I first talked to culla (@tamccullough) around three months ago. He had less than 300 followers and was creating the “Dee Manz” collection on Kalamint. These days he is one of the best-selling artists on the Tezos blockchain. I saw him working extremely hard, grinding day in and day out the Twitter streets while minting and creating. What attracted my eye from Culla is that he always puts his supporters, fans, and collectors first by maintaining low prices and doing an absurd amount of airdrops, raffles, and gifts. I wanted to learn more about his story, and hopefully, it will help many aspiring NFT artists.
Tell me a bit of your background?
My name is Todd McCullough and I live in a rural area outside of the GTA in Ontario, Canada.I’m 46 now, and have been toiling away at art for many, many years and only recently found some success in the nft community.
So background wise, I’m a guy who lived paycheck to paycheck, bounced around from job to job and struggled to get any kind of recognition in the art world.
I studied art at OCAD in Toronto briefly for a year before dropping out, believing the praise I got while there meant I would make it in the art world. I didn’t.
How did you hear about NFTs?
I read this article in the Toronto Star.
It mentioned how a few young artists were becoming very successful in a short period of time creating nfts. So this was the springboard that made me take a look, back on March 25th of this year.
What's the hardest thing for up-and-coming artists?
I think the hardest thing is finding the time to create and still pay the bills. So that probably means some kind of financial support I guess. They need security to focus on creating.
When I was younger, I worked in construction and other jobs, and tried to find the incentive to paint or create after getting home from work. But the exhaustion was too much, and I never seemed to find the time to create. So I would start saving money so that I could quit and focus on art for a short period of time. Thinking each and every time, I would start selling something and end the cycle. It never happened.
So time and money? Emerging artists need an incubator so that they can find their voice. An incubator that gives them the freedom to focus on creating something viable.
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How did you build your community?
I built my community one collection at a time. I first started by releasing a collection on kalamint and with the success that I saw there, I felt I needed more room to grow and decided to expand onto hicetnunc. That second collection (Voids) attracted more people and my following started to grow.
Probably the biggest and most important piece of advice I received during that time was from a certain collector (you) that suggested I start a discord server. I was very reluctant to do that. But it attracted more users and gave them a place to commune with one another.
With the dip in the nft market in late October, the discord server started to lose steam, and I considered closing it, but hung on and released the Basqunks. Which brought in a lot more new people, many of whom felt safe investing in the project because of the expanding discord. It’s been very important to me that I be visible in the discord and connect with the community there.
So. I guess I built my community by releasing some quality collections, offering utility on those collections, and then offering collectors a place to go and hang with one another. And finally hang with me.
How would you define your style?
Until recently it was hard for me to transfer what I did with physical mediums into digital media. I have always felt a little hindered by digital media and detached from it. So I don’t really experiment with it like I do acrylic paints and mixed media projects.
But I think the newer tools being released, and the advancements those developers are making help me make art more true to me. The Basqunks wouldn’t have been possible without Procreate for example. The current version of that app is really starting to feel like paint to me.
So, my style? I’m still exploring it. I’m currently going through a synthesist phase. Since I have done well enough financially recently; I’m taking a lot in at the moment and exploring all the art movements that have inspired me.
I’ve joked that I am 7 artists in one, and I mean it. But slowly these 7 will merge into one. I just need to explore and get back into making art again. I need to feel comfortable that this isn’t going to end.
For me, style will always depend on the project and who the target viewer is.
Who are your artistic influences?
Basquiat is currently one obviously. When I was in my teens and very early twenties I was focused on Waterhouse and cared about being as realistic as possible. But that shifted when my eyes were opened by a teacher at OCAD, who taught us to just enjoy making art and let whatever creative impulse we have, to let it take shape. Dali, Klimt, Ralph Steadman, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The old masters. Marvel, DC and Image comics. All the typical influences.
Music plays a big part. While I wouldn’t say music is on all the time here in my home - I need it quiet a lot - musicians have inspired a lot of my ideas and daydreaming which has led to a lot of creations. Or influenced my creations heavily. I find myself often thinking of what follow up album a musician released next in their career, what themes did they incorporate and what impact did it have on me? I will often enough just sit down with a drink and listen a playlist and allow my mind to wander and let ideas trickle or bubble out.
Any advice for new artists?
Don’t give up? At the age of 10, I wanted to be Walt Disney. I wanted to make a studio that replaced Disney.
That was 36 years ago. For a long time I believed I would. For a long time I believed in my heart that I could be the next big artist. Over the course of the last 36 years that didn’t happen and I lost that belief more and more.
In 2016, I went back to school for Information Technology. I decided that I needed to learn another skill and ensure that my kids had the security to pursue whatever dreams they wanted to pursue as they got older.
I created less and less.
The pandemic hit - I live well outside of Toronto - and for whatever reasons I wasn’t getting hired or even many interviews. I had become pretty depressed during the last 10 years, well to be honest I was always depressed and apparently had social anxiety without knowing it. Anyways, I wanted to feel better so I went through some government supported treatment, I started exercising regularly again and decided that I needed to paint something here and there.
I decided I would try my hand at art again, approached a gallery and said what the hell, I made this demon creature thingy for my kids, let’s mint it…
Don’t give up. It may take half a lifetime, less or more. But don’t give up.
Who are your favorite NFT artists?
This is an incredibly tough question for me to answer. But I’m going to focus this on the people that I have been most fanatical about collecting at the moment. And those are all creators that are on the tezos blockchain.
Until next time,