Art as Cryptocurrency or How to Make 1k+ in a Day

Yung Jake’s Emoji Self-Portrait

It was easy to make something (online) and put it out in public. People want instant gratification.

In 2013, I covered Yung Jake in an Art21 series that looked at artists from around the globe who were inventing new uses for existing technologies, or fashioning new technologies to fit their interests. They were creating new aesthetic forms and new ways to articulate their identities. Fast forward to March 2021 when Beeple AKA Mike Winkelmann auctioned a piece of crypto art at Christie’s for US$69 million. Suddenly, it seemed like everyone was talking about crypto art. I witnessed Yung Jake make $24 thousand for an emoji art portrait he made two years ago.

A $300,000 partnership.

Cryptoart is Bitcoin in the physical form of art. It is a literal combination of art, technology, and money. Some who sell their “art” in the blockchain marketplace claim it’s not art. Yung Jake tweeted something to that effect. The winning bidder of Beeple’s work is now named in a digital record called a nonfungible token, or NFT, which is stored in a shared global database. This database is decentralized using blockchain, so that no single entity controls it: and anyone can read or access it, and no one can change it.

Hic Et Nunc or “Here And Now”.

People have been asking me about cryptoart and NFTs for weeks and my response was a smile, or a shrug. Then, last week I was introduced to Hic Et Nunc (Here And Now), an eco-friendly, proof-of-stake blockchain marketplace for artists. In minutes, I put my first digital artworks on the blockchain. The very first one I minted sold out (9/9 editions) in a couple of hours. That got my immediate attention!

My very first NFT on Hic Et Nunc.

By the morning, my Twitter feed was buzzing with activity. My first NFT had sold out and someone tweeted about missing the opportunity to buy an edition. I could finally tell my friends that I had minted my own NFTs. Some people were asking me how “regular” people could get to the art. By regular, they meant people who are outside of the action. I posted some articles about how to do it but I knew from my own experience I needed more than that.

The bitcoin market via Twitter.

Getting Started: Vocabulary

Crypto-asset (ex. NFT) — a transaction unit on a blockchain that is created using a network like Ethereum or Tezos that allows users to mint tokens

Cryptocurrency — a standard currency used for making or receiving payments on the blockchain, with the most popular cryptocurrency being Bitcoin

NFT — non-fungible-token, or a unit of data on a blockchain. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, video, and other forms of creative work

Token — represents an asset or specific use and resides on a blockchain

Wallet — stores your bitcoin so you can start transacting on the network

Minting and Posting Your Cryptoart

Networks like Hic et Nunc are where people mint, sell and buy NFTs.Tez is the cryptocurrency used to buy and sell on the Tezos blockchain that Hic et Nunc is built on. After you have tez, you can create a wallet that will serve to keep all your collection and enable you to transact on Hic et Nunc. For more information about getting started check out this article.

Beyond the Blockchain

For BIPOC/LGBTQ/Womxn/Disabled artists who have been intersectionally shut out of the Official Art Market, NFTs have the potential to help them/us make a living or supplement our incomes. The blockchain market removes the middle person or gatekeeper and empowers artists to use emerging technologies and networks in new or culturally relevant ways.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin’s “Wampum”

Amelia Winger-Bearskin (Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma) created a model for values-based dependencies in blockchain technology. Wampum.codes brings greater accountability to tech and is founded in Indigenous values and practices. I’m also doing this with my Deep Dream portraiture, which explores embedding cultural artifacts or builds on them to create art that can become cryptocurrency on a blockchain.

Here’s a link on how to get started: https://xtz.news/latest-tezos-news/getting-started-as-an-nft-artist-on-tezos-using-hicetnunc/

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.