Daniel Sheldon is a South African-based Digital artist, illustrator, and animator. He reimagined John Trumbull’s painting (the Declaration of Independence) into what we have as For the People NFT. There is more to him and this art, read on to find out.
Hi, Daniel. Who are you as an artist and citizen of web3?
I studied Fine Arts in school and before web3, I’ve had stints in web2. I have worked as an Art Director and animator for a documentary on Poetry and Transformation for the Center for Creative Arts and also won a couple of competitions. My journey in web3 began with Nifty.ink. Afterwards, I was given some illustration work for Buidl Guidl, then POAPathon, Bankless DAO, Pizza DAO, and of course, People DAO. I work mostly digitally using Procreate and Affintiy, though my style is organic and quite painterly.
How would you describe the origin of the For The People project?
It started with my participation in DAOs. I loved how if someone was willing to help and work hard they could drive a transformative project with real results. I watched PeopleDAO serve as a springboard for projects such as LanguageDAO and JourneyOwaa. It was beautiful. PeopleDAO began planning an NFT project to raise funds for nonprofit activities. I was inspired to contribute, feeling euphoria for this new realm of stateless possibility that web3 offered.
I have a history of reimagining classical works. I’m not a huge fan of John Trumbull in particular, but his pieces are recognized across the world as capturing landmark scenes from the American Revolution. I decided to remix the Declaration of Independence painting, rather than the signing of the Constitution. Web3 created entirely new governance techniques. I’m more interested in this frontier, not the entrenched and mainstream systems the Constitution represents.
For The People celebrates the people who were forging this new path of web3. We also wanted to capture the playfulness of being disruptors. It’s a new era so the painting shouldn’t look reserved, but should instead honor individuality and nonconformity. We took it a step further by recognizing virtual characters that defined the space. Characters can sometimes feel more real than actual people. These characters felt special and seemed to capture both the vibes and values that defined the 2021/2022 bull market.
How has the project changed since the bull? How has it survived the bear?
2022 was a crazy year in Crypto. It went from Bull to Bear and then stayed Bear. We saw the Solana Crash which affected team members working on For The People. Friends lost everything, stopped responding on Discord, then disappeared. You find yourself wondering about friends you’d never even met, people you could only identify by a pseudonym. So the team shrank. There was an FTX banner in our 1/1 NFT––that had to change. So we repainted the banner burning and smoldering to remind us how that company hurt a lot of people. (In Art this is called a Memento Mori - it's something in a painting that reminds us of death and impermanence). It took us from February through to November to paint the 48 caricature portraits for each character, then drop them into the larger 1/1 scene. It was a grind.
Decentralization and asynchronous collaboration have their advantages, but also disadvantages. The project team started to feel disconnected from the DAO workstream. But I still believe web3 governance has the potential to be much better than the systems used by nation states. I live in Africa and the corruption here is normalized. So we pushed the project deadlines twice.
Painting is a meditative act for me, I get lost in the act of it and enjoy watching my brush strokes transform into something that I can “see” in my mind, it's a sort of magical process that I don't think I fully understand. After having worked so hard on For The People, painting the many faces, I felt compelled to finish the task. When PeopleDAO reached out and offered support on launching the NFTs, I jumped at the opportunity to share the art with the world.
What does the project mean to you?
The 1/1 art celebrates the community that is driving the cultural and economic movement we call web3. Yeah, a lot of people are active in web3 for different reasons. I’m here because I believe technology will improve transparency, privacy, ownership, and equality throughout the world. But overall we hope the art acts as a snapshot of the 2021/2022 bull, capturing the mad energy that made the experience so magnetic, checking crypto Twitter, jumping into building, or trying something totally new for the first time.
We've created three unique versions of the 1/1 painting, which serve as the centerpieces of For the People. Additionally, we initiated a portrait project to allow more people to engage with and be part of the art experience, opening the doors to a community beyond affluent collectors. There are 1776 portraits. Can you figure out why we chose that number?
All proceeds from this project will go towards supporting PeopleDAO’s mission to fund and operate nonprofit activities, and also compensate the dedicated team that produced the art over the past two years, all of which was painted in Procreate.
History is a theme in the project. What is the art's relationship with American history?
PeopleDAO emerged from Constitution DAO, when the crypto community across the world joined forces to purchase a copy of the American Constitution. The document was foundational to creating America, which has been responsible for the expansion of democracy. But the first edition printings of the Constitution are all owned by collectors or institutions––for something claiming to be BY and FOR the people, the people didn’t OWN it!
You can draw parallels between web3 and the American Revolution. Both reject old power structures. Both were a reaction to a deeply felt unfairness and a yearning towards a vision for how society could be better. So the painting used the scene of the Declaration of Independence and an analogy for talking about this new revolution and the trailblazers making it happen.
How does the art also document crypto history?
Research was the first step. We compiled a list of the major disruptors, instigators, builders, towncriers, and creators in the space. Contributors to crypto come from everywhere, and we wanted to curate a list reflective of that. It’s not exhaustive or perfect but we think it’s a beautiful crosssection. Features like Satoshi or Wei Dei were a challenge because these individuals are cypherpunks and have never revealed their faces. So we tried to honor their anonymity as well. Overall we are happy with how the project turned out and hope it stands as a record of a special moment in our shared history!
Thank you for your time, Daniel. This is thrilling!
Find out more on X (formerly Twitter) @FTPeople_NFT