My very first sci-fi inspired digital artwork exhibition was recently published as a collection of NFT’s on the Opensea platform, using Polygon crypto. As I share it with the public, the question of ‘why NFT’s’ deserves a thoughtful response. I had the same question before I started, so I will attempt to articulate my journey – and my answer to that question.
I did not understand NFT’s a few months ago, nor I expected the profound impact it has had in my understanding of finance, the value of the intangible (be it art or abstract ideas) and the chasm between a service-driven economy vs. a product-driven economy.
While I am not an artist by occupation, I have always been a very prolific artist. I have created watercolours, inks, acrylics, sculpture… digital painting, vector art, animations / motion graphics and everything in between. It has always been a work of love and passion, a way to follow my creative flow and put to paper the stories and worlds that live in my head, and I had never sold a piece of art. The closest I have come to being rewarded by my artistic endeavours is by doing art-for-pay commissions when designing logos, websites or packaging that required an illustration. I have been an (award-winning) illustrator and Art Director in advertising for decades.
On an unrelated line of inquiry, these last few years I have been thinking about my finances. As I get older and start thinking about retirement or the possibility to stop working (due to health or a gap year) I realised that my whole productive life has been based on delivering a service, but the moment I stop working is the moment I stop getting paid. It strikes me that this is not compatible with how I want to be in control of my own life, so I have been putting a lot of thought into building wealth by other means.
When my friend and renown Dutch artist Dadara started his journey into NFT’s with his WTF piece and wrote about it in his website, it sparked my interest. He made a very good point: digital art is every bit as good and valid as traditional art, but without the possibility to earn a living from it or to claim authorship once the artwork gets appropriated by the internet as a meme or as a ‘photoshop’ base, shared ad infinitum with no collective memory of the artist, no credit and no possibility to channel digital success into the artist’s livelyhood.
When he later went onto creating his NFT CryptoGreymen project, I started getting more curious about what the intrinsic value of NFT’s was and how the mechanics worked. I decided to try it out myself, to ‘learn by doing’ and follow his example.
I selected a series of artworks I have been creating for the last couple of years, all based around the sci-fi worlds that exist in my head and created using Photoshop as only tool. At this moment I have hundreds of pieces in my computer drives, gathering dust. What could I do with this otherwise invisible, intangible and unknown art?
There was of course a technical learning curve but the experience of creating NFTs was almost mystical, or at least having a profound impact in how I understood art and finances.
I took a digital painting I am very fond of, which up until that moment had been only worth the time and passion I put into it and the worlds and stories it unlocked in my head every time I saw it. The questions I had to answer were profoundly existential: “How many unique instances of this painting do I want to create? How would a potential buyer appreciate the difference between owning one of fifty vs. owning one of five-hundred copies? Or owning just one of two in existence?”
The next questions were just as confronting. My art was always created at night between midnight and early morning, in the solitude of my living room while everyone slept, with good music and a head full of stars. I had never given any thought to what this experience might be worth to someone else, let alone how to explain it or assign value to it. “How much is this painting worth?” “What do you call this painting? How do you describe it? What do you say about it?”.
It took me almost an hour to answer those questions for my first NFT art piece. The process got a little easier, but just as involved for every piece (as they are all different in size, scope and value) and through the repeated minting for a selection of my paintings and I started understanding what I was doing: assigning value to something I had created, and packaging it into a format that made it possible for others to add their own value to it, in a way that had not been possible – at least for me – before. I realise this must be the way artists work, but it had just never occurred to me before what my artwork was worth.
I shared a link to the collection on LinkedIn and Facebook, and the very next morning I got a notification that one of my art pieces had been sold. (if you are curious, it was this one here)
This first sale was an immediate validation of the existential introspection the night before. Someone else had recognised the value I had assigned to my artwork, and felt it worth adding their own value to it. I had just earned my first cryptocurrency ever, and my mind is already planning the next steps, to ensure I continue adding value to my artwork, and giving back to those who invest in my creative endeavour.
But perhaps those other activities are worth of a separate post. For now, I hope I have articulated my reasons as to ‘why NFT’s’, and encouraged you to look at my art differently.
My journey has only just started, and this “EXOPLANETS BEYOND” collection is now available on Opensea, here.