How did you make so much money?
As with most successful projects and people, it is 50% hard work and 50% luck. I am a very hardworking and disciplined person, and my productivity is one of my talents. At the time, I had no family. I was completely alone and could afford to devote all my time to my projects. I am able not only to work productively but also to rest appropriately. I switch between various tasks, took daily walks (during which I also think about projects), and some physical activity. And I try to sleep at least the minimum amount of time doctors allow. But still, by the end of the year, I was on the verge of exhaustion and a nervous breakdown because I had crossed reasonable limits on using my body's resources.
When I started selling my art as NFT, I didn't have a goal to promote myself as a generative artist - I already had a specific social media background and confidence that there were enough people who liked what I was doing as an artist. I set another goal: to become a successful crypto-artist, develop Twitter, and do my work in demand. This is the marketing task. I'm an adult with different interests, and my goal is never-ending development, so maybe it was a little easier for me to handle than others. By 2021 I had accumulated a solid arsenal of finished and unfinished works, techniques, and ideas because of the enormous amount of time I devoted to generative art. And I enjoy doing this. My mind is always in a state of inventing something new.
I came up with the "every click = new art" feature. I participated in every possible action and interacted with every collector and artist who had something to do with my art or generative art. I came up with Memory Cell and hand-distributed 721 pieces of art. I came up with and ran a homage to John Karel who was one of the most popular artists at the time. I did a series of art, interactive art, art with an intersecting storyline, and a dedication to Art Blocks. I was supported by other generative artists, and I supported them. And by the time The Blocks of Art was released, I was already in the top 20 in sales at hicetnunc.xyz. I knew exactly that I had to use all the key features of the NFT. It's not just an alternative to the traditional art market. It's a whole new world. The ability to communicate directly with collectors, make art interactive and intersecting, observe the development of your projects after their release and create new projects based on that data, etc. I designed all my projects, so I could do all the work myself because I was confident in my abilities and skills.I came up with the TBOA club and developed it myself because I'm a professional programmer, and I didn't need a team to do it (but later, when the project grew, I had to ask for help).
And the good fortune was that when the whole NFT market and generative art took off, I was at the peak of my productivity and worked like a maniac. And I had much material from previous years that I quickly adapted. I was one of the first generative artists from Art Blocks to come to the Foundation. Everyone there was very fixated on the fact that generative art had to be on-chain, while 99% of the NFT market was images hosted on IPFS. And I decided it suited me just fine. Similarly, I did five collections on OpenSea. Demand was great, and it was impossible to do on-chain releases on Art Blocks due to time constraints on releases. Also, my releases on Foundation and OpenSea are a slightly different genre - they are my personally selected best variations of the algorithm I developed. And not every algorithm can produce a perfect picture every time, and that doesn't mean it can't be published and sold. I understood this, and the result was my income.
Why did you create this site in the first place? Isn't it enough to hand over to the police all the documents about your activities?
The primary purpose is to draw attention to this case because the Latvian police have already committed many law violations and disregard moral standards. There is no reason to assume that they will not do it again.
The Latvian police, in their accusation, wrote simply that I “withdrew the cryptocurrency from Coinbase, and there is no way to determine the source of funds.” They either did not even try to discover that I am an artist and how I earned this money or deliberately pretended that they "did not understand" anything. Now there is no way for them not to understand. Because here is a complete picture of what happened with all the documents, evidence, and the possibility of investigation.
During my career as an NFT selling artist, I have encountered a wall of misunderstanding when telling someone about what I do. And I find it difficult to explain it on paper in clerical language for the Latvian police (although it's been done, too). Everything here is entirely interactive. This whole site is proof of my innocence.
This case will be a precedent for the legal system in Europe and the world and an example of what can happen to any artist selling NFT.
Why didn't you start posting on social media right away about what happened?
I did not anticipate that my interaction with the Latvian police would be like this. I understood that this option of profit is new all over the world, and the law cannot accurately regulate it at the moment, so I always had all the documents, evidence, and justifications for my activities, which I had already provided to the bank and the Latvian security service, at the ready. So I was waiting for someone to start interacting with me to solve these issues in a constructive dialogue. But this was deliberately delayed (and never achieved), and I was put in permanent obscurity. I didn't understand what was happening, so I didn't know what to do. I didn't know my status or the article under which I was charged, and I was waiting to find out one day. Three months later, I received (not from the police) a decision of arrest and appealed against it. And when the court sided with me, the investigator in my case resigned, and the police urgently asked prosecutor to sign a new arrest on Sunday, I realized that I was dealing with people who pursue their personal goals using any methods and do not intend to communicate with me. Then I decided to make it known to the world.
Why the NFT abbreviation has such a bad reputation? And what's the point of buying digital pictures anyway?
To begin with, it is worth understanding that even though many are familiar with the concept of NFT, the people interacting with them are tiny, even compared to the total number of owners of cryptocurrency. It is a small community with a vast technical entry threshold. And you can only see the whole picture from the inside. As for the information that is available outside, it is 99% yellow headlines and media stories about how "a screenshot of a tweet was sold for a huge sum," "a boy drew whales and became a millionaire," or how "a monkey is worth more than a Lamborghini." There's much talk about pyramid schemes in play-to-earn projects, and it's true. And also about the biggest stories of phishing and scam related to NFT (This is also enough because transactions are irreversible, and many people lack the technical literacy to protect themselves.). The art market's share is negligible: 90% of NFT is PFP (profile picture projects), collectible cards, and in-game items. Most artists would like a separate term for them, not so “tainted.”
It's pretty hard to explain to most non-IT people and those over 30 what value there is in a digital picture that you can "right-click and save." But for those who grew up on online games and have understood the value of unique digital objects since childhood, it is not difficult to understand the meaning of what is happening.
When explaining, I usually give a few examples:
Imagine that you want to make a child feel good. You decide to buy him a toy for 50 euros. This toy was made in China by a boy standing knee-deep in water, working for food. Then it was carried in a container halfway around the world, leaving a carbon footprint. You give it to a child. They play with it for an hour and then throw it in the corner with the other toys. After you throw it in the trash, it decays in the ground for 3,000 years.
And now imagine that you bought a dragon in a conditional Roblox for those 50 euros. No oppressed Chinese children, no carbon footprint (debatable in the case of NFT on Ethereum), recycling, etc. And the kid is happy for six months at least. The child flies the dragon, feeding it, dressing it, and putting it to bed.
This is the difference between physical and digital objects. Now put an adult (no such thing actually) in the place of a child.
One of the factors in a child's joy is that thanks to his cool dragon, he stands out from the crowd and acquires some status. Do you see where I'm going with this? Status and standing in society (even in a small community) drive most people. How do you think someone with an avatar that costs as 20 Lamborghinis feels? And that's the only such avatar. And you can check that with 100% probability. Let's add to this belonging to a particular group, shared interests, new acquaintances, opportunities for communication, the opportunity to trade (but not always make money) in this market, and more. In general, all that is called utility in the market of PFP projects.
As for art, its utility is in its beauty and the aesthetic feelings it evokes. That's why the market for traditional art is so tiny: not everyone is interested in it. The artists hope the art market will expand thanks to NFT, but the technical entry threshold prevents ordinary people from getting in. Too must a novice collector know: different cryptocurrencies, terminology, how to store them, seed phrases, hot wallets, cold wallets, apps, exchanges, safety measures, marketplaces, gas wars, chat rooms, social networks, and more. That's why new users come to the market most often motivated by a quick income, thanks to a TikTok video of a man in a Louis Vuitton suit saying he was eating scraps under a bridge two months ago.
But the factor of owning expensive art from a remarkable artist is also present here, just like in the real world. Collectors create virtual galleries or order prints for their NFTs. They use them on banners and avatars. Form communities and interact directly with artists. I've seen people who came here to make money get into NFT art chat rooms and become avid collectors simply because it is insanely exciting.
The general conclusion from all this is that to know and understand what is going on in the NFT world, you need to be inside. The good things that happen there will not be told to you because they are not worthy of a media headline.
Why aren't you releasing as much art as you did last year?
I was finishing my 2021 year mentally and physically exhausted. I went to Spain hoping to take a break, process everything that had happened to me, set new goals, and start studying a few subjects that interested me. I believe that as an artist, I am at the beginning of my journey and still have significant potential to develop. In 2021, I released all the art I had created in all the time I had been doing generative art. And I decided to focus on long-term and serious projects in Art Blocks format. I was working on the Alien DNA project when I discovered the arrest of the accounts.
What happened threw me for a loop. It was an issue that seemed like it would be resolved soon, but nothing was happening. I realized that the Latvian police saw me as a criminal and treated me with power and authority. I was devastated and destroyed. Every day passed idly. I did not find the strength to do anything. I stopped writing on social media and was on the edge of depression. I forced myself to finish the project and release it. My motivation was that I wanted to donate the income from it to Ukraine, which is suffering from Russian aggression. At the moment, there is another almost ready project. But I have a substantial problem with motivation. After all, all my activities could be recognized as criminal. I continue to commit a crime by creating new NFTs from my art and selling them. I am not finished as an artist. It is impossible. But, I think that I will be able to return to the old regime only after this case is resolved in my favor.
Did you aim to make that kind of money when you started selling your art as NFTs?
My only goal was to become a well-known artist in a field that was beginning to develop. This is the best environment to make a name for yourself. Everything that happened next can be summed up in one phrase: I didn't miss my chance.