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NFTs From an Artist Perspective - Are They a Fast Track to Financial Success?

NFT Art. Easel and artist stool next to squares linked by circuits featuring NFT and currency symbols.

You may have heard about NFTs and understand them to be a way for individuals to own the original copy of a digital image, most commonly an artwork. For the most part your understanding is correct, except it's not actually the digital image you own as such, it's the right to be recognized as the owner of that image by absolute proof of ownership through purchasing it as a non duplicatable NFT.

An NFT, or Non-fungible Token, can be linked to any media, not just art. Any kind of digital file. They can even be linked to physical media (possibly less common but I've seen it done).

NFTs are a piece of data stored as a digital ledger entry, using blockchain technology, similar to that used by cryptocurrencies, but every ledger entry represents a unique item.

You don't need to understand blockchain technology other than it's what makes it possible for you to be the actual owner of a digital file in the same way an art collector can be the actual owner of an original Da Vinci artwork simply by buying one of his original creations. Just like Da Vinci's art, copies can be made but there can only be one original (and by extension only one owner of the original).

Also like purchasing physical artwork, owning an original NFT doesn't necessarily mean you own the copyright in the NFT - which is why anyone can sell images of the Mona Lisa even though the French Republic own the actual painting.

Now you know what an NFT is, as an artist, you've probably seen and heard of all these NFTs being sold for millions. You're wondering if you should jump on the band wagon to financial freedom, fame and glory? I mean digital art costs almost nothing to make and you could pump out an artwork a day easy right?

Yeah... nah... (as we Aussies say).

As it happens, digital art costs next to nothing to make (or at least it does at the most base level of scribbling doodles into Photoshop and saving the file) but turning those files into NFTs, that can get expensive real fast. Turns out, you need to be a little more discerning about what you turn into an NFT.

To get into NFTs right now you will have to set up an Ethereum wallet of some kind (Ethereum is the cryptocurrency most NFTs are traded with). Which I believe in itself is usually free but you'll then need to convert some traditional money to Ethereum (yes, even as an NFT creator).

To list your NFT on an NFT marketplace there's a 'gas' fee that you may have to pay for in Ethereum that equates to around USD$60.00 depending on the current conversion rates and marketplace). Hence why I mention turning all your art into NFTs could get expensive real quick (this isn't ebay!), particularly if they're not selling.

Rather than me going through the process in detail, Youtuber, Daniel Inskeep created a short video on what NFTs are and his first experience of creating one. It's an excellent video and easy to follow along if you would like to create your first NFT.

Link to the artwork collaboration, Avoiding the Grind, Daniel worked on in the video on MakersPlace, an NFT digital art market. The artwork initially sold for USD$8,800.00, and later sold on the secondary market for USD$51,543.00 (of which the artist gets a percentage kickback every time one of their works sells on the secondary market).

Daniel made another video of his experience creating and selling his own photography NFTs. In the video below you'll notice he attaches physical prints to his digital work. As well he runs you through a list of potential market places you can explore, which is super useful if you are interested in creating your own NFTs. Daniel settled on OpenSea because it is newbie friendly and does let you pay for things with more traditional means like debit and credit cards.

Most importantly Daniel runs you through his entire experience of trying to sell his NFTs, including all the costs he encountered, and how his lack of connection within the NFT community may have put his auctions at a disadvantage in terms of finding buyers.

Personally I'm not an expert in NFTs. In fact, a lot of what I know, I learnt from Daniel's NFT videos (his channel is excellent if you're interested in real world examples of earning money online). However I do have some thoughts, from my perspective as a visual artist.

Firstly, I don't see NFTs as a fast track to financial success if you're mostly an unknown artist with no audience, representation, or aren't in any way noteworthy (yet). There are always exceptions but the chances of you posting an NFT for sale and it selling for even hundreds of dollars is pretty slim.

That said, all artists have to start somewhere, so once you begin to gain a bit of an audience with repeat buyers, and you start to learn what your buyers want, maybe that's a good time to turn a few of your most popular works into NFTs. You know those artworks sell and you may reach a few new buyers who are looking to collect upcoming artists in the NFT space.

If you are an established artist, already consistently selling physical works, NFTs are definitely worth looking into as a way to reach a new market for your art (or maybe NFTs could be an upsell for your existing collectors - own the physical original AND the digital original).

To be honest making a digital NFT version of a physical artwork and then selling them separately seems a bit like two bites of the same apple. It's not that much extra effort to create a digital original.

I do think NFTs of static works like paintings and photography seems a little redundant in the sense that, if there is an actual physical artwork you can own, wouldn't you rather own that? However, who knows why collectors collect what they collect.

The concept of NFTs seems more aligned with art that can't exist outside of digital space, such as animations, music recordings, film clips, Virtual Reality art etc.

Not only that but with Mark Zuckerberg's newly rebranded company, Meta, focusing on Virtual Reality experiences, there may even be a place people can show off their NFTs in a more interactive way. Maybe there will be a whole industry of NFT artists creating for these kinds of spaces.

At this stage it is still very much early days for NFT art. I don't see them going away as some kind of fad because our lives are increasingly more reliant on digital technology. The NFT concept solves a problem of proof of ownership in a space where copying digital files is an essential part of the very infrastructure (e.g. your browser cache).

I do think the market will gravitate toward non static and/or digital only artworks in the long term as I feel that will have more prestige than owning digital NFTs of artworks that also exist in physical form. However there will still be room for both.

For any artist looking to forge a career in traditional or digital media it's worth keeping an eye (at least) on where NFTs are going. Maybe even experiment with creating your own to understand the process - so it doesn't feel that confusing (it really isn't that much harder than selling your physical work online - and you don't have to ship anything).

Like a traditional art career path, you're still going to have to build a following of collectors. If you already have a following then I'd certainly say you've got a head start to really test the waters with NFTs.

Just don't have expectations of being paid millions for your first NFT listing. Though if you're the author/star of a wildly successful meme, you may want to turn that into an NFT. I'm willing to bet that's going to be a popular niche market, if it isn't already... Classic Memes That Have Sold as NFTs.


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