Updated: Apr 8, 2021
The legendary Nyan Cat GIF has been sold at a digital auction for more than $580,000
Artists: imagine a world where you can make thousands with the digital art you have sitting on your computer collecting dust because you thought "it's just a doodle, no one cares." You don't have to sulk anymore--it's become a reality. Artists of all mediums, photographers, painters, filmmakers, illustrators, animators, even writers are currently flourishing in this new crypto-world of art. In this post, I will cover what even is an NFT and why should you care as an artist or a buyer?
First off: what in the world is an NFT?
I was just as confused as you. As an artist, hearing cryptocurrency and art in the same sentence terrified me. But reading more into it....it indulged me. NFT stands for non-fungible token.
To put it into simple terms, it basically means that whatever the piece you're selling is, it's one of a kind and cannot be replicated at all whatsoever. For example, there is only one painting of the Mona Lisa, if that were to be sold it would be worth billions, right? The same applies with NFTs.
But it's the internet. I can just download it for free...right?
I mean...yeah. You can. But technically, that's not the original art. Let's use the Mona Lisa again as an example. You can get that painting anywhere--on a shirt, as a sticker, download it, or reprinted/repainted on canvas. Does that make it the original piece of art? It does not.
As an artist, why should I care?
I believe this is revolutionary for digital creators. Not even just limited to digital, any artist for that matter. NFTs are now the answer for artists to step farther into the art world and experience the future at their hands. Technology is advancing and with that so is every aspect of our society and means of human expression: art. The amount of digital pieces of art I have created that just sat on my instagram page or portfolio being unseen is something I have struggled with. As with many artists, we resort to putting our art onto merchandise (tees, stickers, keychains, etc.) as a way to market out art--otherwise we can't make a living. Especially as a digital artist, it's hard to sell your art, people are more fond of buying physical pieces of work. NFTs have provided a solution by combining the hive mind of wanting to flex and the minds of artists. It's become trendy to be weird and people want to own weird things. People want to own something that will provide a sort of status for them.
What about as a buyer?
If you're into investing, these may spark your interest. One of the main reasons people are buying NFTs besides having a status and looking cool, is that they hope that NFT will become more valuable and sell it for more, therefore it's seen as an investment.
Is there a catch?
As the rise of NFTs keeps going, there's been discovery of the environmental impact they have. Though, this is a great opportunity with artists, the amount of supply/demand is so great the energy it takes to make transactions with ETH (Ethereum) is 2.3 times higher than any normal cryptocurrency transaction. In this fstoppers article, it says "It is estimated that an average NFT takes up 340 kWh of energy and emits 211 kg of CO2. This compares to flying for two hours or driving for 620 miles. Worst, most NFTs will never be sold, causing artists to lose money while also harming the planet irreversibly."
But there is some hope. Writer Ovchar says, "The solution that has been in development for the past seven years is Ethereum 2.0. It uses a different method that is called Proof of Stake. The mining capability of a new block is not linked to energy, but to the amount of currency already present. Current news suggests ETH 2.0 being released to the general public in the next few years. Hopefully, the sense of urgency that is created by the sudden jump in NFT popularity will speed up the rollout of ETH 2.0. However, once launched, ETH 2.0 will only enable faster greener transactions. A better solution than ETH 2.0 is also in development."
Learn more about NFTs!
Check out NPR's Planet money podcast where they discuss the artist Beeple that sold a piece of $69 million.
As well, SNL did a terrific skit on NFTs that ironically explain them very well. Check it out:
What do I even do with this information?
That's up to you! You can go about your day and have NFTs sit in the back of your mind and disappear into oblivion. Or you can put your entrepreneurial mind to the test and give them a try. As an artist, what is there to lose?
Here's some of the most popular sites now for NFTs:
I believe this is a breakthrough for the art world and a perfect opportunity for small artists like you and I to finally take a stand as struggling artists and make a name for ourselves. Thank you for reading and I hope this encouraged you to get out there and indulge yourself in the new world of crypto-art.