top LOL Comics in 1/1 form in their own special collection but I want to focus on the Nyan Cat collection for now.
Are you working on anything behind the scenes that you could reveal?
I unfortunately do not like to reveal things until they’re 100% confirmed, but will say I’m discussing a very large collaboration that’ll not only include an NFT, but hopefully inclusion into the metaverse in a variety of ways. It’s exciting working on something completely new like this and I’m dedicated on making sure everything is up to official Nyan Cat standards.
What are you plans for the future, will we see more of the Nyan cats and are you working on any other artwork?
Aside from the collab above I have plans on creating special Nyan Cats based on seasons and themed holidays throughout the year. Timing for my drops is maybe every 2-3 weeks which keeps things rare and rewards early adopters very quickly over time. I’m also discussing metaverse/Decentraland integration and rewards for holders as well. I’m taking it all one step at a time and hope everyone can enjoy and succeed off my artwork when the pieces finally fall into place.
Hey, you made it to the end, good to see you again old friend! You're learning a lot from these articles I can tell! If you have any suggestions for future interviews, please do let me know over on Twitter. Let the community decide! See you shortly folks, and don’t forget to subscribe!