By Kat Bein By Kat Bein | July 2, 2021 | culture
Sean Walton dreams in vivid colors. Characters with checkerboard-hair flash deranged smiles as a kaleidoscopic sky explodes in glitchy fragments. Larger-than-life stuffed animals and floating creatures bounce to a moody electronic beat. It's absolute sensory overload, and the Atlanta-based digital artist brings that world to life for all to see.
“I enjoyed sleeping more than I enjoyed daily life when I was in middle school, and it wasn't because middle school was so terrible,” he says. “It's just that, whenever I'd go to sleep, it was this crazy shit … I'm trying to give what I have going to sleep to other people, while they're actually awake.”
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Walton goes by the name @OseanWorld on social media, but that's also the name of his rich and dynamic universe. It's a place as real as any other, full of lively personalities with thoughtful backstories and a soundtrack of Walton's creation. He brings OseanWorld to life in 3D renderings, snippets of which are posted to his 54.9k followers on Instagram or as music videos for his 113k subscribers on YouTube.
His uncanny ability to conjure the surreal has seen him hired by Grammy-nominated musicians Madeon and Offset. Kanye West tweeted his art in August, and in March, he sold four NFTs for more than $95,000. On June 3, Sotheby's included his work in an NFT-centric auction called “Natively Digital” where his piece "Dragon" sold for $107,100. Not bad for a 24 year old who grew up without a lot of friends.
“I didn't have a social life as a kid,” Walton says. “I had to learn how to be sociable in the last like four years, recently or whatever. I lived to go to school and draw, then come back home and draw some more.”
“Summer” PHOTO COURTESY OF OSEANWORLD
As a child, Walton learned to draw by watching his father and cousins.
“They did mostly portraits, but my cousin used to do little characters,” he says. “They put it down because they never found it a lucrative thing, but I was like 'I need this to be a lifestyle.'”
Walton was an addict from the jump. When his mom took him to the beach, he'd draw in the sand. He filled stacks of composition notebooks with dream doodles and started giving his characters personal histories.
“When I was in middle school, my friend gave me a weird book,” Walton laughs. “I'd never seen an art book or a comic book, because I never went to the library. I would just go to school and go home and draw all day. I was like 'oh, so you can make this a career.' Then I found out about the Internet, and that destroyed everything.”
Self-taught in almost every aspect, Watson dove head-first into the world of online tutorials and art forums. The world wide web was his classroom to the fine art perspective. He studied anatomy and color theory, and when it was time for college, he enrolled in an art degree. He wanted to be a “concept artist,” one of those creatives who draws video game and CGI characters before they're finally rendered in 3D animation—but that opened a whole new frontier of possibilities.
“The concept artists now, these people are so scary,” he says. “They'll draw literally 100 images and people will deny all of them, but they're completely detailed, beautiful rendered. They look like real paintings … and I was just like 'wait, 3D? There's a program for that? I guess I have to learn how to do this.'”
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In 2015, he downloaded Cinema4D, the main-stay program by which digital artist render their works. He buried his face in another series of online tutorials, and by 2017, he was hired to work on then-bubbling Atlanta rapper Trippie Redd's “Romeo and Juliet” music video.
“I went to the studio like 12 days before he blew up,” Walton says. “Everybody started hitting me up.”
He did an ad for Playboi Carti, worked on blog footage for Offset and the A$AP crew, an the asks kept coming—all while juggling art classes.
“I didn't get paid for any of them, but I was happy to do this thing … It was cool practice,” he says, until it wasn't. “It was all through a middle man or management, and they wouldn't give me credit or they'd try to take credit. It got to a point where I was working on like 15 videos a week. I was just like, 'I don't want to do this because I'm not making any money and I can't earn anything off of it.' So, I stopped talking to all those people.”
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Thankfully, he'd started to meet a real community of likeminded artists. One was Grant Decouto, a music producer who works by the name Deko, crafting platinum-selling beats for Migos and Drake, Chris Brown, Gucci Mane and others. These new friends told him to trust his own instict, to stop being a “video slave” and start making the art he wanted to make for himself.
“When I met [Deko], he's like 'wanna do music videos and stuff?'” Walton remembers, “'but you can do whatever you want.' I was like 'really?' He paid me and everything. He didn't even have to.”
Deko and Walton teamed up on a character called Yameii. A bubbly, checker-haired anime chick who sings autotune over moody, bouncy and trippy electronic beats. Her song “Baby My Phone” went viral on TikTok in March 2021 and has garnered more than 6 million plays on YouTube alone.
“I wanted a hero character that could be the face of anything that was a part of OseanWorld because a lot of it is a rabbit hole,” Walton says, “because I have like so many characters and all these sketchbooks, all these different worlds. I want to definitely put them out there, but one at a time, because it's so much.”
Deko taught Walton how to use Ableton to make his own beats, and he now uses music to hack into his own brain. He makes certain beats to induce hyperactive dreams, other beats to influence slow, melodic scenes. He even makes beats to turn the dreams off.
“Most of the characters of this world are from dreams,” he says. “I had dreams about weird laser monsters one time … but the lasers wouldn't kill you, they'd just give you sonic euphoria … It's such a cool thing to have all these dreams, but when I wake up, it's not there. AR and VR are the in between of both.”
Augmented reality and virtual reality are OseanWorld's latest obsessions. He's made a lot of new friends on VR chat, a free VR social platform that's part MMORPG, part open space hangout. He's teaming up with coders to bring his acid-drip surreality to life in new dimensions, throwing OseanWorld parties with 300 dancing avatars and cooking up a full-scale OseanWorld theme park with roller coasters and rainbow dragons.
“I want it to be the future where you have contact lenses and all of this shit is in front of you,” he says. “I got really into science. I wanted to bend reality and make people believe in that shit wasn't real, like a magician scientist or something. After a while, I was just like, 'that's kind of what artists do.' Me doing this art is giving someone inspiration to [make the science real] for me.”
“Hero Hilltop.” PHOTO COURTESY OF OSEANWORLD
“Me and My Friends” PHOTO COURTESY OF OSEANWORLD
Photography by: Courtesy OseanWorld