Awakening Upon Death of the Bride of the Creature, by Eric Wayne

I’ve been making digital art for the better part of 2 decades, and more seriously in the last 8-9 years. People who know me, or my art, have asked if I’ve gotten into NFTs; some have urged me to do so; and some have asked if I got rich yet. No, I haven’t, and no, I haven’t. I looked into it before, and when I saw what the top selling art was, it was obvious that what sold was almost completely relative, subjective, and arbitrary, in which case I had no better chances of selling than anyone else who made digital art, even if they were rank beginners, and in fact less so because I am not well-connected, not popular on social media, not rich, and don’t like spending much time on social media platforms.

CryptoPunk #7523 sold for a whopping $11.75m. Note that there are apparently over 7,000 of these.

However, at least one artist I know in real life — though I have never met her — who is or was perhaps comparably nonplussed by social media, has done quite well selling NFTs, and insisted that I could also do well if I invested myself in it. If I did 10% as well as she did in the last year, that would be outstanding for yours truly.

And so I looked into NFTs a bit more seriously, and these are my initial impressions after a mere few days of exploration. I may be wrong about a lot of it — hopefully I am — and I deliberately qualify these as initial impressions so that I may update them later. If in the future, anyone would ask me, “What was your first impression of NFTs?” I will have already documented my answer.

Monster Maiden #2, by Eric Wayne

The Dark Side

Your most valuable asset as an NFT artist is your Twitter followers. If you apply to some of the bigger NFT marketplaces, there are fields where you must include your Instagram and Twitter accounts. If you are not heavily engaged in these social media platforms, and you are not wildly popular on them, you need not apply.

application for one of the best NFT platforms

I F’ing suck at Instagram. I’ve been on the platform for 5 years, and my very first post got 31 likes, whereas my most recent one got 41. I have not increased in popularity from the default initial appearance at the time. My second post had 89 views, while my second to last has just 25. If anything, 370 posts later, let’s be honest, I’m sinking.

One of my animations got over 400 views, but only 50 people liked it, and only one commented.

My Twitter is even worse. I joined in 2013. I tried it on and off, and virtually nobody ever liked, commented on, or re-shared anything I posted. Nobody replied to any comments I made. I just don’t get it, at all.

My blog, on the other hand, does modestly well, and so I put my energy here. But a blog is never mentioned in relation to NFTs. It’s gotta’ be Twitter and Instagram. Igadz!

The Agony and the Extraterrestrial by Eric Wayne

NFT art is like a postage stamp because the value is not based on the quality of art, but rather the art is the visible representation of a quantity of currency. The most important idea of NFT art is not the art, but the T, for “token”. NFT art is a design on a token. What is really of value is that token. If you look at NFT art as token design, it makes really a lot more sense, visually, aesthetically, and in terms of substance (which is minimal and largely undesirable].

The art is a pretext to buy, sell, and trade tokens. The NFT artist is ideally someone, or better yet a team, that makes fresh, flashy, but ephemeral postage stamps for crypto currency. But really, it doesn’t matter at all what the NFTs look like as long as people want to buy them. But just as with a postage stamp, or a tab of acid, it’s better if it looks nice or catchy, and sometimes those things are worth collecting just because you like them, even if you aren’t going to sell them or trip on them. In general, however, the art is of secondary importance.

As an artist, your art has zero value in the NFT marketplace until you “mint” it, as in “minting” coins. Your minted art, which you will have spent roughly $70-450 to mint, is now a coin in the blockchain, and that’s what really matters.

The goal is not to own NFTs, but to flip them for a profit. This has been the case in the blue chip art world for quite some time as well, it’s just more naked when it comes to NFTs. There isn’t even a pretense that it’s about anything other than accruing and circulating currency. Incidentally, I’m not pretending I understand or have any interest whatsoever in economics, let alone how it works with crypto currency. I just get that the art is an excuse for the tokens to exist and that they are unto themselves a form of currency.

Selfies From Alternate Universes #28, by Eric Wayne

The Bright Side

As a side effect of this new marketplace and the new currency of digital art coins or stamps, digital art can now be isolated as a one-of-a-kind item that someone can own, that has scarcity, and can go up in value. Prior to this, digital art was very frequently considered utterly worthless because it is infinitely reproducible. It never mattered how good the art was inherently. If you couldn’t sell it, it was nothing. I’ve been told this personally, and more than a few times. It didn’t even matter that you could sell prints, even if limited prints of digital photographs are a standard practice that is considered completely legitimate.

Truth is Indifferent to the Seeker of Truth, by Eric Wayne

Now, because of NFTs, that’s changed, and it’s an enormous and unexpected boon for digital artists. Now at least there’s the possibility that you can be taken seriously, and that you can sell your art.

Back to the Dark Side

There may not be a place for you in the marketplace, and you might not be able to sell anything. Quality is purely extrinsic, and so no matter how good your digital art is intrinsically, without the Twitter and Instagram followers, or the blessing of moneyed investors, it may cost you more to mint it and put it out there than you can sell it for. While your digital art now can have scarcity as a one-of-a-kind object, and it can have value in the blockchain, it can be a negative value as regards your own financial worth. Your art can be worth less than zero. At the same time something that everyone would agree appears quite frivolous by traditional standards of art will be valued in the millions.

Infinite Objectivity, by Eric Wayne

Back to the Bright Side

It may not be all that bad, and a serious digital artist might be able to make a tiny fraction for their best art relative to what even one NFT of a slapdash series of characters sells for. And that’s better than working at Burger King (or service job of choice. I just chose BK because I’ve worked there, and so it’s more personal].

Ant Man goes AWOL, by Eric Wayne

My gut feeling right now is rather hopeless, and that explains this sort of rant. But one soldiers on. You can’t just hit “escape” and opt out of the game. I may have gone down the wrong rabbit hole, because I was looking at YouTube videos about selling NFT art, and it was all about making money, making money, and making money, and art was a hollow husk of nothing. For some reason I kept seeing collections. But I have also seen some more involved digital art that I like, and at least one that was more or less up my alley.

If I want to break into NFTs, it could be a humiliating waste of time and money, or could pay off, but part of it is doing all that social media networking and hustling stuff that I abhor, and is hard work if you aren’t a social media junky. That’s energy I’d rather spend on art, or most anything else, because I believe social media participation is unhealthy, and I suck at it.

If the title of my article didn’t make sense, the brutality of NFT art is that it is so based in pure buying, selling, and trading art as currency, that a good artist can get crushed by it, all the while some of the worst schlock imaginable heralds millions. You gotta’ leave your soul at home before dipping in.

However I slice it, I probably have to give it a try though. I’d rather say I I struck out every time I went to the plate than that I never bothered to step up to the plate at all. And I think a lot of artists are going to have the same reservations or disinclinations about NFTs that I do.

Alas, these are merely my early impressions.

Work in progress, by Eric Wayne (this one’s a tribute}

~ Ends

27 replies on “The Brutality of the NFT Art Platform

  1. From the very little I know about NFT’s I completely agree with you; they seem to be a virtual vehicle for investment and making money rather than a way to collect and appreciate art. Similar to cryptocurrency. As a collector myself, there is no way I would ever invest in an encrypted file that is just going to sit on my computer when I can purchase and enjoy physical books, paintings and prints. As for social media, instagram, twitter etc., I guess it might be a good way to get noticed but there’s just so much content out there to sift through… I don’t even bother.
    I do like blog posts though, especially yours as it’s extremely well written and very informative, as are your youtube videos. I like your art and if you published it in a photo-book format e.g. using something like Blurb, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. Keep going!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, man. It’s good to hear people are reading my blog, looking at my art, and watching my videos!

      I’m starting to learn some new things, and it looks like artists themselves are buying other artist’s works and trying to use the NFT platform for good. Mutual support seems like a built-in component. It’s working for apparently a lot of smaller artists who otherwise would be lapsing in obscurity. Maybe there is a chance after all.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I was tempted to have a go because I need the money. I also tried to convince myself – as a way of stoking up some necessary enthusiasm for something I already hate – that I could do with flexing my creativity in a different field. Near my home there is a field which is actually a swamp.
    Bread and lard, anyone?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I now know two people who are making money selling NFTs, and they are both encouraging me to give it a try. I was surprised to learn that a lot of NFT artists are buying each other’s art, and there’s a bit of a supportive community mostly on Twitter. If I have any luck I’ll surely report it here.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, you might be able to get into it. I can promise nothing, because I haven’t even minted my first NFT yet. Gas prices to mint and list are, at the moment, uh, $332. That’s how much it would cost me just to put something out there on a more respectable platform. I have to monitor the ETH gas prices to hit the times when it can be half as costly.

        However, I do so traditional artists selling NFTs of their work. And your Tall Man series might find collectors. However, dealing with NFTs is very difficult for me because I have so little understanding of the terrain that I can’t predict anything.

        What I mostly see succeeding is flashy, popular, schlock. But like dogs to the banquet table, real artists may be able to get some table scraps, enough to scrape by on, assuming they are eating garbage they find on the street, and perhaps some road kill as their main diet.

        But there does seem to be enough money trickling down that some of it showers on more traditional and otherwise quality artists.

        It may be worth a try.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My friends have also tried to convince me to try NFTS for my photography. I don’t see the point. Like you, I am very unpopular on Instagram and Twitter. Few followers, few likes, for years. I am tired of social media and getting more and more disgusted with it. Your digital art is very interesting and elaborate, and I was surprised to learn that this form of art is undervalued, as you stated, because it can be reproduced indefinitely. I guess the same is valid for photography. Although fine art photographers try to get into a market of limited editions, it is an artificial construct. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on nfts. For the moment I’ll stick with prints and self made books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There may be some hope there. I just discovered that there are lots of digital and other artists trying to help each other out on Twitter, and they also buy each other’s works. There may be hope, but it’s too early to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah its funny how online popularity works. The most popular guy on Gab goes by the moniker ‘Catturd’. Witty, but not particularly brilliant. People seem to gravitate to fake, non-threatening personas. Hopefully your online presence resembles this airport photo. The WordPress Reader photo is more edgy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the infamous Beeple’s full moniker is beeplecrap. And his JPEG that is the highest selling digital artwork sold for $69 million. Get it? 69. Derp! Someone deliberately make it 69. Lot’s of sophomoric humor.

      Like

      1. This could easily be someone money laundering and using the art as a smokescreen. Other tricks that can be played is someone mints a token, then buys it from themself with a different account.

        Or John Doe the artist releases a collection and buys his own stuff so people see that it is selling and going up in price. They want in on the action, so they start bidding also. What they don’t know is that all the early sales was the artist “buying” from himself.

        I doubt that the “how to make money selling NFT” people that you watch do not mention that, as they have an incentive to create a buzz, to get more clicks on their videos, and it’s not in their interest to squash the dreams of getting rich on your art.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. If you don’t like spending time on social media, it may be worth it to hire a social media assistant to build your presence for you. You can continue your work and your blog, things that you enjoy and that give you energy. They could just amplify it through social media channels to build your brand there. Upwork.com’s
    site offers plenty of freelancers with a wide range of skills and price points. It may be worth a try for a few months. Your own time is best invested doing things you love, delegate the other stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s probably a good idea, but if I could pay someone else to do it at this stage, I’d probably just pay myself to do it. Thanks for the tip, though. Also, I’ve discovered something new happening that might be a game changer.

      Like

      1. “Also, I’ve discovered something new happening that might be a game changer.”

        If it pans out, I hope that you write a blog post about it. I’m curious and still skeptical about the mechanics of the NFT markets. Part of the problem is that I have terrible internet where I live, so even watching YouTube videos is a chore. So I can’t really go balls deep into the NFT ecosystem just because of my technical limitations.

        I am fascinated by art markets in general, and trying to figure out how it all works. I’m barely at the point where I can sort of understand why people would pay $150k for a banana taped to a wall, but I would have a hard time verbalizing it.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Fascinating account. I have been trying to wrap my head around of NFT art. Much of what I saw on Twitter was not very impressive. From a Media Literacy perspective, it is intriguing how the social media environment made NFT Art possible. Digital products are still very ephemeral – if someone pulls the plug, they cease to exist. Like old Mass Media, such as early photography & cinema, the potential for degrading technology removing digital work creates a risk in investment. Does that in crease potential value? Only time will tell.
    I have now followed you on Twitter. 🙂 My “expansive” twitter reach has taught me that I have no idea why some tweets go through the roof, while others just ineffectually flutter in the nest. By my personal metric, if I get 5-6 likes, and a couple of retweets, I’m successful. 😀 On occasion, I will delete a lifeless tweet, and then send it out again – it will get recognition, so timing is everything on social media. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So scarcity is an NFT’s measure of value. From what I can see that’s true. What I don’t get is: As the scarcity is manufactured, how is it valuable? I guess I understand high finance as poorly as I do high art.
    On one hand, I think rich folk shifting money amongst themselves as in a game is irrelevant to me and therefore harmless. But on the other hand that money could be better used by real—as opposed to con—artists who put effort, experience, and talent into making digital or physical, object, or event art.
    It could be worse. Consider my art efforts: Since 2008 I have posted 481 image essay combos on WordPress and I copy them over to Facebook and Instagram; I consider 20 clicks and 4 likes a good day. But I’m good w/this. I don’t have to sell my soul or my art to get by anymore.
    Making art and selling it are two very different talents. NFTs make that clearer than ever. In the bad old days, even just a century or so ago a would-be artist had to be skilled at both.
    Don’t give up. your stuff is good. If one NFT can finance real art-making for a year, hold your nose and go for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do find NFTs pretty fascinating. I understand the urge to collect, because I do have a modest physical art collection. I started off buying prints because they were much cheaper and they looked almost as good as the original, and the point was to have something that looked cool, right? Soon though, I did start springing for an original, or a limited edition here and there, because I wanted something scarce and cool-looking. One painting that I own I did sort of justify in my head, “Well, this artist is pretty famous and still pretty young. Maybe the value of the painting will appreciate over the years.” (the artist was Peca, if you know her) That last part, sort of the cult of personality, I guess you’d call it, is now a whole new thing to factor into my decision-making, and something that a few years ago, I would have sworn that I had no interest in. The artist and their potential for future fame is not an important factor for me even now, but I feel like I sort of get it.

    As a counterpoint, I was at an art show with a friend. There was a print on the wall, limited to 100 copies or something. The price was $500 and he really liked the print, so he took a picture with his cell phone, printed the picture at home and hung it in his house. Obviously, that bootlegged print has no commercial value, and he has something to look at, but it seems a bit “off” to me for some reason. Like, I don’t want to be that art guy snob, but I do feel pangs of snobbery that he has a “fake” print, even though I can’t articulate why too well why I think that.

    So for the NFTs, it’s plausible that urge moves to the digital art world as well. Yes, on an NFT marketplace, you can just Right Click->Save As… and you’ll have a cool image but you won’t HAVE the image, any more than my friend HAS the image of the print he photographed at the art show.

    Other thoughts…you mention that artists in the NFT space support each other. There has to be more to it than that. The scene can’t exist as a closed loop because the artists still have to buy food and pay rent, which would bleed money out of the scene. Where does the inflow come from? In meatspace, it comes from collectors who probably have good salaries, or maybe arts organizations funded by donors or government grants. Maybe a magazine or movie studio will hire an artist to design a set. The point is you can’t just have artists supporting artists. There has to be more to it if it’s going to survive.

    Lastly, you wrote that you suck at social media, but “My blog, on the other hand, does modestly well, and so I put my energy here.”

    I daresay that your unique value proposition is thorough analysis. Your blog articles are hundreds of words long that take time to read. Hell, I have probably spent 30 minutes reading and commenting on just this post about NFTs. Instagram and Twitter are optimized for a 2-second attention span. So to me, it seems pretty clear why your blog does so well, as the long-form blog posts really play to your strengths while an Instagram does not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the meaty response, and nice to see you on Twitter. Just a quick reaction here to a couple ideas you put forth. You were saying that artists can’t just support each other on Twitter because that would just be recirculating the same funds, if I understood you correctly. They support each other with comments, likes, retweets, and purchases, but, the money is trickling down from the collectors and more successful artists. For example, a collector bought works by a well known NFT artist for a lot of money, then he bought a work by an artist who knows me for thousands of dollars, and in turn that artist bough something of mine for <$5.

      Whether or not owning a work of art is superior in terms of enjoyment versus owning a copy may not be the real issue. Someone insisted (and I haven’t corroborate this myself yet) that NFTs go up in value faster than crypto currency. So, to a degree, the art is irrelevant except as an asset that the buyer gambles on going up in value. An NFT is pure currency.

      Even artists invest in other artist’s work in order to make a profit. It seems many of the artists in the community are also collectors, and part of it is just wanting to own art that they like.

      These are still my initial impressions because I’m a newbie in the game for sure.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the reply, Eric. It’s fun seeing you active on Twitter now. As I explained in an earlier comment, I can’t follow NFTs too closely at the moment due to internet limitations, but I do look forward to following your evolving thoughts on your blog!

        Like

  9. I hate Twitter, so that’s me out from the get go, though I am (reluctantly) thinking about returning to Instagram. Will keep an eye on your NFT explorations with interest, as I still don’t even quite understand what the hell it is. Looks like crypto currency all over again. But I keep being told I must try it, so I’m curious.

    Liked by 1 person

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