Debunking NFTs and how to get started tokenizing your digital artworks
NFTs can be a great source of income for digital artist. Tezos, regarded by many as 'the art blockchain', is environmentally friendly, has pennies as gas fees and boasts a friendly ecosystem
Hello there! I’m Gabriele - in art Flygohr - a multidisciplinary visual artist that likes creativity, personal growth, and productivity. This is my journal!
InvictaArs, a reader of this newsletter that helped with this other article, had another question for me. Given my experience with NFTs, they were wondering if I had any tips for them to get started. As with the previous article, we decided to work together and see if I could write an article that could answer their questions.
Before judging the controversial world of NFTs, I’m encouraging you to do your own research. Don’t believe the popular narrative pushed around by most subreddits and gaming communities around. I’m leaving the toxicity of the ‘are NFTs a scam’ argument at the door here. We’ll not talk about ugly ass monkeys, pyramid schemes, 10k layered PNGs, or incredible new coins. We’ll talk about actual art, legit projects, community building, and plain hard work. Most importantly, about how tokenization is allowing digital artists, big and small, to earn some additional money and finally end up in museums that once were just for the ‘traditional’ elite. Just give this a read, you’ll see what I mean!
If you already know everything about blockchains, smart contracts, NFTs, and Tezos, just jump to the bottom of the article! If not, stick around a few more paragraphs 😄
Just a friendly disclaimer as it’s customary when talking about cryptocurrencies and finance in general. I’m not a professional trader or an influencer, and this is not financial advice. You should always do your own research!
NFTs and digital art 🖼️
Before diving into today’s topic, let’s just list a few of the ways NFTs can help digital artists add value to their work:
Authentication of digital works
The ability for people to collect the authenticated work without the need to print, sign, or apply it to merchandise in order for it to be sold
The possibility that traditional art collectors, now entering the space, notice your work. NFTs are starting to be treated like traditional works of art, auctioned at important houses, and exhibited in the most elite museum in the world
Artists can free themselves of the tyranny of social media algorithms, especially Instagram’s
Learn the tech 🤓
You are probably a skilled web surfer with years of experience and while that’s definitely a good start, you’ll need to get back to class for this one.
You don’t need to become an expert in computer science or cryptography, but you need to understand that your security is at risk in the crypto world and you definitely need to know what you are doing before starting.
I’m not the best teacher for these very technical topics, but I’m leaving you with a list of things you will want to research and try to understand. Don’t skip or underestimate this bit, it will make all the difference down the line. The rest of the guide will assume you’ll have at least a basic grasp of the various concepts surrounding NFTs.
Before even starting to explain what an NFT is, you want to learn:
The difference between Proof of Work and Proof of Stake (energy-intensive / eco friendly)
What is a cryptocurrency exchange (you’ll need them to convert your regular money into crypto and vice versa)
What is a crypto wallet and why you shouldn’t leave your money on exchanges (not your keys, not your coins)
What is a smart contract, a set of instructions that can be validated and confirmed on the blockchain
When I was just starting out at the beginning of 2021, I spent three months trying to understand what an NFT is and what was the tech behind them. I took up the very straightforward courses from Brilliant on computer science, cryptography, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies. I spent at least 40 hours on video explainers. Today, after a year and a half of experience, I’m still learning new stuff every week. As I said at the beginning, this is a very difficult topic.
Finally, you can start looking into what crypto tokens are, and more specifically, what's an NFT. Again, there are tons of amazing explainers out there that can teach you this way better than I can. A few pointers:
Is an NFT an image or just a link? (blockchain can’t store images efficiently)
What is IPFS, the decentralized file storage network where the images are actually hosted?
Do you retain the rights to the images contained in the tokens you purchased? Conversely, do people own any rights over the ones you sell? Short answer is no, much like Pokémon cards
Anything can be an NFT, from images to games to healthcare stuff to home ownership contracts.
Crypto is not magic money 📉
Before jumping into what I actually want to teach here, please know that crypto IS dangerous. Security, transactions, and systems work very differently from the ones you might be used to in what we call Web 2.0. That’s why I am advocating for you to educate yourself. You’ll be better equipped for survival and won’t fall prey to scammers.
Given the anonymous nature of the blockchain, it’s full of scammers out there waiting for you to connect your wallet to the wrong website and drain it. Not everything that glitters is gold, beware influencers and their claims.
Finally, if you actually want to invest in a cryptocurrency (and I’m going to show you that you can get started with zero, so you don’t need to), be ready to see your capital go to zero. Maybe it won’t, but crypto is the most volatile of markets and I wouldn’t put in any money that I’m prepared to lose. In the same way, if you earn crypto through your art, make sure to withdraw enough of it and consider the risks of leaving it in your wallet long term.
There’s not only Ethereum 🙅🏻♂️
To prove that I know what I’m talking about, let me just tell you that I actually started my NFT career there and I was, at best, left very dry and concerned about the predatory nature of the space. Ethereum and its currency, Ether (ETH) have been popularized by the insane amounts of money that have been thrown to pictures of pixelated punks, monkeys, and cartoon kitties.
Getting millions of dollars for a .jpg is not the norm and believing in such a fairy tale will only get you disappointment. That’s more often than not the product of influencer rings, marketing schemes, and people laundering money. You don’t want that. As a general rule of thumb for LIFE, if it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t.
It might be tempting to discard alternative blockchains due to the strength of the ETH coin, but here are some of the pitfalls of the Ethereum network:
It’s extremely energy-intensive to run. Not like Bitcoin, but still
The fees to operate on the Ethereum network are crazy high, we are talking about 10-20 dollars per ‘mint’ (the process of creating an NFT), but depending on the network congestion they can reach the hundreds of dollars. Don’t believe all the layer 2, lazy minting stuff. That money needs to come from somewhere to pay for the validators one way or another, there are no real ways to mint your stuff for free
It has a fork issue, meaning it can’t upgrade without actually duplicating the whole network. Therefore, all the NFTs that are meant to be unique actually have multiple copies of them sitting around, making them decrease in value
The communities that form around successful ETH projects can be very gatekeeping, toxic, or straight-out scammy exactly because of the strength
Additionally, the most popular NFT platform out there, OpenSea, has been the victim of countless scams, breaches, and phishing attempts. The platform is also subject to US law, therefore cutting people off it just because of their country of birth and the sanctions on them.
I’m not saying that ETH sucks in a conclusive way, just that I’m not very fond of it. I know many great artists that mint on Eth and there are amazing projects there - as they exist in any other blockchain that supports the medium. I’m just suggesting that you explore alternatives and don’t look just at the price of an individual coin. That’s not an indicator of efficiency or of what amounts of money you’ll make. That’s just speculation.
Enter Tezos 🌍
I made a very long introduction so if you are still reading this, mad props to you! Leave a comment here with any feedback you might have on this article!
After initially fiddling with Ethereum and being put off by it, a friend sent me a link to hic et nunc (now defunct), a new NFT platform working on the Tezos blockchain. I fell instantly in love with the barebones, zine-like interface. It wasn’t as polished and user-friendly as platforms on Eth were at the time, but the community was small and interested in experimenting rather than selling.
I’m not here to tell my story on Tezos, just know that I found true friends, happiness, and a way to ditch art commissions and focus on creating my own worlds, lore, characters, and games for my community to enjoy. If you want to learn more about my journey, I made a recap Tweet here.
What I love about Tezos 💙
This might sound cheesy, but I made real friends here and found communities like no others. This space gave me that leg up I needed to focus on just my creativity, and I’m very grateful for it. Here are a few things that you might want to know:
Tezos is NOT a leading vehicle for speculation. The coin is relatively weak (one Tez equals to just a handful of dollars). This keeps most of the predators away. This also mean that gas fees are usually just a few cents
Tezos is focused on art. Collectors here find less PFPs (those collections of 10k randomly generated PNG compositions) and more original artworks. It’s also a leader in generative art with the fx(hash) platform, one of the few marketplaces to be still in the green in the brutal market of the past few months
It’s decentralized. It’s the blockchain with the fairest coin distribution at launch. While Ethereum, Solana, or Cardano preferred to give a big chunk of the initial supply to Venture Capitalists and influencers, Tez went for the most part to the people actually interested in the tech
You don’t even need to BUY the coin to start. The ecosystem is full of generous people that set up faucets, or ways for you to claim a few dollars worth of Tez absolutely for free that will allow you to mint your first artworks. With cents per transaction, a faucet usually gives you enough coin to mint tens of works
Getting started on Tezos ⚡
So, here’s the catch with my article. Lots of people wrote amazing articles already! And since one of my favorite pieces of life advice is ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’, I'll now share a few of the best guides out there that I know of.
Rick Kitagawa, a very active creator in the Tezos community, recently put up the best guide I’ve read on the topic of getting started on Tezos. He’s also the reason I’m not writing one myself, he stole my job! He also reads this newsletter and is probably smiling right now 😉 His guide makes a great job at not being overly technical, making it the perfect start for beginners.
The website Projects on Tezos, run too by some of the most prolific creators, devs, and makers in the space, has an amazing section to get started on Tezos. As a bonus, the website serves as an encyclopedia of links for anything that’s good to know on Tezos, projects-wise. Additionally, the tezos.art website, run by the amazing Kevin Mehrabi, contains a great summary of everything you need to know to get started: marketplaces, tech, wallets, but also has sections on helpful groups and communities you might want to check out. You’ll find links to the free Tez faucets here too.
Lastly, let me share this list with articles, guides and tutorials collected by the amazing Cabline, social media manager of the biggest marketplace on Tezos, Objkt.com. This goes very in-depth and has tons of useful material in it.
In conclusion 🎓
I hope that, with this article, I helped you shed light on the controversial topic of NFTs. I believe NFTs are here to stay and will help digital artists to add value to their work. This is a very difficult topic, so feel free to leave a comment with your question, concerns, and feedback.
About me 👤
I am a self-taught digital artist from Italy. I am a multidisciplinary artist and a huge nerd. It means I can draw, paint, code, write, compose, sculpt, and more. I also like books, RPGs, and documentaries. I might be a productivity junkie.
You could say I started out as a homeless, alcoholic punk degenerate in the early 2010s. Now I have a few assistants, a studio, and lots of work I love on my plate. Most importantly, I’m sober and I can afford takeaway food multiple times a week. This is my journal.
Every few days I dissect some of my most recent projects, activities, and discoveries. I try to make it a 5 minutes read (well, apart from this one here.. this turned out pretty long). You can find lots of links and a bio on my main website, or you can follow me on Twitter where I post daily.
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