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By Nick Tomaino, Founder @1confirmation
2020 has been a breakthrough year for digital art. Creatives have used computers to create unique images and videos for decades, but prior to Ethereum the only way to make serious money as a digital creative was to get hired by a company who could utilize the images or videos. One can make a great living as a designer at Apple or a 3D animator at Nintendo, but those opportunities are limited.
The creation of Ethereum and subsequent creations of the ERC721 standard and tools like SuperRare and Opensea have allowed creatives globally to tokenize their PNG, GIF and MP4 files and sell them directly to collectors who want to own scarce versions of the files. And they’re having a lot of success doing so — creatives on SuperRare have sold over $2.375M worth of works to date.
No creator has had more success selling their work on Ethereum than Pak. Pak’s first piece, Cloud Monument Dark, was sold in February and in the 7 months since, Pak has earned $350,000+ worth of ETH selling PNG, GIF and MP4 files directly to collectors.
Pak is most well-known for creating Archillect and truth be told has a closely guarded physical identity — it’s not known whether Pak is a real person or an AI constructed by a team of engineers. While physical identity is interesting to discuss, it doesn’t really matter who Pak is IRL if the online pseudonym creates art the world appreciates it, much like it doesn’t matter who Satoshi is IRL if the online pseudonym creates a digital gold system the world appreciates.
It would not surprise me if Pak becomes as legendary in digital art as Satoshi is in cryptocurrency, and in case he/she/it disappears like Satoshi did I recently chatted with them on Discord. Here’s our conversation (text-to-audio and text versions below):
Nick: How long have you been creating digital art?
Pak: Close to 25 years now. I was lucky enough to be an early adopter of the public Internet, which ignited a good portion of my ‘do it yourself’ culture in digital form in the very early days. Later, design and digital creation became a second nature to me.
Nick: Prior to Ethereum, were you monetizing your work?
Pak: I have been a designer for decades now, and had the chance to work with hundreds of major brands and studios over the years. Today, I have studios in different parts of the world, focused on different things. In other words, yes.
On the other hand, #cryptoart is a fresh map of experimentation and exploration for me.
Nick: What creation tools do you use?
Pak: I generally avoid answering ‘tool’ related questions for created value. The process of creation is generally related to the creator rather than the tool(s) and sometimes answering the question takes away the spotlights from the creator.
On the other hand, tools are important because they give us additional abilities, they expand our capabilities and give us new points of views, but in the end, they don’t have power unless they’re used.
To fairly answer: it depends on the work. I use industry standard design software packages. When they’re not enough, I create my own tools and software.
Nick: Are you creating a lot of new work these days?
Nick: What attracted you to Ethereum and tokenizing your work?
Pak: I had a chance to meet bitcoin in its very early days thanks to my social circles, so crypto-related scenes were always in my interest zone. However, cryptoart in particular, is an area I’ve met just recently through social media. After some reading, I’ve realized it may be a chance to leave permanent* marks on the future’s history. That idea was the charm.
Nick: What has your experience been like as a creator selling your work?
Pak: Beautiful. I had zero expectations and so far it’s going pretty good for an exploration.
Nick: What do you think are the barriers that still exist to get many more talented artists like you onto platforms like SuperRare to tokenize their work?
Pak: This is a very good question that has a complex answer. I will try my best to answer it in pieces.
The primary barrier of the scene of today is reach. As a technologist and a creator, who has been interested in cryptocurrencies since bitcoin was created, I learned about cryptoart very late. This tells me one thing: ‘the news’ doesn’t reach outside.
First of all, let’s look at the cryptoart scene. Its ‘social circle’ is there with the platforms, the collectors, the creators, and the audience. Collectors are attracted to the scene because creators exist, creators are there for potential value, and the audience (potential creators and collectors) is following what’s going on. Platforms are trying to get the bigger portion of ‘the cake’ as all of this happens, however, there is a big problem with reach.
Most of the collectors are faces from crypto-spaces rather than creative-spaces. They have very limited reach in creative social circles. On the other hand, most of the cryptocreators* (it’s important to avoid using cryptoartist*) are purely crypto* creators. They don’t have a visible history beyond cryptoart. Therefore, their social circles do not expand the existing reach. Their social existence is within the ecosystem.
This gives us, the creators from ‘outer circles’, a lot of power and responsibility in terms of expanding the reach of the ecosystem. I believe the creators with existing social media circles are key for the growth of this ecosystem as they/we play the role of a bridge to introduce what’s going on and potentially carry crowds to this new universe.
However, opening the doors to new creators, calling in ‘best of the best’, increasing the number of super-creators also means decreasing potential interest per creator. So, most of those who are in this bridge* role will prefer to stay silent or invisible, keep this new universe to themselves, unless a better structure is created to make this expansion beneficial for everyone involved.
Current scene structure punishes creators as the number of ‘new and good creators’ increase — you can see this theory in practice by looking at the increasing amount of drama, as success is approved and records are broken.
My experience with cryptoart so far has been good, a good portion of the collectors, creators and the audience were all there to smile with me for every milestone. However, I do believe it’s important also for the platforms to let creators sign their milestones publicly, appreciate them for those milestones.. because for some of us, it’s about writing history. You can’t expect someone to be loud about a history book unless you give them the page they deserve.
In other words, one of the ways to make creators with more reach to ‘share’ what’s going on is to give them a reason to make those shares. Instead of hiding the milestones to reduce drama and to create a perfect(?) community balance (which seems like what’s going on today), platforms should approve those milestones, let successful creators and collectors share the headlines about themselves, and create this perfect balance by being fair to everyone involved.
‘Look ma, I’m on the news today!’
For the ones that are here for history, this is a brand new journey with infinite possibilities. They are here to stay. For the ones that are here for the ETH, it will not matter, they will stay, they will create, they will get as much as they can, and one day, they will leave for a better opportunity.
Shortly, for expansion, ‘reach’ is the primary wall to overcome, and that will need a good balancing act by all of the actors of the scene.
Nick: Alright, well thank you for chatting and I look forward to seeing you out in the ether.