Generative artist comes to crypto
How it all began
I missed the first wave and all the information about NFT in late 2020 and early 2021 because I was busy at work and was into writing music. I was also very disgusted by how information about the NFT was presented in the media. It was some articles about crazy million-dollar sales and the involvement of all kinds of stars turning their tweets and videos into NFT. Also, I never had any confidence in cryptocurrencies because of their volatility. But closer to March, I started to discover more and more that artists I knew were trying to sell their art this way, and many of them even had some success.
A key factor was the emergence of an "independent" platform created by one person: hicetnunc.xyz (now inactive). It was built on the Tezos blockchain. This meant that to make a mint (to put information about art in the blockchain), there was practically no need to pay for gas. On the Ethereum blockchain, it was costly, which was a significant factor for an artist starting to sell their art. I decided to test the process: I bought some Tezos and, on March 12, 2021, made a mint of the first two artworks:
I put a price of 10 Tezos (about 30 euros at the moment) and didn’t even change the working names of the files. Still, it turned out that the NFT and crypto life happened on Twitter while I only posted my art on Instagram, and I only used Twitter to read and had 0 subscribers. But I did write a tweet about it. But it went nowhere :)
That all changed when the platform was able to create interactive NFT. This was unique because most platforms were designed for images and video. But I was creating art with code, and now I could make something "live." After publishing an interactive art called ɳσƚ Ⴆɾιʅʅιαɳƚ, I woke up richer by 30 Tezos the next day. It was at that point that I made the decision that I would try to do it on a full-time basis because I have something to show the world.
After a few subsequent successful sales, I wondered if this could be my primary source of income and how to legalize it all. I called the State Revenue Service first and discovered that I had to register as a self-employed person and that cryptocurrency is legally a commodity in our country: if I receive it for my art, I have to pay taxes on the amount I receive after conversion it to fiat. I registered as a self-employed person, an artist. Then I called my bank and asked if I could transfer money converted from cryptocurrency through Coinbase exchange and received an affirmative answer. I got verified on Coinbase and started working every day from morning to night, trying to do exciting and experimental art and develop my Twitter to raise my social visibility.
My fundamental art feature on hicetnunc.xyz was: every click = new art. And generative art, as I understand it is an algorithm that can produce an infinite number of variations while maintaining its basic concept and recognizability. So I came up with and created a lot of interactive art that generated a new image for each click. At the same time, I was promoting myself as an artist and generative art as a genre in general.
My coming to ETH and The Blocks of Art release
Even before I first published my art as an NFT, I learned about the Art Blocks platform from our chat at Generative Artists Club. The platform was made exclusively for generative artists. You had to fill out a form and get in line to get there. I did that, and at the end of March, I was contacted by the platform's founder, Eric Calderon, aka SnowFro. I started preparing a project for Art Blocks. It turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated because there were a lot of technical requirements to meet the platform standard. The main feature was that all your code that generates images was written directly to the blockchain, and this code had to generate images of any size with the same size ratio. That is, it had to be size-independent. But the most important thing was that the platform had a curation board of artists, critics, and people directly related to the arts. And if they chose your art for the curated section, it automatically meant some recognition in the generative and crypto art world. My first release was called The Blocks of Art, and it came out on May 25 in the curated section.
It took me about 2,000 euros to get the code into the blockchain, but I just converted the Tezos I had from sales on hicetnunc.xyz into ETH. The release was 500 mints at 0.1 ETH. The platform takes 10%, so my income from the release was 44.91 ETH. Which at that time was about 100к EUR. It was imposing. The income from this release was four times the income from my previous releases on Tezos, even though I was one of the top 20 artists on hicetnunc. It also turned out that the audience of collectors on ETH and Tezos doesn't overlap. I managed to get into the curated releases and make a name among collectors interested directly in generative art. At hicetnunc.xyz, there were very few generative artists, and it was more of a niche art. It also turns out that 99% of all money and collectors in NFT are in the ETH ecosystem at this point, too.
Alien Clock and TBOA club
With a bit of rest after the release, I decided to take the opportunity of the platform to do the next release in the Art Blocks Playground section. According to the rules at the time, every artist who was released in curated could release one art per month (later one release per two months, and now this interval has been canceled) in the section, which is not curated and is a kind of platform for experimentation. I decided to take the opportunity to experiment to the fullest and created Alien Clock: infinite determined moving art.
In the time I've been working on Alien Clock, the attention to NFT and Generative Art has grown exponentially. It feels like the market has multiplied in just a couple of months. This was the reason for Gas Wars during the Art Blocks releases. To get their art at release time, collectors added gas (paying a transaction rate) to speed up the transaction, which was often more than ten times the cost of a mint. At the same time, there was always a portion of collectors with less gas left without a purchase. This was the most discussed problem in Art Blocks chats.
During the development of The Blocks of Art, I made it possible to assemble a set of artworks by randomly placing one letter of the words A R T B L O C K S on each of the artworks. I did this because I wanted to develop this project further. After all, the idea itself was to bring together the most loyal collectors and connoisseurs of my art. I started the TBOA club. It was open to all those who collected art with all nine letters in their collection. The main idea of the club was to gather the most dedicated collectors and give them a priority when buying my art or the opportunity to get it for free. This was especially true during the gas wars. The Art Blocks smart-contract allows you to distribute your art for ERC-20 tokens. So I created a TBOA Token and distributed it to members. At the time of the Alien Clock release, there were 20 of them. Members were allowed to make a free mint for 24 hours before the official release. This later became the club's primary practice. On July 15, 2021, the release took place. Alien Clock comprised 362 artworks, 20 of which went to club members. The remaining 341 were sold out in less than a minute.
At this point, I was already working on my art projects and the TBOA club website for up to 16 hours a day. Looking at how the demand for generative art is growing, I decide to use my old works and start selling them as high-quality images. At the time, 99% of NFT art was being sold that way. Every generative artist has a lot of art produced by the algorithm they created and curated personally - so-called 1/1 arts created with code or small collections. Over my years of generative art, I have created many of them. For this, I choose one of the popular art platforms at the time: the foundation.app. On July 18, I'm doing my first mint on this platform. And on July 22, I am selling it. The rules were as follows: NFTs are sold by auction, which lasts 24 hours, and the collector who sets the highest price wins. At that time, the commission of the platform was 15%. In total, for 2021, I minted 111 and sold 93 (some ot them were transferred) pieces of art through this platform.
Portals and Planets
Of all my Foundation sales, Portals and Planets stand out firmly. They have their own story. When I announced that to get into the club, you had to have some of my art in your collection, the price of that art on the secondary market was pretty low. But then the popularity of NFT and generative art started to grow, and you had to spend a tremendous amount of money to get into the club. And the income from it came mostly to the flippers. - people who make money from resales. That's when I came up with Portals: NFTs that qualified for membership in the TBOA club. And I decided to release them every two weeks so that collectors would have a chance to buy them at the price the market was charging at the time: through an auction. Except for the first two Portals, I set the price at 0.1 ETH, allowing the market to form the final price. I sold eight Portals at prices ranging from 26 to 76 ETH. Four more were transferred to the raffle winners after the release of 444(4).
As for the planets, what happened during their sale is still a mystery to me. When I put them up for sale as a collection, I wrote an emoji tweet suggesting that the Planets along with Alien Insects would mean membership in the TBOA club (which it turned out to be). But during the auction, a real battle ensued. And 7 Planets bought the 0x75e1c24, which then transferred most of it to 0xFf4c608, which belongs to 3AC (Three Arrows Capital). And later, 3AC registered with the TBOA club as a multiple member. I don't know if it was due to interest in generative art by 3AC members or if they saw it as an investment. Still, the sale of that collection made Foundation history, and I made much money and came in second in the overall sales ranking for that platform.
TBOA club events
Since the goal of the TBOA club was to gather the most loyal collectors of my art, I came up with "club events." The pause between releases on Artblocks was quite long, so I decided to release some collections on OpenSea. These were artworks generated using algorithms I had developed earlier. That's how the collections ONY, ONY2, GYRE, Formulae, and Veritable came about. Club members could choose the art they liked, and I just sent them to their wallets. The rest I sold at the OpenSea auction. Each collection sold out on the day of release.
My following collection on Art Blocks was Alien Insects. I got the idea that my art could be linked to a whole universe. I've always loved sci-fi, and I had some story in my head about aliens from the distant future. Different beings that we can't understand. I took the description of the "playground" section on Art Blocks very literally. It said it was a space for experimentation, so I experimented all the way. In creating Alien Insects, I wanted to try and cross generative art, a PFP project, and collectible cards. Most of the NFT world is taken up by PFP (profile picture) projects. And often, art collectors put art on avatars that wasn't initially intended for it. So I created "insects" so that it looks like cards, but with a click, you can remove the frames to put Alien Insect on your profile picture. At the time of release, interest in NFT and generative art grew exponentially and almost peaked. To avoid gas wars, Art Blocks came up with the idea of selling art with a Dutch auction: when the price is initially high and decreases every five minutes. A 25% donation to charity was a prerequisite. I chose to do this with the Processing Foundation, an organization whose goal is education in creativity and programming. Ninety-four arts were given to club members and those who won the discord raffles before the release. The rest were sold for a crazy price. The total amount was $1208,925Ξ, over three million dollars at the time. More than a million dollars was donated to the Processing foundation. A total of $23.5 million was donated in August by Art Blocks artists to various charities.
The wait time between releases on Art Blocks has increased to two months. And I started working on the next release while simultaneously releasing small collections of art on the Foundation. I contracted with Art Blocks for PBAB (Powered by Art Blocks) technology to make the TBOA club a platform on which to release art on-chain. I had to develop a website and infrastructure for that - it was much work. I had the help of two other programmers and a designer. Working on the site and the new project simultaneously was very exhausting. I decided to experiment again. My idea was to create a "generator of generators" - art that would be unique for each iteration and change for each click. That's how the 444(4) project came about. It came out on October 21 in an amount of 444 and was also sold at a Dutch auction. 25% of the amount was donated by the Generative Art Fund, founded by Erick Calderon and Jeff Davis.
TBOA club as platform and AIXXA
My last release in 2021 was AIXXA. It was the first release in the TBOA club as a platform. We finished the PBAB integration and the new website design by December. AIXXA's history is also tied to the Aliens universe. It's more classic static generative art without the experimental components. The release was of 600 mints, 99 of which were given to club members and winners of my discord drawings. They were sold out at a fixed price of 0.25 ETH.
2021 was an incredibly successful year for me as an artist. I was able to make a name in Crypto Art world and to realize almost all the art I had created throughout my career. There were many fans of my art and loyal collectors. I met many interesting people and made a lot of money.
In 2022, I released just one collection: Alien DNA. I consider it one of my best creations. Why just one? There's only one reason: the criminal case against me and the attitude I encountered from the authorities. I was destroyed psychologically and morally and did not find the strength to create. I am still in this state.