new years are for trying new things. and this old dog – ok, middle-aged dog – has spent the past year or so trying to learn some new tricks… and i’m finally ready to talk about it. i’ve been expanding my mind, suspending disbelief/my intense skepticism about things i don’t understand, and following my intuition about falling down a rabbit hole because i think there’s something there for me — even if i wasn’t sure what that was. i haven’t talked about it publicly for a bunch of different reasons, but among them is that i wanted to make sure i at least sort of knew what i was talking about before i did… and i guess part of me was hoping i could already be successful at it before i did. that hasn’t quite happened yet but i’m tired of keeping it to myself, so i’m just saying fuck it. time to let the cat out of the bag.
what the fuck am i talking about? i’m talking about crypto. but really i’m talking about NFTs.
what does that even mean? and have i lost my mind? well the second question remains to be seen but as for the first question, i will probably write some more detailed posts getting into the nitty-gritty of all this for those who care to read about it. but for now let me just say that NFTs, if you haven’t heard about them, are changing the art market and many artists’ lives. and i felt like i owed it to myself to explore the space to see if i could be one of them. or if i could even just turn it into a secondary income stream, now that i’ve cut back on my petsitting and set the intention of spending more time on my art.
so maybe you have heard that NFTs are “non-fungible tokens” and have struggled to understand what that means. all that means is that they are unique digital assets (like jpegs or audio or video files) that are authenticated, stored, sold and traded on public blockchains. this technology answers a lot of questions around authenticity in specifically digital art, where it’s really easy to just right-click save whenever you see a cool photo or piece of artwork online. you can still do that, but now there’s a way to actually support the artist who made it and collect the originals of those pieces in digital form.
why would you want to do that? well, that is harder to answer if you’re not someone who spends a lot of time living on the internet. for some it’s about supporting the artists. for others it’s a status flex on social media, owning cool art or whatever is the hype of the moment. some folks take their NFT collecting very seriously, especially those treating them as investments to be flipped for profit on the secondary market. and for others it’s just a fun thing to do – it’s entertainment. it’s like a new (digital) version of trading cards. but it is something that is quickly being adopted by artists, musicians and celebrities, corporations/brands, sports teams/leagues and athletes, the gaming industry and even things like event ticketing. all of these are using NFT technology now and soon it will be the norm, or at least that is what web3 enthusiasts believe.
so yeah, I have been lurking in this world for the past year or so, having first stumbled into it because of folks i follow on twitter talking about the meme-based cryptocurrency dogecoin. but it led me down a rabbit hole trying to understand crypto and eventually NFTs, and has in fact given me enormous amounts of inspiration and exposed me to all kinds of art both physical and digital that i would’ve never been exposed to before. it’s been a steep learning curve but has definitely expanded my mind. and i am energized and excited for how this technology is helping artists create as well as make money on the internet.
i am obviously not a natively-digital artist but i am learning some of the tools and as someone who has dabbled in graphic design i do have some rudimentary knowledge of programs like adobe photoshop and illustrator, as i’ve used them to design my stickers and t-shirts for years. i’ve been spending a lot more time with my ipad and the drawing program procreate. i’m not there yet, in terms of making my own digitally-created art. but in the meantime one way physical artists are participating in the NFT world is by selling digital photos of their physical work, or sometimes digitally altered versions of their physical work.
(i’ve been experimenting with running photos of my paintings through adobe illustrator to vector them, and then editing them, sometimes changing colors or words or other aspects, therefore making them new and different from their original physical pieces. i’ve also been taking a lot of detail and process photos and videos of my work, with the hopes of turning those into abstract NFTs, like the one above. that physical painting ended up with many more layers of color on top, so what that image depicts does not exist in physical form any longer – except as an NFT.)
i have some of my work up on the NFT marketplace opensea on the polygon/ethereum blockchain, some of my recent paintings and also some photographs that i’ve taken over the past few years. i also have a random assortment of things up on another marketplace called rarible on the tezos blockchain. there are different marketplaces and different blockchains to mint NFTs on and i can get into all that in another post. but they each have their own audience, vibe, and types of artwork that sell better; pricing can vary widely between them, often correlating to the price of the underlying cryptocurrency of the blockchain being used. i’ve been experimenting with several marketplaces but so far I’ve only sold one out of an edition of 100 photos of my cat sticker on rarible that many of you saw me post on instagram. it was thrilling to sell my first NFT but also it was only worth $4.30 at the time of sale so i guess i shouldn’t get too excited. (my hope is to sell all of them to help pay down my vet bills.)
ok, that’s probably enough detail and enough links for you to click through for now.
but there. i’ve come out. i’ve been anxious about talking about this publicly because i think some of you will really think i’ve gone off the deep end or abandoned my moral compass. NFTs are often deemed a cash grab, but honestly, i think the entire art market could be considered such – i mean, we live in a capitalist culture and we all have to make a living, and i’d be lying if i said money wasn’t a big motivator. but please know i have approached all this with and still harbor a healthy amount of skepticism and i have spent a ridiculous amount of time researching and observing and investigating everything in the space. it is frankly not as shady as you think it is. it’s not all maga hats and libertarians in the space. there are a lot of women, queers/trans/non-binary folk and people of color who are doing really cool things, and i have found overwhelmingly progressive political views across-the-board, which frankly surprised me. (when you look at the data about who is participating in the crypto world, the demographics skew younger and towards people of color, although those with incomes much higher than mine.)
i have found it a very exciting and forward-thinking space and particularly when it comes to the 1/1 art NFT realm it is really empowering and inspiring. it’s democratizing art in a peer to peer fashion even faster than what etsy and other online marketplaces did in the 2000s. there’s a lot of potential and just a lot of experimentation, collaboration and open-minded thinking about it all.
the bottom line is that i quickly came to the conclusion that it would be stupid for me as an artist NOT to get involved in this. because if i can figure this out, find my place in it, especially now before it has really hit the mainstream, then maybe i can finally make some decent money from my creativity that can pay some bills. but even if it never amounts to that, if it keeps inspiring me to make more art, keeps opening my mind to new ways of thinking and being creative, and keeps helping me meet other artists around the country and the world, then it is all entirely worth it.
so. if you’re already into crypto and NFTs, holla! if you aren’t but you are interested to learn more, let me know that too, because i’m happy to write some more posts with how-to’s and more basic level info for folks who want to dive in. it would be good to hear from anyone interested.
and if you hate NFTs/crypto or you’re just really not into this and think i’m crazy, that’s fine too. we don’t have to all be into the same things! you can just ignore all my blathering about it all. i’m not gonna stop making physical art. if anything this might get me to make more art – try different styles, mediums, subject matters – some of which i will sell as physical, and some of which i will sell as digital. i’m just excited about all this. and i just really wanted y’all to understand what the appeal was for me.
thanks for reading and stay tuned!