Okay, I get it….What the heck is all this NFT art and cryptocurrency stuff all about? First off, I have been researching that question for the past year and a half, and I honestly still don’t have all the answers. But I love technology, I love strategizing for the future, and I love plunging into things I don’t fully understand. So today, I’m writing about why I’ve chosen to create a new branch of Gug Underwater art, my take on the NFT art scene, what it all means for the future, and, of course, if you’re interested in collecting, how to do so. Let’s begin with the basics:
What is an NFT, and as Tina Turner once said, “What’s Gug Got To Do, Got to Do With It?”
Don’t think of the art “as an NFT”. Instead, think of an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) as the contract that proves ownership and possession of a digital asset. By purchasing (or being gifted) an NFT, you are the owner of the asset. I use the term “asset” because an NFT can be associated with a piece of visual art (like my new Ocean Invasion Collection), a song, or a video. But that’s barely the tip of the iceberg – NFT’s can also be games, used in real estate transactions……whoa the list is too long to discuss here – just know that the blockchain secured token is what’s proving your ownership of a thing, be it digital or physical.
While the developers of tomorrow’s technology are busy creating worlds around this concept, most of us are more familiar with NFT’s as art. It’s all over the headlines, about this celebrity plopping down the equivalent of a half million dollars to acquire a low-rez jpg of a stoned monkey in the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and if you’re not asking yourself, “what the hell????” then you have more insight into all this than me, and you can stop reading here. The way I’ve wrapped my head around it is to think of it like baseball playing cards. Every collector is trying to find rarity – that one card of that one dead famous sportsball player that was only printed 5 times. Why is it valuable? Is it on gold paper? Does it clean your house? Can you eat it? No, no, and no! It’s because there are thousands of other people who all want it to be valuable. So does that make it valuable? Well, yes, and no, and yes! NFT art is like that – you enjoy collecting something, and then you have it. When other people also enjoy collecting it, you can sell it to them, or hold onto it, and the more people want it, the more the value increases.
Strangely, the world of hyper-valuable NFT art has been dominated by algorithm-based, low-rez cartoons that are programmed by a human, then actually created by software. The artist human makes, for example, a digital drawing of a robot, tells the program to make 3% of them blue, 5% with a gun, 4% of them with no left arm, 8% of them with a radio antenna…..and viola, the program spits out 9999 different versions all looking almost the same, but with a different color or slight variant. And you say…., “uuuhhhhhhh, so what?”. But for the past few years, people have been eating these things up for huge sums of Cryptocurrency, treating them like sportsball player cards, and coveting the rarity.
My NFT art will never be like that. Instead of offering 9999 variants, I’m only going to release 1/1 (One of One) originals. What the world will do with them remains to be seen – we are at the infancy of NFT art, and the rules are being written as we go. Technically, the copyright remains mine, but you purchase the right do display it as you wish (just like a physical piece of art). Some might make it their Twitter avatar, while others might hang it on their wall in a Metaverse (yes, you’re going to be forced to know that that is in the upcoming years whether you like it on not). Like any NFT’s, you’ll be able to resell it at a higher price later on, on the same marketplace that I’m selling my “freshly minted” NFT’s on, and in a way, I’m going to be the one doing much of the marketing for you there. It’s speculative, for sure, but as an already established artist having already sold millions of dollars worth of fine art, it sure feels to me like a 1/1 would be a better choice than one of 9999 randomly generated computer models by a kid who bought a program……but hey, that’s just my two cents….I’m literally just testing the waters here, and there is no crystal ball. Is getting the first of my NFT’s to be considered an investment, or will you collect one just because it’s cool, unique, and we’re friends, and feel it’s a way to support my next expedition….I honestly have no idea, because I’m typing this the day before we officially launch.
So, how do I get one?
The simple answer is that it’s only purchasable through the website OpenSea.io using cryptocurrency. That’s the same place you’d sell it, should you choose to do so. But the real answer is, of course, more complicated. First you’ll need a digital wallet – MetaMask is one of the most popular, and it integrates seamlessly into buying and collecting on OpenSea. Then you’ll need to fund it with Etherium. We are at a point in history when many banks are denying transactions utilizing cryptocurrency (such as trying to fund your digital wallet using your credit card) – meanwhile they’re investing in that same cryptocurrency they’re blocking. Most people set an ACH transfer from your traditional bank to your digital bank, but you can also transfer small amounts via PayPal, wire transfer, and maybe (but unlikely) use a traditional bank’s debit card. Okay, so now what? You’ve got your real, hard-earned US Dollars put out there into cyberspace – ahhhhhh!!!!! Calm….. Now you need to purchase the cryptocurrency Etherium, (which, at the time of this writing is approximately $2400 USD = 1 Eth) which is the primary currency on OpenSea. And now you’re good to go. OpenSea isn’t intuitive – it’ll take some getting used to, but what you’ll see starting tomorrow, is a collection similar to my Aliens, up there, called “Ocean Invasion”. Once you’ve bought one for .5 Eth, you can choose to either hold it and use it somehow, or even immediately relist it, literally right alongside my newly-listed (aka “freshly minted) ones. Is it competing against me? – no! Honestly, if you are able to resell it for 5x what you bought it for, it actually helps me, and I’d encourage you to do so! If you can resell it for 1000x what you bought it for, well then, we’re both doing pretty awesome!
Where is it all going from here?
Short answer – I have no clue, but I like it.
It’s entirely possible that in a month from now, I’ll have added a few more to the Ocean Invasion Collection. It’s also possible that I may add another entirely different collection of underwater photos (or videos) with some other theme. It’s possible that the world will laugh in my face, and it’s possible that people will scramble to get them as fast as they can, acquiring 3 or 4 at a time. But realize that outside of my art, the world of NFT’s is not going away. It already is integrated into many of the contracts you may already be using without even knowing it. Yes, I’m saying that you are likely already using it and don’t know it! Don’t be so surprised… do you understand how your phone works???? Of course not. But you’re happy to use the facebook and the tweeter and maps and email and NetFlix all day long on it. NFT’s, cryptocurrency, and even the Metaverse (in whatever form it will become) is all real, and it’s not that “it might become” a major part of our lives, it is already all around us. And all I know, is that if I wait much longer, I’ll no longer be able to say “I’m pushing the boundaries as an artist”, because I’ll be too busy trying to catch up with the rest of the world.
And a final important thought…. Nothing is going to change with my physical art. My gallery in Lauderdale by the Sea, FL is doing better than ever, thanks to collectors and friends and a fabulous team who work there. We’re shipping art all over the world on a regular basis, and I am forever grateful to you for letting me live my childhood dream of “talking to fish for a living”. I plan on continuing a strong exhibit schedule, and as always, will release one or two new images in the print collections every month. Hopefully soon, we can even begin throwing parties at the gallery again too! This NFT project and the Ocean Invasion Collection on OpenSea is simply an extension of my art utilizing a new technology. I’ve been asked if I would ever create a project like this over and over and over, and I hope that those who were asking are reading this now, and those who never thought to ask, have had their interest piqued!
Okay, I’m off – got a date with a manatee…