Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Last week, Instagram-famous, digital artist Beeple made history when he sold the first 100% digital artwork as an NFT (non-fungible token) at the art auction house Christie’s for $69 million.
If you weren’t convinced before that crypto art and NFTs were anything more than a very techy fad, now it’s safe to say now that these digital, tradable assets will probably be around for the long-term in one form or another.
“Everydays” by Beeple is a collage of 5,000 individual artworks that he created daily over 13 years. It is the world’s most expensive NFT artwork.
By now you may be considering selling your art as NFTs on the blockchain for cryptocurrency. You’ve heard about artists making thousands of dollars in minutes selling their works on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible and Nifty Gateway.
Deciding whether you should turn your artwork into crypto art and mint NFTs of your work really depends on your interests, artistic career, and audience.
However, before you dive in head first, you should consider the pros and cons of becoming an early artist adopter of NFTs.
Benefits of Creating NFT Art Today
According to Crypto Art Pulse, around 4,100 artists have sold their works on the major NFT marketplaces. In the US alone, there are an estimated 1.4 million active artists. Of course, many, if not most of these artists, are probably working in the analog arts. But nonetheless, it’s clear that only a small fraction of digital artists have taken the leap to “mint” or create NFTs of their works.
If you become an early adopter of NFTs, you will face far less competition than you would if you wait another year or two to join when more artists flood the space. Your works might also be worth more than works minted later because they were some of the first NFTs ever created.
One of the most appealing reasons to NFT your work is the opportunity to earn royalties on the sale of your work on the secondary market.
You will receive the full price of your initial sale minus any NFT marketplace fees. However, unlike the standard art market, each and every time your work is resold in the future you will receive 10% of the selling price as royalty. (Some of the NFT marketplaces, like Rarible, allow you to specify your own royalty fee percentage, but the industry standard appears to be stabilizing at 10%.)
The sooner you mint your work the more likely it is to be sold and then resold hopefully with the value of the work appreciating each time, which could mean more royalties down the road for you if your work ends up changing hands often.
No More Print-on-Demand T-Shirts and Commissioned Projects
For digital artists, NFTs allow you to sell your work in its original digital state, as a digital file. No longer do you need to sell prints, t-shirts, or coffee mugs with your artwork printed on it, or create works for commission for corporate clients.
With NFTs, you can establish the scarcity and authenticity of your work and control its ownership. And with those three things set up, the once prolific and impossible to control digital file can be transformed into a 100% original and rare piece of artwork through NFTs.
Drawbacks of Creating NFT Art
Steep Learning Curve
The complaint I hear most from artists is that they don’t have the time or patience to learn everything there is to know about NFTing their work. They love the idea of monetizing their work in new ways or being part of this new “digital revolution,” but they’re not sure where to start.
In the upcoming months and years, it’s likely that NFT marketplaces and others in the NFT community will develop resources and interfaces to help make it more straightforward for artists to mint their artworks as NFTs. In the meantime, it’s true that developing a basic understanding of the Ethereum network, cryptocurrency, NFTs, where to mint your artwork, and how to promote your artwork to the community will take time, dedication, and patience.
Danger of Scams
I cannot stress this enough. The NFT world is often described as the Wild West. And do you know what they had in the Wild West? Bandits and bank robbers…
Remain vigilant when setting yourself up to NFT your artwork
To protect yourself and your future hard-earned NFT earnings:
Be skeptical of anyone who contacts you privately on social media, text message, or email. Project managers, admins, and help desks will never contact you first!
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on public pages, and in open communities and groups. The NFT community is very supportive and people are often happy to talk you through how something works.
Never give anyone the seed phrase, the words that represent the private keys of your wallet. Make two handwritten copies of them (note the word order) and hide them in a safe place that no one has access to and most importantly — that you will not forget! If you lose these sacred words, you lose access to your wallet and all of your cryptocurrency. And that would be a crying shame!
Beware of phishing! Browse sites only through your bookmarks! Not through Google search, not through groups in the telegram, and not through links in email.
Understand that there is a risk that smart contracts may be breached! Understand the risks and never invest more than you are willing/able to lose.
Upfront Gas Fees
Gas fees are payments made by users to pay for the computing energy required to process and validate transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. When you set yourself up on a new NFT marketplace or mint an NFT artwork, you will need to pay gas fees.
These fees vary based on the current demand on the Ethereum blockchain, but recently in March 2021, fees ranged from around $10 to $50 per transaction.
If you want to avoid paying gas fees for minting every individual artwork, some sites, such as Cargo, allow you to mint in batches, and some, like Mintable, even offer free minting, but then you will pay higher marketplace fees when you eventually sell your work.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Diving In
Before you dive into the world of NFTs, I recommend that digital artists ask themselves the following questions to have the best chance at success:
1. Do I have a following?
One of the reasons that Beeple was able to sell his “Everydays” for nearly $70 million was because he developed a massive following of 1.8 million Instagram followers.
How did he do this? Every single day for 13 years, including his wedding day and the birth of his children, he created an artwork and posted it to his Instagram. His work “Everydays” is a collage of these 5,000 works created over 5000 days.
I’m not saying that you can’t take a vacation here and there, but developing your presence on social media outlets, such as Instagram and Twitter, will make it so much easier to promote your work and will increase your credibility in the eyes of potential collectors.
One of the many artworks that make up Beeple’s “Everydays.” Beeple’s work is heavily inspired by the news and current events.
2. Does my existing following know anything about crypto art or are they tech-minded and likely to become interested?
Do a little research into your current audience. Survey them to see if they’re interested in NFTs.
If you have a young and techy audience, chances are some of them may already know about crypto art and may become future patrons. If your audience seems pretty clueless about NFT art, then you may need to promote your art to NFT collectors or join the effort to educate your audience on NFTs.
3. What is my subject matter?
Certain types of subject matter are more popular than others within the current NFT collector community. Cryptocurrency, finance, sci-fi, fantasy, pop culture, and tech seems to be particularly hot topics for sellable artworks. If you’re working with these themes, give yourself extra points.
“Right Place & Right Time (Bitcoin Hourly Price Offset)” by mattkane. In this programmed artwork, a “new composition for the Master is generated autonomously using a data feed of Bitcoin’s last 24 hours of price action" to control the rotation, scale and position of the layers. This tech and cryptocurrency-rooted work sold for $472,294.30 (262 ETH).
4. Is my work quality?
Have you exhibited at galleries or done freelance projects for top clients? Do you have a CV or website that promotes your work? Have you sold in the past?
As with standard art collectors, many collectors consider your career and past accomplishments when deciding whether to collect your work. They usually want to see that you are a serious artist who will continue to produce excellent work that other people also appreciate.
5. What medium am I working in?
Are you producing video art, digital 3D art, GIFs, or multimedia projects that feature music? Then NFTs might be the perfect way to sell your work. Moving images catch the eye more readily, so it’s easier to cut through the noise on certain marketplace pages.
NFT artists making still-image artworks are also doing very well, so don’t be turned off if you’re not creating moving images. However, if you sell still images, you have an opportunity to sell your work as prints or print-on-demand products, whereas artists working primarily with video or GIFs have fewer opportunities to sell their artworks to collectors.
American DJ Steve Aoki partnered with 3D illustrator Antoni Tudisco to create “hairy,” which sold for $888,888 on Nifty Gateway in March 2021.
6. Will I apply and be accepted by a curated Art NFT platform?
Certain NFT marketplaces, such as Superrare and Nifty Gateway, are curated and invite-only. If one of these top NFT art marketplaces will accept your artwork, then you will have a much better chance of selling your work to collectors than you would if you mint your artwork on an open marketplace like OpenSea or Rarible.
Since all of the artists on these curated sites have been hand-selected, many serious collectors would rather buy artworks from the pre-selected, cream-of-the-crop than spend hours upon hours sifting through open marketplaces for a diamond in the rough.
If you can get your work onto one of these marketplaces, your works will likely 1) be considered more collectible, and 2) get the attention of potential serious collectors.
7. Am I fascinated by this new world of crypto art?
It takes time and energy to learn the technical ins and outs of creating NFT art. However, if you find yourself super excited about the idea of participating in this new crypto art movement, then creating NFTs of your digital artworks could be for you.
8. Are you a woman or non-white?
I did some searching for women artists for Women’s Day last week. Although I found some really brilliant women artists making amazing NFT art, such as the artists of the Women of Crypto Art, it was hard to ignore the fact that men are far more represented right now in the community.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies undermine the existing world order by removing the powerful middlemen and gatekeepers and allowing for peer-to-peer interactions run on smart contracts. Crypto art can be a way to shake up the old patriarchal art world and put the power of promoting and producing art in the hands of individuals instead of prominent museums, galleries, and collectors.
“Master of the Seas” by digital NFT artist Greta Brat
However, this new digital crypto art world will only be representative of the diversity of the real world, if the artists and collectors are truly diverse themselves. So, if you are a woman or non-white, please seriously consider joining and making your mark on the growing crypto art community and culture.
If you answered “yes” to three or more of the above questions and are prepared to protect your crypto wallet details, do your homework, and learn about this new technology, then I would say, “Yes, go for it! Take the plunge. And welcome to the crypto art movement.”
*Legal disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. The advice here given is not financial advice, so please consider the pros and cons of creating NFTs of your art before you join us in the crypto community.