Beeple (aka Mike Winkleman) broke worldwide digital art records when his collage entitled, “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” sold to NFT Buyer Vingnesh Sundaresan aka @Metakovan for $69.9 million on March 11, 2021. The following week, in a down to the wire bidding war, Beeple sold another piece of his artwork, this time to Justin Sun, founder and CEO of the cryptocurrency platform Tron, for $6 million. (By the way, 100% of the profits are being donated to help offset NFT’s carbon footprint.)
Our host, Cirina Catania, has been a Beeple fan for years and was very pleased when he agreed, at NAB 2019, to take a break from his presentations in the Cinema 4D booth to speak with her. They had an interesting and very candid conversation about his life as a creator, family man, and … well… a bit of a rebel behind his prolific Cinema4D art.
For those of you not familiar with the “Everydays,” here’s the scoop. Every single day without fail for the last 14 years, Mike has created new work and uploaded it for the world to see. He’s now behind some of the world’s most admired digital works.
Many of you have been asking to hear the interview again. We are re-posting it here for you.
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For more about our host, filmmaker, tech maven and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.
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In This Episode
- 00:01 – Cirina introduces Beeple (aka Mike Winkleman). Mike broke worldwide digital art records when his collage entitled, “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” sold for $69.9 million on March 11, 2021. The following week, in a down to the wire bidding war, Beeple sold another piece of his artwork for $6 million.
- 02:38 – Mike talks about his first NAB experience and his Everyday Live, where he created art pieces for 3 days.
- 04:30 – Mike shares the workflow process for his art.
- 10:25 – Mike talks about his film, Stuxnet, and the production of that film. He also talks about his upcoming film about money.
- 15:54 – Mike visually explains the images that he was creating in NAB 2019.
- 21:53 – Cirina asks Mike how people can get started in digital arts.
Cirina Catania at NAB 2019. We’re here with the OWC Radio Creative Club and with this amazing artist by the name of Mike Winkelmann, who you probably know as Beeple. I happened on Beeple’s art several years ago on a site called Beeple Crap.
That is correct.
And I thought, “Oh my gosh, this guy’s calling his art crap. And it is some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen.
I appreciate that.
Tell me, what are you doing here at NAB?
I am doing my Everyday live at the Maxon booth for three days. This is the third day. This is the first NAB I’ve been to. It’s been an exhausting couple of days here.
It’s never-ending, right?
It’s a lot to take in.
Absolutely never-ending. Tell people what the Everydays are.
Everydays is just a picture that I do from start to finish, every single day. I’ve been doing it for almost 12 years. They use Cinema 4D as the primary tool that I use to make the pictures each day. That’s the biggest piece of it. It’s a 3D environment that you can light things and animate things, and change the materials. So I set up pictures and try to make a picture every day.
You’ve not been getting much sleep. But you’ve done this now for 12 years non-stop every day, thick or thin, healthy or sick, with your family, traveling, NAB. It’s pretty amazing. I encourage everybody that’s listening in to go to your site, Beeple-Crap.com. And you’ve got your films, art, and VJ loops there. That’s how you got started, right? Doing the loops? Take me way, way back.
No, it mostly got started doing short films. They would be stuff that is not on the computer. And then I started doing that more, and then slowly, I got into more abstract computer-generated art. From there, I started doing the Everydays. That’s when the whole 3D kind of took off for me. I learned a ton more, and then I started using Cinema to make even more complicated stuff or stuff that I obviously couldn’t do before without a 3D package.
Now we’re not standing in front of a computer, so you can’t demonstrate, but can you talk to us about your workflow with your art?
Sure. The workflow is fairly straightforward. I just jump straight into Cinema and start modeling. I use a lot of 3D assets from places like TurboSquid and a bunch of other places. I bring those in and just start moving things around and setting up a scene, blocking out things compositionally, tweaking lighting, values, color, and trying to dial in a composition or something that looks interesting or just not crappy. From there, I’ll take it into Photoshop and do some post-work like color correction, adding atmosphere, replacing skies, things like that. But the majority of it is done in Cinema 4D. That’s the workhorse. It’s rendered in Octane most of the time. So that’s kind of the basic overview of the workflow. I don’t like to sit down and sketch things out. I just like to jump in and start building it.
You were sketching in the early days, right?
I did. The first year of Everydays was drawings. I did drawings for a year and then started doing the Cinema 4D stuff.
Tell me about your VJ loops.
VJ loops are custom pieces of content that anybody can download to use for whatever. So a lot of DJs download them to use in their sets. They’re abstract videos, shapes, colors, and stuff. From there, people started contacting me to do custom work. I have done a bunch of stuff. I just worked on the Super Bowl this last year. It’s been cool to see the opportunities that have been brought from releasing that stuff for free.
Your work was also an inspiration for a designer recently, right? There’s a whole line of clothing that was inspired by your work, isn’t there?
Yeah, they just license some of those Everydays for the spring collection of Louis Vuitton. That was another cool thing to see, something I would never have expected. Super random, but it was cool to see.
Here at NAB, you’re in the booth. Are you actually in the booth while you’re creating these? Are you creating it in front of everybody?
I’m in a booth creating in front of people. There are like 50 people standing there.
Does that bother you?
Surprisingly, it didn’t. Having the people in the audience yell out what I should put in it and what to change stuff like, “Oh, is this better or worse?” And honestly, I have no idea. People in the audience are probably like, “What the hell’s this kid doing?” But I had fun. It seemed good to me.
This is interactive Cinema 4D. That’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if I would have the fortitude to do that. Like, I would want to go, “Would you leave me alone and let me create?”
But that’s the thing, and I think that not taking it too seriously is the biggest thing where it’s a piece of this bigger project. People tend to take themselves way too seriously with their work and how it’s presented or made.
That’s one thing that people like so much about you because you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re kind of like the Cinema 4D equivalent of every man.
I don’t know what that means. I can’t even pretend to know what you’re talking about.
Mike, I went over your head. No, I think if Frank Capra made a movie about Cinema 4D, you would be what I call the “everyman” character, the normal guy that just happens to save the world.
Frank Capra? Is that the guy who did, It’s a Wonderful Life?
Yes. And Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
I like that movie.
Can you picture yourself as the Mr. Smith of Cinema 4D?
James Stewart. I got to meet him the first year of Sundance.
Honestly, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my absolute favorite films. I love that film.
Couldn’t you see him in that movie? I could see him in that movie.
Not sure about that. That’s where you lost me.
Maybe there’s another career for you as the Jimmy Stewart character in the reboot.
A reboot? It’s a Wonderful Life with me?
There you go.
It sounds solid. We’ll see.
I know you don’t talk about that and tell me if I’m overstepping, but some of your stuff has a very subtle political theme to it. Maybe it’s unintentional, but the short film you did about Stuxnet hit home with me because I got hacked by that virus a few years ago and lost 250TB of media. Talk to me about the workflow for that film because that was a lot of work.
That was a lot of work. It was over the course of probably a year or two, and I don’t even remember at this point. I think it was two years. The basic workflow was modeling. It’s like robots moving through a tunnel and animating the music, and it’s synced with the music. So I was working closely with the sound designer like, “Have this object that makes this sound,” and “Animate this and make sure it looks good exactly with how you compose the music.” So that was a pretty back and forth work for. But otherwise, it was rendered with Octane. And there was very little post, and it was almost entirely Cinema.
For the people who are gathering here at the booth, we have Mike Winkelmann, who is probably one of the world’s most famous Cinema 4D artists, and he’s looking at me, like, “Would you cut it out? Stop giving me compliments.” But it’s true, and you’re very talented.
I appreciate that.
And I think that what you do for other creatives is important, too. We all need that, and we need to know that we’re a part of a community.
And that is one of the things that I like about Cinema 4D, particularly because they do a lot to foster a strong community like leadership does, they’re out at events, and they’re like talking to you and trying to get your feedback on stuff. I think they’re receptive to the community and plugged-in and know what people are looking for. Especially with the Redshift thing, that’s something a lot of people are like, “Oh, yeah, in retrospect, that makes a lot of sense.” That seems like a good move or a good fit for them. They’re plugged into the community of designers.
For those of you who we lost a moment ago, we are at NAB 2019. With the wireless and the internet connection here, I’m going to remain a lady, and I’m not going to describe it the way we’d like to describe it because it sucks. So once in a while, the signal drops out. But we were talking a moment ago about Cinema 4D and how they support creatives. How long have you been involved in actually speaking with the people that created Cinema 4D?
Probably four years, I would say, that I’ve been talking more and sort of going back and forth. To be honest, I don’t talk to them that much because they know what they’re doing. The tool works great for me. It’s great to see them out at these events and stuff, but it’s not like I’m constantly like, “Oh, here, can you fix this?” or whatever. For me, it works beautifully. I don’t need any sort of help from them or anything. They are just such supporters of everybody in the community that it’s so awesome to see.
So we spoke with Paul Babb, and I believe his interview is already running. It’s up on the blog, I believe. But is there anything that you can think of in the new release of Cinema 4D that you might want to talk about?
Honestly, I’ve been super slow to upgrade because I’ve been lazy. There’s not that much of, and I’m not going to lie. I’ve just been lazy. But the alembic retiming, you can bring in alembic files, which are sort of like geometry and animation, and everything kind of flattened into one file. You can retime how fast it moves through the scene with curves and fall off and everything. That I think is a powerful feature that I think I would use a lot, especially the volume stuff. I mean, there’s tons of stuff.
Do you know what your next film is going to be?
Yeah, I have one almost entirely done. I just need to edit the pieces together. It’s like 95% there. I just need to get it done.
Can you tell us what it’s about?
It’s about money.
It’s about money?
Oh, that’ll be interesting. So the next one’s about money. The last one was about the Stuxnet virus called Zero-Day, and the next one’s about money. When do you think you will have it done?
I don’t know. Probably like a month, I would say. Hopefully, a month. I’m going to set a month or two.
I hate when people ask me when my documentaries are going to be finished. I hate that. Don’t ask me when my film is going to finish. Because this is radio and we can’t see what you’ve been doing in the booth. I will try to get some pictures. Can you describe the art visually for us that you’ve been creating the last couple of days? What are the images about?
Because I’m calling on the audience, the first day, I had another guy pick out a bunch of assets. He loaded them into Cinema 4D, loaded them in the content browser. The content browser is something that I think people take for granted, and it’s a great feature. It’s super easy to just drop things in. So he loaded up ten assets, ten 3D models that he downloaded, and I didn’t know what they were, and that’s what I had to make my picture on.
Oh my god, are you serious?
It was like pills, pancakes, a baby orangutan, grandmas. The picture was like a grandma standing on pancakes with a pilgrim hat and squid arms with pills all over the grass. I don’t even know.
You didn’t do that the second day though, did you?
No. On the second day, I just had people in the audience shout out crap. So that’s like a gorilla with like a bunch of wolves around a naked baby on a pile of rubble, with like helicopters in the back.
Okay. So I think these people are trying to trip you up.
I am the one with the computer.
It’s like, “Let’s see what we can throw at him and see if he’ll screw it up.” And you didn’t, though.
It is what it is. There’s no way to screw it up. Just doing it or not doing it, that’s it.
And it’s more fun, though, when it comes from your brain.
It came from everybody’s brain. Everybody put the ideas into it. I thought it was fun.
So you have to go back, and you have to do another one today.
I have to do another one in a couple of hours.
I want to go over there and see if I possibly can.
Come over. I will call on you. You have to give me an idea. Like that’s how I was like singling out people like, “You! Tell me what to do.” and they’d be like, “No! What?” And I’m like, “No, I’m looking at you. Tell me what to do.”
Everybody thinks creativity is easy, and maybe it’s not. It’s very demanding in your life, I’m sure. I don’t know how you do it every day.
I would say it’s not that hard. I could think of a lot of jobs that are harder than what I do every day sitting at a computer, listening to music, it’s not exactly the worst job.Creativity is not that hard. I could think of a lot of jobs that are harder than what I do every day. Click To Tweet
What’s a question that you’ve never been asked in an interview that you might want to talk about? Like “When is this interview over?” You know what’s funny, you don’t like to be interviewed, and I don’t blame you. I don’t like to be interviewed either.
I don’t mind it. Does it seem like I don’t like it?
No. That’s awesome. Well, I think you’re an inspiration to a lot of people. And I think that you have such a community spirit about you. That’s important.
I appreciate that.
And your family guy in the middle of it all.
Yeah. We have a three-year-old and a five-year-old. It’s a full house.
I know that the family has to kind of step aside sometimes, and you know, don’t do these things in five minutes.
No, I work long hours. But I think that’s where I’m lucky with my family that they’re home and my wife stays home with the kids. So I’m able to still see the kids a ton. We have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together because I’m right there. If they need to get put down for a nap, I am right there. Even though I work long hours, like if I was out at the office, I couldn’t do that; I wouldn’t ever see them. I’m there, and they can open the door and come in and draw and watch something in the office. They’re old enough to know that when I need time to get something done, they’re good about that too.Staying flexible for last-minute changes is important no matter what project you’re working on. Click To Tweet
I was with mine too. After I left the studios, I was freelance. A lot of times, when I wasn’t traveling, I was home. It makes a difference. And I think now that they’re grown up, they were around their mom a lot, I think your kids are going to grow up, and they’re going to appreciate it. And you loved him enough to build a life that included them in what you do.
Well, it’s hard that my daughter doesn’t even understand the concept of going to work. If I’ll just go somewhere, it’s like, “Where are you going?” Because it’s like daddy never leaves the computer. They don’t even fully understand that most people go to work because my wife is home too. Everybody’s parents just stay home all the time.
That’s so awesome. I’m sure a lot of people ask you, “How can I do what you do?”
Start every day, that’s it. I think it’s that structure and forcing you to do something and put out something will level you up faster than any other way I know.
Just keep doing it and doing it as best as you can. Don’t judge yourself. Just keep doing it every day.
When you commit to doing it, none of the other stuff matters. You just have to do it, and you’ll get better if you like it, great. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter as long as you do it. That’s the kind of attitude I have, I guess, most of the time.Don't judge yourself. Just keep doing it. Click To Tweet
Well, it’s nice to meet you.
Very nice to meet you, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk.
I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m very appreciative of Cinema 4D for everything they do for all of us. And I want to thank OWC Radio for sponsoring this show and Lumberjack and Puget and a shout out to Creatives. And you know what I always say is get up off your chair and do something wonderful today. This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio’s Creative Club at NAB 2019, and I’m here with Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple. We were talking about his great work. Thank you so much for taking the time.
- Mike Winkelmann
- Mike Winkelmann – Instagram
- Mike Winkelmann – Youtube
- Mike Winkelmann – Twitter
- Mike Winkelmann – Tumblr
- Beeple Crap
- VJ loops
- Everydays series – Louis Vuitton
- NAB Show
- Cinema 4D
- Frank Capra
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
- James Stewart
- Paul Babb
- Lumberjack System
- Puget Systems
- Nail the basics in visual arts. When getting started, learn the basics like drawing.
- Learn how to use 3D software. 3D will open your eyes to many things. It is a game-changer for anyone interested in being a visual artist.
- Be persistent. Work hard and invest your time to achieve the results you are after in your art.
- Don’t rush things. Be consistent, reliable and keep pushing the quality of your work. The most important thing as an artist is to keep improving.
- Be social. Join a community of artists that will give you good feedback about your work.
- Never stop learning. Surround yourself with people that are better than you, it’s the best way to absorb knowledge and broaden your skill set.
- Check out Mike Winkleman’s website for his digital art, films, VJ loops, and resources.