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In Conversation with Mauricio Yauri

BY STEPHANIE RHEINGOLD Original version of interview can be found on OpenSea Blog page ->

Mauricio Yauri is an artist from Cuenca, Ecuador. His journey into the art world began in childhood, inspired by a friend's unique drawing style. This sparked his lifelong passion for art, revealing a natural talent for drawing that led him to a Fine Arts school. There, Yauri dabbled in oil and acrylics, but it was just the beginning of his artistic exploration. University took Yauri into the realms of graphic design and closer to his roots, where he ventured into what he describes as his "true strengths," digital animation and illustration.

Despite a self-described "brief existential crisis and a detour through various jobs," Yauri's passion remained unfulfilled until the meteoric rise in popularity of NFTs in 2021. His excitement was originally ignited by Beeple's viral success. This revelation pushed him to experiment with blindfolded drawing, which led to a breakthrough in authentic creation.

Per Yauri, "My unique artworks found a home in the NFT world, leading to two collections, Grotesque Heads, and now Grotesque Heads Vol. 2, [which is currently minting on OpenSea.] My journey, from a curious child to a digital artist embracing the NFT wave, reflects a relentless pursuit of authentic expression."

OpenSea: Can you tell us how you got into web3 and started creating NFT art? 

Mauricio Yauri: It all started in 2021 when Beeple, the artist who uploaded an image with 5,000 pieces of art, went viral. Seeing the news, I wanted to learn what NFTs were. At that time, I was creating digital art, proposing projects to companies, and trying to take advantage of everything I had created, but nothing was working. So, I tried out NFTs, uploading my artwork to OpenSea, but the cost was prohibitive due to the fees. I looked for free platforms, but nothing came of it, so I set it aside until I understood a bit more about this technology and dedicated myself to continue exploring what I could create. 

I made “grotesque artwork” as an experiment since I had some really good ideas. One day, NFA Space appeared with their proposal for a 10k collection. I sent in my art without knowing what would happen, but now I realize it was the best step I've taken. Trusting in NFA Space has made me have more confidence in NFTs, and now I see results for what I have been working towards and learning more about in that area.

OpenSea: "Grotesque Heads" seems to explore surrealism and abstraction. What inspired you to delve into this particular theme for your NFT drop?

Mauricio Yauri: My Grotesque artworks weren't created with NFTs in mind. They emerged from the question, “What can I create that contributes to the art world and sets me apart from other visual artists?” That's how I hit upon the idea of not looking at the process of the artworks until they were finished. The grotesque result is a matter of how much I remember and where my hand goes as it intuitively traces the lines. Add to that the demons in my head that attack me at that exact moment and don't let me concentrate clearly, haha. I never thought about how it would turn out or what the result would be — I just did it, and that was the outcome. I clearly emphasize the abstraction of the strokes; it's a style that simply happened. 

NFA Space appeared at just the right time since I saw a path to the same destination I wanted at the beginning, but this time through them. I trusted their proposal and sent in my work. Now I'm educating myself in this field because I see a lot of potential looking towards future generations.

OpenSea: Could you walk us through your artistic process in creating these pieces? How do you conceptualize and execute each piece?

Mauricio Yauri: It all began with curiosity. I didn't know I could do it until I did. Crafting these artworks is a challenge; each one is different and, most times, I get it right on the first try. My initial artworks were experiments — I wanted to see what result I would get if I didn't watch the process, so I did it blindfolded, only revealing the final piece no matter how long it took. 

When I created my first piece, a caramel apple, I simply held a caramel apple in my hands before eating it, admiring it as if I were in love, taking in all its colors, the intensity of the hues, the shape and details of the apple. I maintain that process throughout, including with characters.

Another essential step is remembering the position of the pastels I will use, each separated by layers and colors. With my materials ready and a clear image in my mind, I cover my eyes (now I cover my whole head) and let the game begin. With faces, the skin is important at the start. I use base colors, blend them, then add shadows, followed by lights, and finally, I outline the definitive line in black, which gives the final shape to the character. With each face I create, I gain more experience, so my skill improves. Now I use both hands and try to highlight the distinctive features of the character, and the color system for each face remains consistent from start to finish.

This process is a play of emotions and demons in my head. The final result is fascinating because it has something that attracts me — the incredible sensation of seeing something created without seeing where the colors and strokes fall. I relate this to Basquiat's art because I like his primitive strokes.

OpenSea: How do you navigate experimentation while maintaining a cohesive artistic identity?

Mauricio Yauri: Everything lies in the process. In the beginning, working blind, I aimed to capture as close a likeness on the cardstock as possible, gradually correcting errors such as color handling. Now, I begin with the base colors of each object, fruit, or face, and ultimately, the black color gives form to the character. The outcome of this technique is also linked to my inner process, which influences my work. When I can't see anything, my mind fragments; my hands continue to work, but a part of my mind recalls memories, good or bad, ideas come to me, I feel emotions, sometimes forgetting the color I hold, but importantly, I've learned to manage this, correcting my course. The whole process is a journey to an unknown result, and when the journey ends, I can only laugh at the outcome — a grotesque face resembling someone.

OpenSea: Your Twitter feed often shows behind-the-scenes glimpses of your creative process. How do you use social media platforms to engage with your audience and share your journey as an NFT artist?

Mauricio Yauri: When I started using TikTok to document my processes, I realized its expansive reach. Most of my blindfolded artworks are there. I'm leveraging Twitter more effectively for NFTs, while I use Instagram to share my digital art or works in progress. I'm someone who enjoys experimenting with colors, shapes, themes, and contexts — you have to dare to try everything. Now, spreading the word about this technology through my networks would be delightful, sharing this knowledge and experiences. They can reach more artists who could leverage these trends.

OpenSea: As the NFT landscape evolves, what do you see as the most significant challenges and opportunities for artists like yourself? How do you adapt to these changes?

Mauricio Yauri: Ever since I saw the rise of CryptoPunks, Beeple, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and the boom that followed, I envisioned numerous possibilities. The challenge, I believe, is not in doing it, but in failing to dive in, to adapt and embrace new technologies with an eye on the future. 

I always thought it could be an opportunity for other future collections and better proposals that aren't just digital art but also involve adapting with genuine physical works. I love this way of trading art; now that I have seen results thanks to NFA Space, I can say that trying and reaching out to like-minded people can bring significant benefits. Come on! You can reach vast markets, and many emerging artists of different nationalities can make a name for themselves and succeed. Lastly, it's about learning more about this technology and everything related to NFTs.

OpenSea: Can you provide insight into your upcoming collection or projects? What themes or concepts are you exploring, and how do they differ from your previous work?

Mauricio Yauri: Currently, I am capitalizing on Grotesque Faces, striving to enhance my blindfolded art-making skills and produce as many as possible. Likewise, I aim to capture everything my eyes can see, my mind can remember, and my imagination can conjure up, experimenting with different formats and materials — there's still so much to explore. A theme that excites me is the interactive three-dimensional digital world. It's a fascinating field I'm delving into, sketching, and seeking to stand out, so when I launch them, they offer an unparalleled experience.

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