Emonee LaRussa, two-time Emmy award-winning motion graphics designer and founder and CEO of Pamanama Studios LLC, is a powerhouse of vision, color and creativity. Her hypnotic animations are seamless cycles of storytelling, taking the observer on an evocative journey. But how did Emonee get to where she is?
How did you get started with NFTs?
I actually started out in filmmaking. It’s what I got my bachelor’s in, and while I was doing that I got hired by CBS News in Sacramento. I got really used to doing 60 hour weeks, so as my career went on and I moved to 40 hour weeks, I felt like I had all this time, so I started doing freelance work on the side.
My passion has always been making lyrics videos, so I started doing that on Instagram and I got noticed by some record companies and I ended up doing that freelance work full time. Then one day I was at a concert with my dad and I saw the graphics and I was like “yeah, I want to do that” and a year later, my first concert graphics went on show at a gig. I took my dad to the concert and surprised him with them.
So I was thinking “yeah, this is what I want to do forever…” and then the pandemic happened, and there were no more concerts. I was back doing my lyric videos on Instagram for likes, and that’s when I heard about NFTs and I was like “wow, I could get paid for the stuff that I’m just over here doing for free”. And that’s how it started.
When did you sell your first NFT?
I think it was February of 2021. I already had a piece that I intended to sell as an NFT, but I didn’t know how to get on the platform. Then, I saw a friend of mine posted about it, so I got him to send me an invite link and I put it up on Foundation. It got its first bid within an hour, and I found out it actually sold to a 15 year-old for around $3,000. I couldn’t believe it.
How long does it take you to complete your pieces?
Motion graphics is an interesting field to get into because it takes so much time to get great at it. Like, you never see a child prodigy because it takes years to master. On average, it takes around four months to complete a single NFT piece.
Is it hard to let go of your pieces when you put so much time into them?
Not when the collector has a sentimental value to it. They see that you spent so much time on this and they appreciate that.And that's why for me, it's really important to share my entire process of how it was created because I spent four months on this and it only equals out to four seconds.
And because the final pieces are so short, that’s why I like to kind of translate that technical aspect to people that might not know about it, because I want this person to know everything that went into this.
So far, I’ve only created about six or seven NFTs, and they have always been, like, really connective pieces that I've had with my collectors, which is great.
Your projects take a lot of time. How do you get in the zone to create them?
I’m fortunate enough now to have a more flexible schedule than I used to, so I don’t have to just jump on my laptop and grind it out whenever I have a minute. Now I make sure to take time to, you know, go outside and breathe and it really depends on the day and the project–it’s always different. Generally, though, I have my whole day planned out – like hour by hour – and it just makes my life easier knowing that I have time for everything. Time to relax and sit down and create.
Do you think the NFT space is valuable for artists?
I’m very hopeful for [the NFT space] because, as a digital artist, I see that there is a lot of potential within it. Digital artists have never had as much value as they have today, and it’s because of this space. Digital artists have been able to see that maybe I don't need to work for this client that undervalues me and doesn't appreciate me. I know my experience is worth more and being able to spend that time and invest in yourself is something that I feel like digital artists never had before.
I don't think every artist should just quit their job and join the NFT space. That isn’t realistic. But I do think that it is a great avenue for a lot of people. And I'm hoping to really get all the benefits from it and tell people more about it, you know?
Web3 is typically quite a male-dominated space. Have you felt that?
Yes, it sucks, but I think it’s the same across the entire art industry: a woman signs on an art piece and it halves the value of it, feminine art doesn't get sold nearly as much, and feminine artists don't sell nearly as much. It's sh*t.
The only people who are buying feminine art are people who actively are fighting for women, but as a normal market, you cannot make feminine art and expect that a typical collector is going to buy it, because the majority of people who are collectors are men, and the majority of people who have wealth are men.
Do you feel pressure to be a voice for women, and women of colour?
It’s frustrating because I don't get the option to not be a trailblazer, to not to fight for women, you know? Other people have the option to just create the art that they want to create, without the pressure to be a voice. So, yeah, there is a pressure to fight that comes with being a woman of color; it comes with being any type of minority in a space.
And while I feel proud, of course, to provide representation for people in an otherwise unrepresentative space, I also have to work so much harder than a person who is next to me and isn’t a minority, and that can feel frustrating and unfair sometimes.
You do an incredible job, though, and you’re helping young artists not just by fighting for them but supporting them, too.
Definitely, and I’m so proud to be able to. That’s why I founded JumpStart Designers, which is a nonprofit to get computers and digital art programs to kids and underserved communities. I didn’t come from a whole lot of money. My mom was able to take me to go get a laptop but when we got to the checkout, her credit card declined and we weren’t able to get it. A few months later she saved up enough money and went back and got that laptop, but it led me to think about all the other kids that didn’t get to go back, or even go to get the laptop in the first place.
I think when we look at the issue of black and brown people and lack of color in the space, I think it really has to do with the origin of the issue, which is lack of access. There are just so many kids that are left in the dark because of accessibility. I think that if we started providing this access, we would see a whole new wave of artists. We’d see kids who aren’t restricted by what they have on what they can create.
We’re actually working on a fundraiser right now with MoonPay’s support, which I’m so grateful for, because they’ve helped us make it happen. So, we’re bringing the top-selling digital artists in the NFT space together for a sale and we’re going to raise a lot of money for these kids. We’ll be onboarding 30 kids into the program. It’s not just about giving them computers–we’re doing fully fledged programs tailored for each kid so they get exactly what they need to get started on their digital art dream.