Art with a future

Breaking down non-fungible tokens aka NFTs

You've probably heard about NFTs after digital artwork Everydays: The First 5000 Days created by Mike Winkelmann, known professionally as Beeple, was bought by Vignesh Sundaresan, who paid US$69 million (B2.26 billion) for it.

NFTs -- aka "non-fungible tokens" -- was hailed as a revolution in the creative industry and recent NFT talk has exploded on the internet. The trending topic has left millions wondering what it is and how it works or even wanting to get into the NFT game. Guru presents an overview and insight from local NFT artists.

What is an NFT?

An NFT is a digital asset that exists in the digital universe and is kept as a record of cryptocurrency transactions called "blockchain". Think of physical art bought in the physical world. The original art comes with a certificate, proving its authenticity. Crypto art is the same. You may wonder how is it different from right-clicking the save button when downloading images. The answer is that you do not own it. You just copy it.

NFT art is more like artwork signed by an artist, saying "Congrats, you now own the original piece". So, when you buy crypto art, you are purchasing the digital artwork's certificate -- the NFT. Each NFT is coded as distinct and individual, representing assets such as artwork, articles, music or even memes, all of which are one-of-a-kind and non-fungible. It means they have unique properties, so they cannot be interchanged with something else.

Why does one want to own NFT art? Buyers and collectors can resell them for profit like those who collect baseball or Pokemon cards.

Where and how to buy NFTs?

First, you will need a crypto wallet that allows you to receive and store digital assets. Then, fill up your piggy bank with cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum, for purchasing your digital art. However, it depends on what currencies your NFT provider accepts. There are plenty of NFT marketplaces for you to bag a bargain, such as OpenSea, Rarible and Foundation. Most of them required transactional expenses or what they call "gas fee".


Expert opinion

SUTTICHART "CHART" SARAPAIWANICH

Head of the Computer Arts Department, Faculty of Digital Art, Rangsit University / NFT artist

Do you think NFTs will be a game-changer in the Thai art industry?

I think NFTs help add value to digital and pop art because these kinds of art are not given enough priority compared to traditional Thai art like temple murals. As a digital/pop-art artist myself, many have seen our style as a hobby or a boredom-killing drawing. After NFTs were introduced, it changed people's perspectives on digital art. Many artists started giving them importance. Apart from its market size, which everyone can access at their fingertips globally, NFTs also allow artists to sell their masterpieces without going through middlemen.

Does the parody art in NFT marketplaces violate copyrights or undermine the original artwork?

From my understanding, there are no particular rules and regulations about copyrights yet. I've seen plenty of parody art in NFT marketplaces, but I think it's more accurate to call it fan art. Parody art is created for sarcasm or humour rather than for aesthetic purposes. On the other hand, if the artists remake the famous characters in their own style or sell them without giving credit, there may be consequences. It is up to the creator to decide whether or not to infringe on copyright. Sometimes it is mixed up with what people call 'fan art'. I don't think parody art will devalue the original pieces. It is already called 'The original' for a reason, right? Neither of us [original creator or NFT artist] wants to undermine art. Instead, it added more value to the original's name.

Any advice for artists entering the NFT world?

My advice is to first understand the essence of cryptocurrency and NFT. Creating art or finding ideas should be the second thing you worry about. When you buy and sell NFTs, you are dealing with complicated technical stuff and money exchanges, which can lead to a loss if you are not paying close attention. We all know that making and selling original art requires effort, but NFTs are way more than that. It's like taking art and math classes at the same time. There is a lot to learn, but when you understand the system, everything runs smoothly.


Artists share their anecdotes on NFT marketplaces

JENNARONG "JAMES" KHAEMADAN

foundation.app/@JamesJennarong

What type of art do you create and what motivates you to make it?

Drawing portraits of people and human gestures have always been my favourite style since I was young. But when I grew up, I dug deeper into the anatomy of humans and animals in order to understand the shapes and textures of their parts, which I believe mortals and nature hold their own uniqueness. Plus, as a sceptic who is always questioning conservative Thai culture, like the mythical creatures of the Himmapan Forest in Thai literature or even controversial religious beliefs, my concept of art is to fuse those mysterious ideas with anatomy while reinterpreting them from my own perspective.

How did you get into NFTs?

I started researching NFT in March. Still, I hesitated to create one until I got a chance to join Joyman Gallery for their NFT art exhibition. Since then, I have spent most of the time learning and creating this new kind of art: the digital form, which I caught up with and enjoyed learning new techniques.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?

I have to admit that my first step into cryptocurrency and the NFT world was quite messy. Whether it be trading digital currencies or buying and selling stuff on the online platform, all of which are so confusing. Honestly, I was not even sure how to adjust my style to the digital format, at first. However, the farther you go, the more answers you get. The next step is to figure out how to make my work stand out from the others because this online art-selling universe is vast and competitive.

How do you feel about the NFT space now compared to when you started out?

I used to stick to the traditional ways of making art, thinking that art comes in physical form only until I was introduced to NFTs. I had no idea how far the world had gone. Digital sculpting, animation art and who knows what else? These new art forms have completely changed my attitude towards digital art, which I used to believe was a futuristic concept. On second thought, these world-changing technologies are closer than you think and they make art accessible to everyone.

What is your favourite artwork done as an NFT?

That would be my first digital sculpting piece, which sold on an NFT platform titled The Humble. Although it was not that special when it came to making digital art, I'm proud of myself for making my first movable painting, which I had imagined for so long.


DECHO "KERD" KERDDECHO

opensea.io/Kerd

What type of art do you create and what motivates you to make it?

My style blends the aesthetic of oil painting with 3D digital art and digital collage. My childhood memories and toys are the sources of my inspiration. I want to show how those toys from our childhood influenced us as adults, as well as the power of art through miniatures in my works.

How did you get into NFTs?

Despite most artists' dreams of earning something back from their work, the Thai art industry is quite limited and art does not draw attention like other industries. However, when NFTs started to hit the mainstream art world, many of us seized the opportunity. NFT or art is what I do to take my mind off of daily work, and I see it as another opportunity to earn extra bucks.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?

I am a newbie to this platform. When I first got into NFTs, the gas fee was way higher than it was supposed to be. It was probably because of the fluctuation in cryptocurrency prices. I kinda entered the NFT market blind, thinking only about what I'm gonna get after selling my artwork. I ended up paying more as a gas fee than what I earned from selling my artwork.

How do you feel about the NFT space now compared to when you started out?

Selling digital art has forced artists to work harder. We have to prepare ourselves for a variety of audiences since selling NFT is not done through a traditional face-to-face market. It means you must be careful when making a deal with people you meet on the internet. Your audiences are not only art collectors. They are also NFT traders and investors. Besides, we have to keep up with all the trends because the NFT market is wide.

What is your favourite artwork done as an NFT?

The Art Terrorist from my latest collection: 'Child Play'. It portrays the power of unity among artists in the form of a miniature that fights against the green soldier toy that represents dictatorship. The hidden message that I'm trying to convey is that what is more powerful than all weapons is the hope that art has given us.


PRUCH SINTUNAVA

foundation.app/@Joyman

What type of art do you create and what motivates you to make it?

As I grew up watching Japanese anime and playing the 90s video games, especially the romantic action genre, my style of work fuses love stories with dark humour.

How did you get into NFTs?

Joyman Gallery invited me to join its start-up project. It is perfect timing, though. I just started learning about NFTs when they asked me for this collab.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?

Honestly, I spent blood, sweat and tears on my first NFT collection. With the sudden entry into the industry, I didn't manage my time well. I planned to create an entire collection of animated artwork, but it has not gone as planned. It took me more time to make this new kind of art. Anyway, everything went pretty well.

How do you feel about the NFT space now compared to when you started out?

I think it is good to have an art space that everyone can access. I mean, it is not an open space for artists only; this digital place is also appealing for collectors.

What has been your favourite piece of work done as an NFT?

They are Never Surrender and Beacon Of No Hope At All. I put a lot of effort into these two and I am planning to turn them into animated paintings soon.


DARANPHORN "DARAN" KONGSAWANG & WASA "TITO" PATTANOPAS

opensea.io/DARANNB

What type of art do you create and what motivates you to make it?

Daran: I was inspired by the surroundings, especially the country's situation. Our first collection, 'Animals In This Sad World', narrates how animals find their feet in the pandemic era. Some of our works are made up of parody art, portraying noted artists as animal characters. For example, a gecko posting in the iconic pose of Michael Jackson and penguins across a zebra crossing was inspired by the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover. Another collection we are proud of is 'Stratocasm'. It presents the different characters of the Stratocaster guitar with a specific sound design, created by Tito. We are adding music to the artwork to represent ourselves as musicians who make art.

How did you get into NFTs?

Daran: My friends are obsessed with telling me to join the NFT market. At first, it is kinda annoying when they are talking nonstop about stuff that I do not understand. And here I am, an NFT artist in the flesh. I decided to give it a shot and I invited Tito to join my team. He takes care of managing technical stuff that I am not good at.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?

Daran: Promoting would be a stumbling block when we first got into NFTs. I had no connection to the art industry. We do not know how to start or how to attract audiences. I solved these problems by joining NFT communities online, which allow artists to post their works for collectors to look at. I even set up a Twitter account solely to promote NFT work. My account was once blocked for posting too much content, which is a funny story.

Tito: My trick is to connect with the collectors and NFT artists by following their accounts and hashtags on social media. They will keep you posted with all the crazes you need to follow and sometimes they even allow us to promote our work on their promotional posts.

How do you feel about the NFT space now compared to when you started out?

Daran: I believe everything is possible in the NFT world. Unlike the traditional way of selling art, the NFT platform allows us to connect with the buyers globally by ourselves. It granted us the opportunity to pursue our dreams in this open-wide art space, even though you are a newbie or a no-name artist.

What has been your favourite piece of work as an NFT?

Daran: My favourite one is titled Sud-Ja-Tum (The Truth). It is a satirical art piece conveying the messed-up things in our country that have been deep-rooted for so long. Whether outdated buses, swamps along bumpy roads or even the meaningless democracy monument. We have seen these problems for a long time and they never tend to change. I also used animals as a protagonist, which are linked to my previous collections.


APHISIT "JEFF" MUENNAK

foundation.app/@jeff_aphisit96

What type of art do you create and what motivates you to make it?

The 2D Japanese and American comics have influenced me the most. Much of the inspiration springs from my introverted perspectives and childhood memories. I also played with astronomical elements because they were so fascinating and yet no one had truly discovered their beginnings. We do not know what or who is awaiting us in outer space, so it gave me an unlimited imagination and convey it through art.

How did you get into NFTs?

I heard about NFT a couple of months ago. At first, I wasn't really interested in it as I saw most NFT arts are usually 3D art, which did not fit my style. But after a while, I happened to see that my favourite Korean artist, Mr Misang, has entered the NFT industry. He works in 2D and draws on paper just like me. That's why I started to open my heart to accept this platform and started stepping into the NFT industry.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?

Understanding blockchain systems and cryptocurrency are what I put on my priority list before getting into NFTs. Learning the whole system of digital art was my stumbling block, but I believe that 'If you never try, you will never know'. Luckily, I got NFT artist friends who were willing to help and share tips and lessons with me.

How do you feel about the NFT space now compared to when you started out?

I think NFT is a judgement-free space for artists. We can be ourselves and create the style of work we want. It is poles apart from the traditional way of selling art, which requires approval from the middleman or curator, who will always inspect our work before putting it on selling shelves or in exhibitions. Besides, the NFT marketplace is so vast. There are always customers or collectors who appreciate the work that we create independently and are willing to support us.

What has been your favourite piece of work as an NFT?

I appreciate every artwork I have made, especially the latest collection: The Protection. It narrates my very personal experiences and I hope everyone will love it.

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