Artists have long been using digital media for their art. However, with the advent of new file types, such as NFTs, artists have the ability to store and share their art in a more secure and permanent way.
In this article, we will discuss the basics of NFTs and how artists can use them to create and share their work.
Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room: can artists get rich through NFTs?
The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. It’s like saying, can you get rich by selling a painting? The simple fact is that there are always a lot of factors involved. As an artist what you should do is first focus on creating your work.
Okay, now let’s get into some basics first.
What Is an NFT?
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t know about ‘tokens’ and ‘blockchain’ and stuff. So we have to look just a bit further into the “blockchain ecosystem” or something that is being shoved under the umbrella term of Web3.
To put it simply, let’s break down NFT into two things: Non-Fungible and Token. Non-Fungible means something that is unique and the value cannot be broken into pieces. For example, gold is fungible, meaning its value is related to weight and you can split it into smaller parts and sell it per weight.
But a non-fungible item is like the famous trading cards, such as Pokemon cards or even basketball cards. The value is in the whole item, a “1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4” was sold for $420,000 in March 2022, not because of the paper it’s made of, but because of its value as a unique item. If you —gasp— cut it into pieces, it will most likely lose that value immediately.
Now the second word, Token (or Tokens), refers to a term in the “blockchain ecosystem”. Tokens are digital assets built on a specific blockchain. A token is defined as a project utilizing the blockchain.
If you ever heard of a Bitcoin or Ethereum, that too can be considered a token. But it is considered fungible as you can trade a fraction of a Bitcoin and each individual token doesn’t have a different value compared to one another, unlike an NFT.
What is pretty fun is that an NFT can be anything digital. Right now, the most popular NFT is digital visual art, but it can have the form of images, videos, music, or virtually anything digital.
What makes an NFT is how that asset is tied to a blockchain. An NFT can be thought of as an asset that came with a certificate of authenticity and certificate of ownership.
Some Famous NFTs
There is some high-profile NFT project out there. Some gained prominence because they sold for a lot of money.
One of which is Bored Ape Yacht Club. This project got endorsed publicly when some celebrities are flaunting their purchase of it. Each ape in the Bored Ape Yacht Club is procedurally generated.
Similar to the Bored Ape Yacht Club is the Cryptopunk project. This features a variation on a character, but this time with a pixel art style. One such Cryptopunk was auctioned off by famous auction house Sotheby’s.
Another important name on the NFT-sphere is Beeple. This digital artist creates uncanny digital work that sometimes commented on the current situation. His work was even auctioned off by prominent auction house Christie for $69 million, $15 million more than a Monet painting they said.
Some other famous names on the NFT include XCOPY, Ross Ulbricht, Dimitri Cherniak, and Mad Dog Jones. Of course, we might have missed some other prominent NFT projects as there is a lot of them.
Why Is It Important?
As we have learned above, there are defining aspects of an NFT. So far we have talked about two of them: digital assets and uniqueness.
The third aspect is where things get interesting. An NFT can be exchanged easily.
By utilizing a digital public platform, people can (and have been) exchange NFTs. Since everything about the NFT s digital, all purchases and sales can be done digitally, unlike physical arts. The so-called secondary market is where most of the headline-grabbing sales happened.
For an artist, this is important because usually the original artist will retain a cut of the secondary market sales. Basically create some sort of royalty and/or commission system for every transaction of your NFT.
When and Where Should Artists Use NFT?
Just like any other work, you should know when it is time to go public and when you are still just developing your craft. The great thing about digital assets is, you don’t really have to create by hand all your artwork.
For NFT, because each work is directly dropped on an exchange, you should also look at the market. This does not mean being something akin to the stock market trader, but having at least a minimal understanding of how are NFTs being valued on the market will definitely help with your project.
Also, it is a really good idea to have a marketing plan. Yes, this may sound terrible for artists who just want to do the work. But creating an asset means you are doing this commercially.
As to where, there exist several prominent markets such as Rarible, OpenSea, and Foundation. Each has its own rules and how-tos that you need to understand. Albeit the most popular market is OpenSea.
How To Buy an NFT?
NFTs are sold through the previously mentioned platforms. The most famous is OpenSea. But, as noted before, some works are sold through established auction houses.
Some NFT-based project also has their own platform with a secondary market. The most prominent one is TopShot which is basically the NFT version of NBA trading cards.
Of course, if you want the “right way” of buying NFT, you should do so on an exchange platform like OpenSea. The first thing you need to do is open an exchange account and crypto wallet.
Ethereum, a blockchain currency is used on major platforms. This is because most major NFTs are built on the Ethereum blockchain. After purchasing Ether, you must transfer it to a crypto wallet.
Once you connect that wallet to the NFT Marketplace, you can spend the Ether to buy whatever you fancy (and can afford of course).
Now, if you want to know which one to buy, that are a whole lot of other questions. Just treat this like buying art, you should buy ones you like, be it visually or conceptually. Especially if you are new to NFT, don’t make a purchase to speculate on the price going up like stocks on the stock market, just buy some to have fun and for your personal pleasure. If the price does go up, you could always sell it.
How to Make NFT?
NFT is created by a process called minting. We won’t go into the details, but to put it simply minting is a process of converting your digital asset into an NFT by putting it on a blockchain.
By putting it on a blockchain, the digital files will be stored in a decentralized database or distributed ledger and cannot be edited, modified, or deleted.
First thing first though, you should already have an original digital asset to mint. And it is important that you own the copyright of this asset.
But, the good news is, that does not necessarily mean you have to be the one who created that asset. As with all artwork, you can actually use a third party to create the asset for you as long as the deal is clear that you will have ownership of the resulting art. You can even go to Fiverr to obtain such a service.
What About The Dark Side?
Yes, there is some criticism of NFTs. And yes, some of them are valid. One of which is actually a critic of the whole blockchain ecosystem and how it is using a huge resource of energy that is badly damaging to the environment.
This issue is currently being considered and some steps are taken to try and overcome it.
The other thing is about the speculative nature of NFT. Yes, just like the stock market or even the art market, speculation is part of the mechanism involved in exchanging assets. That is why it is important to have an understanding of the market and create an NFT project with a good concept, and not just churn out assets after assets blindly.
It is still unknown how the technology will evolve. All the “new stuff” is now conflated together, just like in the early days of the internet. Some of these will survive, and some may evolve into something else entirely.
What is important is, as an artist, you always need to have awareness of the situation around you. Whether or not you dive into NFTs is a different question, but trying to understand it is a must.