Portrait of an Artist as a Young Etherean: On Winning New Creators to Ethereum

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By William M. Peaster

I graduated from the University of West Florida in the spring of 2014 with a Creative Writing degree. I didn’t have any career plans in mind at that point, I just knew I wanted to write professionally while I wrote creatively on the side. That summer, I translated a divorce document from Quebec French to English, and I’ve never looked back as a freelancer ever since. 

In the ensuing years, I’ve done every kind of work you’d imagine an English major would be good for: writing dictionary and encyclopedia entries, almost editing Kylie Jenner’s poetry book, working as a technical ghostwriter, and beyond. All the while, though, I felt like something was missing; I wanted a niche to focus on that I knew I hadn’t found yet.  

That all changed in early 2017 when I pressed “Random” on Reddit and ended up in r/ethtrader. I found a world based around a project unlike any I’d seen before. I delved in deeper, read the Ethereum whitepaper, and then spent 2 months learning everything I could about the blockchain arena. I applied to work at more than a few crypto news sites at the time, and the rest is history. I’ve worked in crypto daily ever since, all the while learning about and tracking Ethereum’s many advances. 

At my best, then, I’m a poet and fiction writer; why Ethereum clicked with me in 2017 still remains somewhat of a mystery to me. To some degree, I chalk it up to my work as a ghostwriter, i.e. being able to grasp material that I wasn’t directly an expert in. But there was and always has been something more to my infatuation, too.

When I first stumbled upon Ethereum, I was astonished at its almost infinite possibilities, and that wonder has stayed with me even until today. Why? I see Ethereum as the latest great marvel in the evolution of human freedom. 

As a student of history, I’m really interested to watch the trend of decentralization over time in human affairs, e.g. the printing press, the U.S. Constitution, the internet, Bitcoin, 3D printers, and so forth. In this light, I see Ethereum as among the latest great advances in human freedoms. 

Indeed, for artists Ethereum is already particularly powerful. Ethereum facilitates a considerable amount of automated secondary sale royalties through platforms like SuperRare to cryptoartists in the here and now, and these royalty models will grow to other projects and be further experimented with in the years ahead. This is good, unmatched in the traditional art arena, and worth much more attention.

Simply put, Ethereum is a neutral opt-in public good that can empower users with freedom of money, freedom of communication, freedom of creation, and so forth. Ethereum has many further optimizations ahead that can make it that much better at these freedoms, too. This is very good. 

Even with my ghostwriting background, I feel like if I can grasp this novel infrastructure’s early and growing advantages, many artists can. The next mission is to make such graspings easier, more accessible, and happen in increased numbers. Why? Because we should share this very good thing with as many artists as possible. 

That said, I think of Ethereum’s next 100,000 artists and what can be done to onboard them smoothly into the Ethereum ecosystem. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some ideas. My mind wanders to Moloch DAO, for instance. 

Moloch was created as a DIY grassroots funding group to back promising Ethereum development efforts, and it’s become a beacon of community-organized productivity since. I wonder what a Moloch DAO aimed at growing the amount of artists in the Ethereum ecosystem would look like.  

Perhaps the group would have things like welcoming committees, sponsors, mentors, and a Guild Bank aimed at funding newcomer artists’ transitions to Ethereum. The Guild Bank could be used to cover the minting costs of new artists, for example, as well as other related initiatives. Perhaps the group would have a basic “explain like I’m 5” educational resource hub that any artist could refer to for catching up with all things Ethereum.

These are just ideas, and I’m not sure what the best way forward is. Maybe such a DAO is ultimately unnecessary. What I do know is that Ethereum is really useful now in unique ways, and I want to share this usefulness with any artists that will listen. The challenge is finding a way to do this that’s accessible to everyday folks while the cryptoeconomy is still young and has various UX experience challenges. 

So far, I’ve made about 2 ETH in digital art sales atop Ethereum. That’s 2 more ETH than I ever thought would be possible, as I think of myself mainly as a tinkerer in the visual arts. For more seasoned artistic veterans, though, Ethereum readily points to multiple extremely promising avenues for self-sovereign monetization, distribution, and so on. That’s a big deal in a world where artists have long had an uphill battle. 

There’s a learning curve at hand, of course. Whatever happens going forward, we as a community need to keep constantly focusing on making things easier for the artists that come to Ethereum after us. This is a challenge we can absolutely tackle together, though. 

Some of the biggest problems that newcomers will face is dealing with wallets, buying and selling ether (ETH), and figuring out how to use decentralized apps. Let’s continue to brainstorm on how to make artists as comfortable and familiar as possible with these processes.  

One of my friends is Christopher Poindexter, a writer who’s earned a really big social media following in recent years. I’ve never talked to Chris about Ethereum before, but as an example I wonder what it would take to win him over to issuing editioned or 1-of-1 pieces on Ethereum. That’s a great exercise, thinking in the headspace of “what it would take” to bring new artists to Ethereum. It’s an exercise I say we all undertake routinely going forward. 

Author profile
William M. Peaster

Professional writer, editor. On the Ethereum, Dai, and Bitcoin beats. Curator of the DeFi Arts Intelligencer.

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