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].

Bamboozlers on OpenSea

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 $70-100 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

16 replies on “The Brutality of NFT Art

  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 1 person

    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.

      Like

  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 1 person

    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.

      Like

  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

  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

  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

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