The Neon Daydreams of Mad Dog Jones

Michah Dowbak—the artist and designer better known as Mad Dog Jones—has cemented himself as a leader in the digital art renaissance. Amidst a successful career doing commercial work for high-profile clients, in 2020 he carefully stepped into the world of NFTs. His psychedelic sci-fi illustrations quickly set the space ablaze. Pairing eye-catching art with innovative new release mechanics, MDJ earned the respect of artists and collectors alike. He even gained widespread recognition from the traditional art world, auctioning 1/1 NFTs at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips.

Despite all his accomplishments, he’s far from slowing down. It is our honor to have Mad Dog Jones as the first artist to release an Experience on the Lvcidia platform. In anticipation of his upcoming drop, we had the chance to speak with him about the release, and his career up until now.

Within the Lvcidia ecosystem, an Experience is a curated digital art release intended to showcase the best the space has to offer. Experiences will be at the forefront of Lvcidia moving forward, beginning with our first slate of monthly releases. We could not have asked for a better partner to embark on this journey with us than Mad Dog Jones. “I wanted to give a piece that really represented me… a bond of friendship with Fred (Fvckrender) and with the community. I’m so proud of what Lvcidia has done that I just wanted to give them a token of my appreciation and excitement to be part of that universe”, Dowbak explains. The collection will be released on June 30th, exclusively for holders of either Lvcidia or Mad Dog Jones artwork. At the center of the sale: the first ever fully 3D-model of MDJ’s work, made in collaboration with our friends at Artifex. 

Those familiar with the style of Mad Dog Jones will recognize signature motifs echoing throughout his body of work. Impossible architecture bathed under a neon glow, lonely spaces haunted by frisky felines, an affinity for the elements, and notably: a love for racing helmets. Time and time again, he reimagines racing helmets as part of the fashion of the future. Often highly customized, his helmets capture the vibrant personality of the wearer despite concealing their identity. “There’s always this kind of mystery with the motorcycle helmet, especially with the reflective visor and this inherent danger… I remember watching old Jackie Chan movies, and there’s this anonymous bad guy running through the streets, and there’d be these mysterious motorcycle people chasing him. Then the one person, they’d take off the helmet and it’d be this reveal, ‘Oh my god! It’s so and so!’”.

Outside of the intrigue they carry, they serve as a great canvas for an artist focused on light, color, and form. In Dowbak’s eyes, the limitations of the medium only add to the enjoyment. “I love logos, branding, and shapes. It’s just such a fun palette to constrain yourself to…. I was kind of a sticker kid. And the motorcycle helmet is the most sticker kid I could possibly be, where you just get this thing and put stuff on it to make it your own.”

After adopting the screen name ‘Mad Dog Jones’ in 2017, the artist was in a race to hone his own unique voice. He never had any expectation of doing art as a career. However, the more he explored it, the more his passion grew. “When I first started trying to develop the Mad Dog style, I would either take pictures, or just collage random pictures on the internet, and try to create something new… I always love just taking these random pieces, shuffling them together, and finding the magic in that moment.”

Taking full advantage of the digital art medium, his pieces are an audiovisual experience that draw you into a world both familiar and foreign. These days he does all his own photography, bringing his stylistic sensibilities into every step of the process. The pictures are hyper-colorized, edited, collaged, and illustrated, creating a result that carries with it a certain mood. “A lot of the time my art is trying to bring an aesthetic with a vibe built into that… giving people a beautiful, peaceful, compelling moment.” 

Yet crafting a beautiful moment takes time, and the NFT space is always moving. In attempts to keep up with the expectations placed on them, many artists in Web3 have experienced burnout. Some have left the space altogether. For an artist to persist, Dowbak believes they need to stay true to their convictions. “I’ve made it to where I am by just kind of following my gut, and making sure that I’m a centered and creative person that’s still making passionate art. Because ultimately, it’s not moving the art form forward if all the artists just burn out in a giant fireball of mental health crisis. So I think it’s more about managing your own passion, and trying to make sure you can keep that passion alive.”

With a growing community of collectors from all around the globe, Dowbak has felt the pressure of expectations first hand. Nevertheless, he keeps moving at his own pace. He knows what he wants, and takes every step towards it. “I’m more interested in [my] work being a cherished possession to somebody for a long time. I don’t want it to just be like, oh, I bought this thing, and then I flipped it and made a few bucks back in 2022. That’s empty to me. I want to be a well regarded artist that has a career that lasts.”

While recognizing his own accomplishments, Dowbak is quick to credit those who have supported him in his journey. Ultimately, it’s his community of family and friends that have kept him grounded. “It’s a great time to shout out. I also work with my brother and my dad. So I’ll do my design, and they’ll help me with line work and coloring too…”, Dowbak says. “We all work together on it, so it’s kind of like a family business in a way, which has been really fun and really exciting”. His father—a stained glass artist and photographer—helped him learn the principles of light, color, and form. In Dowbak’s work, it’s the backlight of the screen that illuminates his digital stained glass creations. Urban environments take on a transcendent quality when soaked in his intoxicating color palettes.

With his family helping him produce the work, it was his artist family who helped him find a new path to distribute it. After meeting through Instagram, and discovering they lived in similar parts of Canada, Dowbak became friends with Fvckrender, Victor Mosquera, and Baiege. Together, the all-star group became trailblazers in NFTs. “So we all became friends, and as the [NFT space] started coming onto our radar, we were all talking in the background about it. Fred (Fvckrender) is super smart with anything technical, so it’s great to have him there to be a kind of guide for us… just being a community for each other.” 

However, not every artist is as fortunate in finding their own community of supportive creatives. For those still searching for their artist family, Dowbak believes that Lvcidia can provide a space to find it. “With a platform like Lvcidia, artists naturally help out other artists. I think the point of a platform like this is to spread the privilege, I suppose is one way to put it. Finding cool artists around the world, listening to each other, curating in collaboration with each other… finding the deserving artists and elevating them to a place where they can live off their art.”

As an artist-led platform, our goal is always to keep the best interests of our artists at heart. Paramount among those initiatives is our insistence that artists should have full control over enforcing their royalties. “Platforms that essentially promote circumvention of those royalties are just kind of antithetical to why so many people coalesced around NFTs in the first place. What they should be doing… is breaking the mold of the wealthy art collector exploiting the artist. So giving that power to the artist to control those royalties, I think is key to having a kind of fair and healthy ecosystem.”

We at Lvcidia are immensely grateful to have such an influential artist delivering our debut Experience, and one so closely aligned with our vision. As he guides the way for generations of digital artists to come, we asked if Mad Dog Jones had any guidance for those that follow. “If you’re an artist, find your passion and express it. Don’t try to keep to yourself for too long. Try to follow your own instincts, trust your own taste. Put it out in the world and see how that feels. And if you’re an art collector… if you’re doing it out of passion, don’t follow trends. Be a trendsetter. Go find that artist that you really like, and support them. Go try to build up the world that you want to see reflected, and open up your horizons. Because ultimately that’s where as an artist, I find all my happiness—making sure I’m doing what I want to do, and putting out the art into the world that I want to see.” 

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Ryan McCue

Ryan is an LA-based writer and filmmaker. He began as a Lvcidia community member in early 2021, drawn to the cinematic beauty of Fvckrender’s virtual creations. His engagement with the community led to him becoming a moderator for the Discord, and in 2022 he was brought on officially to create Lvcidia’s newsletter. He now assists in writing articles for the Lvcidia journal, conducting interviews, and moderating the occasional live Q&A.

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